There 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.
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?