Parenting is just running around doing a whole bunch of things you said you’d never do, until you die.
Take sex, for instance.
Before I became a parent I would roll my eyes at the idea of scheduling date nights and planning for sex. I used to think, “Oh come on, having kids can’t be that bad.”
But yes, yes it is that bad. And after several years of flat-out refusing to plan for sex, refusing to become that person, I’ve given up. Not on sex, of course, but on trying to have it like I did when I was childless.
At first, we tried the “Let’s just be spontaneous, see where the mood takes us and maybe tonight will be the night” route and let’s just say our sex cup did not runneth over.
This is the reality for many of us with young kids, a job, a house, deadlines, obligations, Netflix, et cetera, et cetera. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have sex. It just fell to the bottom of the priority list (meaning the list of things I could do while half asleep and sipping merlot, which was my preferred state for about three years.)
I just couldn’t get my head around planning for something I thought was supposed to be romantic, spontaneous and mind-blowing every time. Raised on Disney princesses and Cosmopolitan magazine, I thought I had to look good every time and want to get it on 24/7. Planning to get naked, the way you plan to go to the dentist or get a haircut, seemed ridiculously unromantic and brutally functional.
But, somewhere along the way, my husband and I figured out that planning time for sex and holding each other accountable to that plan actually worked.
In fact, it was a game changer.
Planning time for sex means actually looking at our calendars and figuring out when we are going to be home together with time on our hands. It’s not the most romantic thing we’ve ever done but it does give us something to look forward to. It’s become a shared secret between adults in a house full of kids, dogs, dolls and dirty laundry.
A little whisper of, “Maybe this afternoon we’ll have a nap,” accompanied by a wink and an eyebrow wiggle can go a long way to feeling like you’re not the only one who needs a break or the only one who’s craving adult closeness. This ritual allowed us to start remembering who we were before the short people invaded our home and took over our lives.
But you know what else planning did? It reminded both my husband and I that we’re in this parenting thing together. It was an acknowledgement that each of us has to take responsibility for our relationship and our sex life; that we’re a team, and teams communicate. Teams have a system and they do whatever it takes to be successful. They give a hundred and ten per cent.
And listen, I know it sounds insane. Unless you’ve been there, the whole concept is kind of bizarre. After all, when we got married or started living together most of us thought “Yay! Sex all the time, whenever we want!” which may or may not have been the case. Then somewhere along the way it became less of a priority. Or, more accurately, it became something we had to make a priority instead of something that was just there, effortlessly filling every day with rainbows and sunshine.
Sex before kids was like a damn amusement park where every ride was fantastic and no one ever ran out of funnel cakes. Or beaver tails.
For me, sex after kids wasn’t just about finding the time or the energy (as if that wasn’t difficult enough), it was about learning to let go of my own hang-ups and preconceived ideas.
After spending the day wearing yoga pants and a ponytail, possibly not showering, and definitely smelling like food, sweat and dog kibble it was difficult to switch from mom mode to sex kitten mode.
To be clear, I’ve never actually had a sex kitten mode but something about having kids and slipping into domesticity made me feel like I needed to swing the, ahem, pendulum so far in the other direction that I set an impossible standard for myself. Without a matching bra and panties, freshly shaved legs and no distractions on the horizon, I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly get busy. I put sex on a pedestal then spent several years trying to reach it.
Now I know that waiting for this perfect storm of sexiness is like waiting for a unicorn to show up, ring the doorbell and walk my kids to school. And while I would still love to have everything be perfect and look perfect every time I get naked, that’s just not consistent with where my life is now.
Forget “perfection,” even “moderately acceptable” isn’t going to happen without a plan these days.
We used to wait until the kids were both out of the house, which is no small feat when they’re little and refuse to go anywhere without you. But now we play fast and loose with the rules and simply tell them we’re wrapping Christmas presents or planning a surprise. We tell them they can’t come into our room and if they must disturb us, for the love of God, knock first.
This works well in December when you could feasibly be wrapping presents, or if you actually have a surprise for them. I’m pretty sure our ten-year old is on to us and we’re going to have to start coming up with new excuses to barricade ourselves in our room, but this is a small price to pay for twenty minutes of mommy and daddy time.
Is planning for sex the most romantic thing you’ll ever do? No. Do I miss the freedom of an empty house and the time to “do it” right? Absolutely. But I also know that if given the choice between scheduling it and not having it, I’ll take the former, thank you very much.
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