Sex and the Single Mom

A woman in a bra touches herself.
Anna Artemenko/Stocksy

How Do I Rediscover My Sexuality When I’m Completely Touched Out?

If you’ve spent the last few years caring for babies and toddlers, is there any hope of getting back to yourself again?

I am a single mom with three children under the age of ten and I’m having a hard time reconciling my identity as a sexual being. I struggle with what it means to be sexy when I feel like all I am these days is “Mom”. I know she’s still in there somewhere — the sexy-former-me person — but I can’t find her and don’t even know where to look. Where do I look?

First of all, I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to perform in all areas that we end up paralyzed in many of them. But I also think that there are times when we don’t have it in us to perform at all so naturally feeling sexy is going to feel like more work than its worth. Which is why it sounds like not knowing where to look isn’t the issue so much as not having the energy to look for something that feels long gone. And why would you?

For many of us, sex is something we have historically done for or with somebody else. And unless we’re dating or actively pursing some kind of partnership, sex isn’t something we always know how to prioritize. Throw a handful of kids into the mix and you can forget it.

I do think that for many of us, our sexuality has never been something we’ve allowed ourselves to explore while unpartnered. Many of us confuse feeling sexual with feeling sexualized by someone else — in most cases, a man. When our sexuality functions in relation to the male gaze, we are less able to prioritize our own pleasure. Instead (and often without even realizing it) we appeal to our partners first and our sexuality becomes performative. And once again, in the grand tradition of mothers everywhere, we have put ourselves… last.

The idea of taking care of one more goddamn person is probably going to make you feel more angry than turned on. Which is why if you really want to rediscover the part of you that feels sexy, you’re going to have to make sure pleasure is for you. Otherwise it’s just going to feel like another chore. (Because it is.)

Which brings me to the word of the day: Exploration.

I think the idea of allowing ourselves, as adult women, to explore sexuality on our own is still extremely taboo. We are “responsible adults” and it is our job to be harbors, not boats, especially when we have small children in our care. But the need to explore and experiment doesn’t just die when we have children, and suppressing our most carnal needs doesn’t do us any good. Neither does feeling guilty for wanting more, which also happens to be the very definition of desire.

I also think it’s important to note that you are exploring who you are right now, and that person is different from the person you used to be. Instead of regressing into old patterns to try to get the “old you” back, why not create new ones? Instead of putting energy into reclaiming the parts of you that feel lost, let those parts of you go and build a new paradigm in their place.

What turns you on today? What attracts you to a person and to yourself in this phase of your life? Sexuality can be fluid and is always changing. I believe this is where the so-called “mid-life crisis” comes from, but the reality is, these behavior shifts come in lieu of a crisis. They are our awakenings, our moments of truth — a sort of divine intervention where the spirit lurches somewhere deep within the body and says, I am more than just this. And I am off on a hero’s journey to find out just how much more I really am.

I digress! Your assignment, shall you choose to accept it is this: start exploring. Your wants. Needs. Desires. What feels good to you? What tastes good to you? What gives you pleasure? What makes you feel alive? And where can you go outside of your home and away from your children to get in on all those senses? And no, a warm bath doesn’t count. I feel like everyone is always recommending warm baths for moms as if baths are these sensual, relaxing things that don’t remind us of trying to wash our children’s hair without getting soap in their eyes. Enough with bath recommendations.

What follows is a list of highly recommended sex toys, ethical porn, and other potential turn-ons that aren’t baths, to get you going:

The Hitachi Magic Wand

I’m not the first and I’m certainly not the last person to recommend this iconic piece of machinery but I personally believe it is the best in the business and you deserve only amazing vibes. I don’t even have anything else to recommend today. That’s it. That’s the one. Moving on…

Make Love Not Porn

Make Love Not Porn, the brainchild of English advertising exec Cindy Gallup, is a DIY platform where users can submit and monetize their own porn and/or view others’ homemade vids. Make Love Not Porn centers the human gaze, exploring real sex in all its human, messy, puckered-skin, real-bodied glory. It’s ethically sourced pornography that you can feel good watching for all of the reasons.

Bellesa

Another porn site run by women for women, Bellesa hosts porn vids, erotic stories, sex ed and an adult toy store. In short, everything you could ever want out of a XXX website. Also, their motto is very five stars: “At Bellesa we believe that sexuality on the internet should depict women as we truly are — subjects of pleasure not objects of conquest.” Boom.

I want to answer any and all questions you all have about the exhilarating, terrifying, and wonderful experience of dating and having sex with new people after becoming a parent. Send me your questions at rebeccawoolf@gmail.com.

Rebecca Woolf writes Romper’s Sex & the Single Mom series. She has worked as a writer for more than two decades, and is the author of two books, Rockabye: From Wild to Child, and the forthcoming All of This: A Memoir of Death and Desire. She lives in Los Angeles with her four children.