I don’t mean to come on too strong (pun intended), but you are an adult human and deserve a healthy sex life, guilt free.
Before writing this article I trolled the internet to see what people were saying about having a sex life with kids of all ages still living at home. I encountered quite a divide between people who feel quite a bit of shame about their sex life and its affect on the kids, and another group who embrace a healthy sex life with their partner while balancing their parental roles.
Quite a balancing act it is!
Rather you are in a blended family or traditional nuclear family, sex, affection and romance are all part of a normal, healthy relationship. Although that may be the case, our fast paced lives can stand in the way of connection with our partners and many of us put our kids before our relationship. Connecting when you can with your partner becomes even more important.
Why do some people encounter intense shame and guilt around sex?
If you are feeling this way about your sex life there can be a couple culprits contributing to your feelings. If you identify with any of these, definitely work through your feelings with your therapist.
Some parents have sexual trauma in their history that creates shame around their sexuality as an adult. Sexual trauma can be categorized as rape or molestation, but it can also include being exposed to a highly sexualized environment as a child that was uncomfortable and confusing. This can come in many forms. One example would be being exposed to the sexuality of adults in an inappropriate way (i.e: parents having LOUD sex, parent’s sexual partners changing frequently, or adults being overly sexual in a child’s presence).
Adults who were exposed to the flamboyant sexuality of their caregivers don’t want their own kids to experience that level of discomfort and the result can be vehemently opposing a regular sex life unless certain conditions are present. These feelings are exasperated when traumatized adults are managing a blended family; their sexual partner isn’t the bio parent of their kids and that heightens shame and guilt quite a bit.
What do you do about it?
Learn what normal is. If you are struggling with having a sex life as a parent maybe you need a bit of sex education. The media and general atmosphere of what a parent should be does not help parental guilt or anxiety at all. Based on modern standards, your kids’ sandwiches should always be shaped like dinosaurs and you should place all your attention an efforts on your child. This is farthest from the truth! Life calls for balance. You did not turn into a super human or A-sexual when your child(ren) were born.
Should you be having porn style, wild, loud sex with the door open whenever you want? NO! Let’s use a bit of common sense here. Having to wait to get sexy can be a turn on anyway, have fun with it. Anticipation aside, if your kids are 13 years old or under, have a bed time/rest time which either means they go to sleep or they go to their own space and stay there until the next day. This can open up a couple hours of adult playtime that you deserve, but BE QUIET. If you are a screamer, you may need to wait until everyone is passed out. If you have older kids, give yourself a bedtime. Regardless of if you are getting frisky or not, you and your partner need time alone to be a couple. Your relationship is the cornerstone of the household, so if it dies so does the solid foundation you’ve worked so hard to build.
Work on muffling possible noises coming from your love den.
Use a noise machine in each kids’ room, turn on the bathroom fan, encourage relaxing music for your children at bedtime. Provide them with headphones for their media. An air filter is a incognito way to muffle any slight noises with an added benefit of clean air! No one will suspect your true intentions.
It is gross to see your parents exhibiting sexual behavior. Anything beyond what would be considered PDA is just yucky for your kid(s). Save the sexy stuff for the bedroom. Don’t screw on the kitchen counter or anywhere you could get caught when they are home… unless they are in a crib, then that’s okay!
You are okay with your kids seeing you argue, why is it not okay to embrace the fact you are a sexual being and so are they?
Your kids certainly should not see you having sex, but if they catch wind you have a sex life (it will happen) that is okay. Talk to your kids about what healthy relationships are like and how sex is a part of it. You aren’t Mr. Rodgers and you aren’t playing patty cake with your partner behind closed doors, chances are every once in a while (hopefully 2-3x a week) you are having sex! Hopefully you want your kids to grow up and be comfortable with their own sexuality, so give them the benefit of an education on healthy sexuality. People who are in a happy relationship have sex, people who have kids have sex, people who aren’t in love have sex but that makes shit confusing so don’t do that, and it is all okay!
If you get caught in the act somehow, process it with your kid.
The development of your child will determine how this is done. You may need a brief apology for an older child in recognition of how gross and uncomfortable it was to hear a squeaky bed or noise. This will validate them, but remember to add that it is a sign you are happy in your relationship and that it is normal. Some kids may need to be reminded that if they are lurking the halls near your door after hours they may run into noises they rather not hear and that can’t be helped (as long as you aren’t channeling your inner porn star). Keep your conversation short and move on.
For younger kids, an introduction to sexuality is easy to do through books.
One of my favorite books is called It’s Not The Stork. This book comes in 3 formats, each becoming more advanced and detailed about sexuality in its contents. My kids actually read it on their own. If you educate your kids from a young age, the fact that you are a sexual being won’t be such a shock.
For divorced parents:
All of the above is still true. Here are some additional things to keep in mind… There is benefit to having sexy time when the kids are at their other parent’s house. If your situation allows that, certainly take advantage. If you have your child full time, all of the above also still applies but only if you are in a committed relationship, otherwise you are promoting negative perceptions about relationships to younger kids and those with older kids- your kids will simply lose respect for you. Keep your love life separate until you are confident the new person will stick around for more than a few months.