(Featured image: “Madonna-Whore complex” –source)
My husband requested that I write a post about sex and parenting because it bugs him that the majority of society doesn’t understand “attachment parenting” and makes assumptions about the sex lives of the parents who practice attachment parenting (AP).
When I starting writing this post, I questioned: Why would other people feel it is in their place to comment on other’s sex lives when they know nothing about it? I believe that the madonna-whore complex that we suffer from here in the West supports a negative impression that society has regarding attachment parenting and sex. For some reason, our society does not like to look at a woman as both sexually pleasing to her partner/husband and nurturing and loving to her child. A woman can be one or the other, not both.
As Mayim Bialik put it (I’m paraphrasing), “Attachment parents can have sex lives just as good or just as bad as the rest of the population.” That pretty much sums it up. It is completely individualized and has nothing to do with what style of parenting you practice.
Perhaps it is just that my husband and my sexual preferences sync, but our sex life is considered successful by American standards. The more important thing is we are both interested in having the same sexual experiences and the amount of sex we want during the week is almost always in alignment. I am fortunate because my parents stressed the importance of sex in a marriage at a very young age. My dad’s Valentine’s Day Letter to me offers this piece of advice:
Build intimacy – both sexually and emotionally – throughout your marriage
My sister also spoke a little more candidly to me about how intimacy is such an important part of a marriage. I believe the openness of my family and the fact that they never made the idea of sex secret or dirty was a contributing reason that I held so strongly to not becoming sexually active before I was ready, even with pressure from my peers and men. I was able to take hold of my sexuality as my own and understand it as only part of who I am. I also understood the importance of sex in life.
I did a little digging to see why most people who do not have any experience or understanding of attachment parenting or breastfeeding past infancy think our sex lives are lacking.
What I found even surprised me… a little.
Co-sleeping: People really believe that if you co-sleep with your child there is no place to have sex. Wait, are people really limiting their sexual activity to their bedroom? The bed is, what, three feet off the ground and overzealously soft? I’m not knocking bed sex, there is a time and place for it…but, okay if we are getting judge-y here, I’ll throw the major side-eye back at anyone who thinks that co-sleeping families have shitty sex lives, because it seems to be the people pointing their fingers who are the ones only sex in their beds. Where am I suggesting you have sex in your home? Anywhere you please… here, listen to the wise words of Willy Wonka. He’s singing to you, kids:
Breakdown: Many AP (and non-AP) couples feel it is important for their sexual relationship to not limit intimacy to one specific area or room of a home.
Breastfeeding: This article was one of the top hits when I googled this topic. I had my husband read it and we were both laughing at this part:
Are a woman’s breasts hers? Yes, of course. Are they sometimes for feeding babies? Yes, of course. But they’re also sexual and often an integral part of a couple’s sex life. Breastfeeding for five years can be a real issue; denying that isn’t particularly helpful. – Jill Filipovic
I’d really like to know why breastfeeding for any length of time can be a “real issue” in a sex life? The author doesn’t seem to understand vast difference of newborn/young infant feeding vs. breastfeeding past infancy (the small amount of milk produced, or the probably very infrequent and short nursing sessions). Even the physical act of breastfeeding an infant shouldn’t interfere with a healthy couple’s sex life (hormone changes from pregnancy and breastfeeding may change a woman’s libido in the first few months after birth, but varies depending on the person and is an entirely separate issue).
Breakdown: Breastfeeding is separate from sex. Breasts are not sex organs, they are reproductive (some say secondary reproductive organs). That does not mean that breasts (like any other part of the body) can’t be found sexy or arousing during sex. Unless you are actually breastfeeding while having sex (I assuming the vast majority of the population would not do this) then breastfeeding should not interfere with a healthy sex life. Period.
Babywearing: The comments about babywearing and marital intimacy bothered me the most. People assume if you wear your baby you never put your baby down and he or she becomes a nuisance and interferes with having sex. I’m sorry, we need to stop denying that life changes when you have a child. Whether you wear your baby or keep your baby in a swing/carrier/moses basket…he or she still exists! By having a child you have now added a human being to your family! Yes, when a child is in infancy all areas of life are different, but that does not mean your sex life dies (as the media and our culture portrays it), or any other change will remain that way forever. It is healthy to acknowledge the change and even mourn the old life a bit, but we need all new families to know that sex will just require more creativity – it’s not just babywearing families that will experience changes in life. Yes, forever your life will be different, certain areas of your life will return to what you were accustomed and some parts of your life will IMPROVE now that you have added another family member into your home. As humans, we were created to adapt. Our society wants us to fear change, but we should adapt and embrace it. It is part of life.
Breakdown: The reasons our society assumes that attachment parenting and a sexual relationship can’t go hand-in-hand are based in complete ignorance, and possibly insecurities in their own lives. For all of us content with our sex lives, how many here would criticize someone else’s? I’m guessing probably none of us. That is because people don’t criticize benign lifestyle choices when they are content with their own. In the end, I think it’s important for our society to know that parenting and having a health sexual relationship can go hand in hand despite your parenting choices. I’ve come to the same conclusion I’ve come to with pretty much any aspect of life: If your family is thriving and you and your partner are happy then you’ve made the right choices and should ignore any criticism.