Has your sex life taken a hit since you had kids? Parenting young children is an emotionally and physically draining job. It’s often hard for a mom to muster the time and energy—much less the desire—to frolic wantonly with her equally exhausted husband. For many couples, parenthood can turn a vibrant sex life into an infrequent, uninspired obligation. Which, you should know, is completely normal.
Helen Kobrin, a Northbrook marriage counselor who specializes in intimacy and desire issues, says of parenthood, “I have yet to meet a couple whose sex life didn’t shift. It’s inevitable. Do you just sit there and accept it? You could, but there’s an opportunity for growth here.”
Parents can have a sexual connection that’s exciting and fulfilling in new ways, but it does take effort. Here are some strategies to help you get your groove back after kids.
1. Baby Your Bod
Moms often put self-care at the bottom of the priority list, which leaves them feeling lackluster when it comes to lovemaking. “I see babies and toddlers that eat healthier than their mothers do,” says Isabelle Libmann of Izzyfit Personal Training in Evanston. To function at all levels, women need to get enough sleep, eat well and manage their stress levels. The first thing Libmann recommends to moms is to simply go for a walk. Being in nature and breathing fresh air are great stress relievers. When time allows, even short workouts (10-15 minutes) can boost your energy and confidence and—even better—be something you do just for you. “Take it where you can get it and build from there,” advises Libmann. “You don’t need an hour.”
2. Locate Your Libido
Kobrin helps her clients to determine where their lack of desire is coming from. Even if you’re not having much sex, she’ll ask, do you still think about it, fantasize, and masturbate? If not, the cause could be a hormonal imbalance. Or, says Kobrin, it may be that you’ve lost touch with your sexual self and you need some stimulation. Kobrin recommends reading erotica like “Fifty Shade of Grey” or watching sexy movies (one girlfriend swears by the “Outlander” TV series), figuring out what scenes turn you on and sharing them with your husband.
3. Role With It
Women often have a hard time transitioning between the conflicting roles of mother and lover. Eroticism often contains taboo elements, which might feel uncomfortable as a mom. Kobrin describes it like this: “Now that this is your primary role and you view yourself as a caretaking being, it makes sex seem like this dirty, inappropriate thing. As a good mother, how dare I go into the bedroom and give blowjobs? There needs to be a healthier view of sex.”
Esther Perel, author of “Mating in Captivity,” writes, “We are afraid that our adult sexuality will somehow damage our kids, that it’s inappropriate or dangerous.” But children whose parents are comfortable with their sexuality are more likely to have healthy views of sexuality themselves. Good sex and intimacy with your mate is actually good parenting.
4. Redefine Your Relationship
Your sex life probably is never going to be like it was before you had kids, but relationships naturally change over time anyway. “Within a marriage there are many different marriages,” Kobrin says. “The most important thing to know is that this is normal and this is a beautiful opportunity for couples to restart and grow.”
Have an honest talk with your partner about what you need and desire from each other at this point in life and how you can work together to maintain intimacy. You may benefit from working with a marriage counselor. If you keep at it, your relationship will grow and deepen. The best sex of your life happens in your 40s, 50s and 60s, Kobrin says. “You’re more comfortable with yourselves; you know what you want. It turns into a much hotter, richer sex life.”
Now that’s something to look forward to.
More Sex & the Suburbs articles: