Sex After Kids: Ups and Downs Are Normal

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It’s the thing we’re thinking about, but not necessarily talking about. The thing about which we ask ourselves, Am I normal? Is this how it should be? The thing we wish people would be honest about—truly honest—so we could better understand ourselves, so we could connect with our bodies in a different way, so we could exhale and feel a little more normal.

I’m talking about sex after kids.

I have been with my husband for decades now (yes, decades with an “s”), and let me tell you: our sex life has had its ups and downs and everything in between. There were times when we had lots of unplanned sex. And there were times when we scheduled sex so we could make sure we were making time for each other. There were times when we were wild and adventurous. And there were times when we were pretty “vanilla”. There were times when one or both of us felt less interested in sex. And there were times when we couldn’t get enough of each other. There were times when one or both of us wished we were having more sex. And times when we were content and sexually satisfied. 

Despite what romance novels and movies tell us, a satisfying sex life is about quality, not quantity. Because let’s be honest, sometimes a good night’s sleep is better than a mind-blowing orgasm. 

Throw in hormonal changes at various stages of your life, like postpartum depression and breastfeeding transitions and perimenopause, and it’s impossible for your sex life not to be affected.

We don’t need to be knocking boots every night to have a satisfying sex life. In fact, according to the 2022 State of Motherhood survey, 57% of millennial and Gen Z moms who are having sex at least once a week say they are satisfied with their sex life. And more than half of those moms reported being “satisfied” (42%) or “extremely satisfied” (12%) with their sex life. Translation?  Throw out all those ideas about how much sex you think you “should” be having and enjoy the sex you are having.

And if you aren’t satisfied with your sex life (with 46% of millennial and Gen Z moms reporting that they aren’t), know this: ups and downs are very normal. Sometimes your sex life is steaming hot, other times it’s like that lukewarm cup of coffee you forgot in the microwave, and yes, sometimes it’s downright cold. These temperature changes in a relationship are common and natural.

Related: Is your libido lower than normal? This may be why 

There is a ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to having sex after kids

My own sex life went into a bit of a lull after our first child was born before slowly ramping back up as my kids got a little older, until it hit the “sweet spot”: when my kids were in the older elementary and middle school years. It fell off again a few years later when, as older tweens and teens, my kids no longer had a predictable bedtime. Instead, they were awake at all hours. Let me tell you, nothing ruins the mood like hearing your teen making TikToks or screaming at the X-box from the other room before stomping down the stairs to get a late night snack. Toss in a little perimenopause, and sex was happening a lot less often.

This isn’t unique to my relationship either. In fact, according to Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey, among moms who are sexually active, millennial and Gen Z moms with kids in middle school are having the most sex (42% say they are having sex once or twice a week). Not surprisingly, millennial and Gen Z moms with kids under the age of three are having the least sex (31% having sex once or twice a week, 41% having sex once or twice a month, and 24% having sex less than once a month). What is a bit surprising—and completely validating for those of us with teens at home—is that sex drops off slightly when kids are in high school (37% say they are having sex once or twice a week).

Just because you’re having less sex now doesn’t mean it will always be like that.

This all makes sense. During the new baby years, you might not feel sexy or you might be healing from childbirth. During the little kid years, you’re exhausted and completely touched out. When your kids are a little older, you might get your mojo back thanks to more sleep and predictable bedtimes for the little ones. But then it takes a hit again during the tween/teen years when your kids are awake later than you and always around. Throw in hormonal changes at various stages of your life, like postpartum depression and breastfeeding transitions and perimenopause, and it’s impossible for your sex life not to be affected. 

Throughout it all, though, there is this unspoken question of whether it is enough—frequent enough, adventurous enough, romantic enough. Because we all want to be “enough,” don’t we?

Ebbs and flows are totally normal

Rest assured, your sex life peaks and valleys are normal. Whether you are having lots of sex, none at all, or something in between, you are enough. 

Related: It’s Science: Sex can improve your memory and create new brain cells

Over the course of a relationship, your sex life will ebb and flow. Especially after having kids. And just because you’re having less sex now doesn’t mean it will always be like that. So if you’re sporting a regular post-orgasm glow, enjoy the heck out of it. If you’re waiting to get your groove back, be patient. If you’re tired of waiting and want to be a little more proactive, there is no shortage of tips, tricks and toys to get your engine revving. 

So go forth and copulate, or don’t. Because when it comes to our sex life, this old adage rings true: nothing lasts forever. There will be ups and downs, and quality trumps quantity any day of the week. 

METHODOLOGY STATEMENT

Motherly designed and administered this survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.

Sex after kids: You’ll have less, then more, then less—it’s all normal

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