When it comes to articles about sex and the new parent, most
of them either offer totally useless advice (break out of the bedroom rut and
have sex in the car!), or they're full of depressing statistics. I'm referring
to a recent article that said women's sex drives probably don't return to
normal until six years after the baby
is born. But how many of them talk about how often parents are really doing
it—or, for that matter, how often they should
be doing it?
First of all, some post-baby boning facts: It's not at all
true that having a baby kills your sex life, but there's definitely a period of
abstinence, both pre- and post-child. In fact, as Ian Kerner, author and sexpert
points out, there's really about a three- to five-month period of abstinence for
new parents. "Sex starts to dissipate in the third trimester, and then there's
a full trimester added to that post-birth," he says. "But the trouble is, that becomes
the new normal, and a lot of couples start to settle into this no-sex routine."
Unfortunately, you can't just blame it all on the baby. Of course having a child taxes a lot of your
mental and physical reserves, so you'll crave sleep more than ever. (And since
most people have sex in bed at night, there's a constant battle over what the
better option is when the lights go down. Catching up on your gossip mags and some z's? Winner!) But as Kerner points out, the baby also often fulfills a lot of
the intimacy needs of the mother, so she just might not want to do it as much.
Most of my mom pals admitted that they averaged sex at least two to four times a month.
But—and of course there's a but—this is naturally a bad
road to go down. Couples need intimacy in the form of kissing, hugging, and
yes, having sex, in order to survive and thrive. The good news is, a little can
go a long way. Kerner suggests couples (in fact, all couples, regardless of
children) try to get it on at least once a week, or at the very least, four times a month, whether that's two nights in a row with two weeks off, or a
solid Saturday night date. I felt that was fair, and something I mostly already
adhered to—but was I the norm? Was I worse off sexually than my friends? Was I
sexually keeping up with the Joneses? I decided to ask around.
Most of my mom pals admitted that they averaged sex at least
two to four times a month, sometimes more, occasionally less, depending on what
was going on in their lives. "It's hard around the holidays because we have to
do so much traveling and share bedrooms with the kids," says Julia, a friend
with a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. "We went the whole month of December
without it." Another friend said she used to aim for once a week, but they'd
gotten lazy and settled for every other week. "But I don't feel bad about it.
It's enough for me," she says. In fact, only one friend said she'd gone several
months without sex, but she also knew her and her husband had some deeper
problems than just being tired and lazy about hooking up.
Another friend said she had a very standard sexual routine. "My husband and I do it once a week, on Saturday afternoons, when both boys are
down for their nap," she told me. If that sounds like the death of romance to
you, think again. Scheduled sex can often be a great thing. You know it's going
to happen so you can switch out of your giant cotton bloomers and into
something slightly sexier, and studies have found a sexual routine can even
revitalize romance in a relationship. At the very least, you won't have to
think too hard when trying to remember your last sexcapade.
The takeaway? Don't forsake sex just because you're parents,
but don't feel pressured into humping all the time just because everyone else
is. They're really not either. And, just as long you're still connecting
physically (which includes hugs and kisses), studies have long shown that it helps
keep people in love and happy as a couple. And that's something that will
probably come in handy the next time you take a big family trip to the zoo and "someone" forgot to bring the diaper bag.