There's a pillow that sits on the sofa in my in-laws apartment that reads, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I remember looking at it when my husband and I first got married and not quite getting it. Then we had a baby, and suddenly it all made sense. Because it turns out, if a new Mama ain't happy, she's probably not wanting any action in the bedroom, either.
We all know that having a baby affects a couple's sex life. But apparently, it's not just because we're feeling all sleep-deprived and worn out and pressed for time. According to a new study, when a mom is stressed out and anxious about her parenting skills, the amount of steamy sex the couple is having may take a hit.
Researchers from Penn State interviewed 169 heterosexual couples who'd recently had their first baby—first at six months, then again at one year—in order to figure out which factors contributed the most to a couple's low sexual satisfaction after having a kid. What they found was that a mother's stress affects not only her own sexual satisfaction, but that of her partner as well.
"The sexual relationship is interdependent," explained lead researcher Chelom Leavitt, J.D., M.S., a Ph.D. candidate in the Human Development and Family Studies department at Penn State. "So when a mom feels greater stress due to parenting, not only is her sexual satisfaction diminished, the dad's sexual satisfaction is also affected."
When the dad was more stressed out, however, satisfaction levels stayed pretty much the same. Because, of course. Leavitt said this may be because women generally bear the larger responsibility in caring for the new baby, and because society puts more pressure on them to be "perfect" at the whole mom thing.
"In general, women are more likely to see motherhood as part of their identity as a woman," she explained. "So when new moms feel fatigued by the added responsibilities of parenting, they may feel less sexual."
The big takeaway here? Go in with realistic expectations and, more importantly, give yourself a break. "Be less judgmental of yourself," Leavitt advises. "Try to enjoy the experiences of being a parent as they come."
Either said than done, right?