Just do it

› andrea@altsexcolumn.com

Dear Andrea:

That nursing column wasn’t real, right? I’m all for attachment parenting — in fact, my three-year-old is still co-sleeping, and we’re just grateful that he sleeps at all. But we have a spare bedroom. We have a couch. Hell, we have a kitchen table and the living room floor. They must be able to find a place to have sex that isn’t directly next to their sleeping child?

I’m glad the column is going to venture into the realities of sex after parenthood, even if I’m going to be squicked out all day now.

Love,

Gentle Reader

Dear Gen:

Sorry for the squickage (although it does tend to come with the Alt.Sex territory, doesn’t it?) and I’m glad somebody likes the parenting stuff! It’s not always easy for me to reconcile my print life as a (one hopes) sexily knowing know-it-all with my current real-life life as a slightly befuddled toddler wrangler in a faintly besnotted T-shirt.

The letter was, as I admitted, a work of fiction by an online friend who was squicked herself by the tendency in some quarters of the Interweb to turn enlightened parenting into a competitive sport. "Attachment parenting," for those not playing along at home, is supposed to foster in your children such a secure sense of loving support at home that they feel safe exploring the world independently. Those people happily boasting online that they obviously have to homeschool because their six-year-olds simply aren’t ready to wean yet are missing the point, probably on purpose.

And what, besides breasts, does this have to do with sex? Enough, I figured, since even those of us sensible enough to avoid getting into ridiculous babes-in-arms races feel the pressure to privilege baby above all. While wearing my sex advisor hat (and what does that look like? one wonders somewhat nervously), it’s my job to worry about the grown-ups.

So what of noncrazy parents struggling to maintain a sex life in the face of a sudden incursion of tiny, extremely demanding people into their lives and beds? Even people who started out absolutely determined that crib is crib and bed is bed often end up with a small person occupying essential real estate. What does one do? I’m glad, for instance, that you have a spare room and a coffee table and a large macramé plant holder to hang from, or whatever you listed there, but do you really use them? Do you leave the baby sleeping quietly in your queen-size and sneak off to disport yourself in the garage? Good for you if so (and no, I’m not being facetious — I mean it: good for you), but I think many people mean to and hope for the best, but end up sighing and kissing goodnight and sinking gratefully into Morpheus’s arms instead of each other’s. It’s understandable. We’re tired!

The other conventional wisdom beloved of (presumably baby-free) sex advisors is to take a weekend away just for the two of you (or, in the interest of inclusivity, the three or more of you, if that’s what you’re into). This is nice on paper, but if you have a baby, let’s face it: you’re not leaving him or her for an entire weekend to go golfing on the Lost Coast. You’re just not. If your children are old enough to understand that Mommy and Daddy, or Mommy and Mommy, or Mommy and Daddy and Mommy (enough — inclusivity makes me tired) are coming back, then maybe. But the price tag on a weekend away plus 24-7 nanny time is scarifying enough to kill Mommy and Daddy’s buzz three counties away. So mostly a "no."

If I didn’t believe so strongly that a decent sex life really is key to a decent home life, and that happy people make better parents, and that better parents make healthier babies, I’d be tempted to say, "Aw, screw it, just give up and hope you’ll get your mutual mojo back in a few years when the kid’s over needing Mommy and Daddy all night." I do, though, so I’m going to suggest sneaking him back into his own bed in the sleep-like-the-dead early dawn instead. And getting a relative (or hiring a teenager) to take the kids out on a weekend morning twice a month. And getting TiVo to record The Daily Show instead of wasting precious baby sleep time staring at the tube.

Again, more later. In the meantime, my bedside table may have held more exotic objects in its time, but it currently boasts a copy of And Baby Makes Three, by John M. Gottman and Julie Schwarz Gottman. I don’t ordinarily waste my time on self-help lit, but Gottman is the man who made a science of saving marriages, or at least accurately predicting which ones are capable of saving themselves. He’s the one who determined that rolling your eyes with contempt when your partner speaks means you might as well start dividing up the CDs. So don’t do that, people, and I’ll be back with a book report.

Love,

Andrea

Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.