Just last fall, Erica Jong irritated attachment parents everywhere with her assertion that investing a lot of energy in child-rearing equals imprisonment for mothers. Now she’s at it again, only this time she blames breastfeeding and co-sleeping for putting “sexual passion on life support.”
I no longer embrace the “attachment parent” label, but I fit the profile: my five children have been breastfed, sling-ed, and slept next to me until we gave them each the boot to their own beds around the age of two. Yet you will notice I have five children, so obviously there was time, space, and interest enough in there for nookie, too.
I can’t really get too hot under the collar about what Erica Jong thinks about modern motherhood. I just think she’s wrong. Sure, having a new baby in the house equals less sex all around. Is that really anything new? And if it is, maybe it’s a big plus that women no longer feel pressured to “perform” during a time when hormones and fatigue make the whole experience less pleasurable for them. I’d say it’s pretty normal – even biologically designed – for a new mom to feel less-than-crazy about sex. It doesn’t mean that women are using breastfeeding and babywearing as some sort of penis-deflector.
And it doesn’t mean that strong desire will never return. The years of infancy and intense parenting are fleeting, and a mature, connected couple ought to be able to ride out a short blip without facing disaster or a long-term drought. To put it another way: if your marriage is on the rocks because you’re too tired from caring for a baby to have sex, there is more missing than just sex. Sex is an important part of life and relationships, but it’s not the only – or even most important – part.
30-something mom Hallie Palladino wrote about her reaction to the Jong piece over on the NYT Motherlode blog, and I particularly identified with this last part:
[Jong] has it backward when she concludes that “physical pleasure binds two people together.” It isn’t great sex that sustains happy relationships, it’s happy relationships that lead to more fulfilling sex. To this end it’s a shame that Ms. Jong doesn’t recognize that involved parenting is not just good for women, it’s good for men, too. Couples who parent together tend to stay engaged and connected — a great foundation for a happy marriage and a satisfying love life. The old-fashioned notion that women have to choose between passion and parenthood? That’s what women today think is passé.
What do you think? Do today’s parents put sex too much on the back burner? Or is having less sex just a normal part of having young kids?