Sex and the stay-at-home dad

Cael Tucker confronts the havoc that parenthood has wreaked on his libido

One night, when I thought everybody had gone to sleep, my wife caught me doing something really embarrassing. It wasn’t my fault really. I was just watching TV when I happened to come across a certain late-night movie. I got swept up in the moment and couldn’t control myself.

My wife, Tanya, caught me watching Beaches. And I was bawling my eyes out. I don’t mean a few tears silently rolling down my cheeks. I mean a full-on blubber-fest.

The worst part is that I didn’t even realize my wife had walked into the family room and had been standing there watching me long enough to see me blow my nose into my shirt and throw it on the floor. I only noticed her out of the corner of my eye when I reached for another handful of jumbo Cheezies. I just froze — shirtless and slobbering.

We stayed like that, locked in time, for what felt like seven or eight months, until I finally starting chewing my Cheezies. It was at this point I noticed that my wife was wearing her I-won’t-hate-you-if-you-try-and-trick-me-into-having-sex pyjamas.

I’m going to confess something: I didn’t even want to have sex. I just wanted to cry. I tried for a moment to hold back the tears, but when I realized I was destroying a golden and precious opportunity to have sex, I started to cry even harder. My wife then did that thing where she huffs and blows her hair up from her eyes, and asked me if I wouldn’t mind putting my shirt in the washing machine and wiping the orange Cheezie powder off my chest before I came to bed. And then she left the room.

The worst part is that the next day my wife told her blabbermouth sister, who of course had to tell my father-in-law, who once killed a bear and likes to talk about it incessantly and now sometimes refers to me as The Eunuch. I’m still not totally sure what that is, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean bear killer.

Self Image

I’ve read a lot about how couples struggle to rekindle their sex lives after having children. Almost everything I’ve encountered on the subject seems to revolve around plunging energy levels and sex drives, with the occasional admission of poor body image or doubts about attractiveness. Now to be perfectly honest, I don’t think Tanya is struggling with any of these issues. But I am.

Some research would suggest that my lack of sex drive can be directly attributed to my transition from breadwinner to bread baker. It seems that I have relegated myself to an asexual dad robot programmed into a life of routine. I clean the house. I take the kids to playgroup. I make the meals, change diapers and frequently overload the washing machine.

This isn’t to say I don’t occasionally have extremely primal urges to be sexual with my wife and totally rock her world — let’s just be clear on that. But I find these feelings dissipate quickly when I notice how filthy the high chair is, or realize I’ve been walking around all day with a clump of dried oatmeal in my beard. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Even when the kids go to bed peacefully and I manage to drag myself out of the daily wreckage of stay-at-home-dad hygiene, the phone will ring and Tanya will be sucked into a three-hour conversation with her sister or I’ll go to quickly check my emails and end up YouTubing stupid pet tricks until midnight.

Too tired for sex

Why does this happen? Why do so many couples lose touch with their physical intimacy once they have children? Why do I insist on scrubbing the baseboards thoroughly and disinfecting the doorknobs at least once a month, and yet I’m perfectly fine with looking like a Wookiee? Why do I find myself reaching for parenting magazines at the service station — instead of soft-core swimsuit issues? Am I broken? Has my sex drive been obliterated by some chemical agent in the laundry detergent?

I read a recent survey that showed most men think having sex six to eight times a week is normal, while women think having sex four to five times a week is normal. Are they talking about rabbits? Between the kids and my cleaning fits, I’m lucky if I have time to go to the bathroom eight times a week.

I know some people would say that perhaps I could improve my body image and make a conscious effort to be more appealing to my wife if I did little things like run a comb through my back hair and restrain myself from calling attention to my own stomach fat (it really is quite impressive, if I do say so myself). I know some people would say our sex life would improve if we were to schedule intimacy or try to engage on a personal level without first discussing the kids, finances, politics, her mother, household chores and Grey’s Anatomy.

All of these are probably valid suggestions but, in truth, I feel that couples who are learning how to be good parents — and juggling all the things that go with that — have enough pressure on them without tossing sexpectations into the mix based on what other people consider to be normal.

Despite the Cheezie incident, despite my obvious proclivity to keep my personal appearance as neolithic as possible, despite my occasional huffy little private tantrums about how my sex life has changed since we became parents, I really couldn’t be happier.

Sex with my wife is not as frequent as it once was but, oh, it is sweet. If I were a better writer, I could probably inject some literary magic here to articulate my point, but I honestly have a hard time trying to find the words to describe how I feel about my wife. Maybe I should just try to show her more often.

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