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
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.