My husband and I are in the laundry room at the same time. He’s moving wet laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, and I’m trying to find the broom to sweep up lunch’s crumbs. For a brief moment, our bodies brush, and we give each other “the look.” A second later, we hear one of our kids, who is remote learning, let out a shriek. Just like that, the moment is over, and we’re back to parenting.
The pandemic has put a damper on our sex life, and I know we aren’t alone. Between all of our daily responsibilities, which occur on repeat, making whoopie is not on our priority list. It’s not, in fact, on any list.
Date night used to be foreplay. Dinner alone at a restaurant while a sitter watched the kids could easily turn into an opportunity for weekend sexy time. Not anymore. There are no sitters, no date nights, and no dining out. Sure, we could order food in after the kids go to bed, but honestly, we’re exhausted by the time the sun goes down at 5 p.m. So we eat with the kids at a geriatric dinnertime of about 5:30.
I know the experts all say we should schedule sex, just write it on the calendar and get at it. However, we all know that’s not how sex works. Yes, we could put a movie on for the kids and attempt a midday romp, but there’s Zoom meetings, work calls, and lunch — all of which take priority over getting down and dirty. We are interrupted about once every sixty seconds.
There’s always the quickie, but a lot of women, myself included, will tell you that it takes awhile to get our Sahara wet enough. Quickies sound good in theory, but to put them into practice, to get into the mood, is nearly impossible when you have at least two kids clinging to you, clamoring for help with their math problems and demanding another snack. How, exactly, are we supposed to switch our brains from Common Core to wet and wild in a matter of minutes? (Experts? Anyone? That’s what I thought.)
We are rarely in the mood to screw, and never at the same time. The pandemic has only increased our work demands, put us in the position to help our kids with remote-learning, and work-and-play in the same space (which means a lot more messes). There’s nothing sexy-inspiring about our home, each room riddled with piles of books, papers, chargers, dishes, and toys. There’s always more work to be done. In the movies, they always shove everything off the desk, the kitchen counter, or the washing machine and go at it. Lucky them. This isn’t a movie. I can’t enter into any room without a kid following me within a matter of two minutes.
I know many of my friends are in the same situation. We are thankful to be sheltering at home, but this doesn’t magically mean our lives turn into some sort of Harlequin romance. Both myself and my husband look ragged all of the time. The last thing either of us wants to do is “slip into something more comfortable” to inspire the other to get it on.
We shuffle around, sipping lukewarm coffee, helping the kids log on to Zoom, heating up leftovers for lunch, sweeping up crumbs, and responding to our bosses. Most of the time, we are zombies — not sex machines. COVID-19 is a real mood-killer.
Maybe we should try to fake it until we make it, but that’s really not our style. Instead, we accept the dry spell. I know, again, that the experts expect us to make efforts, but frankly, almost everyone I know is out of energy, motivation, and inspiration. We’re just trying to make it through each day without an epic meltdown.
We wash masks, redistribute hand sanitizer, help our kids with their worksheets, run the dishwasher, vacuum the rug, change the sheets. We email our colleagues, schedule meetings early in the morning and late in the afternoon, trying to leave the middle of the day as open as possible to help our children learn. We brew coffee, run to the grocery store, grab the mail, and try to take recess breaks with the kids.
We are doing our best, experts be damned. Because the people who can leisurely make love in the middle of a Tuesday are probably the ones with nannies and house cleaners, not everyday people who are trying to keep their jobs and help their kids get educated.
There are times I feel guilty about not putting out. It’s not that I feel obligated or pressured to do so, but because it’s an unmet need we both have. We are absolutely in better moods afterward. The problem is the when and where never align, and life is too unpredictable right now to make a love-making session promise (and actually keep it).
I don’t think any of us are failing by not having sex a certain number of times a week. We also aren’t failing because it’s really hard to do our jobs, school our kids, and live life during a global pandemic. There’s no right or wrong way to handle 2020’s dumpster fire. I know its cliché, but it’s true: it is what it is.
I also don’t think that having sex is the only way to enjoy and appreciate our partners and ourselves. We’ve been together over twenty years. Being part of couple means understanding the whole person, their love languages, and what they need in any given moment (by asking them). Sometimes it’s a compliment, an offer to help, some time alone, or a collective WTF when the kids are losing their shit…again. Togetherness isn’t limited to a roll in the hay.
We need to give ourselves permission to admit that COVID-19 has changed a lot for us all, including our sex lives. It’s okay not to be in the mood. It’s okay to nurture our partnership in a myriad of ways. It’s also okay to tell the experts to piss off, because they issue unrealistic advice to those of us in the trenches of learning-working. If we feel like having sex, and the timing works out, it’s okay to let that happen. It’s also okay if it doesn’t.