One of my mom friends gave her son milkshakes before he could walk. Another has sworn off sugar until elementary school. I tend to follow a “figure-it-out” approach with my 15-month-old son and 2 1⁄2-year-old daughter, but a close friend does everything for her 20-month-old son, from hand-feeding him to providing round-the-clock entertainment. As new mamas, we all have very different parenting philosophies, but we also all have one thing in common—we started having a whole lot less sex after our babies were born.
We expected it, sure, just like we expected to get less sleep and turn into bleary-eyed zombies, but we also expected our dry spells would end. Yet there we were, past the 1st birthdays and sleeping-through-the-night milestones and still having a whole lot less sex than we were prebabies.
This revised, sexless state of our union troubled me. My husband and I did not start out as friends. Passion brought us together and kept us together through fiery, clothes-throwing, moving-out-oh-wait-I-can’t-live-without-you-so-I’m- moving-back-in fights. If we went a day without having sex, either one of us was out of town or one of those fights was about to go down. We were the winning couple of Mate ’08, a competition among our group of friends to see who could go the most consecutive days having sex in 2008.
Sex was important in our courtship and remained important through the early years of our marriage. But then we had Austen. And then Sam. And we, like lots of couples, sacrificed our sexual relationship to the baby gods. Soon the man I’d once had sex with in my friend’s bathroom (sorry about that, Meka) felt more like a roommate than a husband.
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Of course, all relationships—baby or no baby—experience a decline in the romance department over time. I’m well past the point of expecting a daily grind, but it gradually fell to once a week, then maybe every other week and eventually to once a month. One friend confided that she and her baby daddy hadn’t been intimate in six months; another, since the child was born.
Besides taking a whole lot of time and energy, babies serve as excellent excuses to get out of having sex—really cute, getting-out-of-sex excuses. But why were so many of us looking for reasons to avoid getting down? Of course, we’re tired, our schedules are all messed up, and we’re running on empty most of the time. But sex is (gasp!) fun. Or at least it used to be, before it morphed into an end-of-the-day obligation. (Also, it’s free, which is a really great perk when you’ve got two kids in diapers.)
Back in the sack
One day, while scrolling through pictures of babies and cats on my Facebook feed, I came across a friend’s post lamenting her recent bad eating habits. She posted a picture of the healthy meal she was about to eat with the hashtag #eatrightdammit. For whatever reason, my mind immediately transformed this into a mantra for myself: #justhavesexdammit.
Now before anyone gets up in arms (yes, I can see how this hashtag could be, let’s just say, misconstrued), this is about me. It’s not about pleasing a man or doing anything you truly don’t want to do. It’s about me reclaiming my sexual relationship with my husband, no matter how tired I am, how many potty training accidents I cleaned up or how many times Sam flipped over the dogs’ full water bowl that day. It’s about restoring intimacy on a carnal level, yes, but also salvaging the emotional intimacy that can fade alongside a sexual decline.
I started my #justhavesexdammit crusade easy—once a week. It was typically a Saturday night, and no matter how late or tired, I either initiated it myself or made it known that advances would not be unwelcome. It sounds pretty horrible, but I likened it to my relationship with exercise: It’s tough to get started, but I knew I’d be happy once I’d done it. And I was.
Soon I was #justhavesexdammit-ing multiple times a week. Even on consecutive days! If it had been a little while, I’d picture that hashtag and be ready to get hot and heavy. Plus, thanks to its origins as a call to action to eat healthy, I started seeing salads and quinoa as aphrodisiacs of sorts.
Besides lusting after my husband more, it also made me want to interact more with him on a non-erotic adult level. Instead of mindlessly watching TV or sitting in front of the laptop after putting the babies to bed, I’d want to talk—like about things other than Austen’s imaginary friend or Sam’s crazy poop. We connected as more than just two people living in the same house raising the same two children. We connected as real-life, interesting people.
I haven’t told my friends about #justhavesexdammit. I’m not quite comfortable with them linking me to this carnal catchphrase, and, let’s be honest, it’s an awkward jump from formula to fornication. But maybe it’d give them that push they need to get back on that horse or back in the saddle or … well, never mind—#justhavesexdammit.