July 15, 2008

SUBURBAN TURMOIL

Just do it

“To be honest, I haven’t been the slightest bit interested in sex since Amelia was born,” my friend Danielle sighed at the playground not long ago. Around me, the other moms nodded sagely. 

“David wants it all the time,” another mom chimed in. “I just keep telling him that I have three kids climbing on me all day long. The last thing I want is for him to climb on me at night!” I laughed uneasily along with everyone else, but the truth was, I found these conversations depressing and sometimes even creepy, like when a dad friend recently blurted out that he and his wife hadn’t slept in the same bed since having their baby a year ago. “Oh. Gee,” I said at the time, before an uncomfortable silence settled between us. I wasn’t about to see where that conversation led.

Still, all this parental sex talk prompted me to ask the readers of my blog for the anonymous scoop on their post-kid sex lives. Was it really as bad as I was hearing? Seventy-seven brave souls responded, and for many, the outlook was indeed grim.

“Sex … ” wrote one woman. “What is this sex you speak of? I have a 5-year-old and an almost-14-month-old and a full-time job. I just don’t have the energy for it. I give pity sex.”

“I wish there was sex,” a dad responded. “I really don’t know how #2 was even conceived. I think that year we were intimate three times. And not since. She says she just doesn’t care about it anymore.”

What is it about having kids that makes even the ripest libidos shrivel and die? For answers, I turned to sexpert Dr. Valerie Raskin, psychiatrist, mother, Oprah guest, and author of the book “Great Sex for Moms,” for which her own teenage kids, as you can imagine, teased her mercilessly. “Having children does have a huge negative impact on your sex life,” she responded via e-mail. “You suddenly lose spontaneity, opportunity and energy.”

Not to mention privacy. I could swear that my own kids have built-in radar designed to prevent my husband and me from ever procreating again. How else can you explain my 15-month-old son’s preternatural ability to rattle the baby monitor with his screams the moment my husband and I so much as look at each other after dark, or the magnetic pull that firmly lodges my 4-year-old daughter in between our bodies every time we embrace? 

It doesn’t help that society isn’t exactly encouraging my mommy self to put on stiletto heels and channel my inner sex kitten. American mothers are expected to take on the persona of a woman entirely preoccupied with disinfecting her kitchen counters and baking the perfect cupcake — in addition to holding down a full-time job and heading up the Booster Club. And while shows like “Desperate Housewives” seem to knock the notion of sexless motherhood on its ass, Raskin said this asexual mom image can be problematic for the whole family. 

“There is no such thing as a perfect mother, and we are entitled as moms to have non-mommy needs,” Raskin explained. “The biggest threat to American children is divorce, not maternal short cuts, and it might be helpful to realize that a good sex life is, truly, a family value.”

Good sex a family value? With glee, I imagined Raskin’s idea catching on. William Bennett would add Good Sex to his Book of Virtues! Church billboards would begin featuring clever sayings like, “A GREAT SEX LIFE BEGINS ON YOUR KNEES.” First, though, we’d have to get all the frazzled parents out there to sign on. Fortunately, a healthy percentage of my blog readers insisted this was not entirely out of the question.

“We’ve been married 12 years and, if possible, (sex is) better than ever,” one reader happily reported. “We have two kids (5 and 9) to work around, but it’s amazing what you can get away with while they’re entertained with a video game or a movie. We’re probably at around five times a week.”

In fact, research from the University of Chicago suggests that couples with the most active sex lives are far more likely to say they have a happy marriage and a positive outlook on life. With that said, think of this as a Suburban Turmoil public service announcement. I know you’re tired and your husband smells like regurgitated pizza, but I urge you to make like an athlete and just do it. Do it for your spouse. Do it for your family. Hell, do it for a better America. And after you’ve done it? Keep it to yourself. Seriously, those are exactly the kind of e-mail updates I don’t want to receive. 

Read more at www.suburbanturmoil.com