Written by Jessie Sage, originally published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
The other day, my partner and I were in the living room surrounded by toys with Sesame Street blaring in the background when he stealthily asked if I wanted to go upstairs for a little afternoon romp. Now, I am someone who is almost always game, but in this particular moment I would have had to step over plastic toys in order to get there, not to mention the fact that I was wearing a bathrobe and I couldn’t remember if I had brushed my teeth that morning. These factors weren’t exactly a recipe for a hot encounter — the last thing I was feeling was sexy.
But as I was thinking about all this, a wave of panic rushed over me: This is what life is going to look like for the next couple of weeks. The kids are home, stress levels are high, and we can’t even go out to a bar or restaurant to blow off steam and connect over an uninterrupted conversation. But unless we are going to totally give up on having a sex life for as long as social distancing is a thing, we are going to have to learn to negotiate sex amid constant family chaos. This brings up an important question: How are parents supposed to maintain a sexual connection when the kids never leave the house?
I am still trying to answer this question for myself, so please take these as mere suggestions, and let me know what is working for you!
Get dressed up as if you were trying to impress each other.
When I wasn’t in the mood, I decided to go upstairs and take a shower, put my makeup on, and wear something nice. While I wasn’t totally sure it would help me switch gears from toddler-play to sexy time, I thought it certainly couldn’t hurt (plus, I should probably shower anyway). And sometime while I was getting dressed I started fantasizing, and then I started snapping sexy selfies to signal I was almost ready. And then voila, I was ready.
Create a space in your house that is just yours.
Part of the stressful thing about having the kids around 24/7 is not just the kids, but also their stuff. Our kids’ age-range is huge, so in addition to the plastic toys we also have backpacks, electronic devices, sports equipment, dirty dishes, and laundry. While it isn’t practical to clean the house from top to bottom every time you want to have sex, you can set up a space in your bedroom, or elsewhere, that is clear of clutter and external stressors.
It’s OK to let kids watch a movie/play video games.
While many parents have rules about how much screen time their kids can have, these are desperate times. Parents need time to be adults, otherwise they will burn out on kid activities. So turn on their favorite movie, and tell them you will be “napping.” I promise they will be OK.
Control the noise.
While it is easy to close and lock your door, sound travels. You are going to need to do what you can to prevent the kids from hearing you. You can do this by playing music or setting up a white noise machine (we used to keep one of these in the hall closet that separated our room from theirs). You can also just be very quiet; make a sexy game of this! See how much you can pleasure your partner without them making any noise. Cover their mouths if they can’t manage. Gag them. Have sex on a blanket on the floor if the bed is too creaky.
Whatever you do, try to keep things alive. This shut-in is stressful enough, at least maybe we can all have some good midday sex.
Jessie Sage is a sex worker and writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s also the co-founder of Peepshow Magazine and the co-host of the Peepshow Podcast. Her words can be found in the Washington Post, VICE’s Motherboard, Hustler Magazine, Men’s Health, BuzzFeed, and more. She’s currently writing a book on sex work, motherhood, and illness called An Unexpected Place (forthcoming on West Virginia University Press).