If you ask a childless couple what they have planned for Valentine’s Day, it’s likely it will elicit a romantic response. Ask the same question to a couple with young children and it’s likely they will laugh. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and many happy romantics will be celebrating. Whilst I have never been one to set aside the 14th of February to show my love for my partner, I would love a night of romance.
It’s a familiar script – kids kill romance! Countless studies have found that marital intimacy declines significantly after the arrival of the first baby. Having a baby is one of the biggest adjustments a couple can experience. Literally overnight, life alters for the long haul. For me, romance involves the following: spontaneity, freedom and uninterrupted conversation, and children provide the perfect barriers to all of these.
BC (before children) my partner and I shared many romantic experiences. Strolling hand in hand through the old town of Dubrovnik was pretty romantic; as was a long weekend in the Hunter Valley, sipping wine all day and indulging in great food. We had many romantic strolls after dinner through the streets near our inner city pad; and I count sleeping under the stars at Cradle Mountain up there with our most romantic BC experiences. But perhaps the most romantic of all were spontaneous Sundays. We would take a drive out of town, with nothing more than our passion and our conversation. Those were the days of the humble street directory and I was his co-pilot, directing us the old fashioned way, with no time-table or constraints.
In the early days of parenthood, romance for me, was replaced by a unity and euphoria that far outweighed a leisurely drive on a Sunday. It was us, our baby, and our love cocoon. I have never felt love and passion stronger than in those early days of becoming a parent.
You often hear that sex is an initial casualty of parenthood. And let’s face it – romance is usually the precursor to intimacy and most men are hoping it leads to sex. I remember, BC, hearing people say that kids kill your social life and your sex life. “Really?” I thought, “Maybe those people didn’t have had a healthy sex life to begin with”. That was my rationalisation anyway. But then tiredness sets in….and I mean really sets in. Having three children in less than three years has created a sleep deficit that has mercilessly destroyed my libido.
So, is romance after kids possible? And, in the absence of romance, is intimacy (read: sex) still possible?
The old adage about jellybeans comes to mind. You put a jellybean in a jar every time you have sex in the first year of your marriage (or relationship) and then take a jellybean out of the jar every time after that first year – the theory is that you’ll never empty the jar.