In my honest discussions with other moms, we agree there’s a moment right before falling into bed with a partner that is filled with nagging guilt.
When I was still married, the sex-guilt would only surface when I heard those first cries of an infant waking up from a nap just a little too early. But now that I’m a dating single mother, the guilt is a little different.
The guilt tells me I shouldn’t have so much fun, and that I should return to the responsibility of mothering rather than abandoning myself into a new love interest. It repeats those tired old records that I thought I’d shirked back in my early 20s. You’re irresponsible, the records say. What kind of mother reaches out for the touch of a man she doesn’t yet know very well — and what kind of mother uses those same reaching arms to hold her daughter the next morning?
I know I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Balancing motherhood and sexuality can feel tricky, whether you’re a single parent or not. My feelings toward my mom-sexuality are as varied as my moods, or even how I feel about motherhood on any particular day.
There was that time when I was separated from my now-ex, and we were kind of attempting to make things work. After a family dinner, he turned on a cartoon for the kiddo and grabbed me by the hand. We stole a few moments of solitude in the locked bathroom, but I felt guilty about it while it was happening. What kind of mother grabs ass by using the television as a babysitter?
On another occasion, I felt a wave of shame when I realized just how resentful I was toward my daughter for interrupting the time I had with her dad when we were still married. It had been a long week, and I was desperately clinging to the idea that intimacy might just save my flailing marriage. We were ramping up the action — in the middle of what we thought was my daughter’s nap — when she came toddling in. Instead of embarrassment, I just felt plain angry. Angry that sex was no longer carefree, angry at the interruption and angry that I couldn’t just have a minute alone with her dad. Immediately following the anger, however, I felt a wave of shame. What kind of mother feels angry at her child for stopping sex in its tracks?
There was that time when I was a newly single mother and so terribly confused and lonely. I intentionally avoided dating so I could give myself some time to recover from the divorce. My body still wanted touch, though. I remember how ridiculous I felt when I loaded my 2-year-old into the car so we could make a quick trip to the pharmacy for batteries for my (clearly overused) vibrator. What kind of silly mother needs sex so badly that she would take her toddler on an unnecessary errand?
Finally, there was that time I looked at my young daughter and wished for her that she would never have to feel so much complication about her sexuality when and if she chooses to become a mother.
After all, what kind of mother would choose to not embrace her sexuality, when her children are learning how to feel about their bodies by watching how their mother feels toward her own?