Keeping the love alive (when you have a new baby!)
Hello from Scottsdale, Arizona
Lately, I’ve been surrounded by many new first time parents, and today, I address a question from my patient Zorian, 41:
“My partner and I have a 6-month old boy. The past few months have been a whirlwind. I’m starting to find my place within our new little family, but our sex life hasn’t yet recovered. What do I need to be thinking about to make this transition better for us?”
The transition from two to three is one of the most profound challenges a couple will ever face. It takes time — time measured in years, not weeks — to find our bearings in this brave new world. Having a baby is a psychological revolution that changes our relation to almost everything and everyone. Priorities shift, roles are redefined, and the balance between freedom and responsibility undergoes a massive overhaul.
The making of a family calls for a redistribution of resources (time, energy, money, hours in bed) and for a while, the couple takes a back seat. New parents are sleep deprived, often their sensuality is redirected to the baby, and sex is moved to the bottom of the priorities list. This is a transition no one can prepare for. A new baby often results in a sexual dry spell that extends beyond the months it takes to physically recover from birth — and in some cases, it can go years.
But do children extinguish the flame of desire, or is it the adults who fail to keep the spark alive?
Believe me I know how difficult it is to care for young children and for Romance! At one stage I had three children under the age of five years old. My husband was also a shiftworker and would frequently be coming home as the children would be waking up in the morning. I myself, was completing a double major university degree, in both psychology and management. So how did we keep our love-life alive during our early childhood raising years? Allow me to give you some tips and strategies I used…. Plus a little professional advice.
1.) Ask for help. It takes a village.
If you don’t live near your relatives (or your relatives aren’t able or willing to help with childcare), you need to create a family of choice. These are neighbors/friends/peers who can watch your children, and you reciprocate for them and their children, too. Avoid the isolation that society puts parents in, and make this new experience as collective as possible. Having a family of choice to rely on will free you of feeling like the entire burden of responsibility for your little smurfs rests only with you. A larger support system also helps young parents have alone time.
2.) Stay out late.
Plan one curfew-free night every 6-8 weeks. Get a sitter or put the child to sleep at a friend or family member’s home (someone who won’t care how late you pick up your child). Go out all night and don’t worry about when you have to be back home. This gives you excitement for your outing and a glimmer of your past life. Just because your children have structured bedtime, doesn’t mean you have to live like that as well. Every once in awhile, go out and allow yourself to experience open-endedness that reconnects you to the sense of possibility and freedom.
3.) Make nice meals easier.
You don’t have to sacrifice those elaborate meals of pre-child life. Shift cooking meals from a chore to a quick and lively part of your evening. Eat at home and eat together, but cook as simply, quickly, and healthfully as possible.
- Look into services like hellofresh.com or blueapron.com which deliver ingredients for dinners, along with step by step recipe cards to prepare the meals.
- Plan a prep day early in the week to assemble ingredients with your child. Rather than choosing between play time or cooking, you can involve the children in the prep process. Give them safe little jobs like placing ingredients in bowls, tearing lettuce for salads, etc.
- If you have a nanny or babysitter, have that person shop for groceries and prep them in advance of your arrival home for dinner. Make sure that the babysitter is there to help you — not only to play with your child.
4.) Prioritize alone time.
Make sure that each person in the couple has time to him/herself and commits to preserving some form of personal intimacy. Release the guilt you may feel when doing something for yourself. Alone time is critical for each individual to feel complete — important ingredients for the couple remaining vibrant.
5.) Break your routine and plan couple time, together.
The important word here is plan. Structure breeds freedom. Especially after the birth of your first child. This concept is often hard to grasp, since it’s the opposite of what you probably used to think. Make sure that the couple has time for itself, without the baby. Break the schedule that parenting has forced you into by planning together.
- Schedule in advance. Build anticipation and mystery around the activity itself. Anticipation is important, as is connects us to our imagination (the antidote to responsibility).
- When you finally get out on that rare date night, do not spend the time talking about the children.
- Do something new and different. Skip the typical movie night, and instead, plan an experience that’s new. Novelty breeds testosterone.
- Plan together. For many couples, it helps if one person is responsible for the adult end of the planning (date night activities, researching vacations, booking reservations, etc.), while the other focuses on the kid’s end (reserving babysitters, packing overnight bags for the grandparent’s house, etc.). Systemic distribution; one partner holds vigil for the family, the other focuses on the couple. Remember how much you need each other, and practice being grateful for your complementary. Be watchful not to blame your partner for not focusing on the the same important priorities as you.
Leave a comment and tell me about your experience and how you got your sex life back on track after having a baby.