Everyone always says that babies will ruin your sex life. It’s a favorite trope of sitcoms and movies. Baby comes and couple hasn’t had sex for 10 months. Cue the laugh track. But out here in non-TV land, the reality is quite the opposite.
As a mom of three, I am familiar with the pregnancy fears. Babies rarely sleep. I won’t feel as attractive after my body is blown apart. He won’t be attracted to me after we have a baby. It goes on and on. It’s not that those worries are unfounded. For some people, all of those things may happen and that may cause a dip in their mojo. I have known couples who experienced long, long droughts in their sex life after having children. It’s just that I wasn’t one of them.
My husband and I diligently waited the full six weeks to get the all-clear on full-blown intercourse, but we were intimate leading up to that. And afterward, between nap times and 7 p.m. bedtimes, we found plenty of time to have fun even when we had a second baby within 18 months of our first. We had to be a little creative since we sometimes co-slept. But that just meant taking things outside the bedroom. And with family help and reliable babysitters, we have always had plenty of date nights, and at least once a year, we take a short vacation together.
And so I was smug. Your sex life is destroyed by a toddler? How silly!
Back then I might have told you sex only gets better after kids. In my case, that is the truth. Becoming parents brought my husband and me more in line than the five years we’d spent together prior to them. We had a common goal and the same values with raising them. Watching him be the father I always knew he would be is a huge aphrodisiac. But babies turn into toddlers and toddlers turn into preschoolers and finally they become “big kids.” They become big kids who ask questions and know where babies come from and talk about it at school. They stop wanting to go to bed at 7 p.m. and have activities and homework that keep them up past then anyway.
And that’s the real cock-block. Forget all you have ever heard about babies ruining sex. It’s the big kids who know what’s up, who ask you why you want so much time alone together and look at you askance if you so much as hold your husband’s hand.
“That’s gross,” they scream in unison. My daughter, now 9.5, is endlessly embarrassed by her affectionate parents.
“Can you not sit on daddy’s lap?” she says while we are watching TV. If we hug or try to kiss in the kitchen while preparing dinner, she runs in and wedges herself in between us. “You guys are so gross!” Affection beyond the kind between parent and child is verboten in our house and our libidos are on lockdown now that we can no longer spell out what we want to do to each other later.
“I can’t wait to L-I-C-K you” is a lot less exciting when the kid next to you won their school spelling bee. And it’s not just that. They are now aware of glances and innuendo in ways that the babies just are not. We have to be very careful what we say. Last year my husband gave me a Mother’s Day card in which he called me his “sexy wife” and I thought my daughter would puke. Then she told all her friends the next time they came over.
Our sexuality is on lockdown, people. Parents of older kids know all about installing locks on bedroom doors and instilling 8 p.m. in the room (though maybe not lights out) policies to try to have some semblance of privacy and fun, but who are we kidding? By 8 p.m. parents of three (like us) are more tired than randy. These kids are killing us.
Sometimes it feels like our sexuality has been hijacked. But we find ways. The one good thing about older kids is sleepovers — and more independence. They can play hours now with little intervention from us, so we do have long stretches of alone time we try to use to our advantage. This is not the death of our sex life; it’s just the birth of a much more creative, quieter one. If we have something sexual to say, we text it instead of saying it. And we check to make sure our phones are not being held by children at the time. And we delete those messages as soon as they come in since little minds are curious.
Perhaps this is just a phase. Someday we will have our house back to ourselves and we will miss these tiny buzzkills. Until then, we just have to be more creative. And in some ways, that’s more fun than anything.