Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sleep Vs. Getting It On: The Tired Mom's Dilemma

Last night, I was at a support group for parents of multiples, and the guest speaker, a clinical psychologist, brought up how important it is to maintain intimacy with your partner after having children. She meant every kind of intimacy, not just the in-the-bedroom kind, but when hands went up for questions, one mom said what was on a lot of our minds: "How do you have sex when you're tired?"

She really should have said "exhausted," which is the word that kept coming up again and again among the new and recent parents in the room. And even Late Blooming Mom, who is going on five years at this parenting gig, but has to work AND be mom AND be wife, is having a hard time getting to the getting-it-on part of the wife gig sometimes.

The guys in the room were tired too, and some of them said it certainly doesn't help anybody get in the mood when dad gets home from work and mom hands him a baby or kid as soon as he walks in the door.

The psychologist told us how relationship dissatisfaction for many couples dramatically increases in the six months to a year after having a child. Looking back, I have to say that wasn't really the case for us. We like being married to each other, liked it before kids, like it after.

What we don't like is having to juggle busy lives to the point where we barely get to see each other until after nine o'clock at night, and by the time we've wound down after that, we're often barely coherent, let alone ready to be seduced or seductive.

The psychologist suggested scheduling fooling around, so there's a designated space for it. But when I came home and suggested this to Late Blooming Dad, it only made him sad: "Is that what it's come to? How un-romantic!" He had a point. Still, in truth, I'm a planner by nature (he always points this out to me) and there have been plenty of occasions when I basically scheduled the fooling around, though I didn't exactly put it in my datebook or on his Treo. I'd just suggest, "Hey, tomorrow night, after we put them in to bed and get them asleep, let's go right into the bedroom." Sometimes I'd do this more than a night or two in advance. Not romantic in the least... but in practice, the planning didn't diminish the enjoyment.

So I guess, some nights anyway, this IS what it's come down to: a matter of scheduling. Still, there are those spontaneous times still happening, when we're not both feeling as if we can't prop our eyes open after a full day's work and then the school pickup/dinner/bath/bedtime routine, during which our children seem to make about three demands on us per minute. The problem is, too often, it's can't-keep-our-eyes-open night.

My only consolation is that last night, in that room with all the other couples, I wasn't alone in this dilemma. But Late Blooming Dad wasn't with me -- he'd agreed to stay home with kids so I could go to the support meeting. Perhaps next time I'll schedule a different kind of support meeting -- after the kids are in bed -- and make sure I sneak off for a nap during the workday. If that's what it takes, it's what it takes. Late Booming Moms and Dads have gotta do what they gotta do.


William V. Madison said...

I know that parents of young children find this hard to believe, but the challenges of exhaustion and scheduling intimacy (in order to recapture spontaneity -- and yes, it's a paradox) also affect couples who don't have kids, including gay couples. It's just that you guys have more folks in the background. Not an audience, of course, and yet witnesses nevertheless: little people whose destinies will be marked by whether their parents are well-adjusted and functional and occasionally fulfilled. That extra challenge must be pretty intense, and as in anything, the stakes are higher when kids are involved.

But really -- you are NOT alone!

Where you and Late-Blooming Dad may differ from others is that you two have been though a lot as a couple: as a result, you really appreciate each other. (It practically radiates from you when you're together, sufficient to light up the room.) Not every couple has this. It's more valuable and lasting than merely being hot for each other, and it's why you'll figure out a solution in time.

William V. Madison said...

P.S. I for one am glad that you did not entitle this post "Naked Time: The Sequel."