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Sex After Kids

It's quality, not quantity that counts. That's the word from nearly 1,700 British mums and dads who filled out The Times' Alpha Mummy blog survey on marriage and sex after kids.

Parents in the survey, and those who a Times reporter talked with afterwards, cite tiredness from working and raising kids and stress as reasons that couples with kids have less sex. But less doesn't mean bad, these parents say. Said one mom of two: "Quality has gone up, as we have got closer after the birth of our child . . . We trust each other more and so are more open with each other."

Other stats from the survey: "The majority of parents said they had sex more than once a month; and 63% said the frequency of their love-making ranged from several times a week to two to three times a month. For 46%, love-making sessions lasted 20-45 minutes, while 34% made love for up to 20 minutes and 3% for more than an hour."

Sex after kids is one of those topics that all the parenting magazines and women's sites love to build up. For instance, on iVillage, you'll find such pages as "Only Once a Week? 6 Sex-Inspiring Ideas" and Postpartum Sex Blahs: 5 Ways to Pump Up the Passion Not to be left out, Parenting.com (via CNN) features author Heidi Raykeil exploring how to have the I-can't-stand-sex-after-spending-all-day-with-little-hands-all-over-me talk with your spouse.

These sites, and others, make the case that parents aren't comfortable with their post-kids sex life. So, let's have it. Are are we moms and dads in the U.S. in the same boat as our counterparts in Britain? And how do we feel about it? Please, folks, parents only:

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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Comments


Is more than an hour a good thing?!?! If we required that kind of time commitment, we'd maybe get it in once a week. I'm much more interested in it being shorter and more frequent! Because we have a toddler, we've got a few alone hours in the evening, so it's pretty easy to fit it in. I have a rule where I never refuse my husband. That's sounds bizarre and old-fashioned, but the truth is that I may not be in the mood at the moment, but I will be in the mood shortly, and it will definitely be worth it. If I'm feeling unwell or on my way to an appointment or something, obviously I say no, but you get the point. Then there are the times I initiate sex, but he almost always beats me to it. It's always been a big part of our relationship, and hopefully always will be. Nine years and counting...

Posted by: atb | June 2, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

"Is more than an hour a good thing?!?!"

Depends on who is on top!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Where sex is concerned, I feel like I am in 6th grade again. Something to hope for that simply never materializes.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I agree with atb that it's worth it to go along even if you're not totally in the mood because hopefully, if the foreplay is decent, you will be soon. We have way less sex since kids. Actually, it started before the kids were officially in the picture because I was not one of those women who got really horny when pregnant and was exhausted. I find now that the kids are older (5 and 8) and the physical demands of childcare are less, I have more energy. Plus it's easier to leave them with babysitters now so we can have an evening together which puts us in a more romantic mood to continue the togetherness once we get home. Even with all that though, we are probably on the low end in terms of frequency. I don't think a couple has to have sex every other day to feel connected. I think it really depends on the couple. I do think it's important to talk to your spouse about it and find a balance that works for you. DH and I have had many conversations about this and seem to have struck the right balance for now. I imagine our wants/needs will continue to change as we and the kids get older. I will say also that a long hug, a nice kiss and some quiet conversation in the evenings without the kids around is a really nice way for me to feel intimate and connected with my husband on those nights when we are really tired and not up for more.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | June 2, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

"I have a rule where I never refuse my husband."

Is this a common sentiment? I have to admit that my wife was never that into sex before kids and it has slowly moved down into the "is it your birthday/Father's Day" level. I don't think that I would be on my wife 24/7 like a dog in heat, but seriously.

Posted by: Mike Sorce | June 2, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Our sex life reflects the piece - less quantity, equal or better quality.

Mike, I don't have a "rule" per se and will say no from time to time, but mostly I agree with atb's sentiment overall.

It doesn't take much to GET in the mood once we get going and I kind of consider it a courtesy to say yes waaaay more than saying no. I'm often the one initiating too though; my husband and I have pretty similar drives, just not always at the same time.

Posted by: Shandra | June 2, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Soon after the fourth child was born my wife and I went into a cycle of "Is it your birthday?" But it eventually got better, to the point that now that the kids are teenagers we're really worried about being heard. :-)

We found that locking the door and sleeping undressed improved things. (The kids are old enough that we're not worried about having to dash to them in the middle of the night, and we keep robes handy.) Just the skin-to-skin contact in the middle of the night was a big help.

Posted by: A. Nony Mouse | June 2, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

"The kids are old enough that we're not worried about having to dash to them in the middle of the night, and we keep robes handy."

No middle of the night problems in my house. DH & I are VERY heavy sleepers - we couldn't "dash" to kids, even if we wanted to...which we didn't.

Posted by: Vera Jayne Palmer | June 2, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Do husbands ever say no to their wives? I've never heard of it, but from what I've heard from many other couples is that wives regularly say no to their husbands, especially after giving birth to several kids.

The thing that worked for us after the spontaneous urge disappeared from my wife's desires was to plan for sex in advance. We just mark the calendar with the pink dots. Poof! The sex arguments went away. I no longer feel rejected when my wife isn't in the mood and both of us can prepare for one another both mentally and physically. The spontaneous option is still there, but now when I get told no, it's comforting to me that I only have to wait a day or so longer to cash in on the guarentee.

As far as the teenagers go, they only had to walk in on us once to learn that the bedroom door gets closed to spare them an image they wish they had never seen. Hahaha! I hear this is the best way to teach teenage daughter that sex is gross. Ew, yuck!

Posted by: anon Regular | June 2, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Uh, yeah, husbands say no. If I'm allowed to be tired, have a rough day, or just generally not be in the mood I should allow the same for him.

Posted by: A wife | June 2, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Do husbands ever say no to their wives? I've never heard of it"

Would a husband broadcast this fact to the world?

Husbands deny their wives INTIMACY. It's a big contributing factor to the high divorce rate in this country.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Husbands deny their wives INTIMACY. It's a big contributing factor to the high divorce rate in this country.

No, women who become moms forget about being women. Now that I have a baby, i can get fat, worry about whether the living room is vacuumed and pretend having sex with my man once a month is ok. THAT'S why the divorce rate is high.

Posted by: just say no to mom jeans | June 2, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

just say no to mom jeans


"No, women who become moms forget about being women. Now that I have a baby, i can get fat, worry about whether the living room is vacuumed and pretend having sex with my man once a month is ok. THAT'S why the divorce rate is high."

Evidence?


Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

You're an idiot. What a sexist, ridiculous comment. Nothing like lumping an entire gender together. FWIW, I happen to be thin, don't wear mom jeans and am very girly. So I don't fit your description of being un-womenly. Whatever that means.

Posted by: Just say no to mom jeans | June 2, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"If I'm allowed to be tired, have a rough day, or just generally not be in the mood I should allow the same for him."

So your husband gets too tired for sex? He must be in his 70s. Even so, men have a bad habit of asking their worn out wives for sex and don't have a problem asking them even though they know their wife is angry at them.

Also, having the sense not to ask is different than being told no. Men have the gall to ask and will pester their partners until they give in.

Posted by: rough day | June 2, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't answer the survey, because the answers are extremely variable in my marriage. Sometimes we'll have sex three times in 2-3 days. Sometimes we'll only have sex once or twice in a month. It depends on a lot of factors.

Yes, sometimes men will say no to sex. Age might be a factor, health issues too. And, yes, if a woman becomes a stereotypical "fat slag", it's not likely that she'll become more appealing to her husband/partner.

Posted by: Sue | June 2, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

"And, yes, if a woman becomes a stereotypical "fat slag", it's not likely that she'll become more appealing to her husband/partner."

Simple rule: the only nude woman in the room always looks like a million bucks to any man in the room.

Posted by: A. Nony Mouse | June 2, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Gene Weingarten likes to say that each person in a marriage has an obligation to remain pretty similar looks wise than when they met, allowing for aging. I would have to agree with this, I can't even count the amount of women and men I know personally that just let everything go, literally, after they are married. And then are surprised that their partner isn't as interested anymore.

I also will rarely say no to my husband, although I am not a big initiator. It's my belief that if they don't get anything at home, it makes them a lot more likely to look for it elsewhere.

Posted by: Callie | June 2, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

It's been 5 mos since the birth of our second, and I am being patient with my wife and haven't asked yet. I know she is worn out and "feeling touched out" from feeding our baby 8 times a day including 3 times betweeen 8PM-6AM. I am going to ask soon though, but I will try to approach it in a way that makes her understand that I'm not upset but would like to try to get back into things, not necessarily immediately but maybe the next time she's having a good day.

Posted by: waiting | June 2, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

waiting- I feel for you and your wife. At 5 months, things should be much easier. (Unless you're opting for attachment parenting, in which case expect another year and a half of it.) I know not every baby is the same, but that seems excessively difficult. I'm sure I'm stating the obvious, but talk to the pediatrician about some techniques and/or books to get sleep (and love and sanity) back into your home!

Posted by: atb | June 2, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Yes, husbands sometimes say no. Sometimes a husband is sick and doesn't want his wife to get strep throat. Other times HE is tired and just wants to sleep.

I think the actual number of times a couple has sex is much less important than whether it is the right number for both of the people involved. Remember the last line in Mr & Mrs Smith? "Ask the sex question again!" And Brad Pitt just holds up 10 fingers while Angelina Jolie smiles knowingly.

Posted by: anon | June 2, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"Gene Weingarten likes to say that each person in a marriage has an obligation to remain pretty similar looks wise than when they met, allowing for aging."

Yet another reason why Gene Weingarten is an idiot.

No person has an "obligation" to look like anything. I don't recall that part in my wedding vows - "I promise to you that I won't get fat or excessively thin; that I'll have no more than the customary lines and wrinkles; that I won't ever get my hair done differently without your approval; that I won't grow a beard or mustache; that I'll trim any excess body hair in just the way you like it; etc. etc."


Gene must be a big believer in the ads carried in the WaPo Sunday magazine for the Austin-Weston Center for Cosmetic Surgery. They "empower" people. Through boob jobs. Yep, have bigger boobs, feel better about yourself and have more power.

Posted by: A. Nony Mouse | June 2, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"What a sexist, ridiculous comment. Nothing like lumping an entire gender together"

"Evidence?"

Go up to an elementary school at pickup time. Women 50-70 lbs overweight, no make up, some in pajamas at 3 pm. A miracle these women were ever able to get a man in the first place.

Posted by: just say no to mom jeans | June 2, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: A. Nony Mouse | June 2, 2008 3:55 PM

Having a vagina, ain't everything, sorry.

Posted by: get a grip | June 2, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"Go up to an elementary school at pickup time. Women 50-70 lbs overweight, no make up, some in pajamas at 3 pm."

Depends on where you live. In my neighborhood, the women who can pick up the children at 3 pm are the SAHMs who have the time and money to go to the gym and shop for/cook healthy fresh foods. It's the working moms tied to a desk in a cubicle with little or no opportunity for exercise who have gained weight.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm wondering what the husbands of those women at your elementary school look like.

It seems to me that women are MORE likely to stay in shape and stylish than many married men. Lots of men seem to think they still have their metabolisms from their teenage years and they can eat whatever they want and not exercise. Not only are the beer bellies unattractive, but they are also setting a bad example for their kids in terms of eating and exercise habits. PLUS they have problems with knees, backs, etc., not to mention diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, etc.

I'm not even going to TOUCH the "ever able to get a man" comment. What century are you living in?

Posted by: plain old jeans | June 2, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Judging from Stacey's photo that used to be on this blog, I'm surprised she has had sex to create to kids. Oh, sorry, forgot -- they pick their nose, masturbate, and pee on the toilet seat all the time. Must be a charming household.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I would find it interesting, too, to see how much effort husbands put into the sex.

I love my guy, but sometimes I can't get interested when I know it's going to be the same routine where I try to make sure he's having fun experience...and the favor isn't returned.

Have I kept myself in shape? Yep. Have I been open to all sorts of suggestions? Yep. Got outfits that I could fit into an envelope (minus the heels) to prove it? Most definitely.

But no matter the effort I put in, my husband puts in very little. He continues to do the same things during foreplay and sex that actually turn me off. Despite me asking him not to. A lot. Yet he does these things anyway, so how am I supposed to get excited over that? It's frustrating and completely unerotic.

The kicker is, he didn't used to be like that. He has changed from a great, inventive, lover to a "sex is like pizza, even when it's bad it's good" kind of lover. We've been working on it, but it's slow going.

So husbands, take a good hard think why your wives may not want to have sex. If you are treating sex like a convenience food or a routine, it may be the reason.

We don't necessarily need romance and mood and flowers, etc. And not every time has to be new or thrilling or exciting. But c'mon - if we, say, shave our legs, put on the good perfume, and don something brief and silky/lacy/see-through/naughty, then the least you can do is not retreat to your fall-back position and rise to the challenge, as it were ;)

And if something turns us off, do...not...do...it...anymore! If we like something, do it more often. It ain't rocket science.

Posted by: Lurker Poster | June 2, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

To waiting:

Your wife has probably, due to the time since your last sexual encounter, become rather used to not having sex. There's really no reason to wait 5 months or longer to have sex again, unless there's some intervening physical/medical issues. So, you're going to need to bring it up. Most likely, as time goes by and you get back into the swing of things, she'll enjoy it and want it. But, if she's resistant at first, you'll need to ask what you can do to make sex possible and you'll need to be assertive about this. Good luck.

Posted by: Somewhere else | June 2, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Thumbs up to this comment:

""Gene Weingarten likes to say that each person in a marriage has an obligation to remain pretty similar looks wise than when they met, allowing for aging."

Yet another reason why Gene Weingarten is an idiot.

No person has an "obligation" to look like anything. I don't recall that part in my wedding vows - "I promise to you that I won't get fat or excessively thin; that I'll have no more than the customary lines and wrinkles; that I won't ever get my hair done differently without your approval; that I won't grow a beard or mustache; that I'll trim any excess body hair in just the way you like it; etc. etc.""

In point of fact I weight less than I did when we got married, but it definitely is in different places. :)

My husband has gained about 50 lbs due to huge lifestyle changes and age. He's still the guy I married and I still find him very attractive.

I worry about his health a bit but I know he knows it's an issue and is working to change... but I also believe I signed up for this when I said yes, forever. What idiot is ENTITLED to have their partner LOOK a particular way???? Good god.

Posted by: Shandra | June 3, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Who said anyone was "entitled" to expect their partner to look any way at all?

Not me. I acknowledged the fact that most men are visually stimulated, and aren't going to be as stimulated by a woman who has allowed her appearance to slide.

Posted by: Sue | June 3, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Harshness. No kids here, but our problem tends to be that when he's not "in the mood" he'll just avoid it because he's afraid of not performing well. I've been trying to train him that it's much more the effort and attention which matters and so far almost every time, he DOES get into the mood and enjoy it anyway. It gets tiring always being the initiator.

While I can see how the calendar idea isn't for everything, I think it's a great way to put things in perspective- people choose to live together and be married to make a commitment to work together to fulfill eachother. And that should definitely include sexually. To me love and lasting commitment means I don't get the luxury of being selfish all the time.

Posted by: Liz D | June 3, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I have read a bevy of these here comments, and from the likes of things, I am noticing one very sad trait out of everyone who THINKS they know why men and women's sex lessens after children. This is simply because they don't really know each other well enough to care for what the other person thinks or feels. Children should only deepen feelings of neccesity in married couples. But unfortunately, the media burns images in the minds of all of the small, petite or skinny, attractive, big boobed girls "gone wild" all over the nation while daddy sits down with junior and stares at the tube, mommy cooks a hastened meal being a career women, they both cater to the needs of the "child" and not their own (add any reason they don't talk to each other from the heart), so they forget what made them love each other in the first place...if love was ever in the equation. Looking sexy for your man/woman after children does SO much for libido after kids. Who wants a spouse who let's it all go after kids come? Love ain't THAT strong in a world where girls/guys hit on mommies and daddies as a rite of passage these days...and you people fall for it. lol...stay in shape, love your spouse like yesterday because it's ALWAYS something you can learn about them if you want to...and stop letting society tell you how to dictate your life. Put down the books, go for a walk, talk about your concerns, work them out, then go home and make out...and smash it till it can't be smashed any more. =]

Posted by: mildly amused | June 3, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

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