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The Inevitably Inconvenient Sex of Parenthood

When morning sex, evening sex, scheduled sex, and spontaneous sex fail to work...you might be a parent.

The best sex parents can have depends very much on the time of day, their gender, and their internal clocks. While the optimal time of day to get busy varies, what most moms and dads have in common is that, whenever a spare second to hop in bed occurs, it won’t be convenient. As a result, couples who don’t adjust to having sex when they’re less primed for it may miss out on many health and relationship benefits. Likewise, couples who force it risk getting into relationship ruts as a result of rigidly scheduled, mediocre sex. Parents are likely to sexually and psychologically suffer, either way.

“The misconception is that, because we have our kids on schedules for eating, nap time, and school, we have this idea in our head that we should schedule our intimate time,” psychotherapist Soula Hareas told Fatherly. Parents who think this way are setting themselves up for failure.”

Unfortunately, men and women are prone to having inconvenient sex long before they have kids, because their sex drives peak at different times due to hormonal differences. Women’s libidos generally highest in the late evening between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., whereas men are the horniest between 6 and 9 a.m., one study found. The solution for couples without kids might be to just have sex in the morning and at night, but for tired parents with kids who could easily wake up, that’s not a solution at all.

There’s evidence that most couples opt for the morning over the evening and research shows that the most popular time to have sex is somewhere between 7:30 and 9 a.m. Although this seems doable for some parents, particularly on weekends, there’s a catch — people have to be awake for about 45 minutes before having sex in order to enjoy it the most, and kids are likely to wake up during that window. And even if they didn’t wake up, very few moms and dads have 45 minutes to burn

Perhaps this explains why more than half of couples resort to scheduling sex. Unfortunately that doesn’t work either when kids come into the equation. “Children are unpredictable,” Hareas, who is also a mother of three, warns. “You may schedule sex time and your child comes down with a projectile vomiting stomach bug. Nothing kills the mood like a child having a bad stomach bug.”

And even when kids don’t ruin a romp with their vomit, scheduling sex is a good way to make it feel less like sex and more like a root canal. It takes all the spontaneity out of it. The solution may be not to stop scheduling sex completely, but to instead remember to seize opportunities for sex when they pop up. That’s a lot more fun than maintaining a shared Google calendar.

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“If parents actively look for the moments when their child has taken a nap or is getting picked up by a friend’s mom from practice, then their sex life will not only be more active and satisfying but include that element of sexual spontaneity as well,” Hareas says. Hell, it might make them feel younger too. “Parents should think of themselves as teenagers and actively look for the opportunities.”