If you’re trying to keep your children fed, entertained, healthy and happy all while balancing the demands of a busy career and a relationship, it’s not a shock or abnormal if sex ends up being the last thing on your mind at the end of the night. Crashing on your bed to eek out a few hours of sleep might be the most attractive option, or maybe “me time,” sitting in stillness, is preferred. Speaking from experience, it can be hard to get in the mood when you close out many a day exhausted from all of your responsibilities. And if you’re a newer mom sharing your body around the clock with a child you’re nursing or just trying to feel like yourself again in that body, that too can throw a wrench in sexy-time plans. But some good sex can do the body good, as well as the mind and spirit.
Christina Garrett, a productivity and parenting coach, creator of the Momathon Diaries and a married mother of five children she homeschools, understands mommy fatigue. However, she implores moms to reframe the way they see sex when life gets busy. Instead of it being another task on a growing to-do list, focus on it as an essential form of self-care.
We talked with Garrett about ways we can communicate our needs with our partner (like the help we could use with raising kids and home upkeep so there is energy and a desire for sex), how we can still enjoy scheduled sex over the spontaneous kind, and the ways lovemaking is a reminder that we’re much more than just moms. We’re sensual beings deserving of pleasure.
ESSENCE: How do you see sex working as a form of self-care for mamas?
Christina Garrett: It’s no secret that the combination of work and kids can make finding time and energy for intimacy hard to do. The endless to-do list is daunting and poor sleep and early mornings can take the steam out of any honeymooning couple. Beyond trying to “get in the mood,” moms with young children may also have some subconscious birth-related trauma that reminds them, “Sex is how I got in this situation in the first place!”
But sex can be a dynamic form of self-care for multiple reasons.
1) It helps you to reconnect with your partner, both emotionally and physically. A busy schedule may have you moving past each other all day, but for just a little while in that 24-hour period, you slowed down long enough to make each other feel seen, valued and desired.
2) Sex promotes being present in the moment and helps us to disconnect from the busyness of the day. Of course, there will be moments where little hands are knocking on the door, but a strategically planned encounter can remind us that we are more than just busy mothers. Instead, we are hot girlfriends, passionate lovers and women in need of deep breaths and TLC.
3) A good orgasm and physical affection help lower your stress and are great for your health. Sensual touch releases a flood of “feel good hormones” and endorphins that leave you with the post-sex high. Sex is also amazing for your heart (hello, cardio!), produces immune system-boosting benefits and helps you sleep.
How can we make sure we make time for it with our partners?
I believe that organizing and streamlining our schedules is the key to having time for what matters. I often ask two questions:
1) Is sex a priority for you?
2) What can we remove from our schedules or delegate so there is more time for intimacy?
Because division of labor in the home and childcare are still major stressors for mothers, I think we need to have crucial conversations about support at home and communicating our needs. How can partners step in to help alleviate the burden if the children are small? If kids are older, what systems can be put in place so they help with chores, learn to embrace “quiet time” and understand their parents’ boundaries? Yes, boundaries start at home!
What do you think of scheduling sex? Does it take any of the allure out of lovemaking if it’s in the calendar?
I think the simple idea of scheduling sex can make the concept seem less alluring. Moms may wonder, Have we lost all the spontaneity in our relationship?
Instead, let’s reframe this perspective. Think about how incredible it feels to see your spa appointment circled on the calendar in red marker. It’s set in stone. Yes, you have to wait a few days, but your mind and body are eagerly anticipating that relaxation and quiet time. Even more, you know that – no matter what else was on the schedule – you made your self-care a priority.
We can equally anticipate sex in the same way. Focusing on the attributes of your spouse that you find attractive and investing in new bedroom decor, candles, body oils and even toys can turn what was an afterthought into a revolutionary experience.
What do you say to moms with a full house who say they just have too much going on for sex?
When we have too much going on for sex, what we are really saying is we may be too busy to prioritize our relationship. For couples who have physical touch, quality time and affirmation as love languages, the lack of affection can literally starve your connection. As a working and homeschooling mom of five, I understand what it’s like to have a hectic schedule. However, if my husband and I go too long without connecting, I explore what needs to be tweaked so that we have more time. This can look like having the kids help out more around the house so I’m not exhausted or politely declining engagements or invitations so we can focus on the strength of our family.
Lastly, I want to add that going a few days or a few weeks without sex isn’t a deal breaker. Instead, I believe it’s our attitude about it that matters the most. It’s exploring the next part of our journey – that our needs may have changed and we need to rediscover what pleasure feels like in our new bodies. It’s making sure we know we are more than just moms, even though that is one of the most incredible titles we carry.
Let’s make space for self-discovery and self-care in this new phase of life.