Young Kids Can Kill Your Sex Life…If You Let Them

Q&AThere are a few more Monday in which I will be answering readers’ questions from my Q&A with J at HHH post. Comments have been closed there (as promised at the end of October), but I am looking into adding a contact form on my website.

If you have left me a specific question or contact email with a comment, I apologize that I do not have time to answer each of you individually. Please understand that this ministry is added onto all of the other responsibilities I have in my life, and I simply cannot seem to get all the time I wish I could devote to it.

Meanwhile, today’s question is one I bet a lot of wives can relate to:

MotherofaSeaMonkey: Can you please do a post speaking to young married couples (a.k.a. inexperienced) with very young kids (1 or 2 under 2 years; wife possibly also pregnant)? Primary topics being expectations regarding frequency, duration, etc.

I have to add that my particular DH is VERY understanding regarding the current state of our sex life, but every time I read blogs such as yours and Intimacy in Marriage (since these posts seem to be aimed at a crowd with kids who are at least somewhat self-sufficient), I feel guilty. Guilty when I just have to say no; guilty that I’m not able to satisfy his libido, even though that is my responsibility as his wife. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE having sex with him! Just not quite as frequently as he would like.

Do we need to change my perspective and just say yes? Or do we take what you and Julie say and alter it slightly for our circumstances?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about How Often Should You Have Sex? — in which I encouraged married couples to have sex at least once a week. More is better, but this is a reasonable maintenance level. Certainly, there are life circumstances such as illness, being separated by physical distance for work, or family responsibilities that can interfere with that kind of routine. But generally, you should be connecting in several ways — emotionally, spiritually, sexually, etc. — at least once a week.

Parents & child -- feet in bed

Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

But what about when you have small kids? Isn’t that one of the biggest challenges?

Indeed, it is. In fact, I’ve written about how that was, without a doubt, the worst period of marital intimacy for me (When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 1 and Part 2). When you have just given birth or have small kids in the house . . . You. Are. Exhausted.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced the kind of exhaustion that I had as a young parent at any other time in my life. All-nighter in college doesn’t compare, working 70-hour weeks doesn’t compare, and even having sex all night long (which I have never actually done, no matter how much I boast otherwise) doesn’t compare.

Add in the daily demands of care-taking and the surges and dips of your hormones, and you’ve got the makings of a starvation-diet sex life. Seriously, you can barely make it to the table for a nibble of nooky.

Just because it’s a challenge, though, doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Your sex life should not be on hold for years while you churn through the first few years of parenting. Your marriage should not be ignored while you raise your children. Your love for each other should not be neglected in favor of love for your children.

“Children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). However, you can ruin your marriage if you always put your children first.

Now that I’ve thrown out a whole bunch of negative, let’s turn the corner and check out the positive side: Having a thriving marriage is one of the very best things you can do for your children.

“Thriving” includes a healthy sex life. But here are a few tips for what that looks like to a couple with young kids.

Sex probably won’t be as frequent. It’s a reality that when your children are very young, they need you in a way they won’t later in life. You can’t simply lock the door and tell your 6-month-old to take care of herself. (When they are older, you can say, “Mom and Dad need some time alone. Watch a TV program or read a book for a little bit.”) For a few months or so, expect sex to be less frequent than you might wish, or at least less frequent than one spouse wishes. As long as this period is temporary, it’s not a problem.

Make sex a priority. It’s easy as young moms to feel that the child’s needs are always the highest priority. However, you have a responsibility to be a wife, not just a mother. And you need to be reminded what it is to be a sexy wife, to be your husband’s beautiful lover. You are not merely a milk receptacle or a diaper changer or a baby bouncer. You are the woman to whom your husband entrusted his children, and he likely thinks you’re pretty awesome. Make sex a priority by letting some other things go that aren’t as important. Perhaps you don’t need to scrapbook every baby smile picture or the bathroom can wait a couple more days to be cleaned. Make room in your day and in your head for physical time with your husband.

Schedule sex if you need to. Before kids, many couples are spontaneous with their love-making. Post-children, you may need to get creative about when you can be intimate. It may require hiring a babysitter, taking the kid to Grandma’s and then heading back home, using the little one’s nap time, catching a “nooner” while your child is at preschool, etc. At first, you may cringe at the thought of writing sex on the calendar, but you might find yourself looking forward to these moments in your routine that remind you how much you enjoy one another. Remember that once you show up to the scheduled event, you can spontaneous and creative then.

Figure out how to transition from warm mommy to hot mama. One moment, you are playing patty-cake or rocking your baby, and the next thing you know, your husband is propositioning you. What?!! Most wives can’t shift from one role to the other that quickly. We can’t juggle those two thoughts at once — warm mommy and hot mama. We need time to release the responsibilities of parenthood and ease into feelings of sensuality. Give yourself that time. If your husband wants to make love, and you’re not ready, tell him so. Then go get ready, if you can. Draw a bubble bath and relax for a few minutes. Dress in something slinky, light some candles, turn on soft music to set the mood. Shave . . . because you don’t think you have since last Tuesday. Figure out what works for you to shift from one role to the other, and give yourself time to do so. If you successfully arrive with hubby and hubba-hubba on your mind, your husband likely won’t mind the wait.

(Note to husbands: We HATE when we’ve just had special time with our infant, and you grab our butt and say, “Let’s do it.” Ugh. We can’t switch that fast!)

Take care of your health. One of the reasons many wives with young children don’t feel like making love is because their hormones are more mixed up than a game of 52-card pick-up or they’re too tired they don’t lubricate well anymore. These are health issues as well. If you’re struggling with almost no sex drive, talk to your doctor. There may be something you can do about how you’re feeling. I felt so “off” when my kids were little that I look back and wonder if I wasn’t experiencing a mild form of postpartum depression. You could have vitamin or hormone deficiencies that need treatment or you may need to eat differently. Just know that if you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to feel good about yourself being with your husband. So address your health.

Say yes more often, say no sometimes. Specifically addressing this woman’s question, I suspect that the best thing is to say yes more often by addressing health, getting into the mood, scheduling sex, etc. Sometimes you don’t know you’ll enjoy something until you get into doing it. You might not be thrilled by the idea of sex tonight, and then about ten minutes into it, you’re feeling really, really good. However, I am not among those wives who believe that you must always say yes. If you feel terrible and can’t imagine having sex, it’s okay to say something like, “Honey, could we try again tomorrow?” If you do that, you need to follow through with your rain check. I’ve suggested this before, and husbands seem to generally agree that hearing “no way” hurts, while hearing “later” doesn’t so much — and certainly doesn’t if the wife has a history of being true to her word.

In summary, adjust your expectations, make any dips in sexual frequency a temporary issue, make sex a priority and schedule if necessary, take care of yourself by addressing health and getting yourself in the mood, and say yes more often.

What advice do other experienced moms have to suggest to young mothers out there?

11 thoughts on “Young Kids Can Kill Your Sex Life…If You Let Them

  1. workinprogress

    Perhaps I’m not remembering those days as accurately as I could be (my youngest is 16), but I can’t remember not being able to squeeze at least a quickie once a week. I do remember tons of frustration though toward my husband when I felt over worked and under paid :-). Looking back, there are 2 things I’d like to go back and tell myself:
    1) When your husband helps out, don’t criticize his methods. One of the biggest fights we ever got in as a couple was because he didn’t put the baby down for a nap when I had told him to. I’m not kidding… it was almost a throwing things across the room at each other fight. I should have simply thanked him for letting me go out for the day and enjoyed showing my appreciation later.
    2) Have a sincere, honest conversation about how he could help me be more ready for sex. And by this I don’t mean, “Well, if you would help out more around here rather than playing your stupid computer games….. !!!” Rather, talk about your desire to have more intimacy and give him suggestions like, “Hey hot stuff, how about running a hot bath while I nurse the baby?” or “It would really help me feel more amorous if you could sit with me rather than play computer games right now.”

    But honestly, it isn’t easy. You might have a great day, ready to pounce your husband as soon as the wee one closes his eyes, and that is the night that baby refuses to go to sleep, or the toddler begins throwing up. I do remember Saturday morning cartoons being a great help as well as Sunday afternoon naps. If you can get everyone on the same nap schedule, you have a bit more opportunity for some fooling around! Oh, and if you have a babysitter at home, or the kids are at Grandparents, you don’t have to race right home after the movie. You can always stop at a secluded spot and have a good old fashioned romp in the back seat of the car before calling it an evening.

  2. workinprogress

    I’ve been thinking about this more as I have been going about my morning and feel compelled to add to my response.
    Here’s the thing, marriage is hard work, and your early years are going to be difficult, period. We were married in our mid 20’s and had 4 babies by our 7th anniversary. Actually, in a period of 7 years, we met, married, moved across country, bought a house, hubby changed jobs twice, and had 4 babies. We thought we knew it all and thought we had a great marriage. In reality, I was nagging, whiney and controlling and he was damaged from childhood, insecure and a weak leader. All the good advice from those married 20+ years was not going to change that. Don’t get me wrong, we need to learn from those further along in life, and we did learn some great principals, BUT, our marriage got stronger as we weathered storms in our marriage. Our marriage has grown as I have learned to love my husband through depression and alcoholism. Our marriage has grown as we have tried our best to raise 4 kids and deal with their issues.
    So.. I say all that to say, don’t be disillusioned just because having more sex with your husband does not fix all your marital problems. Marriages take time to grow and be pruned. Yes, you should be enjoying regular sex, but you’re still going to go through some really painful times and wonder if it is all worth it. Your marriage is going to go through droughts sexually, but I honestly think that is normal too. Don’t use that as an excuse, but don’t panic either. Keep your eyes on the goal of a flourishing marriage. Do the things that foster that, but don’t be discouraged by set backs.
    Sorry, I didn’t mean to preach, but I felt bad leaving my response as “have nooky in the back of the car and life will be grand!” If only things were that simple 🙂

    1. Anonymous

      Being a man who is damaged from childhood, insecure and a weak leader myself, and in my late 40s, and my second marriage, there are times (most times) where I feel that having a good sex life, or even having it once a week, is a hopeless fantasy.
      You are right, a good marriage takes work, but when the husband is a weak leader and the wife needs leadership, that’s a tall order. You see, for my wife, sex is something that happens after an emotional connection has been made, and for me, sex is what creates the emotional connection. I have been doing some soul searching after my wife accused me of abandoning her emotionally, and realized that because I have not been getting the sex I need for connection, I have been disconnecting from her in other areas of our marriage. She is not a person who reaches out for connection, so she expects me to take a leadership role and initiate all the connecting points in our relationship. As a result, we are just kind of co-existing in our marriage. Its sad, but its my reality, and I don’t see it changing.

    2. workinprogress

      Anonymous,
      I know this is getting off the topic of the original post, but we were almost exactly in the same place. My husband wasn’t meeting my emotional needs and so I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about meeting his. It was when I made the choice to initiate sex every 2-3 nights that things have really turned around for both of us. We both still struggle with out weaknesses, but because MY attitude has changed, he is more willing to meet my needs. I’d suggest to you (since you are the only one you have any control over) to find out what these connection points are that she is looking for and set about to make them happen. Does she long for date nights? Once a week, call her and ask her out on a date. Does she want your attention when you get home from work? Then pour yourselves a glass of wine or tea and sit out on the patio with her for 30 minutes every evening letting her talk about her day. Does she accuse you of too much computer time? Give up your non-essential computer time. Without telling her what you are doing, become a slave to her needs for a month and see if you begin to see any changes in her attitude. If she is accusing you of abandoning her, then she feels abandoned… it may not be reality, but it is HER reality. I’m willing to bet that if she begins to feel pursued emotionally, she will begin to feel safe and not be as needy. Things won’t change over night, and will be 2 steps forward, one step back, but stick with it and you might just find that you have a much stronger marriage in 6 months from now.

  3. Jess+the Mess

    It’s about priorities. I have determined that my husband and my sex life are a top priority, even with 7 children under the age of 9 and I can tell you we have sex alot more than once as week in this house. My house isn’t perfectly clean, never will be, my kids don’t look like they stepped out of a GAP ad, they never will, those are not priorities to me. My marriage is top and that takes my energy before the kids. The best thing you can give your kids is a healthy marriage.

  4. Anonymous

    Most babies nap. I hear tales of a few that absolutely refuse to nap, but really, most do fall asleep eventually. As much as is possible we had the same schedule of napping- at least overlapping for an hour- between baby and big kids (for them it was quiet time IN THEIR ROOM). On normal/work days that gave me a break, a chance to refuel. On days when Hubby was home, it gave US a chance to reconnect. We didn’t verbalize it, but it sort of was scheduled. We still like to take one day of the weekend to have an afternoon Quiet time. 🙂
    Also, we have a consistent (relatively) early bedtime. The kids don’t get out of bed and so we know we have that time together. When the infant was still getting up for a late night feed, we could either plan for before or after the feeding. Most importantly, hubby was involved and aware about the schedule to know when kiddos would be asleep or awake.

  5. togetherforgood

    One thing I realized as a young mom was that it was really important to go to bed at the same time as my husband. So when it came time to work on “scheduling” my babies (when THEY were naturally spreading out their feedings a bit and kind of eating at about the same time every day), we started with bedtime and worked backwards. As in, I want this kid in bed at 8:30 so he’s going to eat at 8:00 so he’s ready. And even if I have to get up with him at 10:30, when my husband goes to bed at 10:00, I’m going too. That made such a HUGE difference for us. I mean of course there were always those rough nights when schedules and plans went out the windows, but having a set bedtime was and still is huge for us– and now my kids are 9, 8, and 3. We still guard bedtime very carefully.

  6. Paul Byerly

    J – Great as always.

    To the men I would say go back and read what she said about how exhausting it is to have small children. The more we guys can do to help with that load, the better it is for everyone and everything, including our sex lives. Beyond the good that is reaped as we do things for our wives, she will remember that we helped sacrificial when she was in need, and that greatly increases the chances she will do the same for the rest of our marriage!

    On a practical level, give mom AT LEAST one night a week off. That means she says goodnight to the kids an hour before they go to bed, and she is done with them – dad does all the rest alone that night.

  7. Anonymous

    My husband and I have been married for 8 years, and we have 4 kids – ages 5, 4, 2, and 3 months. So I know about married life with little kids!! The #1 most important key I think is getting them to go to bed consistently at the same time every night. All four of mine go down at 8pm every night and I know the next couple hours I can just be an adult! I worked HARD to make that happen. When people say, “You’re so lucky to have good sleepers!” my husband and I just look at each other because he knows how hard I worked to make them all sleep good, from when they were tiny babies. But it’s SO worth it, because it gives my husband and me time to talk and connect etc. every night. Also, as others have mentioned, take advantage of naptimes and mornings.

    Also, as the woman needing more “warm-up” time, it’s important to think good things about your husband throughout the day, including prepping yourself mentally for intimacy. Put on music that makes you smile and think of him. Do things that make you feel pretty and desirable (hard when you feel lucky to get a shower, I know!!) And be sure to initiate some yourself too, not just leaving it to your husband all the time.

    I will say my husband is FABULOUS with the kids and does most of the bedtime routine himself (for the older three). This definitely helps make me more relaxed at night and more easily in the mood! He also lets me go out often with my girlfriends. So moral of the story, it’s a team effort of trying to serve each other.

  8. Anonymous

    Suggest to your husband if he takes over the bedtime routine you will use that time to prepare for sex. We have 3 small children and I nursed them all, but when I started pumping before bed and he took over bedtime we all benefited. I had a tendency to allow the kids one more book, one more snuggle, one more (fill in the blank).

    When he took over it was rough for a week or so, but the kids responded to his stricter schedule and he appreciated how hard it was for me to manage the kids all day. I used to need the time to take a shower and get myself mentally switched to wife mode. Now just knowing I have the time to time to tie up loose ends around the house I just put in headphones or have my tv show on while in do dishes I can let the mom on call in me go.

    We also go to bed early! After our first child I told him if you want any chance at sex it’s going to have to be around 9. I knew I’d never last until he was ready to go to bed. He laughed at first, but once he saw how exhausted I was he started to coming to bed with me. If he can’t sleep after, I’m not offended if he wants to get up. I just asked if he’d check with me to see if I need anything else (ie to talk about anything, a little extra time because our schedules have been busy,ect.). When our sex life is running smoothly and regularly I’ve never been refused.

  9. Anonymous

    It didn’t matter how tired I was. If hubby was ready, I was ready. If the baby started crying, I’d tend to the baby as quickly as possible and return to hubby. Now that we have several children, we just lock the door and let the oldest “babysit” the others. He usually puts in a movie or ushers everyone to the play room. The only thing that I allow to disrupt sex is the desperate needs of a child (injury, major accident (like spilling an entire gallon of milk or letting the sink overflow), infant feeding or screaming, or major potty time issue.) Otherwise, the baby can fuss a little longer. The kids can wait for breakfast a little longer. Life can be put on hold and the TV can keep them occupied.

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