Menu

Passion + parenting can co-exist—and here’s how

Having children is most definitely a game changer, but it doesn’t have to be a romance killer.

Passion + parenting can co-exist—and here’s how

While walks on the beach and lazy afternoons of lovemaking often take a back seat after having a baby, Dr. John Gottman’s research presented in the Bringing Baby Home workshop shows that passion and parenting can co-exist.


Gottman studied over 150 parents before and after having their first child and found that almost two-thirds reported heightened conflict, relationship disappointment and hurt feelings post-baby.

What were the other one-third of couples doing differently? They were making romance and friendship a part of their routine.

While a decrease in sex is common and expected in the first few months of a newborn’s life, it is still an important part of a couple’s life and a strong predictor of overall relationship satisfaction. Thus, prioritizing sex and intimacy is essential for new parents going through the transition to parenthood.

FEATURED VIDEO

Understanding the initial adjustment to parenthood

Life is an emotional rollercoaster the first few months after having a baby. Natural stressors of parenting such as hormonal shifts, recovery from childbirth and sheer physical exhaustion (coupled with a reduced sex drive) leave every parent experiencing the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between.

It’s no surprise that both men and women find themselves less interested in sex and romance during this time.

For new moms, breastfeeding and bonding with their baby become the priority, and women can struggle to find equal time for both spouse and baby.

Dads, learning the ropes of parenthood as well, feel increased pressure to provide for and protect the family, whether financial or otherwise.

These new roles can be tricky for spouses to navigate. While juggling the maze of new parenthood together, romance, passion and intimacy can quickly take a back seat to exhaustion, short-fused statements and unstimulating “errand talk.”

Creating and sustaining a relationship that is rich in meaning—infused with those special rituals that bring us closer together and allow us to connect with one another—is even more important after having a baby.

Establishing rituals of connection

The Bringing Baby Home research found that the quality of a couple’s sex life is a direct result of how emotionally connected they are to each other. Keeping the emotional connection strong not only helps to buffer the stressors of new parenthood, but also allows for greater passion and intimacy.

To keep the emotional connection strong, be intentional.

Consider developing a morning routine of feeding, playing and taking care of the baby together. Spend 10 minutes a day unwinding and building Love Maps, and make weekends extra special by planning a unique family outing.

When you create intentional rituals of connection, you’re deepening your friendship in small, everyday, tangible ways while also increasing your sexual intimacy.

Preserving intimacy and romance

Most couples think that fancy dinners, weekend getaways and sexy lingerie make for a more romantic relationship, but research shows that these are not the key to increasing intimacy.

New parents should feel more at ease knowing that they don’t have to think big. The small, everyday interactions like holding hands, a long hug and cuddling at the end of the day are tender moments that keep partners physically connected. A couple’s sex life peaks when they simply make time for each other, engage with one another, and build a surplus of positive interactions.

Keeping sex and affection alive

Initially, some moms may feel “over-touched” from nursing and holding their baby, so they won’t feel particularly touchy-feely with their spouse. But affection doesn’t have to be only physical; couples can still stay close and intimate through verbal and non-physical tenderness. Talking about what feels good, expressing appreciation and keeping daily rituals of connection in place can be a welcome source of comfort. Taking a soothing bubble bath together, giving a light shoulder massage at the end of a long day and talking about sex are great ways to still feel close and intimate.

Sexual desire can return after kids. Once new parents realize how important it is for the overall quality of their relationship, they can begin to discuss how to reignite the flames

Sex therapist Lonnie Barbach suggests using numbers to gauge the desire for sex. For example, one partner may be a 7 or 8 (very interested) and the other may be a 2 (low interest). The number 2 may not be a personal rejection, but perhaps more of a “no for now.” The partner who is a 7 or 8 can decide if they want to initiate sex further in the hopes of getting their partner interested. With the right moves, the number 2 partner may quickly move up the scale of arousal.

Many couples report that scheduling time to make love keeps them committed to following through and is something they look forward to experiencing.

The idea of scheduling sex may seem silly, but the truth is that sex is rarely ever truly spontaneous. Newly dating couples still plan for lovemaking by choosing a special outfit, buying new cologne or picking a steamy playlist in anticipation of the night ahead.

Planning regular date nights away from your baby can also help replenish and fortify your relationship. Some other ideas include morning lovemaking or spooning during naptimes. Sexy messages throughout the day build excitement for the night ahead and makes courting playful, lighthearted, and fun. Intentionally carving out this time with your partner helps to remind you that you are a team, which, in turn, makes it easier for you to tackle daily struggles in a united way. In the long run, it also helps you to be better co-parents to your child.

Having children is most definitely a game changer, but it doesn’t have to be a romance killer. With just a little bit of effort, new parents can preserve intimacy in the midst of early morning wake-ups, around-the-clock feedings, and at times overwhelming set of new responsibilities.

Original story by April Eldemire, LMFT, for The Gottman Institute.

Join Motherly

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less
Shop
International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance (INARA)

It's 2020. The world is changing. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few months into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Keep reading Show less
News