How To Get Out Of Mum-Mode And Regain Your Sex Drive After Having Kids
Despite the predictions of a lockdown baby boom, lots of couples experienced a decrease in sexual desire over lockdown. This is in part due to the negative emotions induced by the pandemic, such as anxiety, worry and stress. These emotions can often trigger an over-production of cortisol in the body, which can lead to low sex drive. This situation could have been exacerbated in couples who have the added responsibility of kids.
We often think of sex as something facilitated by our body, but actually, sex begins in the mind. We have to feel safe, relaxed and comfortable. So if the pandemic has hampered your desire to have sex, try to address what issues may have caused this and talk them through with your partner.
Decreasing your stress levels might involve sharing the housework and childcare responsibilities more equally. Or, it might involve taking more time for yourself. Either way, talking things through and letting your partner know that you want to be more intimate is the first step to making it happen.
Make time for the things you did before you became a mum
I appreciate this will be difficult as being a mum is a full-time job, and then some: trust me, I get it. But think back to the things you enjoyed doing when you had more free time to yourself. Was it engaging in a hobby, self-care strategies, playing a sport, or engaging in a certain element of work or a professional life? These things are part of your identity, so it’s important to make time for these things even as a parent.
Some of your favourite activities might be off-limits during lockdown, but make time for the ones that you can do. If need be, coordinate with your partner or other caregivers ask your partner to take full responsibility for the children for a few hours a week so you can reconnect with your self-identity and start to relax.
Not only is this beneficial for your mental wellbeing but it also plays an important psychological role, allowing you to remember who you were before you became known as ‘mum’. Women can sometimes feel forced to be an amalgamation of identities: a good wife, mother, sister, daughter and employee. It can become exhausting to shift between these characters multiple times a day. But know that you can be all of these without having to sacrifice your time, interests and your needs. Of course, your child’s needs need to remain a priority, but when your own needs are unmet, you’ll find it harder to be the parent you want to be.
Reminding yourself of your pre-parent self will help you to relax, let go, connect with yourself and enjoy sex and intimacy.
Find an activity or ritual that can help you get out of ‘mum mode’
After a long, hard day of looking after your children, you might find that switching off from being a mum can be difficult. The key here is to have an activity or ritual which helps you shift from ‘mum’ to ‘self’. Think about what that activity or ritual could look like. It might be a long hot shower or bath where you take time to really pamper yourself, watching a television show that does not involve cartoon characters, or just time to think. Whatever that transition looks like, make it the pivotal moment once you put the kids to bed where your focus is on getting out of mum mode.
This ritual can also help you to feel relaxed and comfortable, letting go of the stresses of the day. This can pave the way for intimacy with your partner that feels natural, enjoyable, and separate to your life as ‘mum’.
Set boundaries with your children, no matter how old they are
Having clear boundaries with your children will help you to retain privacy and will also allow you to set examples of what counts as appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Establishing clear boundaries with your children might look like having a lock on your door, not allowing your children into your room past bedtime for non-emergencies, and not allowing them to go through your personal belongings or draws.
Establishing these boundaries will also help your children establish their own boundaries as they get older, which will in turn help them enjoy happier, healthier lives and be respectful of others’ spaces.
Don’t put your sex life on hold
It’s fair to say that over the last few months, many people have been having less sex. This is completely normal: with life’s added stresses and uncertainties, sex might be the last thing on your mind. This is especially true if you’re a new parent with young kids, or have been experiencing issues in your relationship due to spending too much time in the same place this year. This might lead you to feel less connected with your partner. Or, perhaps other areas of your life have been impacted by the pandemic, which can also push sex even further down the agenda.
But look at the Christmas period as an opportunity to reconnect. Sex is a great way to do this, and can also promote relaxation, improved heart health and better sleep. Along with improving communication, listening and empathy between yourself and your partner, having sex regularly can help you to feel closer and strengthen your relationship. Speaking to your partner honestly about what you’re looking for from your sex life and ensuring you’re both on the same page about moving forward is the best place to start to regain your sexual desire.
To keep your relationship healthy, keep yourself healthy
It’s a common piece of advice, but eating the right food, exercising and getting enough sleep are the first steps you need to take if you’re not feeling your best. This is especially true in a time like lockdown, when our worlds get turned upside down. Many of us receive this advice every day, but are reluctant to follow it. If you want to start feeling better both mentally and physically, this is a great place to start.
As part of keeping yourself healthy, consider limiting your screen time. Our phones are one of our most useful tools, but prolonged exposure to social media can be overwhelming for anyone. They also breed comparison culture, which is not what you or your relationship needs. Take long, regular breaks from your phone and invest the time into another activity that makes you happy. Embrace the time to sit with your feelings and enjoy a moment of peace. Feeling happy and confident in yourself can have positive repercussions for your sex life.
Dr Katherine Hertlein is a world-renowned couples therapist, sexuality educator, and expert advisor at Blueheart.