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.
It’s hard to feel sexy when you’re immersed in dirty nappies, toddler tantrums and an unforgiving fatigue. And it’s not surprising that romance and sex get lower on the priority list with the addition of each child.
Relationship experts would have us believe that it’s as easy as shared housework and scheduled intimacy but I don’t agree. Here’s some of their advice:
Schedule in intimacy
No thanks (although my husband might disagree with me here). To have to “schedule” in intimacy is the very antithesis of romance. True intimacy is warm, unscheduled and often spontaneous. To set aside a night for intimacy seems far too planned for me. There are certain things I like to plan, but sex isn’t one of them!
This is a good aspiration but it’s not always that simple. A date night requires a couple of things: a babysitter and money. And the former requires the latter if you don’t have family or friends to help out. Money can be an impediment to romance. BC we had two incomes and this afforded us many romantic pleasures such as travel, food and wine. Now, we have one income, split amongst five, so “date nights” are few and far between.
Relationship experts have long had us believe that if a man pitches in domestically, this will have a knock-on effect in the bedroom. Only now, a recent study has debunked this perception and found that those men who perform more “feminine” household duties (such as cleaning and cooking) have sex less often. Since hearing of this study my husband has been madly raking leaves and mowing our lawns!
One thing that most relationship experts agree on is that “me time” is important in relationships. Time apart can actually help you stay together. If that sentiment is true, then the most romantic gesture my husband could do for me this Valentines Day would be to give me some “me time”.
The truth is, I feel a stronger connection and love for my husband than ever before but a hotel room, bubble bath and room service for one is looking like the best Valentine’s Day gift since kids came along!
How has romance changed for you since having children? Do you think that kids kill romance? What would be your ideal Valentines gift this year?
Michaela Fox is a freelance writer and event manager. She is mother to three beautiful daughters. You can follow Michaela on Twitter here or read her musings on motherhood at notanotherslipperydip.wordpress.com