The lights are low. The kids are asleep in their own beds. It seems the stars have finally aligned and my husband and I are getting that rare window of opportunity that can only mean one thing: It’s time to get down to business. And by “get down to business,” I mean “have the sex we usually don’t get to have because kids are pro-level cockblockers.”
He’s all for it, of course, because I swear the man can get a boner if a stiff wind blows (no pun intended). He doesn’t care if I’m wearing sweatpants that could fit a 300-pound man, or if I’m on day two without a shower. And though I know I need to be ready too – that this is our chance and we need to jump on it (literally) – it doesn’t come that easily to me. Because after spending the vast majority of my time in “Mommy Mode,” there’s just no quick way to transition into the lustful creature that I, too, could once summon at a moment’s notice.
Keyword, once. Like, before I was draped with maternal worries about the necessary (pediatrician appointments, orthodontist bills, packing lunches) and the unnecessary (is my kid developing at the same rate as the rest of his peers or is he going to be unemployed living in our basement when he’s thirty OMG THE PRESSURE!).
I wasn’t always this way, but when I’m constantly operating under the oppressive mental load of keeping a family and household in smooth working order, it can make for a less-than-eager beaver.
I admit it – deep down, I’m jealous of the way my husband can just be automatically into it, he and his perennial instaboner. Like the captain of the high school cheer team, it’s ready to pop up and spring enthusiastically into action at a moment’s notice. But as much as I admire his perpetual readiness, it’s a skill I just don’t possess. Because while his equipment is an instantaneous go-getter, my vagina’s over here dry as a load of laundry fresh from the tumble cycle … which reminds me … did I wash my third-grader’s basketball jersey? He’s got a game tomorrow evening. Oh shit, there’s also a Scout meeting. Can I make it to both? Maybe if I put dinner in the slow cooker tomorrow morning. What can I make without having to go to the grocery store again? Didn’t I pin a new recipe a few days ago? Ugh, I totally need an Instant Pot.
Think sexy thoughts, I tell myself firmly (ironically, the voice in my head sounds a lot like the one I use to say “do your homework” or “put on your shoes”). And I try. But my brain, falling back to its default momming capacity, starts clamoring to decidedly un-sexy things like, “YEAH THAT’S HOT BUT LET’S THINK ABOUT THAWING SOME CHICKEN.” Like it’s afraid that if let my thoughts wander to other things, I’m going to revert permanently back to my carefree pre-child self and neglect my motherly duties.
I’ve consulted Google, and I’ve tried the expert advice. Carve out plenty of extra time for hugging, kissing, and touching, they say. And while increasing foreplay is a great idea in theory, it’s hard to squeeze in more when you never know how much uninterrupted time you’re going to get in the first place. Plus, that’s just more time I have to spend redirecting my mind – like mentally herding sheep – and it’s exhausting.
Make a plan for sex, they suggest. Again, a fine idea in theory, but in reality it makes it feel like just one more thing I have to finagle into my already-packed schedule. Plus, as anybody with kids knows, “plans” are basically bullshit.
Practice mindfulness and focus on your body, they advise, but even that gets diverted into something mom-related: I wish I didn’t have these stretch marks, they weren’t here before I had kids, and — boom! — suddenly I’m remembering that a birthday is coming up and I need to make cupcakes to drop off at school and oh, damn, the PTA bake sale is next week. Sigh…
Leave the dishes in the sink and take a bubble bath, they recommend, but as good as that sounds, I know it will lead to one thing: intrusive thoughts of the dishes in the sink at the worst possible moment. I swear, sometimes it feels like I can’t win.
I’m going to keep trying, of course, because I miss the old me (and so does my husband, I’m sure) – the pre-parental version who didn’t wonder during sex if we’re running low on milk. The version of me who was able to focus on the electricity of my partner’s touch instead of the electric bill. Someday I’m bound to hit on something that works for me, even if it means first eliminating all the things that don’t.
But until I find it, I’m going to change one important thing: the pressure I put on myself to be hot and ready at the poke of a boner. Because it’s just not realistic any more, not at this point, and I know it’s not helping anything. Sure, I could do it at one time, but my life was a lot different then – and it’s only natural that I’m responding differently now. There are plenty of ways that I can show my husband how much I adore him, and they don’t all involve sex.
In the meantime, I make sure to explain that I’m just having trouble switching “modes,” and that it’s definitely not something he should take personally. I figure that someday, the kids will be out of the house and I’ll have plenty of chances to, say, greet my man at the door wearing nothing but a smile.
Hopefully he won’t mind if my nipples are down to my navel by then.