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Sex or Sleep?

QUESTION: I have three children under the age of three. I love my husband dearly, but when it comes to making love I'm always too tired. I feel guilty for constantly turning him down. What can I do to rekindle my desire and still get the sleep I need?

ANSWER: Three children under the age of three will definitely put a crimp in your libido and decrease the time you are available for sex! Still, it is possible to keep your passion alive, even if, for now, it is on a low simmer instead of high flame.

Consider the following suggestions to keep your lovemaking alive in your marriage during the stressful years of parenting very young children:

  • Establish a reasonable, but firm bedtime for your kids. That leaves some time for you and your husband to talk and cuddle at the end of the day. Verbal intimacy and sharing is not only rejuvenating, but often a prelude to lovemaking for women.

  • Schedule time to spend together on a regular and predictable basis. Whether once a week, every two weeks or once a month, plan to spend time without children, relaxing together. If possible, spend one night at a bed and breakfast, away from household stress, every few months.

  • Carve out times for intimacy during the day. You are more likely to reconnect with your own sexual energies, if you are not saving opportunities to be sexual until the end of the day. Make afternoon or morning dates, instead of evening ones, so you are fresh for each other, instead of worn out.

  • Remember to take advantage of the full range of sensuality in your relationship. Warm, candlelit baths together (after children are asleep) may not lead to passionate sex every night, or that particular night, but having shared sensual experiences can culminate in erotic feelings and dreams that awaken you with desire. Occasional lovemaking before the kids rise, is a lovely way to start your day.

The key to balance is to remember that quality of sexual experience is now more important than quantity. Keep faith that your energy is slower to make its way to your erogenous zones at this time in your family life. If you maintain your emotional connection, your sensual sharing, and carve out opportunities for couples's play, you will indeed keep the flame burning.

Regular sharing keeps you emotionally connected, whether or not it results in sexual activity that day. Sexual desire will ebb and flow. Do not feel guilty. Instead, protect a small, but special place for sexuality to live, rather than be extinguished in the early years of parenting.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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