Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents frankly talk about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their relationship. A baby raises the stakes. Couples have less time to devote to one another, emotional intimacy can dwindle, date nights — at least for the first months — are nearly non-existent, and sex is often a non-starter. Couples must adapt. Here’s how they do it.
Lindsay and Ashley Head had to figure out how to recalibrate their relationship. For the couple, who is in their late 30s and had two kids while deep into busy, time consuming jobs, maintaining a healthy relationship as parents involves constant conversations, an understanding that their kids can’t come between their marriage, and lots (and lots) of shared calendars.
Before you had kids, did you have conversations about your relationship and how it might change after a baby came along?
Lindsay: We definitely had a lot of pre-emptive conversations. We’re not early in our age, so we had a lot of things out on the table, about wanting kids, what our lives would look like, managing a life with children. We went into it having very open conversations, but also not knowing what it was going to be like once that baby joined our life.
Ashley: I will say that although we had started planning financially once we knew we were pregnant, we actually had absolutely no idea what it would be like or how it would change our lives. We were very high-up in our careers and we met one another, and when we got married, we were both in a position where we weren’t sure we wanted marriage. But we found each other and said “Wow, this is the one.” That whole I’m going to be an independent executive mindset had to change. We both had to change.
Was the conversation different when you were expecting your second?
A: If you go back to us being about three or four months pregnant with our first child, we were like, ‘In one year, we’ll have a baby in the back seat. It’s going to be totally different. Wow. I wonder what that’s going to be like!’
Ironically, when we were two or three months pregnant with our second son, we were having the same conversations. Like, literally, “In a year, there will be two kids in the back seat! How’s that going to work? How’s our son going to react?”
Aside from planning for a new life, Lindsay, how did you handle physical recovery through both pregnancies?
L: Our first baby ended up, after 32 hours, as a c-section. So that was a really traumatic entry into motherhood for me. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go down. Ashley was awesome through all of that. Emotionally, with my first son, I definitely had some postpartum depression. It was so new. All of the changes that come with motherhood are a sacrifice. You gain weight; you don’t feel good; your emotions are all over the place; your hormones are crazy. And then poor Ashley having to deal with that, and then having a new baby on top of that. My first birth was more of an emotional and physical toll.
So you were more prepared the second time?
L: I did feel more prepared. I wanted to deliver naturally, but the doctor called it two days before our due-date. It was a little bit better, because there wasn’t as much trauma on my body. I didn’t have to go through labor. Emotionally, I still had some ups and downs, obviously. With hormones, even now, you think your good and then once in a while I’m like “Am I good? Am I emotionally good?” But having Ashley as my husband, he’s so tuned into that. I feel very supported. The second time around, the no sleep.
What was the biggest change children brought to your relationship?
L: Dealing with a newborn and the schedule of a near-two-year-old was really eye-opening for us. All of the sudden, we didn’t have the time we had before. Number one, before, we had this quiet time together every night when we put our toddler down. He would go to sleep. But now, our oldest goes to bed and our youngest is all over the place in terms of his schedule. We’ve looked at each other and been like: ‘Where’s our time to be with each other?’
A: Before children, it was just Lindsay and I. We’d just pick up and go out to eat or go to the movies or spend time together. We took that for granted. As a couple, we didn’t realize how much of a time commitment a kid actually is. With everything that we have to do from the time you wake up to the the time you go to sleep. And even phone calls and taking time off of work and going to dental appointments and doctor appointments…
How did you two handle that new stress? What did you to do combat it?
A: Emotionally, we really just had to lean into one another. A lot of times, people say that people become distant and feel so far from one another. But for us, we’re very organized. We joke that the first kid was a hobby and the second kid was the lifestyle. But still, we leaned into each other again.
We knew it was hard, but because we have each other and we know we can stay organized, we know we can do it together. And we’re actually closer emotionally. But we trust each other wholeheartedly. She knows that working out for me is important; so we always speak to one another about how we can pick up the slack with the kids if I want to go to the gym. We just support each other. We also have a few people we really trust to babysit our kids, because once a week or once every two weeks, we really need to get away just the two of us. Sometimes that’s ice cream and sometimes that’s dinner or even just working out together. We just need to get away, talk. Have a moment with just the two of us and no kids around.
That’s great — and so important. What about physically? Did you have struggles with finding time to be intimate?
L: For me, the eye-opener of the frequency of sex before having a baby — I mean, it was obviously more than after baby. After having a baby, there’s this gap of time, especially recovering from a c-section, you can’t even be intimate. That was actually a challenge for us. That wasn’t what we were used to. I was like, Hold on. Now our bodies can’t work? My body can’t even work? That’s a big deal! I literally couldn’t [be intimate] for the safety of my womb, if I wanted to have another kid. After baby number one, we just got back to it when it was safe for us, and that was okay. During my second pregnancy, I had a different experience with my hormones and stuff. I was having more challenges, just being my best self, or even just being happy… How did that feel your you, Ash?
A: Physically, we both gained weight throughout the second pregnancy. We wanted to feel sexy and be sexy for each other, so we tried to not lose ourselves in the pregnancy weight and to get right back to it, as soon as possible, so we could still feel sexy for each other. The baby came and we went through this weight gain but then we lose that weight together. That’s something that keeps us attracted to one another. We want to look good for ourselves so we can look good for each other, for our intimate relationship.
L: Also, we’re tired. There have been some times after having our baby, and we’re like “Uh, yeah, we’re exhausted. We’re going to sleep.”
Many can relate. You’re both working full time, while raising two kids under two. Obviously, there’s just less time. So really, how do you make time for one another with less hours in the day?
L: The huge thing for us is that we actually share our calendar. Our lives our so busy, the full time work is big for us, we’re managing these big careers, but we’re also trying to manage being together. So we share calendars, and also we share iPhone notes. What we found is that we keep this stuff top of mind and in all of our conversations: ‘How are we doing this, when are we going to go out, what are we going to plan for ourselves?’ It’s not that we’ve observed other families not doing that, but for us, we’re really aware and conscious of it.
A: And we do dates. Once a week or once every two weeks we get away. If I see that something is happening and I want to do it, I let Lindsay know, and we plan for that night to be ours. Our parent’s night out. We are committed to having our time. Friends who had kids before us would be like ‘Get ready, you’re never going to go to the movies again.’ We were like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to the movies.’ We are not going to let our children take over our lives. One thing I said when we had our first son, when our friends said our time would be sucked away, I said, ‘Everyone has to know that in our family, we plan and brought our children into our world. We brought them to our party. We’re not going to their party. So they can join us on our ride.’
This is something so many parents try to accomplish and fail at. How did you make it stick?
L: Yes. But we realized where our time was going. I know a lot of people who grocery shop online. We weren’t doing that before kids. Recently we made the decision that our time is more important than dragging our babies around the supermarket. That was a huge shift, not dragging them through the supermarket. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe I won’t spend hours in the kitchen prepping food.’ So we decided to start ordering packaged meals. Some of those things definitely changed for us.
A: We don’t get to do everything together, either. Before we had our kids, we’d always work out together on Sunday mornings and go to a movie after that. We split that up now. So, we don’t work out together anymore at all. I’ll stay at home with the babies while Lindsay goes to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, she’ll be at home with the kids and I’ll go work out. That’s unavoidable, but it’s good. We’re very in tune with what the other person’s priorities are, and the other person will take over for that day: cooking, cleaning, anything. It’s really about balance and sharing.