After children, sleeping in the wet patch takes on a whole new meaning. When Constance Hall blogged about “parent sex”, many parents across the world laughed in solidarity, and childless couples probably just laughed like jerks. But does parent sex always involve yanking down huge Kmart undies to reveal a set of rowdy pubes followed by a rushed jizzing to the tune of Peppa Pig? I asked a lot of parents some very invasive questions, this is what I found out:
WHEN YOU FINALLY GET TO HUMP, IS IT STILL AWESOME OR IS IT SHIT?
Praise the Lord: it’s not all doom and gloom. Most couples reported a decline in frequency but not quality. Sara (an ex-model with three young children) says, “the thing that keeps me comfortable about having less sex is the fact that when it does happen the chemistry is still exactly the same”. I can personally relate to this. After two children, my partner and I love each other more, there is greater trust, and somehow this equals dirtier, more intense relations. Plus he has no excuses for not knowing me in the anatomical sense. Hallelujah.
One sucky thing almost all couples reported is less (or zero) spontaneous sex. Daylight banging is a thing of the past unless you want to risk an unwelcome spectator and potentially adding to the list of things your child will have to explain to a therapist in a couple of decades time.
SO, IF IT’S STILL GOOD… WHY LESS?
The obvious reasons: you have no f*cking time and you’re too f*cking tired. The End.
Counsellor Kate Marshall also identifies “changing physical self-esteem” as a major contributor. During pregnancy and birth, your body changes:
- things will happen to your breasts and your tummy;
- your legs may get veiny and weird;
- haemorrhoids happen and while we are on this topic where is the ‘ribbon day’ for haemorrhoid sufferers?! Those things are menaces, and being on all fours loses some eroticism when it becomes disturbingly similar to a baboon’s sexual display;
- your pelvic floor may become … interesting;
- your hormones leave you raw;
- personal grooming often goes downhill, not because zero f*cks are given, but because time will no longer allow regular exfoliation, tanning, nail painting or waxing. Facials are also in the past so just accept that your face will resemble an old candle for a while.
These changes can lead to body-hate, which is an infamous stiffie-killer. My rig has certainly altered: my titties are on their way to looking like empty Santa sacks, I sport a caesarian scar and I have nanna-esque varicose veins, and quite frankly sometimes I don’t wash my hair for a week. Post-baby-body anxiety is common, and for a while after each birth, I felt like yesterday’s bread.
Brittany Gibbons endured it too, in her brilliant book ‘Fat Girl Walking’ she hilariously described her vagina as looking as though she had birthed an “adult bald eagle, feet first” and she felt undesirable and “disgusting” in her new mum-body. Pushing these things aside and feeling sexy is a challenge. Brittany used to be a “keep-your-camisole-on, turn-the-lights-off, cover-with-the-duvet kind of girl”, but now she is free, and feels sexy in her skin. HOW?! Well, Brittany famously had sex with her husband every day for a year . She did this to force herself to accept her body and enjoy it. And it worked.
IT’S OK, A SMALL HUMAN EXITED YOU, YOU CAN HAVE A REST:
You don’t have rush out and buy a bulk bottle of lube and start boning every day: having a period of time with little/zero sex is fine. Brittany notes “that is normal. Parenthood is a huge life change, and you should never feel bad for just taking a minute to adjust to that”. Women aren’t the only ones who take a libido-hit. Men also report lowered libidos. This is true for Sara, “sex is not the first thing on my mind and it’s not on his either.” She isn’t anxious about this and believes you shouldn’t get too hung up on expectations, saying “you won’t die missing an orgasm in favour of sleep and he ain’t going to explode from having a few more wanks per month”.
Birthing is tough. Robbie Williams likened observing his wife give birth to watching his favourite pub burn down, so perhaps this ringside view can have an impact on male libido, in which case: harden up old sons, figuratively and literally. Sara can relate to birthing impacting the sexual vibe: “You give away all of your pride in the delivery room. Things you were once worried about like not pooping in the same God damn building as your other half or not being seen without a spray tan and a wax dissipate when the man sees your obstetrician shoulder deep in places arms should probably avoid”.
Counsellor Kate suggests major culprits for low libidos are fatigue and stress, which “may be a short-term issue whilst children are very young and demanding.” Sara is in this boat: “I feel as though when our children are sleeping through the night and time is back on our side.. we’ll find our way again.”
HOW CAN YOU GET BALLS DEEP AGAIN?
Well, you could try greasing the doorknob so the kids can’t get into your bedroom. A more ethical option suggested by counsellor Kate is penciling sex in. While this doesn’t sound particularly sensual, it may be necessary. Lots of parents I spoke to schedule sex. One legend even had it written in a weekly planner with a big ol’ tick next to it. Now that would be a fun box to check.
Rectifying the parent self with the sexual self is tricky – your identity changes when you become a parent. For a while there, Brittany was “too busy being a mom to be a woman. I wasn’t able to balance the two”. She describes motherhood as ”the hardest gig out there, and I say that because I’ve never had a job where I’ve felt more judged, more wrong, or more unprepared in my life. Magazine articles, parenting forums, and social media all offer you a first person critique of your parenting. Women are made to feel selfish about caring for themselves, and told to put their children above all else. I tried that for many years, and it turns out that while that made me an attentive mother, it made me a miserable woman. I am a better woman and a better mother when I feel confident and cared for. Carving out time to make sure that I am mentally healthy, means that I’m happy, and my kids seeing me feel strong and happy is a very good thing.” So, parents, take some time for yourselves, it may delightfully end in penetration.
What if you have one hornbag and one snoozer? Have a chat about it. Counsellor Kate says “it is not uncommon for a couple to have mismatched libidos. A partner who desires more sexual contact may feel rejected and the partner who desires less sexual contact may feel inadequate or pressurised. Unless this is discussed, the mutual stressors may lead to both partners giving up which may result in a sexless relationship.” I don’t think anyone signs up for parenthood thinking it will be the end of the P entering the V. To avoid this, counsellor Kate says “communicating with one another is key to reassure and remain connected to one another.”
So, if you are trapped in a low-sex zone, do not despair: kids get older and become less annoying. They won’t be c*ck-blockers forever, and before you know it you’ll be more worried about what they are doing with their teenage genitals than what you are doing (or not doing) with your middle-aged ones. Brittany agrees, “All of this is a process, do not beat yourself up. Do what you have to do right now to survive, and when you find yourself having moments to come up for air, start talking about the ways in which your relationship will look going forward. The best thing you can do is to communicate, and realize that it’s very much okay to be a loving, sexual couple, and still be doting and wonderful parents. Celibacy is for priests, not parents.” Amen to that.