Great Sexpectations - Parents as Lovers - Part I of II
Ann Douglas asks sex educator Dr. Trina Read, DHS, to tackle sleep deprivation, kid interruptions, and other obstacles to a sizzling – or at least satisfying – parental sex life.
A two-part series. Part I of II.
By Ann Douglas
Looking to emerge from your self-imposed (or baby-imposed) state of parental celibacy to something at least approaching sex kitten status again? Trina Read, author of the recently published Till Sex Do Us Part (Key Porter Books, 2009), took time out from her book tour schedule to give ParentCentral the lowdown on sex and the sleep-deprived (or chronically stressed out) parent. Here are the highlights of our interview.
AD: Most parents go through times when they are too tired to even think about having sex. (Or, to be more precise, they think about it, but they're too exhausted to do much more than give one another soulful eyes while they take care of their newborn or clean up after a child with the stomach flu.) You make the point, however, that "too tired for sex" can easily become an excuse for avoiding sex. Could you please elaborate on that point?
One of my clients has four children under the age of six and runs a store-front retail business. Since she learned to ask for what she needed in her relationship, she has been having more sex than she had before she had children. Why? Because it is the only time in her extremely busy life when she feels nurtured and it's all about her. Her husband is more than happy to oblige because he has a wife who is totally into the sexual experience.
AD: What should parents do if a crying baby interrupts sex? If you have the opportunity to pick up where you left off, sometimes one partner is still ready to go but the other person has shifted into parental mode and the moment has been lost. This can lead to much unhappiness by the partner who is still in the love zone.
TR: If one partner doesn't feel like having sex afterwards, then so be it. However, it is important for the couple to talk about picking up where they left off: "Let's take this back up again, tomorrow, next week, sometime this month." Turn it from a negative, awkward time to an opportunity to create positive anticipation.
Hopefully the parents can find a way to laugh about this instead of getting uptight about it.
AD: And as for those worries that you have just traumatized your child and you're going to spend the rest of your life paying for therapy to help erase the images?
TR: Sigmund Freud is the culprit for creating this fallacy. Freud theorized that children who witnessed the primal scene (seeing parents making love) would become neurotic because of their unfulfilled desire to marry the opposite-sex parent. It is interesting that Freud's theory stuck, considering the majority of the world today and in history has had families living in one-room dwellings. Privacy for parents is a relatively new phenomenon.
AD: How is a child likely to react – and how should you, the parents, react in response?
A younger child is unlikely to understand what is happening and may simply be frightened by the sounds of lovemaking. Address your child's fear. Matter-of-factly reassure them that no one was hurt and this way of touching is something grown-ups do.
A primary school-aged child may simply be curious. Say only what is necessary to move to the next subject without shaming or inadvertently stirring up even more interest. Say, I can see you are inquisitive. Sometimes adults do things kids don't understand. Then switch the topic.
An older child may know exactly what is happening and may be disgusted or embarrassed. If an older child bursts in, do not lie or get defensive about what is going on. Instead get dressed and talk about what just happened, acknowledging that this as awkward for everyone. Then, set your boundaries with the child to ensure your privacy.
Go immediately to the hardware store and buy a set of good locks for your bedroom. If you are worried about being too noisy, buy something to create white noise, like a loud humidifier, fan, radio or stereo that can be moved close to the door.
In Part II: The conversation continues with frank talk about scheduled sex, body image after baby, and more.