Ah, the dream: Find your sexy man, settle down and start a family . . . and live in romantic bliss. That’s how it’s supposed to go. You didn’t foresee the hurdles you’d have to jump to enjoy motherhood and to keep your romance strong. Let’s look at some key obstacles--with the goal of finding some solutions so that you can enjoy being a mom, and not toss your romantic life into the diaper bin.
If you feel you must sacrifice for your husband and you have no right to pursue your own personal goals, then you will fast find yourself becoming frustrated and resentful. You’re the giver, he’s the taker. Then you have children together and you sacrifice for your kids. You abandon your husband, whom you feel isn’t sacrificing enough for the kids, and immerse yourself in the their lives. And although it’s partly satisfying, you gradually find yourself resenting them, and feeling guilty. Your husband wants your attention; he’s become an additional stressor. You no longer feel like a sexy wife--and you’ve become a resentful mom. What explains this losing pattern? Fundamentally, your policy towards your self. If you sacrifice anything and everything to others, you have lost your self.
Solution #1: Value yourself.
You have a right to your own selfish happiness. You have a right to take some time to pursue values you enjoy just for yourself. That doesn’t mean you abandon your husband and children. When you value yourself more, you can speak up in your marriage and help both of you make the relationship fair, a win-win relationship. And you will be in a much better place to enjoy parenthood together.
Although there are exceptions, women often take on much of the responsibility for the children. Such women, both working moms and a stay-at-home moms quickly grow resentful: Why can’t he help out more! And now he wants sex?! As we noted, resentment spells disaster for romance. Where’s the eroticism in having to give your husband pleasure while you’re quietly feeling bitter toward him? A pattern of one-way pleasuring is no way to maintain romantic bliss for two. You feel taken for granted. You feel guilty for no longer feeling sexy. You feel trapped. Resentments turn into contempt toward your partner and romance is murdered!
Solution #2: Communicate honestly and openly.
Value yourself enough to speak up when you first feel resentful. Nip problems in the bud. You’ll need good communication skills, which you can learn. Openly talk about ALL the responsibilities involved in parenting. Write them down on paper when you have some private time together and figure out how to fairly divide them up. It’s fine to have a division of labor. With some couples, one partner agrees to work fulltime and the other partner wants to be at home. As long as you mutually agree on this arrangement and discuss specifically how you will divide up the parenting and chores so that it feels fair, that’s fine. It’s when you don’t speak up --and wait until you burst forth with anger--that damage is done. Damage is also done if you choose to “shut up and put up.” You can’t feel sexy when you feel emotionally defeated. The moral: Give yourself a gentle loving voice in your marriage (and encourage your partner to do likewise).
Some roles just don’t mix easily. You think about wearing your low cut dress to a romantic dinner with your hubby, and just as you feel the sexy mood coming on and indicate that to him, your infant starts crying for another breast-feeding. Instantly, your mind is hijacked and you are back to being a mom. You cancel dinner plans. Your husband is not smiling.
Or you find some private time to fantasize with your husband. And in the middle of the fantasy, you have an image of the messy diaper you tossed out a half hour before, and you remember that Katie, your 12 year old, needs to get to soccer practice later today. Even if you can find a spot of time for passion, your mental life may be still in kid-land.
Solution #3: A sexy wife... AND... a homey mom.
You need to have mommy time. You need alone time. And you also need intimate time with your partner, which includes times for romance and times when you are enjoying one another’s company without the kids.
Practice setting mental boundaries. You are the only one who can work with your own mind. If you leave it to chance, you will have mental mommy-static when you tune into your hubby channel. You may find it easier to set aside a specific time of the day or week to be alone together. Invest in babysitters and intentionally shift gears. How? As that time arrives to spend time with one another, do a “brain dump.” On paper, write down all the kid stuff running through your mind, and then set that paper aside with a promise to get back to it later.
Next, work with yourself to create a romantic mood. Listen to romantic music, or whatever best helps you shift your focus. This YOUR time with your partner. Your romantic life is a value to you, not to be sacrificed on the alter of children. And counter to what you may have learned earlier in life, sex is good and healthy, as we discuss in our book, The Selfish Path to Romance: How to love with passion and reason.
Make emotional and sexual intimacy with your partner a top priority. Remember that sex is not a duty but a delightful pleasure for YOU. And when partners work together to keep their sex life alive, their relationship becomes far more intimate. Many couples don’t know that developing a couple’s style of intimacy requires time, thought, planning and experimenting. This requires communication skills (actively listening to one another and lovingly asserting your own needs).
Assuming that the emotional intimacy and sexual energy you had when you first met your husband will be there forever without effort is a big mistake. Many find that such passion quickly fizzles. Why? Like any other important value in life, romance requires active thinking and good planning and great communication. Expecting your romantic life to function on auto-pilot will land you in divorce court—or unhappily ever married.
Solution #4: Make romance YOUR value.
Together, actively think about how to nourish and enjoy it. Never let it morph into a duty you perform only to please your partner. Selfless romance doesn’t exist. Resentments fill the void where romance should be flourishing. Together, enjoy learning how to make your romantic life flourish--even with the “mission impossible” of having kids and being a loving mom.
Managing any obstacles with a loving sense of humor if things go awry, and mutually working to communicate well and find solutions to whatever obstacles you face, will allow you to live your dream of feeling loved as a wife-- and as a mom.
Copyright © 2011 Edwin A. Locke and Ellen Kenner