Sex After Kids

By Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus

I recently got a card from my husband that was perfect. It had a picture of two teenagers sneaking off to the basement to have sex while their parents watch TV in the next room. The second panel had a picture of two middle-aged parents sneaking off to have sex while their teenagers watched TV in the next room. The card said something like “The years go by but not much changes.”

The reality is that having sex with kids in the house is a challenge. A big challenge, not a little one, and it’s a challenge that lasts for many years.

Mothers of newborns are exhausted. They are sleep deprived, over touched and often feel like they are dripping from every orifice. They don’t feel sexy, and often they can’t imagine ever feeling sexy again.

Parents of toddlers are often exhausted as well. Whether you work outside the home or spend your day with your child, running after a preschooler is like running a marathon, except there are too many interruptions to allow for endorphin production. And then there are the evening going to bed rituals, which can involve six hour negotiations, 10 trips back and forth to someone’s bedroom and often one parent falling asleep with their child.

When your kids get older, new challenges arise. Somehow, they now seem more interested in your life and your bedroom. Drawers and closets may be less off-limits than you think and wandering visits at night can become the norm.

And just when you think it will be easier because your kids are teenagers, and they put themselves to bed, you realize- gasp- that they stay up later than you do. And who the hell wants to have sex with your kids sitting outside your door? It can put a little crimp in your moaning and groaning.

And I haven’t even begun to outline the guilt or emotional conflict a mother might have when she’s thinking about the messages she is giving her child about sex (“Really, it’s not all that exciting dear. You can do that when you’re 35 or so”) vs. what she might want to be doing herself.

So what’s a person to do?

First of all, understand that you are really not alone. These are real concerns that affect almost everyone with kids. Here are some concrete suggestions that may make things a bit easier, but I’m sure with a little creative thinking you and your partner can come up with more:

Give up on sex for the first 3 months after your baby is born. Really. If you want to let it go, just give yourself permission. These are uniquely exhausting times. Your partner may not even mind that much. They may be exhausted themselves. If they do mind, then incorporate a once or twice a week “One way sex night” ‒ it takes the pressure off. Buy a lock for your bedroom door. Mmmmhhmmmm, yes I know, still, BUY A LOCK. I have heard every excuse in the book for not having a lock (including not wanting to

ruin an expensive designer door that wasn’t meant to have a lock ‒ clearly the designer had a bad sex life, or no children). You need a lock. If your child pads out of bed and starts banging on the door, you can still choose to stop in the throes of passion and open the door. But at least you will not feel worried about the little face peering over the side of the bed asking what you’re doing.

Leave the fan in your bathroom on or buy and inexpensive white noise machine. Needing to control the sounds of your passion can be very inhibiting.

Negotiate with your partner a specific time and place that you will have sex once a week and work together to make it happen. Scheduling may not sound sexy, but trust me, it’s way sexier than not having sex.

Having sex when there are kids in the house is a real challenge. But luckily it’s one that can be overcome.