This piece first appeared in The MOPS Magazine November Print edition. Written by Lydia Mikkael. Used by permission from mops.org.
The cliché that sex goes away when you have kids is only funny in sitcoms—in reality many of us are wondering if motherhood is inherently a trade-in for good sex?
The nature of it seems to work against us. Pregnancy and breastfeeding tamper with our hormones and then leave us in a stranger’s body. After littles in the lap, babies on the chest, and our bellies used as trampolines, our touch quota is full. In the chaos of the day, it can be hard to connect to the part of your partner that is lover and friend and not just co-parent and roommate. By the time the kids are finally tucked in bed and the house is quiet, you’re much more interested in laying your head on that pillow than what your partner wants to do under the sheets.
Many of us rally anyway, because we know it’s important. But the problem with sex that feels like work is that it doesn’t really work. When we approach sex as something we need to do, the opportunity for connection often becomes a pain point instead. Even if you’d never admit it out loud, you may dread the moment or be impatient for it to be over. You show up passive or distracted. You might even start blaming something external to get you out of sex because “I don’t want to…again” doesn’t feel good enough.
Taking the work out of sex starts with paying attention to how we think about it. To redirect all the energy being mustered for the bedroom towards what’s happening in our minds right before. Having sex when you’re not in the mood is totally fine—but what motivates that decision might not be.
When sex feels like work, it’s probably motivated by obligation. The drive to have sex because you “should” is rooted in fear, insecurity, and most likely messages that come from people who aren’t in your bedroom.
When sex feels like work that you enjoy, it’s motivated by choice. A conscious decision to focus on your love for your partner, reminding yourself you want and like to meet their needs. This puts you in the driver seat instead of expectations and will feel more honest and empowered, even if the sex looks the same. It changes an “ok…give me a few minutes to finish these dishes” to a “I’m not sure I’m in the mood right now, but let’s see if you can get me there!” Sex that two people want to be there for creates an openness and a connection that goes beyond pleasure. Probably because that’s what your partner was requesting anyway—not just checking sex off the list, but feeling desired.
If you want to move sex from feeling like a should to want, here are some fun ways to help shift your mindset.
1. Sex Bucket List
Make a sex bucket list together: a list of items at least one person is interested in, but both are open to trying. Go back to this list on days you feel uninspired. Pick an item on the list and let it cross your mind throughout the day—mentally rehearse it or research it or whatever pumps you up for trying it later (and if you’re up for it, you can get things started by letting your partner know what’s on the docket!).
2. Initiate Flirting
Instead of encountering sex as the last item to address when the day’s list is done, build the connection throughout the day by leaving notes or sending flirtatious texts. They don’t even have to be sexy—any way you connect to the fondness you feel for your partner will remind you what motivates your sex.
3. Start sex with a conversation about sex. Talk about your sex life together, keeping it to the positive and the real. (Save discussions on what’s not working or hypotheticals for another time). Reminisce about the desire of your dating years and some of your best times and you might find yourself creating another soon after.
4. Schedule it.
I know that sounds incredibly lame, but it can be useful for reliving anxiety about unsaid expectations. Even if the scheduled sex is only in your mind, this can help you focus your energy towards a specific event instead of always feeling “on.”
Know that if you’ve tried to approach sex differently, but it still feels like a should, you can change your mind about having it an any point. Even if was on the calendar, you’ve been texting about it all day, and the candles are lit. You can still change your mind. It doesn’t mean you’re a tease or a failure—it means you’re honest. And sex that is given and enjoyed from an honest place is what makes work sex, good sex.