My husband and I used to love to stay up late, and not just so we could enjoy awesome sex. Night time was our time — time to connect, talk, drink wine, watch movies, play board games, and simply spend one-on-one time together. Since we had our youngest child, however, it's been impossible to have that time and meet everyone else's needs. Between sleep training the baby, putting our older kids to bed, entertaining night time visitors, and enduring early morning wake-ups, my kid's sleep schedule has destroyed my romantic life. Sadly, I'm afraid it's never going to be the same again.
To be clear, I'm not saying my marriage is doomed or anything. In fact, I think my relationship with my husband is just fine. We still have great sex (when we can manage to fit it in) and we still love each other deeply. We aren't tumbling toward divorce, and we aren't growing resentful of one another as a result of our often overwhelming parenting responsibilities. But we've had to sacrifice our time together for the sake of our children and their schedules, which means we rarely have the opportunity to recharge our relationship batteries.
If we try to schedule sex, or even just some snuggling on the couch, at least one child will inevitably choose that night to be needy at bedtime, have a nightmare, or walk in on us during the main event. After a while, and after our plans were consistently thwarted, we just stopped planning or looking forward to our nights together. We've learned that we can't really schedule or count on having time for us, because kids are unpredictable and don't care about schedules. As a result, our romantic life has become inconsistent... if not entirely absent.
I am the first to admit that my husband and I are part of the problem. In an attempt to hold onto our individual sanities, we have allowed our kids' bedtime routines to become, well, rather complicated and laborious. Every night we aim to establish the same routine — family show, bedtime stories, vitamins, teeth-brushing, and then immediately off to bed. But more often than not another 20 or so steps are added to that routine, and before we know it we're stuck in the middle of a seemingly never-ending bedtime checklist in an attempt to get our kids to actually sleep.
When I'm in bed with my 5-year-old on the bottom bunk, listening my older children settle in for the night, I can’t help but realize that I spend way more awake time snuggling with my kids than I do snuggling with my husband.
Even our best-laid plans for post-bedtime romance are sure to crumble, because if we have to choose between our kids sleeping or allowing them to simply tire themselves out while we relax, well, we choose the sleep. So nighttime inevitably evolves into some type of hostage negotiation. My kids are the kidnappers, a decent night's sleep is their hostage, and I'm trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender with the promise of at least one more story, one more drink of water, one more song, or one more random conversation about whether or not there are spiders living in our walls.
I miss my husband. When I'm in bed with my 5-year-old on the bottom bunk, listening my older children settle in for the night, I can’t help but realize that I spend way more awake time snuggling with my kids than I do snuggling with my husband. I love my kids, but I also love my relationship, and the fact that my husband and I have no time for physical affection is not OK with me. And while I'm missing my husband, he's on the other side of our house dealing with toddler sleep regressions, tears, and another attempt at sleep-training.
I miss my husband.
If I manage to get through a bedtime routine relatively unscathed, he's exhausted or already sleeping with our toddler in his arms. And if he has an easy go of it, I'm the one who is struggling to keep my eyes open or already passed out in that bottom bunk.
Which is why, when given the chance between sex and sleep, sleep is likely to win out. We're in triage mode, and I have no idea how to make it all stop.
As parents we also need time to ourselves, so even if we do have a relatively quiet night we often wind down in our own individual ways. For example, my partner will play video games while I take an Ambien and fall asleep watching Grey's Anatomy. We both cherish this alone time too, don't get me wrong, but we're both acutely aware that something is missing: the time we spend with one another.
When we're finally are able to re-discover each other, will we be the same people?
I miss my husband. I miss touching him, having regularly sex with him, and being able to connect with him on a physical level every single day. I also miss talking to him, because I certainly relied on our nightly conversations to learn about him and how we fit together as partners, parents, and lovers. We used to spend hours talking, dreaming out loud about the future, and making plans that would help us make turn those dreams into a reality. Now there are days when the only conversations I have with him are ones that involve our kids.
I know this time in our lives won't last forever. One day, and soon, all of our kids will be able to put themselves to bed and we will be able to enjoy our nightly time together again. But for now our nights are frequently interrupted, our sleep is scarce, and our time alone together is nonexistence. As a result it's easy to let hopelessness take over. When we're finally are able to re-discover each other, will we be the same people? Or will the romance and sexual energy be gone forever? Will we want to be around one another when we finally have the opportunity? Or will this time change us?
For now we're trying our hardest to find other ways to connect, like morning make-out sessions, afternoon texts, or making dinner together. It’s not the same, to be sure, but for us it’s worth it. We want to keep the romance alive until our kids figure out how to sleep consistently through the night. Which, I hope, happens soon.