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How to Have a Sex Life When You Have Kids (Yes, It’s Possible!)

How to Have a Sex Life When You Have Kids (Yes, It’s Possible!)

Posted on March 8th, 2023 by Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C

too busy for sex

Every couple goes through it. Some were expecting it, some get blindsided. But it is totally normal to find that once you have kids, your sex life just isn’t the same as it was before. 

There are many reasons for this, of course. You’re busier than before. You’re preoccupied with childcare. You’re utterly exhausted (especially if you’ve still got infants who aren’t sleeping well through the night!). There’s no privacy. You just don’t feel in the mood anymore. No question, there’s a lot stacked against you!

Well, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is, it’s probably never going to be like it was when you were in your twenties and child-free. (Let’s not forget that in addition to having little humans running around the house, you’re also both older.)

The good news is, it is definitely possible to have an active, awesome, and fulfilling sex life with your partner even after kids come along. Here are some ways to make that happen:

  1. Plan for sex.
  2. Hack your schedule to make some time.
  3. Overnights can be awesome.
  4. Not feeling it? Do it anyway.
  5. Take a nap = don’t fall asleep later.
  6. Self-care!

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1. Plan for sex.

Couples sometimes have this Hollywood-romance vision of a sex life that is full of spontaneity and passion, where every now and then they are suddenly moved to tear off all their clothes and engage in highly spontaneous and passionate sexual intercourse.

This is not a vision of reality.

Incidentally, this is not even a vision of reality without kids. I work with many couples who, kids or no kids, find that after a few years or decades of togetherhood their sex life consists largely of eating popcorn in their pajamas in front of the TV and remembering how they used to do it a lot more.

A long-term sexual relationship takes work. And the number one mindset you have to adopt to make that happen is planfulness.

Spontaneous sex is fun, but it’s really not the meat and potatoes of a long-term sexual relationship. It’s more like the icing on a cake, and the flour and eggs and stuff is the part of your sex life that is (to some degree) planned.

A lot of people bristle at this. “Isn’t that seriously unromantic though?” If your vision of romance is what you’ve absorbed from the movies, I guess so. But you know what’s even less romantic? Not having sex at all. Amiright?

Also, allow me to point something out. Let’s assume that the peak of your sexual career was in college, or maybe shortly afterwards in your twenties. (If this is not true of you, don’t worry, you can still play along.) When you went out to a club with your boyfriend, or took your girlfriend out on a date, or whatever you did, and then you ended up back at their dorm room/apartment, were you surprised that sex was on the agenda for the night? Like, “Oh, golly gee! You want to do that? Well, I guess I could go for that…”

No, you were not surprised. It was part of the plan; you just didn’t say so (or maybe you did). Plans and sex are not opposites. They actually compliment each other quite well.

You will have a much more successful intimate relationship if you can talk about it and put some dates on the calendar (figuratively or even, yes, literally). Figure out when the kids will have a busy day and will get to bed more easily. Or, leave work early that day if you can, or take a sick day, or whatever other options you have for tinkering with your schedule (see below). 

Or even if you can’t game the system at all, just having a plan that at 9 PM on Tuesday you’re both going to shut down your phones and laptops and heading to the bedroom makes it a lot more likely that something will happen. 

Plan it. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Hack your schedule to make some time.

Coming home from work early one day is a nice little trick if you can pull it off – whether for a rendezvous with the spouse or just to have some Me Time to get yourself in a good space for something later on.

Life is soooo busy, especially if you’ve got multiple kids going to multiple activities every week and one just got sick this week and another has a big project due and there’s a birthday coming up and oh god someone just puked in the bedroom and it NEVER EVER EVER STOPS!!!!

If you’re reading a blog post on how to have sex when you’ve got kids, this is probably something you can relate to.

So, get creative. 

You and your S.O. can both take a sick day and you’ve got a few hours to yourselves! (If one of you is stay-at-home-parenting it, hire a babysitter to take the kid(s) out for a bit.) You can decide for yourself on the ethics of calling this a “mental health day” and using up a sick day; or else take a vacation day if you have any.

How about going in late to work one day and staying late to make that possible?

What about planning (see above!) a lunch date and making the most of that? (Find a hotel or Airbnb near your work if your window of time is tight.)

Maximize the weekend by sending the kids off with a babysitter, or grandma and grandpa, or trade weekends with a friend and use the time for yourselves.

This is definitely one of those “it’s not easy, but it’s worth it” undertakings.

Do you need help making time?

3. Overnights can be awesome.

Yes, overnights are possible. Certainly it can be hard to finagle, but definitely worth the push! If you’ve got a newborn this may not be the strategy for you, but you don’t have to wait until the kids all have their driver’s license before you can take a night off.

Again, this may require some creativity, but it’s not impossible. There are baby nurses who you can hire to sleep over in your house. If you have a relationship with a babysitter already, that’s a good option too! (We are talking here of an older adolescent or young adult, not the 13-year-old kind of babysitter.) Better yet if you can ship the kids off to your parents in-laws, or siblings for the night (cousin sleepovers are a blast!). 

You may find yourself hesitating here and wondering whether this is really okay parentingwise. Assuming you leave your kids with someone safe and responsible, yes it is. You do not have to feel guilty about “abandoning” your children. Just the opposite; taking time for yourself is in their best interest

Kids need parents who are happy and rested, and who have a solid marriage. Going away overnight is a great boost for all of those!


4. Not feeling it? Do it anyway.

Here’s another important hump to get over (no pun intended). You don’t have to be 100% in the mood to have sex. If you wait until you are super In The Zone (again, think college days, in which The Zone might have accounted for most of your waking hours), you may be waiting way too long.

I want to be clear that I am not suggesting in any way a breach of consent. You do not coerce your partner into sexual activity under the banner of Blog Point #4 if they don’t want it. No. 

Nor am I suggesting that if you are really opposed to having sex right now you should suck it up and do it anyway. If you are sick, or injured, or mentally overwhelmed, it may simply not be the time. Additionally, if you have some trauma in your background that makes physical intimacy painful, frightening, or retraumatizing, certainly forcing your way through that is not a good approach. (If this is your situation, please get some therapy for yourself to work through it!)

But I am suggesting that if you are not opposed, but just not super hot on the idea, give it a shot anyway. I have yet to hear of anyone who tried this and afterwards said, “You know what, I don’t think that was worth it. I should have just stuck with my plan to do my nails.” The reaction is inevitably along the lines of, “Wow, we really need to do this more.”

Gauge yourself. If you are going to be causing yourself distress by pushing for it, don’t do it. But if you’re just a bit too tired, or not quite in the headspace, consider whether you could rise to the challenge. Especially if your partner is trying to initiate something, it’s a lovely act of giving to acquiesce (again, so long as you’re not feeling forced). 

An attitude of “I think I could be convinced” along with a little wink can be a great entry into an excellent night. 

5. Take a nap = don’t fall asleep later.

This suggestion may seem a bit cheap, but man, we could all use some more naps.

It is a shame that in the US napping is not considered a normative practice like it is in some other countries. We’d all be a lot more productive with a little midday snooze built into the schedule.

Not everyone has the option to grab a nap, but if it’s something you can swing, definitely consider it. When you have kids, so much of the strain is just continuing to function through deep exhaustion. Extra sleep helps everything! (This, of course, is assuming you’re not already getting 8.5 hours of sleep daily, which – and while I admit I don’t know you, I’m willing to go out on a limb here – you sure as hell are not.)

And when you are struggling just to manage basic functions, marshalling the energy and alertness to go beyond that and try to engage in sexual activity with your partner can seem like a Herculean effort. (Don’t worry, you are not the only person out there to have fallen asleep (or come really close) during sex.)

It may not be as hard as you think to pull it off. Again, using your lunch break can be key. Lock the door to your office, or go snooze in your car. If you are home with the kids, you’ve almost certainly been advised already to sleep when they sleep. Don’t skimp on this! A sink full of dishes will likely bother you much less after you’ve had an awesome and nondrowsy sexual encounter with your spouse.

Or, on the commute home from work, park somewhere before you get home and nap for 20 minutes. On the flip side, when your partner gets home, give them the kids to manage for 20 minutes while you grab a nap yourself. (Important note: discuss this together before dumping the kids on your partner as soon as they walk in the door.)

Again, be creative, and be committed. Giving your body what it needs to be more than minimally conscious after the kids’ bedtime is a solid way to give your sex life a fighting chance.

Do you need more tips?

6. Self-care!

Napping is one small part of taking care of yourself in the way you need to in order to support a thriving sex life. Sleep in general is important: I know you may not get there, but you should at least aspire to get 8 hours. Sleep deprivation does not promote sexual arousal.

Don’t forget to eat well! If you fill your body with junk (I’m looking at you, sugary-dessert-disguised-as-a-breakfast-cereal), it’s not going to function the way you’d like. Your energy levels will be drooping and your mood will be sour, which are not great aphrodisiacs. Neither of those are particularly sexy to your partner either. And of course a diet may also impact how you feel about the shape of your body.

Relatedly, of course, is exercise. Good fitness is a real ally of good sex. You’ll have more energy, you’ll be happier with your looks, your body will just work better. I know, I know – who has the time? It’s not easy. But don’t let it fall off your radar just because you’re slammed. Even if it’s not happening right now, keep it in mind for a comeback when it’s possible.

Take care of your mental health as well. We already mentioned a trauma history (especially a sexual trauma history) as something that can get in the way of your intimate life and that you can benefit from addressing.

Less severe issues can be equally important to acknowledge. If you have too many projects on your plate, you won’t have room to focus on your relationship. If you’re over-stressed (ok, who isn’t?), that’s another damper on your sex drive. The above recommendations regarding sleep, nutrition, and exercise are good for mental health as well; but don’t forget things like connecting with friends and family, nonsexual time with your partner, and alone time for a walk around the block/a little yoga/ meditation/whatever works for you.

Therapy can help

Therapy can also help if you’re overwhelmed or struggling with any number of normal life circumstances. There’s no shame in needing help managing a challenge in your life; we all have them. And having a clean bill of mental health will help you thrive in all areas of your life, not just your bedroom. Of course, couples counseling can also be helpful if there are further issues in your sexual relationship that need tending beyond just time and energy.

There is no magic answer for keeping up a vibrant sex life when you have kids. Like relationships in general, it will take work. But you don’t need Tantric secrets or a raging libido to make it happen. Make it a planned part of your life; leverage your schedule; take care of yourself; and don’t give up! This is too important to let fall by the wayside. 

If you need help getting intimacy back into your life, you don’t have to be embarrassed; you are certainly not alone. Contact us today to see how we can help!

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