Our Secret to Maintaining a Happy Marriage and Sex Life After Kids
We have two kids under five, two careers, and not a lot of free time.
Swetha and Akil Thota live in San Jose, California. They have two kids under five and two high-powered careers in tech. The transition from a husband-and-wife who work to parents-who-work often made it difficult to communicate and find time together. Their identities had changed and their schedules were packed. But thanks to the help of Swetha’s mom a few special communication strategies, they’ve found the right way to balance their many roles while taking care of themselves and their kids. Here’s how their marriage and sex life shifted after having kids and what they did to lean into the skid.
S: We each have demanding jobs so the adjustment to becoming parents was a lot. With the first year of parenting, I’m glad we had help. Through pregnancy, my husband was very, very supportive. My workplace was a little flexible with both of my pregnancies — but of course I had all the side effects of pregnancy. I was throwing up and whatnot. My husband was there to take care of everything, even cooking. Post-birth, too, I’m so glad I had help from family. My parents came in and they stayed with us for a year. One year, right?
A: Right. Parenting is a big balancing act, I feel. It does add a lot of pressure. With our first kid, it was tough initially. We got used to it. Then, with the second kid, there was more pressure. We’re still in the process of getting used to it, but I think we are doing okay.
S: But we had quite a lot of help. And both of us — we’re so supportive of each other. I can’t thank him enough for being supportive and taking care of the baby and making sure we share our responsibilities, even when that means he gets up and wakes up at night to feed the baby. It was demanding. I had to get back to work eight weeks postpartum.
Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents frankly talk about how their marriage and 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.
S: Leaving my baby and going back to work was tough. Emotionally, too, it took time for us to get adjusted [to being new parents.] We have had our share of ups and downs. The pressure was there, initially, for that first year. But with our respective managers, they are a little accommodating. We told them, “We have a small infant at home. We might have to go out for appointments and our kid might get sick.” But we split that evenly: sometimes I take time to be with the babies and sometimes my husband does it. We had our ups and downs but it’s part of the learning process.
A: With the first baby, Swetha had a lot of stress through the pregnancy and after it. But we had a lot of good family support at that point and we adjusted. But the second time around, Swetha had hypertension. And my father was sick, so we were a bit challenged on the mental side of it. The second birth was a bit more stressful, but thankfully, we had Swetha’s mom here and then I had to travel back to India to attend my father’s funeral.
S: I was maybe acting crazy sometimes. The second time, especially, was stressful. But eventually, I think it’s up to you to control your mind to be more mentally stable. So when he was gone for that month because he had to be there for his father’s funeral, I had to try to understand that that’s what he needed to do.
So I was trying to manage my toddler and my infant at the same time, which was hard. But once he was back, we got back to our routine of getting back to work and taking care of the babies. We’ve adjusted so much. Our preschooler is doing so well in understanding that daddy can’t be there every time she needs him. She’s very attached to her dad — very much, I would say. I’m more than happy about that, that both my kids are very attached to their dad. They love their dad. I do, too.
S: Lately, we’ve been working on going on dates and finding time to be together. With our first kid, we used to take time out for dates. But now, the only time we can take time out is on lunch dates. With the work pressure, and then coming back home and taking care of the kids and all those routines — we value that time. Our kids just won’t do a nanny. I don’t think we can get a nanny from Care.com and go on a date for a couple of hours.
So the only time we really find for each other is lunch time, and once the kids are off to bed. That’s the time where we get a glass of wine, put on some Netflix, sit on the couch and chit chat. But there are times where we’ll literally doze off right when the kids go to bed. Or if Akil is putting the kids to sleep sometimes I’ll doze off or he dozes off. But that’s okay. We make up for it, we make time for each other.
A: Beyond finding time to be together, we also need to find time for us alone. Swetha likes to go shopping, and I like to hang out with my friends or just go for a walk. So, we do get that time. We just regulate ourselves so when we are back to doing the daily chores that we have —
S: Yeah, we make sure we get out our self-time, because I need time. Akil gives me time to just hang out. And sometimes he has happy hours and I cover the kid duty. That kind of understanding helps us get through this journey.
A: Giving one another space from time to time is definitely important.
S: To be mentally sane? Yeah. It does help, in leaps and bounds, trust me, it does. (laughs)
S: We don’t have any plans or schedule for sex. We are more like, “Let’s see how it works out.” Being postpartum, I was mortified by the suggestion and I was so mentally drained. Akil gave me a lot of time and he was very understanding in giving me enough time to recover, until I got the physical all clear. But in general, I think it depends, mostly, on how we feel. It’s so tied to each other’s mental state. It’s not like we are completely lost interest of getting physically intimate — we take the time for each other in that way. What do you think, Akil?
A: We are pretty good about being understanding of each other in that way. We give each other enough space, and we feel that when things happen naturally, we are okay with that.
S: It’s definitely on-the-go. It’s just about being on-the-go, nothing planned as much.
S: Seeing Akil go from boyfriend to husband to father, I’ve learned patience. I really, really appreciate him. That matters a lot. We also give each other time and our own space. And, you know, getting into arguments is natural. But if one of us needs to be a little understanding and not fight back and go back and forth, we can do that. We talk it out. That’s what we’ve learned through this process. Talking it out has been very, very helpful.
A: There are so many aspects of our day-to-day life where I can completely close my eyes and go with the flow because of my wife. I trust Swetha completely, that she makes those decisions. Like planning trips or planning something for the kids. I can completely rely on her without thinking twice. She’s also more like a live-and-let live kind of person than I am. She doesn’t ask, “Okay, why are you doing this like this?” She’s really amicable. She’s a lovely person to be with. Parenting is, you know, an endless journey. Finding happiness and positivity in every little thing you do definitely helps keep the boat afloat — rather than thinking of it as a chore.