Getting in Touch With Your Sexual Self After You Have Kids
My kids can finally make their own toast when they wake up ungodly early on Saturday mornings. Toast might not seem like a major coup, but for those of us who have been on the hook to your womb goblins 24-7 for many years, any sign of independence is huge. When the kids can take care of themselves, I get to sleep, complete a thought, finish a hot cup of coffee and rediscover my sexual self.
Hello, old friend, I'm back!
I'm all touched out
Alicia Morabito, a 37-year-old underwriter, is raising twin 9-year-old girls with her husband in Michigan. She said, "The first five years were the hardest in our marriage. Trying to keep two babies alive and figure out how to co-parent on very little sleep is hard. The stakes got higher when they showed up."
Nationally recognized sex and relationship expert, author and film creator, Moushumi Ghose, M.F.T., says the overwhelming demand on moms leaves us feeling touched-out. "The human desire to connect and that need for intimacy is fulfilled by the child, so there's less of a need to be intimate with the partner. This can sometimes wreak havoc; the spouse can feel left out and like he's less important and she's not sexually attracted to him."
'Sharing the responsibility of the childrearing in a more balanced way allows everyone time for themselves.'
Women might experience guilt or grief over the loss of connection but forcing ourselves to be sexually available to our partners isn't the answer; we need time alone to be responsible only for our own needs and pleasure. Often, it's not a lack of desire, but a lack of time.
"Sharing the responsibility of the childrearing in a more balanced way allows everyone time for themselves. If you can't show up for yourself, there's no way you can show up for your partner," Ghose explained. "Disconnecting from being a mom and shifting to another role sometimes takes several hours. It's about cultivating that time alone into perpetuity so that it is ongoing."
I don't recognize myself
"Body image is integral to our sexuality," Ghose said, "And if we don't feel good in our bodies, we're not going to feel like being sexual. For many women, when their kids finally stop breastfeeding and hanging all over them, they can start going toward something that they recognize and feels more comfortable."
Morabito agreed, saying "Working on accepting and loving my body has made the largest difference in my sexual identity. It's not always easy, it's ongoing work. I used to focus on being pretty or desirable because I thought that meant valuable. Now my sexual identity is based on connection, pleasure and fun. I remember feeling threatened by the idea of my husband masturbating, getting sexual gratification anywhere other than with me. I know now this was due to my own insecurities. Now, I see sex as a space that our bodies and minds can go, together or alone."
Thirty-nine-year-old customer service specialist, Stephanie Regan in Kentucky, has a seven-year-old son. To her, "Sexy no longer means perfect. Sexy now means confident. Seeing my body in a new light has been completely life-changing. Relearning my body has been so rewarding and freeing, like flipping the bird to the beauty industry that makes men rich and women oppressed."
I want to be the best version of me
Ghose is hopeful that eventually, we'll feel less pressure to set aside our sexual selves while raising kids. She said,
"If people could lean into that, there would be more fluidity," she said. "Right now, it is compartmentalized, like, 'The kids can't see us being sexual,' or 'This isn't appropriate." But if we do a better job of teaching our kids sex-positivity, we can embrace and model for them all parts of womanhood."
Iowa-based romance author Kitty Bardot reported that she and her husband enjoyed a great sex life while raising their three kids, but having a daughter changed the way she approached it.
"Having my daughter made me be more vocal in my wants and desires," she explained. "Once I started speaking up, sex became amazing! I once believed that sexy meant being available and willing, but now I think it's using my voice to get what I desire, and respecting my partner's, as well."
'Separating sexuality from my life was something I did out of pain and guilt and shame.'
Motherhood doesn't have to mean the end of self-discovery and personal growth. It can be a new beginning. After her divorce from her son's dad, Regan came out as a lesbian.
"Being a lesbian is so much more than a sexual label to me—it's permission to be myself, to be free, to be unapologetic about who I am," she declared." Even the term sexual self implies that it is separate from your normal self or mom self or career self. But now I know, through therapy and healing and loving myself, that I am the same person all the time.
"Separating sexuality from my life was something I did out of pain and guilt and shame," she added. "I no longer want that. I deserve to be sexual, to be loved the way I want, to say 'not this' when something isn't right, and to put my well-being first."
How do I woo myself?
Quality sex therapy is very effective, especially if we are healing from past sexual trauma or repression, and there are new unique ways to access care. Also, there are wonderful books on finding yourself, healing in your body, personal growth, sex, and sexuality as well as steamy novels that get our juices flowing.
Or get creative! Bardot joined a burlesque troupe 12 years ago, and reports that it's "changed my life in every way possible!"
Morabito added, "I put a lot of work into self-reflection, meditation and reading, and our collection of sex toys has grown a lot during COVID-19."
If you're still in the trenches with little ones, attempt to reserve some of yourself just for you. Also, remember, it does get better.
One day, there will be toast.