Having a Sex Life AND Being a Lesbian Mom

by Amy Wimburger

So I’m sitting here, innocently checking my email, when I get one from TheRainbowBabies.com asking me if I would write a quick thousand words on how lesbian moms can –how did they phrase it?– “nurture their sex lives while still maintaining balance in the family.” The first thing I did was burst out laughing. I love children. Really… I do. I have three of my own. But isn’t it amazing that these little creatures, I mean these walking, talking, squabbling expressions of love, can wreck a sex life faster than your having your parents sleeping the guest room next door?

I know there are those of you for whom the passion is only heightened by the presence of children, by the forming of a family. This article isn’t for you. But please, write me care of therainbowbabies.com and let me know your secrets. For me, personally, it took a little work.

Nekkid Women

Let’s look at just some of the ways kids can put a cramp in your love life:

  • Babies want you to hold them. Always. You find out it is possible to be “touched out” and if you’re nursing sometimes the idea of one more person touching your breast is enough to make you scream, thus making foreplay somewhat problematic.
  • Toddlers are powered by the energy they suck directly from us – I refer to them as little psychic vampires. And they have no sense of privacy. And those videos you put on to buy a few precious moments of grown-up time seem to get shorter and shorter.
  • Older kids can just be “on” to you. It’s hard to sneak away amidst knowing smirks. (Remind me to tell you about the time my girlfriend’s eleven year old daughter and her friend found her bag of toys. We heard the giggle from down the hall. It was hard to look them in the eye after that.)
  • All kids can sense sexual intimacy no matter how late at night; it makes them throw up or become instantly and ravenously thirsty. And then, try to have sex while thinking about the eight loads of laundry that are waiting for you. They can easily wear out two grown-ups so that when you do eventually roll into bed at the end of the evening, though the spirit maybe willing, the flesh is already asleep.

    How in the world are you supposed to find time for the sex? Remember sex? Can you really balance family and a sex life? Can you get that intense, gotta have it feeling back? I’m here to tell you: yeah, you can.

    A little admission; I got my children the “old-fashioned way,” by being married to, and having sex with, a man. Yes, it’s true. Now I have a wonderful girlfriend and between us in our blended (Pureéd? Frappeéd?) family we have six children. The oldest has three mothers; none of which is me. I have single friends who have adopted babies, a friend who fostered and eventually adopted older children. Some couples use various means of assisted contraception. One thing all of these formations of families have in common is that they bring with them a sea change in romance from the one-on-one romance and sex that childless couples seem to effortlessly enjoy.

    Maybe if you’re like my girlfriend and me, the negotiations of the balancing act have been with you since the first date. Or maybe you’ve been together for seven years (real years, not lesbian years) just you and your honey and the cats but now there is an intruder in the intimacy. Otherwise known as seven pounds of so of “dictator with a dirty diaper.”

    Since I have been on both ends of that spectrum, I’m going to try to give you the benefit of my mistakes and the good advice I’ve found. (First piece of advice for a good sex life after the kids: if you’re a lesbian, don’t marry a man. Just a tip. Though I did get a fine father and a good friend out of it, it’s not good for the sex life.)

    So what advice can I give that encompasses the diversity of our lives? Let’s look at some of the commonalities in our situations; the factors that affect us all regardless of how we became families.

    First, a quick quiz: What’s the largest erogenous zone in the female body? Yes, you’re right. It’s the brain. So that’s the first place we’re going to explore.

    Nothing kills a sex life faster than resentment. If either partner feels their contribution to the family isn’t being appreciated; if either partner feels like they are doing more than their share of the work; if someone feels left out of the decision-making in the family then there is going to be resentment.

    If you notice this dynamic, take a look what’s going on in the family. Often times becoming a family, however it happens, brings out feelings and assumptions we didn’t even know we had. Assumptions about roles in a family; assumptions about division of labor and internalized norms of what a family/mom/dad/ “should” do or be like can sneak up on even the most theoretically “enlightened” of us. With older/step children in blended families there can be an awareness or perception of sexuality that constrains those public displays of affection that lead to closeness. Those of us who had children with men face fears that we’re not “real” lesbians and may “go back” to men, especially if the fathers of our children are very present in their lives.

    Good grief! So many danger zones! Socrates said “the unexamined life isn’t worth living” but don’t you just sometimes wish you could, well, maybe leave some parts of it unexamined?

    Yeah, we could, but I suggest you keep it to what exactly is the stuff in that container stuffed in the back of the refrigerator? Don’t bother examining it, just chuck the whole thing. As for the rest of our relationships, we all know what to do – you gotta talk about it. Grievances have to be aired or they will fester into resentment. Try to do this in a neutral way, away from the kids. If you can’t do it without yelling or accusations, think about professional help. (We all have issues, right?)

    One issue that might pop up is the societal norm that moms aren’t or can’t be or, more importantly, shouldn’t be sexual. Yes, the old Madonna/whore (or, as I prefer, Donna Reed/whore) dichotomy can surface even in lesbian relationships. I’d like to make a plea that we ditch this ideal forever! We need to ditch the ‘shoulds’! I know we say being lesbian isn’t all about the sex but it sure is a big part of it. We need to grab the juicy, sexy, lusciousness of our sexuality and our motherhood and our families and just jump right into it! As lesbian families we have the obligation to challenge all the assumptions; to reclaim the sexuality of motherhood.

    So how do we start? Well, all that advice out there for heterosexual couples isn’t completely useless. No matter what your orientation; sexuality can’t be turned on like a light switch. And the longer you go without sex, the harder it can be to start again.

    My first and I think most important piece of advice – go to bed together! At the same time. (If you’re family bedders, get the kids to sleep and then hit the couch together, TV off, at least a few times a week.) It’s one of the best places to talk. And the forced closeness can’t be discounted. You have to be willing to make the effort to connect emotionally. You have to make time for intimacy.

    Question number two: when does foreplay start? The answer is, as soon as you see each other. Connect physically – foreplay starts in bed in the morning. Don’t be afraid of overt sexuality – push her up against the wall, shop for a new sex toy. It may sound clichéd but it’s true – get away from the kids! Get out of the house. Schedule a date night without any kind of obligation for sex. And for once, try not to talk about those issues!

    Finally, embrace all the parts of yourself and your partner. Do the hard work of intimacy and question assumptions. Give yourself permission to be sexual AND playful AND moms. If you do, you may experience as you go to bed, what Jan Hardy writes about in her poem “Wild Honey”:

    turn to you in bed

    for a goodnight kiss and all

    the air between us catches fire…

    …to our surprise, barely contained

    while our heads were being sensible,

    automatic and dull as drones,

    our bodies were sensing the low hum,

    the sweet scent, the rhythm…

    …dancing the wild honey dance all day.

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