Behind closed doors: How to keep the spark alive after you’ve had kids
There’s no greater ‘oh shit…’ moment for a parent than suddenly hearing the pitter patter of little feet while in the throes of passion.
I’ve been there. Astride my husband on the couch, clothes strewn all over the room. A dream, which quickly turned into a nightmare when I realised my 10-year-old was standing stunned at the door having woken up late at night. In our effort to throw caution to the wind and reignite the spark in our sex life, we’d torched the innocence of our son!
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mum. But the domestic mundanity of washing uniforms and sports gear, planning and cooking dinners, homework, prepping lunches, drawn-out bedtime routines and the reality of doing it all over again the next day, can sap your soul a little after a while. Pillow talk becomes planning talk: Are they asleep? Is that one of the kids coughing? If we have sex now, how much time before we finish, freshen up and are back in bed? There’s no surer way to kill any morsel of mood for intimacy.
We were parents but we’d lost ourselves as a couple with little deviation from routine, little chat outside of kids or house talk. Sex, intimacy and, heaven forbid, spontaneity, was shelved and gathering dust – a common situation for many parents according to psychosexual and relationship therapist Aoife Drury.
“It’s quality over quantity that matters; the type of sex you have, variety, how enjoyable, anticipatory, desire-filled and pleasurable it is, being more immersed rather than focusing on the number of times you have sex. The big thing is not to see sex as a box-ticking exercise,” she says. “Intimacy is more important than intercourse. This can be massages, soul gazing, hugging, flirting, kissing on the lips, touching. This all counts as foreplay which cultivates and maintains excitement and sexual energy.”
Flirting in front of kids at an age-appropriate level is healthy too and demonstrates your love and attraction for one another.
That’s all well and good but how to get to the action before foreplay fizzles out? The odds are stacked even higher when the kids are off school, around the house more and staying up later.
“There is a certain level of planning that parents can do to make things happen,” explains Drury. “It might mean looking ahead to see where you can steal opportunistic moments. Do the kids have playdates? Swimming lessons? Will they be visiting grandparents?”
Drury also advises couples to incorporate ‘date nights’, once a week if possible.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean going out but having dinner or watching a movie together,” she said.
“It’s no harm for kids to understand that you can have boundaries as a couple too. Carving out space and time demonstrates the value you have for one another. It is an important aspect of staying connected as individuals.”
My husband and I definitely reconnected that night, caught up in the excitement, urgency and passion of it all. But, absolutely, in our case, we could have been more cautious.
We’re not alone, Drury assures.
“It can happen that a kid could walk in,” she says. “To reduce and eliminate the risk, it’s probably best to choose a room that has a lock and key.
“If a child does walk in, it’s important for your response to be age appropriate. If the child is young, they might not have understood what was happening and thought it was a game. If they’re older, it’s important to have a conversation about what they’ve seen and hopefully you will all recognise that it is normal and natural which, as much as it might not be ideal, can be affirming for everyone involved.”
We learned our lesson and it might even be something we’ll laugh about one day. When the mental scar fades.