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Monday, November 14, 2011

Motherhood Mondays: Who gets the best kisses?

Pssst, want to talk about something intimate? I've been thinking a lot recently about the physicality of motherhood...

Before having a baby, I didn't touch people that often during the day--I mean, who does? Most of my day--at work, on the bus, in the grocery store, at a movie--was spent without any physical contact, save the odd handshake. Even when I met Alex, and we moved in together and got married, although we were very affectionate at home, the vast majority of my day was still spent keeping my hands politely to myself.

But then.

When you have a baby, you instantly dive headfirst into a daily routine of touch, cuddling, smooching, bathing, holding hands, breastfeeding, tousling hair, patting bellies, napping together, rubbing backs, changing diapers, pinching cheeks, rocking to sleep, giving high-fives...you're suddenly touching another person ALL the time.

You come to know your own baby so well. I could tell you exactly what every part of Toby feels like: his velvet cheeks, fat belly, warm neck, teeny toes. I know how he breathes slowly when he's sleeping and how he breathes loudly when he's concentrating on stacking blocks. I know how he slouches in the bath and how he sits up straight and waves when he wants more Cheerios. How, if I change his diaper in the middle of the night, he'll always take a moment to stretch out his short chubby legs, so I know to wait a second before I pull the diaper on. I would guess that a mother could hold 1,000 babies with her eyes closed, and as soon as her own baby is placed into her arms, she would immediately recognize his exact weight and heft, his specific wriggles, his supple skin.

And all that touch can be an amazing, bonding, fabulous thing.

But what about your romantic partner?

The other day, I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Anna, who had just heard a talk by Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity, a book about sex within a marriage (and after having kids). Perel believes that there's a badge of honor among American women to not prioritize yourself or your marriage: It's all about the children. Without realizing it, she said, women can end up getting their emotional intimacy and physical satisfaction from their children, instead of their partners, said Perel. They give their babies tons of wonderful affection--and then don't have anything left over for their spouse. The marriage can become an afterthought.

Perel's points sound strange (and a little disconcerting), and at first I was like, Oh, not me, never! But, Perel asks, when you have a baby, at the end of a long day, "Who gets the long languorous hugs, the playfulness, the fun, the fashion shows, the teasing, the multiple kisses? The child!"

Oh, wait, that sort of rang true!

I distinctly remember one night when Toby was about eight months old. Alex and I were in his nursery putting him to bed. The lights were dimmed, and we were sitting on the double bed together, and Toby was in my arms. We were having a sweet moment singing lullabies, and I was smothering Toby with kisses--his cheeks, his forehead, burying my face in his neck. Alex was humming along and waiting patiently for me to put Toby to bed, when suddenly I realized, Oh my goodness, I should plop my baby in his crib and go kiss my husband! It struck me, like a lightbulb moment. I saw how how easily you could transfer the majority of your physical affection to your baby.

Obviously, kissing your own baby is one of life's greatest joys, and children thrive with tons of physical affection from both of their parents, but, at the same time, I realized (with a forehead slap) that parents need that physical affection from each other, too (and obviously in a wildly different way:), and over the past year, it has been great to prioritize that, as well. I think our whole family is happier for it!

What do you think? Aren't Perel's points fascinating? Do they ring true at all, or no? Are you affectionate within your marriage? How do you keep up the romance? Has your sex life changed since becoming a parent? I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment anonymously, if you'd like! xo

P.S. More Motherhood Monday posts, including going outside in the winter and how to talk to little girls. And do you kiss your baby on the mouth?
(Top photo by Charles Gullung; bottom photo by Clumsy Bird)

156 comments:

Anonymous said...

this is exactly my marriage. we were ok until having our first child. then i was all touched out by the end of every day, and i have let it go on to the extreme of not wanting any physical touch from my spouse. it feels awkward. and i can't ever get myself to feel romantically interested. it has been 3 years now, and REALLY bad for our marriage.

Joanna Goddard said...

that is such an honest and brave comment!! thank you for sharing. xoxo i know what you mean about being touched out. i've heard that from so many women, and i've felt it myself at times, too, of course. i wonder if you would enjoy the book Mating in Captivity, which esther perel wrote. i read the book years ago (for my old job) and it was fascinating and had REALLY great tips.

Laura said...

Hi Joanna,

I was just thinking about kissing too and wrote a whole blog post on the subject. Mine is more focused on the husband-wife style, but there are links to articles which talk all about the role kissing plays in our lives.

Enjoy!
http://okayiknow.blogspot.com/2011/11/art-of-kissing.html

Also, I ran into Alex and Toby at the Natural History museum and couldn't help but introduce myself and say how much i loved your blog!

-Laura

Erika Peterson said...

Very interesting. I don't have a child yet, but when the day comes, this is definitely something I want to remember. Give the man his fair share of kisses :)

Joanna Goddard said...

oh, laura, that is awesome. alex told me that you were so nice! :) i wish i had been there!

Anonymous said...

It is such a struggle but one that has to be worked on! Your children you love so unconditionally ... whereas your spouse can really tick you off at times ;) I have to make this a mental practice daily!!

Ms Styling You said...

This is so true. It's physical, emotional and hormonal! My youngest is now 6 and things are very different but when he was a baby you really had to make the time for your relationship. Very glad I did.

Natty by Design said...

I have four kids and feel so lucky that I haven't ever felt this way. I've seen it happen with my friends and can understand how easy it would be for it to be that way! I believe it's extremely healthy for kids to realize your marriage comes first and that you love their daddy/mommy most.

Anonymous said...

Four months into motherhood, this is a challenge for me. At the end of a day caring for my daughter, I feel touched out. I want physical space to myself, and my poor husband is getting a little neglected. My breasts have never been bigger, but since my baby is always at them, we've pretty much given that real estate to her. I hope it gets better! I hear it will.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why i've never really wanted kids. It becomes all about the children all day long, 24/7. It's not right for someone to pay more attention to other people and not take care of themselves at all. It's not good for any relationship either.

Caroline @ Out of Liney said...

Wow, this is an awesome post! I'm not married, I don't have children, but I'm in a wonderful, serious relationship that I invest a lot in and want to keep healthy for a LONG time. I'm going to keep this in mind.

Laura said...

Me too! I am putting together a group in NYC that brings together successful women in business and connects them with women starting out who are looking for mentors. Let me know if you'd be interested in attending or know anyone who would. You have been personally inspiring to me and it would be so great to meet you and hear your story.

Keep up the good work!

Oblio and Arrow said...

What a great post! My baby is 8 months old and I love to hug and kiss her, and we even "make out" open mouth kisses on her part because she doesn't know any better. Those moments do feel intimate and wonderful, but the other day, when I was cuddling with her, I looked over at the other couch where my husband was sitting alone, and realized how left out he was! I could never give up my time with her, and often it IS hard to have any desire for physical affection with him. I'm not sure if its that my daughter used it up--because I'd still have more for her if she awoke in the middle of the night. I often wonder if it is hormonal? I have no interest in sex--its been 8 months and still nothing. I worry about this often because I think it is an important part of an intimate adult relationship. Before I had my daughter, I used to think that sex was one of the things that really separates your marriage from other adult interactions. I can have meaningful conversations with close friends, laugh with them etc, but my husband is the only one I shared physical affection with--and that made it really special. Because of those thoughts, I really try to make sure we still have intimate times, but knowing that I never initiate it, or that when I do its out of duty rather than real drive, I think is hard on him. :( I keep hoping it will just go away with time, but based on other comments, maybe I need to work on this more and not expect it to just resolve itself!

Amelia said...

I am so happy that you posted about this--I recently "watched" myself stop in the middle of a not overly kind rant to my husband because our son toddled over and asked me for something. In a split second my tone, body language, actual language, everything changed because I would never speak to my son in the way that I was in the middle of speaking to my husband.

Seeing this shift and realizing exactly how easy it is to decide not to be mad has shifted something for me. I bring this up because while having a child to cuddle might be compromising a bit of physical intimacy, the lessons learned from living with a child might just be improving the relationship's intimacy.

It's so rewarding to be reminded by each other that we can all change when we're ready.

Joanna Goddard said...

yeah, anonymous, i think it's a choice you make as a parent--how much focus to put on each member of the family, how much time to devote, date nights, all of those things. definitely something you do have control over, though, if you work on it! xoxo

Celeste said...

The thing is though, that our children suffer when the marriage suffers. So putting your partner first is actually putting everyone else first too. I doubt there could be anything that would make children feel more secure in their world than to know without a doubt that their parents loved & cherished & respected one another. When we've invested the time & attention and our relationship is strong, I'm happier, he's happier & so are our two little ones. Do what it takes.

Mary said...

It's true: I used to touch my husband way more before we had our son. I struggled with postpartum: forget touching your husband, you have to learn how to hold your own baby at first!

Now, it is so easy to just soak up our son's love, (their adorable tummies!) and totally forget Mr. Dad.

Thanks for a great post, Joanna! :)I know which book I'm adding to my nightstand.

Anonymous said...

SUCH and interesting topic!! I have heard that children gain a great deal of security and confidence from having parents who work to stay in love and keep their relationship a top priority. Otherwise children are sent the message that they are the most important, the center of the family; everything they do or are is super important. This is an incredible burden for a child. But what do I know? I don't even have any kids. :) What I do know is that when my folks smooch, it isn't gross or awkward anymore. It's cute. Makes me feel safe--my family is strong.

- Jessica K

Carried Away said...

This book goes in my Must read list for when I'll be a mother. I have a great husband and I want to remember all of this when we have kids.

Girlie Blogger said...

So hard to find time for intimacy after motherhood. But we do try. I think there is enough affection for everyone. We just have to find the energy.

http://www.thegirlieblog.com

Joanna Goddard said...

jessica k, i LOVE that comment!! :)

sm2110 said...

thank you for the touching, reflective post joanna. this does remind me of how arduous it can be to be a woman. we are caretakers of all the lives we become involved with...there are exceptions, but this instinct does come naturally to most.

can you imagine your husband thinking "o i might not have much affection left for my wife!" after coddling the babe? probably not. and that's not booing the males/fathers. it's just proving that the woman is hyper-aware. of everything! and sometimes it is exhausting. it is exhilarating at the same time, but also exhausting. so cheers to all the multi-emotional-tasking mothers!!

melissa said...

This post comes at a perfect time for me. I just had my first baby (5 weeks old!) and am just about to get the clearance to be (ahem) intimate with my husband again. I have been thinking a lot about it because throughout my pregnancy I was SO not interested in being intimate, but now I feel really ready. I think having a baby has made me want my husband more than ever before (hormones?) and although I am a bit "touched out" by the end of a long day spent baby-wearing, nursing and holding, the touch that comes from being with my husband sounds oh-so-good to me right now.

Thanks so much for your always thoughtful, inspiring and fun posts about being a mommy. xoxo

Tara said...

After my husband and I had our children, our sex life actually improved. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but it's as though seeing the lovely little products of us made us even more attracted to each other. I feel lucky about that. But to me, sex is different from the casual physical affection that can happen in two seconds, in front of the kids (or other guests!).

My husband and I have recently started to try to be more affectionate in that way (little kisses, hugs, playful butt pats) in front of our two-year olds after we saw their reaction to a little dance we did around the kitchen and a kiss. They were staring at us with HUGE open-mouthed smiles on their faces...Sometimes the day-to-day stress of running a household got in the way of us showing that affection that we saved for each other at night to our kids, and it was clearly reassuring to them in a way that words never could be. And I find that our efforts to be more physically affectionate helps my husband and me to defuse some of the stress that we encounter during our days of parenting, causing us to let things drop that we might not otherwise, to use kinder words/tones with each other, and to generally be happier. It takes effort (especially when something really frustrating/annoying happens!), but it's helping us to deal with the tough things in a much healthier way, I think. So the overall effect is goodness all around.

abigail said...

I know exactly what you mean.... and I love the bit about a woman having her eyes closed and knowing which baby is her's... so true

have you seen the Tree of Life (movie) yet? (I remember you mention it but can't remember if you went...?)

They do such an amazing- lovely job of capturing this idea of touch and affection between the mother and her boys. She is constantly touching the back of their heads (as I find myself doing with our little 1 yr old daughter) and they show this touch grow and evolve as her children do... its really stunning and nostalgic all at once.

anyway, what I was going to mention was how my Husband and I have been doing this thing lately (i.e. the last 6+ months or so ) where one of us is holding her and the other comes up and we do this little group hug, or "Squeeze!" and we say Squeeze as we squish her between us and she loves it! (something my grandmother would always say to me when hugging me when I was small) Our daughter has such a contented look of comfort, giddiness and love over her entire face. Then I kiss my husband and then he and I take turns kissing her and then back again, repeating the process. I like to think we are in some way naturally teaching her about affection...

And I do know what you mean about spreading the affection around, very important to keep in mind, while striking a balance of the mom not getting too "touched out"!

Love your motherhood monday posts!

~abigail

aka: tiptoethrough.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Wow - I have to say it gives me a measure of comfort to know I'm not alone here. It's been 9 months since the birth of our daughter and our sex life has yet to return to even a semblance of "normal". Besides the things already mentioned (having a little one to focus my physical attention on, being exhausted and not having time), I also want to mention what my Dr. told me- which is that while you are breastfeeding, you're body is in a similar state to when you are in menopause. It's almost like nature's way of preventing you from getting pregnant again too quickly. Even if you're not breastfeeding, I think there are so many hormonal changes that occur after giving birth. I am hoping this will pass as time goes on, but I am starting to think that perhaps the time has come now to start putting the effort in... thanks so much for posting this!

Megan said...

Love this post, Joanna. We don't have kids yet, but it's something that concerns me. I keep remembering what a good friend of mine said after she had her first baby: "When I get home after work, I have to make it a point to greet and kiss my HUSBAND first, before I scoop up the baby."

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

I think my sex life and spousal affection has definitely changed but not necessarily in an all bad way.

For example, my husband and I have a sort of sexual urgency that we didn't have before.....the baby is napping? the sister/room-mate is at work? Let's have a quickie! It's exciting and fun.

However, there are other things that are less positive. Like my libido takes a hit from breastfeeding, now that I'm pregnant again and have a one year old, I definitely have moments in the evening where I am COMPLETELY exhausted. I feel bad making my husband pursue me sexually more than I pursue him but I know that this is just a small phase in our lives. We still have sex almost every day, everyone at the least, it's just different for now.

For the health of our marriage (over four years) we make sex a priority.

Sarah said...

I'm due with our first any day now. I've always believed that your marriage comes first, and then your children. Because when the two spouses are happy and still in love they can make decisions together to benefit their children. This is such a great reminder! I'm honestly a little scared about how my relationship with my husband is going to chance. I just might have to check out that book! Thanks for inspiring me yet again Joanna :)

Natasha said...

This really hit home for me today. My son just turned 2 and my husband and I have started strongly considering having another child soon. However right now we are so happy and content with each other and our son. I am afraid of hurting a great thing. But yet at the same time I think I would regret not adding to our family. We had a tough time getting back to being intimate after our son was born, and I am not sure I want to go through that again.

Anonymous said...

talk about timing! we're going through something similar. i'm not a touchy feel person to begin with but having a baby changed. especially with my son who at 5 still needs a lot of physical contact and attention. if he could he'd sit on my lap all day! after giving it all to my kids, i don't have much left for my poor husband! something we are trying to work on...

Anonymous said...

I was never super affectionate with my husband before the baby, and now nearly 3 years later, it's like my physical expressiveness has developed only in relation to our child. Our sex-life is basically non-existent, like once every 2-3 months. No kisses, hugs, or hand-holding. I've also become terse, bitter, and emotionally withdrawn. And yet everything you said about Toby I could say about my son. My husband is also so exhausted from work and child-care that at the end of the day, we barely acknowledge each other physically, let alone have a conversation. We're truly the walking dead--sleep-deprived, worried about finances, over-extended at work...

I know that our son picks up on these things. He is incredibly sweet and empathetic, whereas my husband doesn't even notice when I'm struggling to open a jar. Having a child has really brought to the surface many latent problems in our relationship.

Anonymous said...

I'm a single mom and haven't had a boyfriend or even dated since my son was born 4 years ago. Needless to say, I thrive on the physicality of being a mom! I'd be very lonely and a bit crazy without it.

Helen@handmaidtails.wordpress.com said...

We do kiss on the mouth in our house; although the baby usually prefers to chew on our noses :) We also aren't afraid to kiss and cuddle in front of her; I think it sets a good example of an affectionate marriage. I often say yes to intimacy even if all I can think about is sleep and I never regret it, no matter how shlubby and touched out I feel. We might not have the same kind of raucous love life we had before baby, but even the exhausted and low energy version we have now is restorative wonderful.

Gabriela said...

This post really made me think, even though I am not a mother. I am a nurse at a children's hospital, and touch is a big part of my job (especially when the mommas cant be there to stay with their babies).
Whether it is just soothing a child after a painful procedure, rocking an infant to sleep (so I can *finally* go sit down and chart), or using a free moment to give one of my patients some extra tlc. That last one is the big one to me... especially for those children in the hospital for a long time with no parents. They need affectionate attention and love just as much as they need their medications and treatments! Sometimes when I am cuddling a cutie pie in a spare moment, I think that I might be benefitting just as much as my patient! It seems a little weird to write it out, but in the nature of intimate subjects.

labergerebasque said...

There is no greater gift one can give to a child than a great relationship between his mommy and daddy. Nothing compares to that stability and peace of mind for a child. It is better than ANY Toys r US run, any day.
You want to give a child the best of everything? Do it in your relationship with your partner.

Alyssa said...

I'm not at the point in my life to have a baby yet (I'm graduating college next month and moving across the country), but I love hearing all of these stories, tips and treasures for when I do! Honestly, This post really touched me (haha) because I never even considered this issue, or many of the other issues I've been reading about since Toby was born. Thanks for all of the advice ladies, and especially Joanna. I feel like you all are preparing me for something truly amazing.

Anonymous said...

wow! i was very surprised by this post... it is so true for me! i had no idea this was happening. something has been a tiny bit off since having my baby 10 months ago... i knew with breastfeeding, my sex drive is a bit off... but i need to make sure i give my husband more affection. one of my love languages that i naturally give is touch... but i've been giving it all to baby! crazy. Thanks for the insight!
ps... i love kissing our baby girl on the mouth but my husband has a very hard time with it. he is really trying, because by kissing her on the mouth, she gives great big hugs... he wants the hugs but he just doesn't love the (open) mouth kisses.

Unseasoned Cook said...

This is so poignant to me right now, thank you for posting this. I am 9 months pregnant (I am the lady that approached you at Co. after a birthing class) and have been with my husband for 10 years. He is literally my everything. My partner, my lover, my best friend and I can't imagine there could ever be a time where I would not be able to find the time or affection for him that I always have once this munchkin comes into the world. And yet I see it happen all around me to friends and family who have had kids. It terrifies me and yet I know I will also be the type of person to give all of myself to this baby. I am hoping as I am so hyper-sensitive to it that I might be able to learn to divide my love, or rather multiply my love between these two amazing human beings. As with everything in life, I am sure it will take work. Thank you so much for another wonder

Lindsay said...

Oh yes...this is sooooo true. I think this happens to me all the time since having my daughter. Lately I have made an effort to be more affectionate with my husband and it made things better immediately. They need love and attention too!

Unseasoned Cook said...

don't know what happened there! Meant to finish by saying thank you so much for another wonderful, thought provoking motherhood monday post! ooops

Courtney said...

Joanna,
Thanks so much for posting about this topic. It's so, so, so true. And I feel it's something that so many mums relate to, but don't discuss that often...
It's funny how when you have children you go on autopilot mode. There are some weeks where I feel I haven't even looked into my husband's eyes, haven't put my arms around him, haven't smooched him in a romantic way. Some days go by where we wake up with children slowly hopping into bed, we get out of bed one by one, one of us makes breakfast, the other one gets the kids dressed, one of us hops in the shower, the other one cleans up breakfast, one of us puts their shoes on, the other one takes them to school, etc.
It's easy to forget that you're a romantic couple, in love with each other. It's also hard to find the time to remember that!
Having young children is a trying time for any relationship, no matter how much you love each other. But... it's posts like this that encourage you to remember to smooch your husband.
And I do think that having children might not do wonders for the sex life, but it does strengthen the relationship in other ways. And... when the kids are older, hopefully the fun sex life will come back too!
Anyway, it's nice to know that others feel the same way...
xxx

Sara Szatmary said...

I'm not married, nor do I have kids; however, some of my clearest memories of my parents holding hands on the couch of kissing before they left for work. They were (and still are) so in love. Sure,\ maybe I wasn't getting affection in that exact moment, but I was SEEING love around me. I think that is just as important.

Briana said...

THANK YOU for posting this. As a soon-to-be, first-time mom, I am really concerned how having a child will affect my relationship with my husband. My plan is to be conscious of our needs as a couple along with the needs of our child. I know it will be difficult but I want to make our relationship and our marriage a priority just as we make our daughter a priority.

Lindsey Lindstrom said...

I absolutely ADORE this post!! There is no greater love you can show your babies than them seeing the love and affection you have for your spouse! I remember a month after having my first baby, I was so all consumed in her, and began feeling a little blue. She slept between us in our bed at night so I could easily nurse during the night (while recovering from a csection), she was in my arms every waking hour. One afternoon, my husband and I decided to put her in her crib for a nap. She snuggled in and we decided to nap ourselves. I remember so vividly laying in bed with my husband and the second our legs touched it was like a burst of energy through us! I realized at that moment, " THIS is why I'm blue! I need my husband's touch! We NEED to connect physically to get back in touch with each other!"

To this day, my word of advice to soon to be moms...don't forget to touch your husband!

Jessi said...

this hit a note with me... i'm pregnant with my first baby and i'm really nervous about how this will affect my husband and i (relationship wise).

i KNOW we will love and adore this little lady for the rest of our lives... but for the last 10 years its been just us. this will forever change in march... thats scary.

and, as far as sex... being preggo actually put a damper on our sex lives. temporarily... the dry spell is over! hurrah! we're back to being us!

so... i'm sure it'll be an adjustment at first with a baby... but evenually we'll be us again, just with a third wheel. a CUTE third wheel... :)

thanks so much, i love your blog posts so very much...

Jessi
finnpuppy@gmail.com

Emilie said...

This reminds me of the book, "The Five Love Languages," which gives you a little quiz to find out what kind of love you need most: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, or Gifts. My husband scored highest on Physical Touch...by a long shot. This means that even if we spend all day together doing wonderful things, that he still NEEDS me to hug him, kiss him, etc. to feel my love. I'm sure this will be tough to be intentional about when we have BABIES!

Anonymous said...

my baby is just over a year and i think about this subject often and perel's points definitely ring true with me. i find it weird to share my boobs with my son, who i am still nursing, and my husband, who has all but given up on ever kissing them again. that makes me sad cause i love my husband as much as my son and want to lavish him with as much affection as i do my son, but by the end of the day, i don't always feel like it.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about those who admit their sex life is nonexistent -- do you still expect fidelity from your spouse then? I don't think anyone should have to have sex when they do not want to, but that leaves a lot of spouses in an awkward position.

kelsey williams said...

i'm due in march with my first, and one of my biggest worries is how it will affect our marriage. we've discussed that our marriage will come before our baby, but we're having a girl and my husband already feels a little outnumbered. i am really determined to keep our priorities aligned after she's here, but i know it will be hard.

by the way...i love how you said "I would guess that a mother could hold 1,000 babies with her eyes closed, and as soon as her own baby is placed into her arms, she would immediately recognize his exact weight and heft, his specific wriggles, his supple skin."

:)

Anonymous said...

I so, so hope this doesn't happen in my marriage. My husband and I are newlyweds and are also expecting our first baby. My relationship with my husband is wonderful now and I hope it doesn't change once our baby comes. I think I'll have to work at it though since I can see myself giving my all to the baby, but I do not want it to be at the cost of my relationship with my husband.

I've seen marriages suffer once a baby comes- the husband feeling left out, etc and I don't want to be one of them. My marriage needs to come first so we can set the example for our children. Somehow I'll have to find the perfect balance.

Anna Claire said...

You are so, so right. Before we had our son, my husband and I talked about how we wanted our marriage to be the center of our family (well, our faith, then our marriage) and if our marriage was happy, then everything else, our relationships with our children and theirs with us and with each other, would radiate out from that. I think kids really benefit from knowing that even though they mean the world to their parents, they aren't the center of everything. It's hard to do in practice sometimes, but it will be so worth it.

P.S. I really needed to read this today, after surfing on countless mommy blogs seemingly run by "perfect mommies" who dote on their "perfect children." Joanna, I love your blog for being so open and honest, and still always uplifting :)

Kate N. said...

I'm not going to say I agree with his politics, but I think that Ronald and Nancy Reagan had about one of the most devoted, pure loves of any public couple, ever. I saw an interview a few years back with one of his sons who said that while growing up all the children were aware that although their parents loved them very much, they took second place in their hearts. They knew that their parents loved eachother more and that they were not to be bothered when they were alone together. Initially I was a little shocked, but after thinking about it for a while I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing. I agree with the other commentators who have said that a positive, strong relationship between the parents is so beneficial to the children, and I think the Reagans were a good example of that.

Liv said...

We put our kids to bed early so we can have a few hours together at night, before we are ready to crash into bed. And both of take a little time to unwind, whether it is reading or a bubble bath or anything. After a little bit, then we are more likely to cuddle on the couch and watch a show or movie.

Being romantic now that we have two kids means being more intentional, but it's always worth it. Sometimes it reminds me of those times in college with roommates when you were so tired and staying up so late to finish school work, but they where some of the best times.

Sometimes it feels like we are two crazy kids in love, when we make time for each other, even when it's so late and not practical, but HELLO the kids are sleeping!

Margot said...

I don't have a kid yet myself, but I certainly relate to this post anyway. In my opinion the author of this book could not be more right. I do not at all agree with the average American mother who makes her life all about the baby. Of course a baby needs A LOT of love and affection, but I believe kids also feel the general climate in the family, which comes mainly from the relationship between the parents. So, I do support the idea that a mother should actually put her husband first even after the child comes. Children won't feel left out when they see the great loving relationship their parents have, but the husband might very easily feel abandoned when he is suddenly pushed to the background when a baby takes the stage entirely.
So I feel taking pride in making children the priority of a mother's life is simply wrong. Children don't need to feel that they're the only thing in their mother's life. At the end it may even become sort of a burden on them, to know that their mother sacrificed everything for them. But that's already another story.

The Wearwithal said...

That's really interesting. Wow.

Notes from Holly St. said...

This is a great post! I read a lot about keeping the romance alive and strong after baby while I was pregnant so when our baby girl arrived I was super focused on giving my husband the extra attention he needed. I could tell he was feeling a bit left out with all of the attention the baby and I were getting plus the one-on-one time I had with our baby during feedings. It was challenging at first to be so attentive to him while being super exhausted with a newborn but it really helped us to feel like we were still "us" even through all of the sleepless nights and life changes. I feel like a strong marriage is the basis to a strong family unit and it is always a work in process.

Courtney said...

wow, awesome post! I have struggled to find the right balance of intimacy (both romantic and not) since I had my baby (3.5 years ago!), and I had never really thought about getting my affectionate fill with my daughter. I constantly smother her with love and cuddles and kisses, but I'll admit I'm not quite as enthusiastic when it comes to my husband.
I find it interesting that as my daughter has gotten older and it's not just snuggling a chubby baby, sometimes I feel like I have a child pawing at me and physically needing me all day long that it's hard to go from that (wanting SPACE) to feeling sexy and wanting someone all up in my business. :)

Art Deco Engagement Ring said...

This was a really interesting and honest post!

jen fuller said...

my husband and i work very hard to make sure we still have a good physical relationship because it can slip away so easy with a baby! awesome post :)
Smoking Crayolas Blogspot

Christina Marie said...

People keep telling me the same thing you just posted about... but I guess I won't really know unless I have a kid of my own. Until then, don't touch! hehe j/k.

Christina

www.becauseofmadalene.blogspot.com

Kayla said...

This is something I remember my mom talking to me about from a very young age. We had some family friends who got divorced and she told me a couple times it was, in part, because the wife never ever put her husband first. It was obvious even to me as a small child that this woman preferred her kids to her husband so I knew what my mom was talking about.

My parents set a good example of putting their spouse first (lots of kitchen kissing. Horrifying for their teenage children but a good example nonetheless) and now I'm trying to do the same for my kids! It can be SO hard though, especially when your kids are little. Sometimes I just want my own body and my own space for a while!

Sarah said...

Well, the bible says we leave the parents and cleave to the spouse. If you think about it you are tied with your spouse, but your child will eventually leave you. Once they do it's back to just the couple again. This might sound a bit shocking and obviously I don't mean this in an unhealthy neglecting way, but I believe it's good to care for the concerns of your spouse first and then your child second. Again this doesn't mean I don't feed my child if she's hungry just because my husband needs to talk to me at that moment. But it doesn't mean I completely shut him out either. It's hard. Very hard. But something to continually work on.

Cynthia said...

I adore my child to pieces but I knew I didn't want to become a woman who just had eyes for her child and ignored her spouse (so to speak). I don't know how it will be when we have more children but right now I still feel such a strong pull towards my husband. There are days when I don't want to be touched but then there are times that I can keep my hands off of him.

We do a lot of family hugs and sometimes our son pushes our heads together so that he can see me and my husband kiss. We try our best to keep the affection alive and thriving.

Roberta said...

lovely blog! :)

http://traveloguewithlove.blogspot.com/

Unknown said...

I am a young single parent of a 9 month old and I definitely noticed a huge change in my romantic life. My interest in finding a significant other was simply nonexistant. I believe it is because I don't want for any affection. I get everything I need from my sweet boy! However, this isn't healthy and it's something I've been working on (and making great progress)!

Good luck to all those hugged-out moms!

stephanie said...

what a brave and enlightening post -- again. thank you, joanna. i am not married, nor do i have kids. but i feel so much more prepared and confident and self-assured about entering into those unions because of these questions you ask and explore. thank you again.

Skinny Jeans Mom said...

Great topic for a post! Definitely conjures up a lot of thoughts.

As a full time working mom, wife, blogger, and columnist, I've learned the value of MAKING time for your spouse and yourself. Yes, my child comes first, and that's the way I feel it should be as a mom. But that doesn't mean I ignore my marriage or even neglect giving myself my own time.

There's this archaic stereotype that moms cease to be interesting, full of life people the moment they conceive their first child and magically transform into self sacrificing sweatpants-wearing creatures who have little time to comb their hair, much less have time for intimacy with their spouse. I fiercely oppose this ideal, which is part of what prompted me to start my own blog, Skinny Jeans Mom. It stands for the mom who loves her kids as much as a good glass of wine, stylish outfit, and good adult conversation.

It's important to make the time to be a good mom but also a good wife and be good to yourself.


@skinnyjeansmom
http://blogs.inlandempirefamily.com/author/skinnyjeansmom/

Berlinesa said...

Joanna, such a wonderful post, as always! I guess I will have to wait some years to understand you completely because I don't have any children yet, unfortunately! I just hope to be able to keep this in mind until then...

Joke Vande Gaer said...

thank you so much for this post joanna! it made me realize that with baby 2 on the way i keep talking about feeling guilty towards Oliver for having another baby (and him not getting the same attention anymore). Not ever did it occur to me how my attention for my husband will change once again too.
Oliver is now 3 years old and we finally got into a phase again where my husband and i invest time into each other. It does include letting Oliver watch TV while we finish our dinner, spend a saturday night without him, or bribe him with a toy to finish a conversation that same moment etc... but I've had to give up trying to be the perfect mom, perfect wife and perfect designer. sometimes things just have to give a little. days that i need to rethink how i prioritize my life and attention.
It is true though that i need to keep reminding myself and my husband that we need to invest time in each other, that all needs to be planned and thought about. so different from when it was just the 2 of us. the love parents have for our kids is just so amazing and frighting even, because you feel like you can never give enough and you want them to know and feel how they are the world to you.
sending my husband a little love note as I write this, thank you for reminding me :)
love your motherhood mondays...xo

Jennifer said...

I love love love reading your blog, I don't have kids and I even like reading the motherhood Monday posts!! Just wanted to send some blog loving your way, reading your posts are the highlight of my day sometimes!!

http://simplisticlivinggirl.blogspot.com/

Jenn

Anonymous said...

Yes - this is right on. My husband and I were doing well at overcoming this for a while, and THEN I got pregnant with #2. Ugh. That's when it really gets hard, because (1) per your post, you've been hugging and kissing the baby (or toddler) all day AND (2) now on top of that you don't feel very attractive! Alas, tips on how to overcome this in a follow up post?? Forty weeks is a LONG TIME to not be physical with your hubs, especially with the challenges of having two upon you! ; )

Anonymous said...

i'm very pregnant right now (8 mo) and have not been physically up to being intimate with my husband for the past 5-6 months. he has also been very stressed out lately, but we find that we can still have the togetherness part by snuggling and talking with each other. (although now it's more like i'm sitting and he nuzzles into me! i feel like such a blob.) once i asked him how he would feel when i give all of my affection to the baby, and he said that he would just join us. he imagines us all taking naps together with the baby in the middle, it's so sweet to know that he will demand the affection he wants in a positive way.

we have been married for almost 2 years, and i have to say that we had never regularly had sex since the first few years of dating. (i was even thinking about how we had so much fun on our honeymoon, but at the end of the days were too exhausted to "do it." i put on new sexy lingerie one night and we both fell asleep with the lights still on!) but, somehow we find other non-sexual ways to have that special kind of bond between us. i can't honestly say he's my best friend, but at the same time i would never lift up my best friend's shirt and bury my face into his hairy man-chest.

Gabi said...

For what it's worth, here's my advice, which was given to me by a friend and may seem recognizable to you from those old Nike ads: Just do it. I've had newborns three times, and unfortunately I don't feel like being intimate with my husband nearly as much as I'd like to. But the times when I've initiated things, and "just done it," even when I didn't feel like it, made everything so much better. And the more often you just do it, the more often you feel like doing it. It's a small thing with a big payoff. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone, though!

Brodie said...

i was actually just reading a comment by someone who was talking about how a good parental relationship really effects the child, as far as confidence and security goes. i think i really agree with this. i know it's kind of off-topic but i honestly think the huge lack of ANY intimacy between my own parents (and thus a divorce when i was 8) has led me to be SO funny about touching, and a general fear of being in a relationship. i'm not a huggy, kissy, touchy person at all, and people notice it! it's embarrassing! and i used to wonder why and then i realised its because i never grew up around it, i never had any role models to look up to.
it's pretty interesting really, in a sad pathetic way lol! but there you go. thats my two cents lol. sorry for being offtopic!

Brittany W. said...

I don't have children, nor am I married yet, but I really want to thank you for posting this. I am always looking for ways to soak up knowledge before the most important events of my life happen, and this is definitely something I will keep in mind for the future and be sure to address. The hubster needs love too!

Thanks so much. Your blog is awesome. ;o)

Jamie said...

What an amazing post. I was just thinking of our sex life last night and how it is . . .lacking. Here's the thing. We don't have kids. It was suggested by my dr that because of my physical disability I would be too high risk. So we opted to not have them biologically. I had the esure procedure in Aug of 2010. Can I tell you, we have not had sex since then! Sometimes it is difficult to feel intimate when my husband also is my caregiver. I thought to myself last night, "Why did I have this surgery if we are not having sex?" I know this is not the same as feeling that your effections are given to your children and then you're spent by day's end for your spouse, but it is very frustrating. My hubby and I have a fabulous relationship, but unfortunately that area is lacking right now. I pray it gets better and soon!

XOXO,
Jamie
http://ilookgoodtoday.com

Cassy said...

What a great post and it really hits home! I was just thinking to myself the other night when putting my baby girl and boy to bed and cuddling and kissing them, "What more do I need?". I'm getting all the love I need from my little ones. But I know it's not just about my needs and to keep my marriage healthy I have to be there for the hubby too. Although I feel satisfied, and quite frankly a romantic relationship is the furthest thing from my mind (like seriously-whats wrong with me? It's been almost two years and the thought of being intimate is almost repulsive as ashamed as I am to say it), I have to remember my husband probably doesn't feel the same. It can feel like a juggling act sometimes and honestly its exhausting to have to be emotionally available for everyone but it's worth the effort and I don't think it will always be this way...just while my kids are young (hopefully).

Thanks for this post...I'll have to check out the book you mentioned for sure.

stephanie said...

I agree with this post so much! I see so many women wearing that badge of honor -- the one where the only care they have in the world is their baby. I won't even begin to go into losing the self, losing identity, losing so many things, but I'm amazed at the women who ignore their partners. I am not a mother so I can't even imagine what it's like -- obviously it's a beautiful thing to love your baby so much and to put your baby's well being above everything -- but don't neglect yourself or your partner!

DENISE. said...

This is such a great topic & such great comments. What a wonderful conversation! I can relate to you. But in a silly way. I don't have kids (yet) but I do have a dog who is the size of an adult and some would probably say is like my child. I grab her and hug her and bury my face in face and kiss her like crazy every time I see her during the day. I even gasp when she walks into the room and make a big deal about loving on her. I go out of my way to make her feel special and loved. And a few months ago I realized that I never do this with my husband. I felt so sad about it. It would probably be VERY embarrassing for him if I did this in public, but I realized that I should show him more affection. So now I make sure to slap him affectionately on the butt when I walk by him in the house, or just grab him for a kiss while we are both doing something else. And it was funny -- I asked him how I could be a better wife for him. He didn't say anything about not wearing my sweats less often or making dinner more ... he said he liked it when I did these affectionate little things & wanted more of that. So it's rather funny to me that how I am with my dog actually taught me this! And P.S. I think when women truly talk about what's real in their marriage is so important. Because sometimes we get trapped in "Oh, life is great" and it's not always true and not a good role model for friends because everything thinks someone else's life is perfect. I'll stop now ... :)

Anonymous said...

one day I realized (I have 4 kids and a husband)...that I give my DOG more kisses in a day than my husband! It was then that I knew some things had to change. It's so easy to hug your dog though...she's not nagging at me or needing much and she's always happy to see me. It was a funny realization. At least we are all aware and thinking about it!

stephanie said...

And I say all that with the greatest respect for mothers -- you all are incredible!

Sweaters & Cider said...

We plan a monthly date night and email each other during the day, "Massages and wine tonight?" But it is tough! The best relationship advice I ever heard was from Kevin Bacon: "Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty." He knows what's up.

Catherine Masi said...

I love reading these comments... really very brave and honest sharing. Put me in the category with your readers who are in a marriage/partnership without children. But, in the past, I've worked with children and families and have seen the parents' relationship (strikingly) shift once a child enters their lives. I can only say so much from my place of not having children of my own, of course, but I did once read a quote that I think is the absolute best advice for raising children and creating and fostering a healthy dynamic within your relationship... and I am paraphrasing here: The best thing a father can do for his children is to show his love for their mother (and vice versa). Simple but powerful.

Rachel said...

This is absolutely FASCINATING! Thanks so much for sharing, Joanna.

I'm not a mom, but I can agree with some of the other comments from the child's perspective. I'll never forget being a child and running to meet my Dad at the door when he came home from work. No matter how much the three of us (my sisters and I) climbed all over him, he would always kiss my mom before he'd love on us. It frustrated me when I was small, but I soon came to realize that their relationship was the basis of our family and they shared something special.

They celebrate their 30th anniversary next year, and they're more in love now than they were when I was little. Whatever they're doing is working, so I hope I'm that lucky some day!

I'm going to remember this for the future!


Thanks :)

sadie said...

Yup- you hit the nail on the head as usual ;). As a mother of two boys born 14 months apart, I can vouch for the total adoration of them and snuggling, hugging, kissing, etc. I cannot get enough of it and boys just adore their mummies. Just last night my two were brushing my hair and petting me and I just loved every moment. Unfortunately by the end of the day I am tapped out and my husband gets the short end of the stick. (no pun intended). It is something that I am brutally aware of and think is super important to change for the health of our marriage. It is a work in progress as is everything, no? Sigh . . .

Anonymous said...

I remember a writer once got a lot of flack for saying, "I try to love my husband before my kids."

All these angry mothers wrote her nasty comments. I kind of agreed with them. Then my own mother, who I think is the WORLDS GREATEST MOM, told me she agreed with the writer! I was shocked!

Then she explained that by loving my father first, her marriage was stronger, she felt better and her love for her children grew. She set a "home base" first and then we came next. It made sense to me!

I'm not a Mom but when I am...I will try to remember my Mom's words about setting a family unit FIRST and then being a Mom. :)

Tom & Beck said...

I’m not a mother, but I still really love reading all of these posts they are so interesting, I never really feel I have anything valuable to say comment wise, but I had to pipe in here, reading Natty by Design's comment really brought up one of my biggest fears for parenthood, I’m getting married in exactly 4 days, and I love my future husband to pieces, I have a pretty strained relationship with my mum, I love her she loves me, and is the first person to sneak me grocery money or pay a parking fine, if she thinks I need anything she will absolutely put my needs before her own, but I have always felt that she has never been really maternal, when I look at a lot of mother daughter relationships amongst friends, I can see where some of my friends are really close to their mothers, others like me not so much, and a big pattern here seems to be, my mum still worships my dad, we might be having a lovely time out together, but her mind is still firmly on what to make my dad for dinner, on the other hand I have a very close relationship with my dad, I’m not really into cars (I’m not a tom boy at all) but I can remember spending hours polishing wheels ect while my dad was working in the garage, tagging along at the drag races, or tips to bunnings (Australians home depo I guess)not because these were my preferred activities,(actually both mum and I share a huge love of cooking, but I have scarce memories of ever really doing that with her as a child, even though cooking is a joint passion)but I just loved spending time with dad, just being close I guess, when I visit I always kiss my dad hello and give him a huge hug, he’s not really an affectionate man but I’m his little girl, I’ll usually just yell out a hi to mum from the couch, I always felt my mum resented this a bit, I wish I didn’t feel this way, its embarrassing to say but I felt like mum loved dad more than us kids, and I wish it had been different. as i get ready to start my own family, I’m really fearful that my husband will still be the love of my life, when I feel it should be my kids and i never want to feel like having kids took anything away from my marriage, being a mother seem like the most special thing in the world I could do, but im really scared that I will feel resentful when I become the second most important thing in my husband’s eyes, and even more fearful that my kids wont automatically take the number one spot in mine, and thoughts?

Tom & Beck said...

I guess i should clarify this a little, in saying that it happens to dads too, my dad worked long hard days, and when he got home, we got all of his attention, then he was tired and wanted to relax by watching some TV or working on his cars ect.. my mum was always second to us, when we had the usual teenage fights with mum, dad would always take us girls side above hers, he just logically talked it all out and could usually see where we were coming from, its only in the last few years that my parents have done anything just the two of them, even on a recent trip to bali, my sister and her daughter came too, I don’t think they have ever been on a holiday without one of us too, I bet it’s also hard when the role of mother and wife, takes over from lover?

Jess said...

Here is a tip I learned from my labor and delivery nurse after I delivered my first baby. After the bath class my husband came back with our new daughter, and the nurse (who was a mormon woman with a ton of kids) said that after the bath routine (bath/hair/teeth/stories/bed) at night mom and dad should both take ten to fifteen quiet minutes apart to calm down and switch back into husband/wife mode from daddy/mommy mode. We ignored her advice for the first sleepless weeks, but once we made it a part of our routine our relationship really improved. Now I sit and read blogs and shop online for ten minutes when the kids go down while my husband listens to podcasts and straightens up the kitchen. Once he's done we're ready to hang out just us.

Scintilla said...

I love your very real and honest posts! I am not a mother, but plan to be. My partner and I are very affectionate and I don't ever want to loose that. I often hear so many people talking about the down sides of parenting, it was refreshing to read some positive comments here. With anything, if you want to change something in your life, with or without children you do it with mindfulness and love. Being aware, i feel is the first step toward making changes. I had a dance teacher once with amazing kids and she told me "Nobody ever talks about the amazing parts of being a parent, it is so incredible". I have always held onto that when I think of having kids.

Melanie said...

I have a lovely, physical, and romantic relationship with my husband. I also have four children. HOWEVER, after baby #2, things definitely got dicey there for a (long) while. We had to PURPOSE to be affectionate. To kiss every day.To embrace when we saw each other at the end of the day. To hold hands when we were out together. For a while it seemed almost like a chore, to be honest, I was so spent already from everything else. It was also completely worth it! My husband allows me to still be a woman, not just a mom, by these simple actions, you know? So after "going through the motions" for a while it became habit, and then enjoyable, and now something I can't imagine life without. Yes, there are days where after bedtime I'll tell him, "Okay. I need to not be touched for 30 minutes. Then I'm all yours." He doesn't mind giving me some space when he knows that there is something to look forward to at the end of it!

I wouldn't change a thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher/wife- and I'm terrified of having kids because of this same issue. As it is- working with kids all day is exhausting and I am all switched over to loco parentis for 10 hours a dat. Trying to come home and feel sexy is so weird to me. After starting teaching my husband/my sex life took a huge hit- I'm not sure I can ever bounce back again. It's scary when it's not medically caused.

Dana said...

My baby is 8 months and we co-sleep, he sleeps in the middle and breastfeeds on demand. before baby came me and my husband always cuddled to sleep so it´s been a huge difference. even though my son for sure gets the most cuddle time, i´m happy to be able to say we´ve still managed to keep a healthy fun sex life, when the timing is right. ;)

Liz said...

We have three children and have been sleep deprived for five years. However, I feel like after our third we are closer physically than we have been in years. We've learned a few things over the years, and one of those is that we don't need to have tons of time, just good quality time.

Alexa said...

I'm not a wife or a mom yet, but I can't wait to be and I love your Motherhood Mondays. They are always so interesting and I am making mental notes! :)

rach. said...

oh my goodness. hopefully when that time comes i'll learn how to manage my time... i guess we'll find out, won't we?


love, rach.
www.so--hi.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Great blog. My wife found your birth story last October when we found out she was pregnant. Our daughter is four months old now. She gets kissed and hugged all day. We do not.

Madeline said...

Really really good post!

I remember saying to my husband hours before my induction with our son, "I'm scared this is going to change everything. I don't want it to change everything." But of course it did. In mostly positive ways. We have so much love and affection in our home now, and I can't imagine my world without him, but it is so strange to have such a strong allegiance to and love for someone other than my husband.

I had never really thought about it, but I am 100 times more affectionate with the baby than my husband. Constant hugs, kisses, and pats. And I have no intention of that stopping, but I should make a concerted effort to let my husband have as much physical attention.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. This issue is very close to my heart as I feel like I love my son so much, I don't have room for more love in my life. I have been very honest with my husband (whom I love very much) but this is something that definately needs to be fixed so will be purchasing that book! I don't think i can love my husband as much as i love my own flesh and blood and don't expect him to love me more than our son. I feel so close to my son, he's like an extention of me. I'm going to be one of those mothers that will freak on the first day of preschool, school and will faint when he starts college! I realise this is not a quality and that i need to learn to let go a bit. I never thought I'd be like that with him but I just can't help myself. Thank you so much again for this post. In a way, it's good to feel that I'm not the only that feels this way :)

Anonymous said...

you know, now that you mentioned it, i did follow your link to your archive from a few years back. after perusing through your posts from back then, i did notice that you posted a lot more about alex, specifically. he was on your mind a lot more then, at least in terms of post topics...anyway, this book looks like a fascinating read. can't wait to dig into it:)

Anonymous said...

I had a fairly horrific labour ending with an episiotomy, nasty tearing and pelvic floor problems which meant physically I couldn't be intimate with my husband for the first 3.5 months after having our baby. He's now 7 months and I'm still breastfeeding. We've tried a couple of times but it is just not happening for me. I feel awful about it as I recognize how important physical intimacy is in a relationship - and there is absolutely no pressure from my hubby....it's like an enormous hurdle that i can't seem to jump - but like a commenter said above I think I just have to 'do it'! This is a great topic and I've gotten a lot out of reading other comments:)

Chantel B. said...

Eeek! This almost scares me! I am blissfully married and this is something that I have always thought about. Although I do not have children presently (and have no idea the kind of love you can feel for your child since I have not experienced it)I am the kind of person who loves BIG and I can just imagine how much my children would mean to me. That said, I hug, kiss and cuddle with my husband A LOT. In fact, the other day I thought, "If I had a clicker for every time I hugged or kissed my husband in a day it would be in the hundreds I'm sure!" I really hope I don't lose that after children. I remember an author once said that her husband will always be number one in her life (more than her children) and people were outraged. Personally, I thought that was the most marvelous and honest thing to say!

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant and brave post from you, thank you! Ten years and three kids later i have a feeling i know what you are talking about :)
The other subjects you have wrote about lately have been great too. I love reading your blog!
Henna

olearyclan said...

oh, i can get touched out by the end of the day from my kids, but not enough to pass on touch from my husband. i need it and thrive on it and if we don't have it, just he and i, then we get grumpy and that can lead to putting too much space between us.

great post!

Ashley said...

Wow. This is dead on for me. Thank you so much for posting this. Also, reading the many comments has been helpful as well. We have a 10 month old and it is definitely fun, team effort, and we enjoy every minute of sharing this new family life we've created. It has, indeed, created this new need to prioritize each other that hasn't existed before, in our 8 years together. To be honest, we have been lucky in that we haven't really had much to work on in that our life together has seem one natural, wonderful progression.
The book is interesting to me. At first I read the description on Amazon and was sold. I was all excited and read the comments from previous readers. What has held me back was that there are several comments on a comment that one person has a problem with the author stating it's okay to keep an affair to yourself. Many comments are from individuals who seem to state that is a gray area, which I don't agree with. Yet, other than that, I'm interested in hearing what this author has to say on the subject.

Design Ideas said...

Being a wife and a mother at the same time is not an easy task. But everything will fall into place if love is all around.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say thanks so, so, SO much for posting this, have been reading for about 2 years and never posted a comment but this post has made me feel 100% better today! My son is 13 months and I'm still finding it hard to get the balance right between mother/child intimacy and husband/wife. I am getting better but super-happy to hear I'm not alone. Thankyou!

VLS said...

While some women in their comments here mention breastfeeding as a factor in reducing their libidos, I have never read anything anywhere addressing the actual physicality of breasts with regards to breastfeeding versus sex.
Breasts and nipples are sexual parts. For me, breastfeeding can sometimes present a strange sensation when baby wants to play at the breast rather than simply nurse. Feeding my child and sexual arousal are not two things I like to get confused.
Further, there is the frank issue of milk in the breasts. What about the husband's turn to enjoy this body part in a sexual way? What do other women do? I wear a bra all the time, even during sex, and my poor husband hasn't been able to enjoy my breasts the way he'd like to since I began breastfeeding.
So, what do other ladies do with their filled-up breasts during sex?

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that the husband holds equal responsibility for keeping the flame going. I got pregnant just before you did and my baby is now 18 months. Everyone from my obgyn to my mom to blogs etc have stressed the importance of focusing on my husband. I havent seen or heard anywhere the message to dads about how important it is to make your wife feel beautiful and sexy during a time of such physical changes.

agapelife said...

great post!! I don't have children yet, but I think it is great to be aware of as I embark on the road to parenthood. Even now my husband and I don't greet each other as playfully as we used to! Thanks!

Norbyah said...

i remember a moment like this in my relationship with my hubby after our first baby (we now have three kids). my son was about 10 months old and we hadn't really taken time to go out without him, not even for a quick errand. it wasn't something we really considered needing to make a priority. i was constantly exhausted and i realized one evening, when my usually relaxed and calm husband was emotional and prepared to walk out (where i don't know). i wouldn't say it was rock bottom, but it was a dramatic moment. i realized (even though my first instinct was to be frustrated that i even had to deal with his emotions because i was so tired) that he needed me, too. we needed to reconnect and he needed the intimacy to feel that connection. it was an important lesson for us both to prioritize our relationship. luckily we did because we went on to have two beautiful girls. now we don't have these issues at all. i am more in love with him than ever....and we can't keep our hand off each other...
great post!
xo
n

B. said...

when it comes to this issue the hardest thing for me is the fact that spontaneity is gone. You are on a schedule so to speak, you can only be intimate at certain times..,,

Carlen said...

I work in television, and yesterday (Monday) on a shoot, my boss, who has a 4 month old little girl, said to me, "I can't wait to go home and kiss my baby... Oh, and my husband."

Hilla Hryniszyn said...

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ana {bluebirdkissess} said...

This is so very true. I hadn't quite thought about it until now, but yes. I think I need to make more of a conscious effort to give M more snuggles too, because I can see this not being ok for a long time.

I think babies/children need affection. But I think they also benefit from a family unit that's cohesive, so I need to work on that.

Lia said...

Great post! I find that as a stay at home mom, to dress up everyday makes a big difference in that sense. If I just wear some old and baggy clothes just because I am a mom now, and not remember that I am also a wife, I will feel ugly all day and not want to have special time at night with my husband. Now if first thing in the morning I take a shower, get dressed in comfortable but nice clothes, I will feel better about myself and will be able to feel also sexy for my husband. I think lots of women give up their feminine side once they have a baby, and just become a care giver.

Anonymous said...

Joanna,
I really enjoyed this post. While I am young and not married and I haven't yet thought about this issue in the way you express I have thought about it from a child's point of view. I have always felt that my parents didn't have a great relationship but that individually there love for me was unrelenting and unconditional. As I get older (I'm in my early twenties) and think about marriage I wonder how mine will compare to my parents. When I read your blog I often wonder if you ever had the same thoughts. It can be scary to come from a home where your parents aren't together, or unhappy and wonder if you will ever be in a happy marriage or even if you deserve it (why do I deserve it if my parents didn't get it? etc.) I know this is super personal, but it is one of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog - not that I pretend to know the first real thing about your family, but in the world of blogging where everything seems perfect it's nice for someone to be real about imperfections. And I like that about your blog. If you ever decide to write a post about having divorced parents but now your own happy marriage I would be really interested. Obviously that's very personal but just thought I'd let you know it's something I think about. Thanks for your awesome and real posts always! P.S. Where is articles club! so excited.

Kate Wilson said...

Oh, goodness! I'm not a momma yet, but I could see how easily this happens. I think sometimes my job gets all my attention, and I have remind myself that hubby is first in my priorities. I've seen it happen a bit with my friends and their kids, but they tend to complain about it in a "we don't get enough alone time" way rather than a "we give all our attention to the baby" way. Great post!

Wendy said...

Excellent read, Joanna! I never thought of it this way but I can definitely see where it rings true.

Natasha said...

The other part of this that I've discussed with my sister (she has 4 kids, I have 1) is that when a mom stays home with a baby and the dad goes off to work, there is an added disconnect at the end of a day. He's been talking all day and just wants affection and physicality (the stuff you mentioned you rarely had pre-baby). She's had her fill of that all day and wants stimulating adult conversation, but he's all talked out! Both parties have to balance each-other's needs, not just the moms.
Great post, Joanna. Thoughtful attention to marital issues is so important, but it is easy to push to the side with all the demands of children.

m. hall said...

I sure hope you are still making Motherhood Monday posts when I'm a mother. I treasure each of them.

Anonymous said...

If you think things won't change after you have kids then you are going to be rather stunned. But change is what should happen. And once the mother-switch has been flicked, you're just along for the ride. Hold tight. And, by the way: NEVER worry about what everyone else is doing. They're probably wondering about you...

faceofjess said...

not sure if anyone has mentioned eyelet waldman... wife to author, michael chabon..but she wrote an article on this exact topic... and caught a lot of flack for it too.

Erica @ Acire Adventures said...

That is very interesting! I definitely know the feeling of not having any of that touchy affection left at the end of the day for my partner. But, physical intimacy with my partner has always been a priority for me, so even if there is less of it sometimes, it would never become a big issue.

Nems said...

my doctor talked to my huband and i about being really patient and open with each other so we can both have appropriate expectations in regards to having sex again after baby. she also talked about how because i'll be with freddie all day, I'll get the skin to skin touching, kissing, smiles, oxytocin. after the 6 week more i got the okay for sex but we talke a lot about how we were both feeling. I WANTED to be intimate with my husband. I'd missed him very badly. we took it very slow and it hurt a LOT so we stopped. there were no hurt feelings because we had talked about everything. we're still trying to work our way up to normal, practicing!!
I've learned that when you have a baby, you have to give yourself a TON of emotional room. :) :)

kaitlin said...

Ooof. I need to read this book; that post hit me like a ton of bricks, even though my "child" is actually a year old puppy. So, thank you, Joanna.

Paula said...

Such wonderful post and equally amazing comments.

I have a two year old son, and I can't stop kissing, cuddling, and hugging my little boy ever since our I held him in my arms for the very first time (what a sweet, overwhelming moment..)

Having my son made me love even more my husband, I find myself getting helplessly endeared seeing him cuddle, hug and kiss my son. Or when my husband is talking about my son in such a magical way, knowing he's fallen in love with our baby boy as much as I have... we share this "in love state from parents to baby".... I feel like he's fathering my cub.. and in a very deep insticntual level, this makes me love and want my husband even more than I ever did before.

During my pregnancy we were extremely intimate, and coming back to that after the baby felt natural. We are both very warm people, we hug, hold hands, kiss all the time. Now that we have a baby, we just share it all amongst the three of us! In fact, it's so cute, when my husband is holding my son and I come close, he grabs our heads and pushes our faces to make us kiss! And then we kiss one another and that is the most joyful moment...

I think our son sees us kiss all the time, and now he's started giving us kisses too.. he's learning what it means to LOVE. I believe this is one of the most important lessons we need to teach our children- to love ourselves and love others. If daddy and mommy love each other, and they love me, then I will also love myself...

We've been married for 5 years, but we were high school's first love, and were apart for 8 years until we re-met again 7 years ago and never, ever let go.

Of course I'm tired at the end of the day... but when we put my son to sleep, it is US time.. and that's like water to a plant... the perfect symphony.. I can't explain it any other way

Don't neglect your husband, nourish your relationship, you two are the glue that will always keep your family together, and by loving and being affectionate with one another, you are also loving your children in the most pure way.

xoxo, Paula

www.treschicmama.com

Anonymous said...

I love the other teacher who commented on here because she brought up an amazing point and something I struggle with. I teach in a very very poor all minority all single parent second grade class. I give so much love everyday and give so many hugs, kisses, high fives ect that when I get home I am so tired of touching AND being touched (kids will touch you alllll day when they don't get it at home). It was very hard with my boyfriend to find a way to want to be "touched" again. - Nikki

Anonymous said...

I have twins now 1 year old. My conversations with my husband now consist mainly of to-do lists, chores and other childcare "logistics". I'm tired from work. He's tired from childcare. You raised an important issue but there are no easy answers. It's hard to make your husband a priority and remember the physical aspects of it when you (I) give more naturally to my babies, who are needier and cuddlier!

Anonymous said...

You have the best blog ever. just wanted to say...

Nina Leung said...

This is SO true in my family. My poor husband receives very little affection from me. I give it all to my toddler. I fear it will be even worse when I have another baby next month!
But, you've inspired me to try and make an effort to give a little to Daddy too!
Thanks!

Julia said...

I am a childless lesbian and I loved this post to my core. I love your blog so much in my heart. :-)

lynne said...

What a great post and really interesting thoughtful comments!

My mom who raised 5 kids only ever gives me one piece of advice: everything is a phase. Now that I have 4 kids and have been doing this for 11 years I see how true that is and I think that wisdom can apply to this discussion, too. There is light at the end of the tunnel! Hang in there!

Where My Heart Is said...

Oh my - my baby is 17 and graduates from High School in 2 days. Cherish each day and smother your baby with as many kisses as possible because there reaches a time, all too fast, when they don't want so many anymore. My husband does though :) I think that nature and hormones are all programmed a certain way. But when my daughters were babies, I too had had all the touch for the day that I 'needed' by the time we would have normally been intimate. And I was plain exhausted. It is just a stage. Don't think that this is indicative of a permanently sexless marriage (mind you at the time I wouldn't have cared a bit - that was the hormones!!!). At 46 and with 2 late teen aged daughters, 'life is good', if you get what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I really like reading the comments from moms with older kids. I think it's a good reminder that, as one woman wrote, "everything is a phase."

I actually think that more doctors and baby books should help educate the *dad* about expectations. Unfortunately, I think that even well-intentioned articles and books end up reinforcing a cultural stereotype that women are responsible for the quality of the relationship.

It is natural and normal for both parents' attention to shift when they have a baby. This should be *expected*, *understood*, and *common knowledge.* Easing up on the pressure for a new mom to be a sex goddess too would probably be good for all involved and help things in the long run. I think if many men and women heard, "things may be a little slow for a couple of years" they could relax a little.

TheBeautyFile said...

This is SO true. I actually don't think I stopped to think about just how much I love kissing my son, touching his hair, his back, everything, until very recently. I tried to do baby massages, but he didn't sit still that long and still doesn't. He loves kisses and I could kiss him all day long. It's a great post, Joanna. I think we could all benefit from the reminder that we ALL need kisses, touch and hugs, daily. Thanks for that!

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I think it is very healthy to realize that those kids will grow up one day and move out. But you will, hopefully, still be with your partner.

As a mom to a 2.5 year old I can say this, I have never NOT had enough energy for my husband. Sorry I don't mean to be contradictory here. I feel that him and I are in this parenting boat together. And because we're together, because he's my support, my rock and my friend, that emotional connection will always manifest physically.

it is really important not to let your child be the ONLY centre of your universe. you FAMILY as a whole should be your focus. That includes daddy. Always.

Amanda A. said...

I am not yet a mother, but, like faceofjess, this post made me immediately think of Ayelet Waldman's 2005 NYTimes article "Truly, Madly, Guiltily" in which she feels guilty to admit that she doesn't feel the same "passion" for her children that she hears other moms profess - that passion remains only for her husband. She got A LOT of criticism for her article and even ended up on Oprah defending herself for what I feel like is a healthy and refreshingly honest take on motherhood, the importance of taking time for one's marriage, and recognizing the difference between the affection felt for children and affection felt for a spouse/partner/lover.

"But the real reason for this lack of sex, or at least the most profound, is that the wife's passion has been refocused. Instead of concentrating her ardor on her husband, she concentrates it on her babies. Where once her husband was the center of her passionate universe, there is now a new sun in whose orbit she revolves. Libido, as she once knew it, is gone, and in its place is all-consuming maternal desire."

It's a thought-provoking article (as is your post, Joanna, and these comments) for moms, moms-to-be and singles alike. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/27/fashion/27love.html

Thanks for keeping this conversation going and encouraging us to be mindful!

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I need to read the article Amanda A is talking about. I agree, as soon as you say that your child is not the one and only focus on your every fiber, women are so judged!! Thankfully there are more and more women coming out and saying that they enjoy many aspects of their lives, including motherhood. But not ONLY motherhood. And there should be no stigma associated with this kind of mindset.

There is no glory in sacrificing your marriage on the altar of motherhood. Being a mother and a wife should not be self exclusive roles. They should be complementary roles. Being an attentive wife should not negate your role as a caring mother.

I hope and strive for this balance every day.

Vale said...

I'm just thinking about all the dads out there that are getting laid tonight... (the moms making the extra effort... like me...)

beccareed.com said...

This is a constant struggle for my husband and I - well, not for my husband, but for me. I stay home all day with my son and then work in the evenings and by the time I come home at night I'm exhausted. I spend all day loving on my son and then working and there's not much left for my husband. I try to go out of my way on the days when work is short or on the weekends to be affectionate with him - even if it's a cuddle on the couch or a goodnight kiss.

Thanks for this article, I know a lot of moms are right there and can absolutely relate, although I don't think the "mom" and "wife" role need to be mutually exclusive. I know some of the times I find my husband sexiest is when he's being a dad. I would be interested in checking out the book.

Julian | sofas piel said...

I am divorced and currently living in couples with a wonderful person, I have spent 55 years and since that time where my daughters from previous marriage made ​​me completely happy, now my wife is expecting a baby, you know how I feel, I can not express it in a easy, I have no words, I feel like a new man and especially happy this child (still do not know) makes me feel much happier immensely, I understand the other post, I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely one of those things that I wish I had different expectations around before I had my baby. I knew that having a baby was going to affect my relationship (and sex life) with my husband.
But I honestly didn't think it would affect it for so long!
We've always remained affectionate through this period.

Our daughter is now 18 months old, and I only now feel like our love life is 'normal'. Of course it's different, but I'm so relieved and excited that my physical attraction and affection to him is still there! I've spent endless nights worrying and stressing that there was now something fundamentally wrong with our relationship - 6 weeks, and then 3 months, then 6 months, then a year, and stopping breastfeeding, then more than a year and no still no desire for sex.

And then slowly you realise that you have a normal healthy relationship again!

So new mommies out there, hold true and have faith, your body has been through a beautiful and traumatic experience. But it is still capable and wanting of love -- it just might take a helluva lot longer than you thought it would!

Anonymous said...

We need to remember that children are on LOAN from God. After your children are grown and gone, all you have left is your spouse! Treat him/her kindly!

Heart n Hands Inc. said...

To all you wonderful mommies out there: GOD BLESS YOU! May He strengthen you and help you keep your focus and your sense of humor and that precious intimacy with your husbands. Just remember; when the kids grow up and move out, it is still that man that will be there to grow old with together.

As Robert Browning wrote to his darling: "Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be!" When you keep Jesus in the middle of it all, truly the best IS yet to be!

Blessings to you all.
Nancy

Rebecca said...

I am SO glad I read this!!! I am due to have my first child in 4 days. My parents were definently this way. They had a lock on the door and after us kids went to bed at 830 my parents went to their room and locked the door and spent time together. Sometimes it was bills, sometimes it was talking about us crazy kids and sometimes...I am sure...it was romantic. They have an amazing marriage and although they seem to have the "key" it never has been spoken plainly to me. When you said without the foundation the family wouldnt exhist it hit me like a ton of bricks. In a good way. It made me think of one girlfriend in particular who is going through a divorce. How easy it is to lose sight of that flame. Like you said one day the kids will find romantic love of their own and will leave the nest.

Thank you so much for this! You may have just saved some marriages!

Anonymous said...

Not many male perspectives in this blog, so here goes. I wish I had read this years ago and that my wife had read it too. We each put our kids first for many reasons. Life threw lots of curveballs our way when my kids were very little and I ahd to be a father first and spouse second. Eventually, this has made it very tough. I agree wholeheartedly with the blog and I wish you all well. Many of the women here are going to have great relationships because of your article.

B's Mom said...

I've spoken about this one my own blog several times.

In the beginning when we had kids my entire life revolved around my children. My marriage suffered for it. It took the death of a child and me nearly losing my own life for us to really come back together.

We've been together for 16 years now, and our marriage is amazing. I am more in love with my husband now than I was when I married him.

Obviously my children are still the light of my life. I would die for them. But, the relationship I have with my husband is the nexus of our family.

David Wygant said...

Great post.
It really rings true to my own life and what couples have expressed to me.

Thanks for being so raw and honest!

Anonymous said...

i agree that intimacy goes out the window. my husband and i are on our second child now and there is no romance or intimacy left at this point. everything i have goes to my boys. but, at the end of the day, after work, cooking, cleaning, bathing, putting to bed, i am exhausted. is it really supposed to be my job to keep the romance between me and my husband going too? time for the men to step up and add something to the marriage.

sarahjane said...

Nicely written blog posting! Hits home! Married with 2 kids... 2.5 and 7 months old. Sex? What's that? And even if I did remember... who has TIME for that? SIGH... your post strikes a chord. I stay at home with the kids and take care of the house; he works 55+ hours/week and wants to watch tv or sleep. I know that I am GUILTY of showering my kids with affection that Daddy misses out on. Walking AWAY from the computer now... time to go snuggle up to my sleeping husband, I think.

Anonymous said...

It's a badge of honor in the US not only to put your kids before your husband, but to tear him down whenever possible.

Marriage in this country is about the wife. And the feminist wife takes off her mask in divorce court, where she is always the victim, needs the kids 100% of the time and won't work to support herself.

If you are a man and you are divorced with kids, no need to risk life and limb (and your kids' financial future) by marrying again.

Until this cultural gender narcissism ends, look for marriage rates to continue to decline.

Wanted to be a Father said...

Thank you so much for this article! It brings into sharp relief why I waited so long to get married and (ultimately) too long to sire children. At the time, I didn't want to choose a woman who would, after the birth of our child, to let herself become unattractive and uninterested in intimacy. And yet, that scenario played out so often with couples all around me that i decided to forgo being a father. I paid the price, reluctantly, and am childless in my 50s despite being reminded repeatedly of how I'd make a great dad.

It's encouraging, therefore, to read your article now along with the scores of responses. It's good to know that, while my fears were real and many mothers routinely ignore the very real and legitimate needs of their husbands, that they recognize that liability and are willing to work on it. Wives, we husbands need our wives who we married to be our best friends, confidants, playmates, counselors, companions, caretakers, lovers, and sweethearts. That need never goes away!

I especially like the fact that a happy set of parents makes for a happy home. Kids see their parents interact with kindness, affection, respect, dignity, and humor, and that is what they seek themselves upon adulthood. That's how my parents were and that is what I sought. It'd be better to perpetuate that cycle than one of "the kids come first, they get absolutely all the love and attention, and romance is for kids!" that has become so pervasive.

Anonymous said...

As a mom to a 5 and a 3 yo who did extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, I know that it's tiring to have young kids. I think you have to let up on the "musts" in life to come through that time of your life with all your relationships intact. I didn't work which I suspect helped greatly in having more energy for sex, I also never made cleaning the house a priority but rather giving the kids what they needed and also keeping the romance going with my husband even if it was at 1am. Do you really need a clean house more than you need your marriage to be happy?
I never kept my husband from my breasts even while breastfeeding. So what if there might be a little milk coming out? It's natural and it's normal. Some comic relief if the milk starts spraying at the "wrong" time.
I may not have initiated sex much during this time but I just about always said yes to his advances and never regretted it. If you let yourself go with the flow breastfeeding can stir up feelings that you then can translate over to your husband and he'll be happy you did :)
Other than that - talk, talk, talk! Be open about your feelings and where you're at and you'll be able to make things work!
I can testify that kids don't have to ruin your marriage or your sex life (even if they for a season might make things a little harder). It's all in how you prioritize in life, I think.

Mindy said...

Great post and I can totally see how this happens. The other night in bed I rubbed my husband's back and head (he's a baldy) and he was in such heaven. I realized it had been a while since I did that when I used to do it all the time!

Also, as kids get older I think we touch them less and less for a variety of reasons, which is weird to think about when I have a toddler, it's kind of hard to imagine. I think it's important to stay affectionate with your children even as they grow into adult people.

My sister told me she read an article that said you should hug your children at least 12 times a day. She started this with her three girls, the oldest being 14 and someone who doesn't love to hug. As my sister started making an effort, her oldest became much more affectionate over time and will now even come to my sister for a hug where she hadn't done that in a very long time.

Last note, I remember once when I was home for Christmas as an adult, my dad gave the the longest, sweetest, early morning hug. It was just the two of us up. I remember realizing in that moment just how much he missed me. It's a hug I'll never forget. I told my sisters about it later and we all cried together, then laughed. He's an affectionate guy anyway but this was something more, you know? So vulnerable and honest and in the moment.

Anyway, great post, really got me thinking. :)

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