When I first met my to-be husband, I was up for sex all the time. Day, night, his office, my living room floor, that closed bar we snuck into in the middle of the day. You get the picture.
Then, after pushing a small human out of my vagina, having sex fell way down the priority list to about number 22, right after “clean out the fridge” and no where near as high as “sleep.” We were both exhausted and I was dealing with post-partum depression and nursing challenges. Plus, by 8 p.m. every day, I was totally touched out.
Some nights, the best we could do was hold hands under the covers as we prayed the baby would sleep through the night where “through the night” is a blessed four hours. When our first baby finally got the hang of it, we had another baby and a few years later, another.
You might be surprised to know that the rollicking sex we’d taken for granted as a childless couple was a distant memory at this point. We definitely were not having sex as much as either of us wanted to or as often as we thought we would no matter how many kids we had.
According to a poll in Britain conducted by Help-Link’s Expectations vs. Reality campaign, we’re not alone. After surveying 2,000 parents-to-be and 2,000 current parents, the results show a pretty wide divide between pre-baby expectations and post-baby reality when it comes to marriage and sex.
Before having kids, a full 92 percent of couples expected to still be in love with their partners after the kids arrived. Sixty-one percent expected to have a good love life, and looked forward to date night three times a month and sex three times a week.
Excuse me while I die laughing over here in my yoga pants. My husband and I are lucky if we go out once a month and if I’m being honest, a kid-free jaunt to Whole Foods totally counts. And sex three times a week?! Yeah, that’s hilarious. I barely floss three times a week.
It’s not that we don’t want to have sex. It’s that kids and all the physical and emotional attention they require makes parenting a notorious libido killer. As babies, they wake you up multiple times a night leaving you exhausted at all other hours. As toddlers, they won’t go to sleep and often end up in your bed at some point during the night. Until they’re semi-surly tweens, they’re constantly touching you, petting you, jiggling your boobs or Velcro-ed to your lower leg.
When they no longer lounge all over you, you worry constantly about their emotional health and happiness. The raising up of children does not allow much room for sex.
Of course, before you actually have kids, you don’t know any of this. Even if you’ve heard the rumors, you’re sure they don’t apply to you. You truly believe that parenthood is just another adventure that will bring you closer together as a couple. Never mind the research that shows exactly the opposite. You are not like everyone else. You cannot imagine not wanting to have sex.
Oh, and those poor people who can’t find the time or desire to get it on after having kids? Well, they’re probably just not as in love as you are. They probably didn’t make a master plan that allows plenty of together time while the baby’s napping or gurgling away on that brightly colored floor mat thingy. I mean, how hard can it be?
Trust me, it’s hard.
Almost a quarter of parents polled reported being dissatisfied with their love lives and a fifth of them say sex is basically non-existent. I’m guessing they’re part of the 57 percent who no longer have date night, the 31 percent who said they were no longer in love and, for sure, the 18 percent who’d bailed on the partnership altogether.
Admittedly, the numbers don’t look good, but that doesn’t mean you have you have to resign yourself to an unhappy relationship or near-celibacy until your beloved offspring leave the nest. While a regular date night might seem impossible, try setting aside a few minutes each day to simply talk one on one. In an interview with TODAY Parents, Melissa T. Schultz, author of From Mom to Me Again, believes this is the key to a long and successful relationship. Or you could follow JayZ and Beyoncé’s lead and make a relationship bucket list of all the cool stuff you want to do together. Seems to be working for them despite reported marital turmoil in recent years.
And what about sex? Psychotherapist Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, said in an interview with the National Post, that it helps to put it on your to-do list. “…it’s not about seeing it as a chore, but making time for yourself and the experience. It’s about assigning value to it.”
So all I have to do is push “sex” up the list and marital bliss will be mine? If that what it takes, screw cleaning out the fridge, I’m in! But first I want my 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.