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Image / Editorial

If Sex & Sleep Are Keys To Happiness, Where Does That Leave You As A Parent?


by Jessie Collins
03rd Oct 2017
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?Money doesn’t make the world go round? went the gleeful headlines just over a week ago. News outlets were quick to jump on the findings of the Living Well Index*, which found that the most rested people score 15 points higher than everyone else on the index. And people who were deeply dissatisfied with their sex lives scored seven points lower on average than those who were satisfied.

So, more sex and more sleep are what we need to be happier. Media loves these kinds of generalised findings, they are catnip for casual debate and easy airwave fillers. But my first reaction to it came through a different lens altogether – what struck me was that the two main indicators of well-being and psychological health are the two very things that are the most compromised by having young children. Sex and sleep! It is something we could all do with pondering for a minute.

It isn’t surprising, or big news to those steeped in it. Many couples, more than I believe can even bring themselves to openly admit, just barely survive the first few years of their young children’s lives as a couple (Matthew D. Johnson, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at Binghamton University in New York found that ?comparing couples with and without children, the rate of the decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for a childless couple?’. And you can’t underestimate the influence the lack of the aforementioned happiness components has on that. Lack of sleep is a form of torture, lack of any intimacy in a relationship is dangerous.

Also, in terms of priorities, it is probably often the case that a lot of women, and I’m sure some men, are going to opt for sleep if they can get it, and sex only if it doesn’t compromise their sleep. You may not have an option either way when so little privacy exists in the early years – there may be at least one, if not all of your offspring in your bed at any given time, not an environment conducive to love-making.

There is also another issue around what happens to women when they become mothers. They are no longer the single entity, able to ponder over what they will wear today, take some time over their makeup, their hair, their bathing – these rituals that have evolved over time, not because we are implicitly vain creatures but because these little ceremonies are part of what we do to connect to ourselves – they feed into our wellbeing and our self-esteem, something also very much linked to our libido. As a parent, these things become tasks done at breakneck speed, toilet doors just don’t get locked anymore, exercise and connection with your own body plummet to the bottom of the list.

Add to this to some other simple facts that can further remove you from any sensual part of yourself. For instance, in a given day at home with young children, you can wipe up to eight bums (other ones, not your own) a day. It’s not sexy. You are picking up general detritus around you, putting on your third wash while cleaning out the nappy bin for good measure. For this, you may get a brief hello, but little inquiry into your day. Is it any wonder you don’t feel like turning into Barbarella when it gets to bedtime?

For some reason this all seemed to be playing on me when I saw yet another picture of Amal and George Clooney (just to pour extreme perspectives on reality) going out on a date somewhere in another universe, also known as Lake Como, having repatriated their newborn twins in their Italian villa. From all reports, it takes most parents almost a year to even barely resurface in their lives after having twins. Now, I am all too aware that the Clooney’s are not your average parents, and I think they are switched on enough to acknowledge it themselves, but it struck me how much sleep and sexiness they oozed on their date night. How much of a difference having double nannies and a separate wing for each baby can really make. Also a wardrobe of designer arsenal and a glam squad at the ready. For most of us though there is a slower, perhaps more tricky path back to our sexier, more rested post-baby selves. Nights out in Italy are one way. But actually, nights out anywhere are a pretty good start.

And that’s not just about the process of making you look at each other with total focus again, it’s about relating. Women, above all else in a relationship, need relating to. To be taken out, and asked how you are doing, is about as sexy as it can get. For your partner to have made the effort to look nice too, and to be in a romantic place, makes it all the sweeter. So even if we aren’t swishing back negroni’s before hopping onto your private launch, it’s okay because ultimately the best things in life are still free, and you don’t need to be George Clooney to value them.

*A study by Oxford Economics, and the National Centre for Social Research in the UK

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