Waiting Until Your Kids Go to Sleep is Not a Good Sex Strategy for Your Marriage: Ask Dr. Jennifer
Dear Dr. Jennifer,
When the kids were preschoolers, setting them up with a video and a snack bought my husband and I some time to escape to the bedroom. Now that they are older elementary school students, they come looking for us and want to know why the door is closed/locked. If we wait until they are in bed to finally have sex, we are too tired! What are your suggestions for navigating this age?
Great question! Every married mom faces this dilemma as her children grow up. When our kids are preschoolers, and we’re certain they have absolutely no idea what sex is, we naturally feel more comfortable with closing our door and getting romantic. Many moms have hilarious stories of forgetting to lock the bedroom door and being interrupted by an oblivious preschooler, like my friend whose three-year-old son popped up unexpectedly beside her bed and innocently asked, “Can I wrestle too?” Thank goodness she and her husband were under the sheets!
But kids don’t stay little for long, and eventually, they find out where babies come from. And then we face the disturbing possibility that they will guess that mom and dad are having sex or that they will overhear or interrupt our sexual activity, demanding to know why our door is locked.
As the mom who sent in the above question figured out, the strategy of “let’s wait until the kids are asleep to have sex so they won’t know” backfires because by the time your children finally drift off to slumber land, you are likely to be exhausted, if not already asleep yourself. And because kids stay up later the older they get (our college-aged daughter routinely stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m. in the summers!), the “wait until they’re asleep” strategy results in couples having less and less sex the older their kids get.
There is a much better strategy available! It starts with telling your children that when your bedroom door is closed, they are not to interrupt you unless they are bleeding or a bone is sticking out of them. Seriously. Too many parents today train their kids that Mom and Dad are available every moment of every day to solve every problem, big or small. This is not healthy for them or for your marriage. A successful marriage and satisfying sex life depends on regular time alone with your spouse.
This could be 30 minutes after dinner when your kids clean up the kitchen while mom and dad retreat to the bedroom. You can call this time whatever you want: private time, mommy and daddy time, couple time, etc. Just make sure your children learn to respect it and face consequences if they don’t. You don’t have to have sex every time you have this private time but at least you now have the opportunity while you still have the energy for sex.
A successful sex strategy also involves getting over your fear that your children will suspect you’re having sex. Their minds will not go to that possibility as easily as you think it will. Kids are grossed out by the thought of their parents making love. For example, right now, imagine your own parents having sex. Gross! Your mind doesn’t want to go there, does it? Your children’s minds will work overtime to explain away your “private time” as “mom and dad are talking/napping/watching tv/balancing the checkbook/doing boring stuff adults have to do.”
And if you have a particularly nosy child who asks “what are you guys doing back there,” feel free to reply with:
- “None of your business.”
- “Talking about you.”
- “Planning our week.”
- Or as a friend told his children, “We’re having a party and you’re not invited.”
Additionally, put a secure lock on your bedroom door. You will be much more relaxed during sex if you are certain your children cannot unexpectedly walk in on you. If your doorknob doesn’t lock securely, install a barrel bolt or bar latch (like on bathroom stall doors). You can buy one at a hardware store for less than $10. And turn on the bathroom fan or a radio for background cover noise.
Lastly, chances are, at least once while you were a teenager or young adult living at home, you accidentally overheard some lovemaking noises from your parents. This is going to happen to even the most careful of parents. And chances are, you were not permanently scarred. Grossed out, yes. Permanently scarred, no. It happens when people live for years in close quarters, and for centuries, families lived in much closer quarters than we do now.
So, stay calm and carry on in your bedroom.