Pri­vacy please, we’re par­ents!

You may not feel like sex af­ter a long day look­ing af­ter the lit­tlies – but your re­la­tion­ship will ben­e­fit if you can work on your chem­istry

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

How to keep the love alive post-kids

Afew months ago, my three-year-old started with a se­ri­ous case of ‘mon­sters un­der the bed’. The first time he came to our door was at a par­tic­u­larly awk­ward mo­ment. I’d clearly been look­ing ir­re­sistible in my ma­ter­nity bra, and af­ter an em­bar­rass­ingly long dry spell (yes, months. I have a new­born), my hus­band had given me that look.

But just as we were about to progress, this tiny per­son was hov­er­ing over us, ask­ing us what we were play­ing. We both cringed, re-ad­justed our cloth­ing and told him ‘noth­ing’ in guilty voices, so he climbed into our bed. Since then, I’ve been ner­vous of try­ing again thanks to our res­i­dent night wan­derer.

I’m aware that shut­ting off the in­ti­mate side of my mar­riage un­til the chil­dren leave home is not ideal, but how ex­actly are you sup­posed to keep your mojo mo­ti­vated when you’re ex­hausted, stressed and they could walk in at any time?

Have a sex break

Ac­cord­ing to clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Brian Beck­ham, it’s nor­mal for phys­i­cal in­ti­macy be­tween cou­ples to wane when they be­come par­ents. To be­gin with, when you have a new­born, it’s not just the ex­treme tired­ness you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, but also the en­ergy that you’re pour­ing into the amaz­ing new life you’ve cre­ated.

“While some cou­ples might have sex only weeks af­ter the birth, just be­cause you don’t feel ready for sev­eral months doesn’t mean you’re doomed,” he says. “Both you and your part­ner need to have re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Some new mums need longer to feel sexy again. How­ever, sex and re­la­tion­ship health ex­pert Dr Pe­tra Boynton says it’s im­por­tant not to let your hang-ups hold you back. “I bet your part­ner still finds you sexy,” she says. “What mat­ters is that when you’re ready, you make an ef­fort to in­vite sex back into your re­la­tion­ship.”

It’s im­por­tant for you, too. “A healthy sex life is phys­i­cal proof of your re­la­tion­ship and helps you main­tain your iden­tity, so that you can see each other as in­di­vid­u­als, not just co-par­ents,” says Brian.

Talk about it

An­other fac­tor that holds new par­ents back is the im­pact of your baby’s birth. Psy­chother­a­pist Kate Loyd says mak­ing love will be dif­fer­ent to how it was pre-baby, so you need to be able to talk hon­estly about any phys­i­cal changes. “Af­ter tear­ing and stitches, sex can be painful, or you could feel de­sen­si­tised and find it harder to or­gasm, so you need your part­ner to be un­der­stand­ing,” she says.

And while a short­age of time alone with your part­ner can make sex a chal­lenge, it can some­times give things a boost. Ac­cord­ing to Brian, sneak­ing around be­hind your child’s back of­ten be­comes a way of re­cap­tur­ing the naugh­ti­ness you felt when you were younger. “It’s about keep­ing up the spirit of sex­ual cre­ativ­ity,” he says. “Part of this in­volves find­ing times when you can have sex.”

Find the right time

While there’s no longer the lux­ury of open-ended child-free time, you’ll soon work out your favourite ‘sex win­dow’.

For many mums, there’s the cru­cial time af­ter baby bed­time but be­fore com­plete ex­haus­tion kicks in. This is a great time to head to the bed­room, says Kate. “If you’re still in mum-mode, try to do some­thing from your pre-kids days to help you make that switch – a glass of wine or a shared bath per­haps.”

Other par­ents pre­fer a sched­uled ap­proach. Jo, 35, mum to Oliver, four, and two-year-old Amelia, recog­nised that sex was im­por­tant for her hus­band. “I set my­self a sched­ule – ev­ery Tues­day night and Satur­day morn­ing, when I bribed the kids with TV. At the be­gin­ning it felt like a chore, but I found my hus­band’s grat­i­tude and lust em­pow­er­ing,” she says.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if you set a sched­ule or just grab ran­dom op­por­tu­ni­ties, as long as you find some­thing that works,” says Brian. “And the more sex you have, the more you’ll re­mem­ber what you en­joy about it and you’ll make time for more!”

Let­ting your kids see that you love each other will give them an early pos­i­tive ex­am­ple of what be­ing a cou­ple is. “If your chil­dren see you hold hands, cud­dle and kiss, it will help them get a sense of what whole, balanced re­la­tion­ships should look like,” says Brian. “It will be the ba­sis for their fu­ture ro­mances.”

To at­tempt to bring the sexy back to my re­la­tion­ship, I’ve taken a cou­ple of very prac­ti­cal first steps – fit­ting a night-light in my son’s room and a lock on our bed­room door. And we fi­nally dis­cussed our dwin­dling sex life. Our con­clu­sion? We needed to do it more. And while our bed­room ac­tion might not be wor­thy of even three shades of grey, it’s on the up. And that’s good enough for now.

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