Between the teasing from our childless friends and the sad portrayal of sexless couples in the media, it almost feels like our sex lives are supposed to fail after we have kids. Women are weighed down by an absurd expectation that after we have kids, our personalities and sexualities go out the window.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
First off, your sex life has nothing to do with anyone else’s. If you and your partner(s) are happy with how often you have sex, then don’t change a thing! You don’t need to be having any more or less sex just because someone else thinks you should.
Sex drive after childbirth is a different experience for every woman. Some find themselves ready to get intimate again almost immediately, while others take months or longer to regain their sex drive. Of course, you should listen to your doctor, but for most of us, there’s no medical reason not to have sex as soon as we feel ready.
That being said, studies show that having sex at least once per week improves personal happiness and relationship satisfaction. Only about a quarter of couples have sex that often, but it’s a healthy goal if you want to rekindle your sex life and aren’t sure where to start.
Still, it’s not easy to find time for sex even once a week. If you do have the time, you or your partner might not be in the mood. Motherhood is a 24/7 job, and even with split custody or babysitters, it can be difficult to get your brain out of mommy mode. The brutal truth is that there’s never going to be a perfect time to rekindle your passion; your relationship is something you need to raise and nurture almost as if it were another child.
Before kids, many of us get used to skipping straight to sex whenever we like. After kids, the entire relationship dynamic changes. Whether you aren’t ready for sex yet, or are ready and can’t find the time, it helps to take it slow and rebuild intimacy from the ground up.
This means holding your partner and being held by them, touching each other lovingly, giving or asking for massages, gentle kissing, and making out. If you want to have sex but can’t find the time, these little intimacies build sexual tension that makes it easier and more satisfying to have spontaneous sex when you get the chance.
For example, going from zero to one hundred the minute your kid falls asleep just doesn’t work for all of us. On the other hand, a day of sensual teasing, forehead kisses, fingers brushing against your back in passing, and tender eye contact can build anticipation that leads to mind-blowing sex when you finally get a moment to yourselves.
I call this the “date night” mistake. There’s nothing wrong with date nights, but you can’t always schedule intimacy and love. If you and your partner aren’t practising intimacy daily through touch, talks, and loving gestures, then a date night might feel like a tiring obligation.
With that in mind, it’s still important to set aside time for you and your partner to connect and do things you enjoy together. Try to think of the things that used to turn you on and make them a part of this time. Many of us have this odd belief that a date night has to be dinner and a movie, but in reality, there are no rules. It doesn’t even need to be at night.
I had a client who was frustrated after several stale dinner dates, so I asked her a simple question. “Can you remember the best sex you and your wife ever had?”
“That’s easy,” she said without skipping a beat, “we took our dog on a hike, and by the time we got home, exhausted and sweaty, from the shower to the bed we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.”
“If your best sex was after partnered exercise outdoors,” I asked her, “why the hell do you spend all your dates inside sitting down?” After that, she and her partner started planning their dates around their turn-ons, and her sex life started heating up again.
Our sexuality changes throughout our lives. In the past, you may have wanted to have sex often but never seem to be in the mood now. This could be a shift from spontaneous desire to responsive desire. In the simplest terms, this means that you may not feel sexual desire until after you’re sexually aroused.
You should never feel pressured into sex you don’t want, but it’s common for women not to want sex until they’re aroused. If you think this might be the case, I suggest pleasuring yourself with your fingers or a vibrator and seeing if your feelings toward partnered sex change after arousal.
The most important part of rebuilding your sex life is communication. In my time as a sex therapist, I’ve counselled several mothers who pulled back from physical touch with their partner because they weren’t ready for sex and were afraid that’s where it would lead. It’s okay if you feel that way, and it’s even possible that your partner feels the same pressure to have sex when you get close. It’s important to clear the air and tell them how you feel.
It’s absolutely critical to have this conversation, but more than half of us choose not to talk about sex when we want to. Think about the boundaries and expectations you want to set and the positive interactions you need to have. Maybe you need to tell your partner that you miss cuddling, but groping is off-limits. You might need to tell them that you want to be close but don’t want them to initiate sex for a while. If they don’t know how you’re feeling, it can be confusing, awkward, or even hurtful when interactions that used to be normal aren’t happening anymore.
If you’re not comfortable having this conversation alone, it can help to find a mediator or counsellor to guide the conversation. No one has all the answers when they dive into motherhood, and there’s no shame in seeking help.
While it’s natural for women to have a low sex drive for months after birth, no one knows your body and mind better than you do. If your sex drive is low or nonexistent and you feel like it shouldn’t be, then I recommend speaking with your doctor first to rule out any medical problems.
After that comes the hard part - self-care.
Mothers are a force of nature, and you might feel like you have to do everything or it won’t get done. If you stay on that path, you can and will get burnt out. If you don’t take care of your own emotional, physical, and mental needs, it will hurt your ability to take care of your child and your relationship.
So ask yourself what you need to get in touch with yourself and your sexuality. Do you need more alone time? Gym time? A few hours of silence cuddled up with a good book or your favourite show? A night off from cooking or a day off from work?
Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, friends, or family for help. Your workload and stress are obvious to you but may be invisible to them. It takes a village to raise a child, so don’t be afraid to let the village pull its weight every now and then.
I’ll be honest, some of these tips won’t work for you, and that’s okay! Finding what works for you is a journey full of laughs, tears, and - eventually - orgasms. Whether you’ve been a mom for twenty days or twenty years, there’s always more to learn. If you keep trying, you will find the path to the sex life you want to have.