Sex is different after kids—it just is. Maybe you're more pressed for time, maybe your body has changed, maybe your relationship has evolved. But "different" doesn't necessarily mean bad, says sex expert and relationship coach Lila Darville. Here, the Well+Good Council member explains why mothers have a unique opportunity to create their own sexual rebirth.
I think we can all admit that the words motherhood and sex don’t exactly conjure images of wild, ravenous love-making.
This is partly because of how motherhood is culturally stigmatized, and partly because of the very real challenges of raising a child. Zero time, non-existent sexual desire, sleep deprivation, feeling (and looking) like the "unsexy" version of our former selves: All of this comes with the territory.
So what is the upside? Well, mothering can be its own form of birth control... Kidding! But there are a few key factors we tend to skim over when questioning why sex is different after kids—and, most importantly, why that ain’t such a bad thing.
The story of a diminishing sex life after kids is so common it’s become a cliché.
The story of a diminishing sex life after kids is so common it’s become a cliché. If you're already a parent, you’ve probably been nodding your head with a sardonic smile. But if you're not yet a parent, don’t be dissuaded. A fulfilling sex life doesn’t just evaporate with the arrival of children. There are actually some incredible opportunities at hand here.
Among the hormonal fluctuations, morphing bodies, shifting priorities, and logistical challenges, there is also another birth taking place. It's the birth of a new identity: the mother. This new woman has a different body, different desires, and different needs.
As women, so much of our identity is tied up in our sexuality, and the process of discovering ourselves as mothers can temporarily dismantle how we see ourselves as sexual beings. That's okay. It takes a little time to find our new normal and unite the maternal and sexual aspects of ourselves.
Even as a sex and relationship coach, I’ve been confronted with a shifting sexual self. After the birth of my first son, I went from feeling like a confident, fertile goddess to feeling utterly lost in a sea of limiting beliefs, cultural judgments, and overload. (It happened again as I learned to juggle two children.) And hell yes, I noticed the desire gap with my partner and wondered why my sex drive had flown the coop.
The thing is, if we spend our energy reaching back in time to the way things were before we became mothers, we completely miss the gold. That girl doesn’t exist anymore. Replacing her is a woman with a wealth of experience who has seen herself transform, give, and sustain life.
Becoming a mother can also be an opportunity to deepen the relationship we have with our bodies. After all, we've just gone through a tremendous number of changes, and now likely see our bodies—and what they can do—in a whole new light. We get to tune in with a depth of listening to our needs, our emotions, and our sensations. And as we listen and begin to move from this place in sex, our experiences will only become more authentic and that much more fulfilling.
To speak from my own experience, I have more love and respect for my body today than ever before. I’ve witnessed it grow and birth two new human beings. In sex, this newfound respect for my body has chipped away at my self-consciousness about needing to look, feel, smell, or sound a certain way.
Becoming a mother can be an opportunity to deepen the relationship we have with our bodies.
Aside from this shift in perspective, one of the biggest challenges for mothers is the increase in demands on our time, energy, and bodies. Sex is often felt as a place where we are giving of ourselves. It can become a reflection of our partner rather than our own desires and preferences. If sex is another place where we are emptying our cup instead of filling it, it’s likely that we are not going to desire it—at least not very often.
This calls for adopting a feminine-centric approach to sex and putting more focus on what brings you pleasure rather than just pleasing your partner. By setting a goal of exploration rather than defaulting to a tried-and-tested way of getting off, a whole plethora of orgasmic possibilities and new pleasure pathways will reveal themselves. As you redefine what pleasure is for you, sex becomes a place that replenishes you. It can give you the energy that you need to mother and feel more whole as a woman. This, in turn, makes sex more desirable.
If sex is another place where we are emptying our cup instead of filling it, it’s likely that we are not going to desire it.
Another common struggle many mothers face is that they just don’t feel like having sex. Desire is often thought of as a force of nature outside of our control, an overwhelming passion ignited by something beyond ourselves. But this is so disempowering.
Instead of feeling that everything has to be perfect to engage in sex, we can claim our turn-on, recognizing that the power resides within us rather than externally. Stepping up to claim that power cultivates a confidence and sexual maturity: You know what you want and aren't afraid to take it.
I could go on, but I'll leave you with the best news of all: This new (hot) mama is here to stay.
An expert on sex and intimacy, Lila Darville is a professional relationship coach who brings her body-positive, real-talk approach to stadiums full of women as the pleasure director of a show in Las Vegas called Magic Mike Live.
Originally published May 13, 2018; updated September 20, 2018.
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