Motherhood

Who Gets the Best Kisses?

Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on November 14, 2011.

Pssst, want to talk about something intimate?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the physicality of motherhood. Before having a baby, I didn’t touch people that often during the day — I mean, who does? Most of my day — at work, on the bus, in the grocery store, at a movie — was spent without any physical contact, save the odd handshake. Even when I met Alex, and we moved in together and got married, although we were very affectionate at home, the vast majority of my day was still spent keeping my hands politely to myself.

But then.

When you have a new baby, you instantly dive headfirst into a daily routine of touch: cuddling, smooching, bathing, holding hands, breastfeeding (if you are able to/choose to), tousling hair, patting bellies, napping together, rubbing backs, changing diapers, pinching cheeks, rocking to sleep, giving high-fives…you’re suddenly touching another person ALL the time.

You come to know your own baby so well. I could tell you exactly what every part of Toby feels like: his velvet cheeks, fat belly, warm neck, teeny toes. I know how he breathes slowly when he’s sleeping and how he breathes loudly when he’s concentrating on stacking blocks. I know how he slouches in the bath and how he sits up straight and waves when he wants more Cheerios. How, if I change his diaper in the middle of the night, he’ll always take a moment to stretch out his short chubby legs, so I know to wait a second before I pull the diaper on. I would guess that a mother could hold 1,000 babies with her eyes closed, and as soon as her own baby is placed into her arms, she would immediately recognize his exact weight and heft, his specific wriggles, his supple skin.

And all that touch can be an amazing, bonding, fabulous thing.

But what about your romantic partner?

The other day, I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Anna, who had just heard a talk by Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity, a book about sex within a marriage (and after having kids). Perel believes that there’s a badge of honor among American women to not prioritize yourself or your marriage: It’s all about the children. Without realizing it, she said, women can end up getting their emotional intimacy and physical satisfaction from their children, instead of their partners, said Perel. They give their babies tons of wonderful affection — and then don’t have anything left over for their spouse. The marriage can become an afterthought.

Perel’s points sound strange (and a little disconcerting), and at first I was like, Oh, not me, never! But, Perel asks, when you have a baby, at the end of a long day, “Who gets the long languorous hugs, the playfulness, the fun, the fashion shows, the teasing, the multiple kisses? The child!”

Oh, wait, that sort of rang true!

I distinctly remember one night when Toby was about eight months old. Alex and I were in his nursery putting him to bed. The lights were dimmed, and we were sitting on the double bed together, and Toby was in my arms. We were having a sweet moment singing lullabies, and I was smothering Toby with kisses — his cheeks, his forehead, burying my face in his neck. Alex was humming along and waiting patiently for me to put Toby to bed, when suddenly I realized, Oh my goodness, I should plop my baby in his crib and go kiss my husband! It struck me, like a lightbulb moment. I saw how how easily you could transfer the majority of your physical affection to your baby.

Obviously, kissing your own baby is one of life’s greatest joys, and children thrive with tons of physical affection from both of their parents, but, at the same time, I realized (with a forehead slap) that parents need that physical affection from each other, too (and obviously in a wildly different way:), and over the past year, it has been great to prioritize that, as well. I think our whole family is happier for it!

What do you think? Aren’t Perel’s points fascinating? Do they ring true at all? If you’re in a relationship, how do you keep up the romance? Has your sex life changed since becoming a parent? I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment anonymously, if you’d like! xo

P.S. More Motherhood Monday posts, including going outside in the winter and how to talk to little girls. And do you kiss your baby on the mouth?

(Top photo by Charles Gullung)

  1. MB says...

    Strange to see so many women upset by this post! I’m a new mom to a 3.5 month old and I felt the tone was less “do your duty to keep your male partner satisfied” and more “remember how much joy it used to bring both you AND your partner to be physical”. Also, doing a little extra to please your partner should not be vilified? On either side of the relationship? For me, to be honest, right now I do get a little more joy out of the physical moments with baby. But I also take time to make sure my husband is getting some physical attention because my marriage is also important. And when I do take the time, of course I remember that it’s enjoyable/important to me too. And at the same time, he is doing extra to make me happy by picking up extra chores, offering to go get food instead of having us cook and clean each night, doing baby care where possible, etc.

    I’m not sure how to articulate this, but I kind of think there is a condescending view of the hetero marriages on here that assumes all of the men are traditional, 50’s-style cavemen doing zero work to make their wives happy and just sitting around on their recliner chairs expecting sex. It’s not true for everyone, I promise! You can be in a loving, supportive, liberal progressive, feminist relationship and still need a reminder to carve out time for your partner. Or, you can not! If you are a mom and the only physical touch you currently want is with your child, and that’s working for your relationship, do that! I don’t know, as others said, perhaps it’s the pandemic and bad timing due to women in general taking on so much more of the workload, but I feel many commenters are needlessly dissecting and criticizing this post.

    • Katy says...

      I agree with this. To me this is a wake up call to remind MYSELF the pleasure of physical intimacy with my partner. Something that, with a toddler and life to get in the way, is easy to ignore when you fall into bed. In our house everyone is happier when mom and dad go to bed together and no one is watching Netflix in bed. ;) Now that we have all been home more – a little bit of flirting at lunch goes a long way.

      To me this is a very 2020 appropriate post about self care.

  2. Taylor says...

    I understand that there’s a difference in the comments from 2020 and ~7 years ago, but I don’t think it’s right for people to infer that Joanna is out of touch by reposting this. In her defense, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with considering your spouse’s needs. Yes, as moms we are burnt out and over touched, but why is it wrong to recognize that your partner might need affection too? We all need affection, that’s why we give so much to our kids. It seems like a lot of people are inferring that Joanna isn’t a feminist for posting this now when so many people are supposedly “woke.” Everyone has different values and there’s nothing wrong with Joanna looking out for her partner’s well being. If we are lucky enough to have a partner while raising a child, you would hope you are considering their well being as well as your own. We all need love.

  3. Jenny says...

    I’ve been thinking about this post in my spare moments today. I commented before, but what I wish I’d said was, you know who gets the best kisses?
    I f$&@ing do.

  4. Jasna says...

    This is a beautiful piece of writing! As a long time follower I remember very well when I first read it and I loved it back then as much as I love it now!

    On a side note, I wonder what is happening with the comment section? I have noticed from post to post a rising number of women passionately nitpicking on every.single.thing that is written, dissecting every post into small pieces looking for something to complain about. I love the comment section almost as much as the blog itself but it becomes heavier and heavier to see so many complaints and negativity about literally everything. If these comments push the blog further towards the radical correctness there will be nothing left to write or read about as it is impossible to please everyone with every piece of writing.

    • Jennifer Sullivan says...

      Thank you for expressing this sentiment. It’s been bothering me too (not just here, but everywhere), but I hadn’t articulated it to myself as clearly as you did here.

    • Hayley B says...

      I have to respectfully disagree. I don’t see the differing viewpoints here as “nitpicking” or “complaints”; rather they’re just women expressing diametrically opposite opinions to that espoused by Joanna in her now 9-year-old post, which is only natural as opinions/beliefs shift and evolve over time. I think the new 2020 comments reflect a changing cultural mindset regarding femininity, the role of mothers, the societal demands made of women, and what expectations are and aren’t fair to lay at the feet of womenfolk in terms of running a household, raising children and being a part of a marriage, often within the larger macrocosm of modern working life with its own innate set of demands.

      I also think the 2020 viewpoints differ from the 2011 comments in large part due to the hard-won gains of the #MeToo movement, the acknowledgment of the invisible mental workload of women who often have to keep track of and service all the kids’ needs on top of doing the lion’s share of household chores and managing the husband’s desires/needs/wants, and the larger conversation that it’s triggered among women who are just now starting to realise just HOW much they’re expected to juggle effortlessly, and how huge the burden is that they’re expected to carry as the mother/wife/working woman, particularly in light of the lack of support in terms of govt mandated childcare, or maternity leave, or even federally mandated annual leave. Don’t get me wrong, most mothers are happy to nurture their kids and marriages, even find it fulfilling to do so. But if well-meaning relationship experts like Dr Perel add just one more expectation to their already full to the brim plates, they’re likely to snap. No matter how well-intentioned the advice, the fact that it comes across today more as “one more thing women are being faulted for”, or simply “one more thing women should worry about/are not doing as well as they should”, is a reflection of the times, one that I believe is a more enlightened one. The fact that it sounds dated to many readers now is just as it should — not every piece of “marital advice” ages well.

      And I agree whole-heartedly with the commenters who said it’s high time the conversation is shifted to how the husbands and fathers should be stepping up to pull their weight in the marriage they also bear responsibility for making a happy one, in the family they also are a part of, and the raising of the children that they helped bring into this world. The vocabulary needs to change from “men being expected to help” — because that implies that anything they do is a bonus or worse a gift to their wives, who are the ones who are ultimately responsible for childcare, household chores, even maintenance of the intimacy in the marriage — to men simply accepting the simple truth that the more they work on being true equal partners to their wives, the happier everyone in the family will be. Women need to feel supported, that they are a part of a team with their partners, that they are also being taken care of and not just the only ones doing all the nurturing, in order to have anything left to give at the end of the day. And in truth I, like some other commenters here have said so brilliantly, too expected that the advice would be for women to take the time for some much needed self-care; to not feel guilty about needing to prioritise themselves at least some of the time; and that taking care of their own mental wellbeing would in turn enable them to better take care of their families without burning out or resenting others for the incessant demands on their time, energy and bodies.

      All of which is to say: I look forward to the rich and varied tapestry of opinions/comments/viewpoints expressed so eloquently by the brilliant community of women here. I firmly believe the kaleidoscope of experiences shared so openly and honestly here can only enrich us all.

    • Jasna says...

      Jennifer, thank you!

      Hayley, thank you as well for your comment. All that you wrote is absolutely valid and we share similar/same thoughts. What I meant is that we should, sometimes, just enjoy in the lyricism of the written thought without trying to nitpick for something to disagree with. With this attitude of always complaining and criticising no space is left for joy. And as I already said, I hate to see this blog pushed towards the radical and unbearable political correctness.

    • Lindsay says...

      I have to confess, I’ve been guilty recently of doing this. maybe everyone is much more stressed and on edge these days.

    • Jasna says...

      Lindsay, yes, I thought that these types of comments may be due to the fact that people are more on the edge and stressed out. Times are definitely tough.

    • Hayley B says...

      @Jasna — Thank you for your reply but again, I have to disagree with you. I don’t believe those opinions expressed by the commenters are as you imply deliberately negative as in simply looking for something to nitpick/disagree on and pushing the blog towards “radical and unbearable political correctness”, a phrase which comes across as unnecessarily dismissive IMHO. Some of them may be more critical but the criticism if any are usually quite constructive. Some comments may touch on topics that as you feel are heavier than others but if that is their reality, who are we to say it’s bringing down the vibe of the blog? These are difficult times and everyone is going through stuff — this blog giving them the space to give voice to their feelings (both positive and negative) is actually conferring them grace, as well as offering them a chance to commiserate with other kindred spirits, in my opinion. Also, to me critical thinking and letting in joy are not mutually exclusive practices — one is perfectly free to accept, reject or adapt parts of an idea put forth without necessarily dismissing it in its entirety. Which is to say, one can enjoy the lyricism of the written word while also choosing to disagree with parts or even all of the ideas that the lyrical sentences encapsulate.

    • Kate says...

      Hayley B. Your writing is so well out- you must have a career in journalism or writing! Thank you for putting so much into words how I feel.

    • H says...

      Amen. Keep the discourse alive, productive and healthy.

    • Hayley B says...

      @Kate — Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You hit the nail on the head, I am indeed a journalist! I have to say I love my job, although I worry daily for the survival of the newspaper industry in this day and age.

      @H — Ditto! :)

  5. Anon says...

    Fascinating to me that some people are so bothered by touching! Touch is such a basic human need!!! When my son was little, I could not get enough! Cuddles, hugs, playing! It wasn’t something I even thought about. And now that he has grown, my husband and I are really rekindling our physical romance, which is fantastic, too. (But maybe not quite as sweet as cuddling your child, if I am absolutely honest) Sure, I understand that we all need space, but I have never been bothered by Loving physical touch, to me it is comforting, soothing, joyful.

  6. Caitlin says...

    I recently read (and would recommend!) Burnout by Emily Nagoski. The way this post hits in 2020 makes me think of her framing of society expecting women to be Human Givers, nurturing the needs of everyone else, and men to be Human People, working towards their own goals and fulfillment, has been so helpful to me. It especially blew my mind when she talks about the solution NOT being for women to start acting as human people and punting their caregiving work, but for men to step up and start acting as human givers to relieve the burden of caregiving that is currently placed on women. It was a lightbulb for me! It’s not that I don’t WANT to give my husband “the best kisses” or that I should stop thinking about what my family needs and how I can support them but OMG I am too tired, and maybe if someone else (ahem, my loveable, well-meaning husband) was taking care of half of the needs happening in this house then I’d be able to.

    • christina says...

      EXACTLY THIS. And I read the comment above yours about negativity etc, and I get where it is coming from but I also think that leaving this dynamic unexamined in order to maintain positivity and a good vibe is how we arrived at this collective exhaustion with the status quo. I also read Burnout and loved it, and All the Rage for this same issue applied to the imbalance of labor within heterosexual relationships with children, and the toll that takes on women’s capacity to see ourselves as anything but machines made for the care and feeding of others.

  7. Diana K says...

    This is written in a way that paints the man as the person who desires more intimacy and the woman as the person who is withholding intimacy- and I know this is a common dynamic when kids enter the picture- but I’ve been in a relationship where I was the one desiring more intimacy and my male partner frequently dismissed my advances and it can be so painful to be in that situation. It’s a hit to your self esteem, it makes you feel unloved, especially if that affection is being directed elsewhere, it can be so alienating. I think the importance of affection here is being dismissed because of male stereotypes and I think that there’s room for moms who are stressed and overwhelmed to get a little creative in their ways of participating in intimacy out of CONSIDERATION for their partner, not out of some societal duty. Give a gentle assist when your partner’s getting off, or show affection in physical but less sexual ways, or be verbal with your affection/appreciation.

  8. Susan says...

    I was also struck by the difference in tone in the older comments versus the new comments. Fascinating. To me, this post’s advice is remarkably similar to this one that’s been floating around conservative, religious circles: http://www.duggarfamily.com/2015/10/michelle-duggar-s-marriage-advice-for-newlyweds.

    The basic premise is that women are responsible for the needs of everyone in the family, starting first and foremost with your husband. Well, to Michelle, it’s god first, but helpfully he doesn’t have physical needs. Strict, spiritual fidelity or you will be smited (smote? smitten?), but at least you don’t have to cuddle or have sex with him. :)

    I don’t think Joanna thinks about it like that. This post is more about prioritizing your marriage, which is a beautiful sentiment. And I love it and so appreciate it that she shares her life with us, so I do not mean to be critical. But there is something about the scene where she’s cuddling with Toby and Alex is “patiently” waiting for her to put Toby to bed. It’s like we women should be grateful that the men in our lives are tolerant of us doing anything else but pay attention to them. Grateful that he’s waiting for her without complaining even though she’s the one doing the domestic labor of putting baby to bed. Especially in the baby years, that’s a heavy burden.

    My advice to new mothers (which please disregard if it doesn’t sit well with you): You’re doing great. Have sex/be physical with your husband/partner if you feel the pull to and it will bring you pleasure. Or don’t if you don’t feel it right now. Revel in the pleasure of holding your baby, if that’s what feels good to you. There’s no right nor wrong. And yes, let the partner carry the burden of the relationship at this time. In this sometimes chaotic, sleep deprived, blue, and blissful time, do what feels good to you. The “shoulds” can wait for another year.

    • jdp says...

      this was such a thoughtful and accurate mention. good stuff. ps it’s definitely “smitten.”

  9. Beth says...

    I recall a study from a few years ago that found couples who have a fairer balance of housework and childcare have more sex… women cannot be responsible for nurturing EVERYTHING. When partners take on more of the task of looking after the child, then maybe both parents have a little energy to spare for each other.

  10. Megan M Kongaika says...

    Would love to see an article directed towards men, by a man, about how MEN can help carry the load better in order to get what they need from their wives from a physical standpoint. Women don’t go in to marriage thinking about how they can deny their husbands from affection or intimacy. We’d love to say yes more (at least, I would). But in order for women to do that, the narrative needs to change from “Hey women! Here’s how you can fulfill your husband’s needs better!” to “Hey men! Here’s what YOU can do to get a yes: 1) be intimate with your wife’s brain first, and 2) LIGHTEN the load of everything they are expected to carry.” It’s about time the burden was shared.

    • v. tevere says...

      yes!! yes!! and yes!!

    • Caitlin says...

      A thousand times yes.

    • Hayley B says...

      1000% agree!

  11. Maggie says...

    I find the difference between the older comments to this post and the 2020 comments to this post fascinating. I’m right there with the 2020 commenters who are saying please don’t wish away or miss babyhood (now I have teens who don’t want to cuddle, and I would give anything to snuggle a baby one more time) and also let’s not add yet another to-do or requirement for women to meet at the expense of their own self-care needs without first addressing what more men can do to alleviate the mental, physical and emotional loads mothers carry in a family. I wonder if growing children, crazy political climate, Me Too, and months of quarantine during a pandemic has simply made this article less resonant for today’s Moms.

  12. Jordan says...

    It is fascinating looking at the difference in comments from 2011 to 2020. I notice that now we are less willing to accept the sentiment of the initial post or the the advice of Esther Perel without pause, reflection on our own experiences and feelings, and consideration of how sexism and other factors might be at play. It’s awesome to see this shift.

    • Beth says...

      Like others this post strikes a cord. I remember the baby days when I felt like I flinched when my husband went in for even a hug at the end of day. I had met my personal limit of physical touch and had nothing left. I did not have anymore to give but I also wasn’t able to receive his touch. His embrace, hand hold, shoulder rub etc., regular intimacies we used to share. That feels sad. Wouldn’t a partner feel sad too?

      But also hindsight – I was not thinking this way with a baby on my hip and a toddler at my leg.

  13. Abigail says...

    My parents were never affectionate with each other when I was growing up and I was determined that when I had my own children, they would see us kissing and hugging and being playful with each other. Now we have a daughter and nope! It never happens! We make time for each other in the evenings when she’s in bed, but the everyday affection is nonexistent. It’s something we need to make a concerted effort to do but I think it’s so important.

  14. Jessica says...

    When we first had our baby, for the first few weeks I slept in the spare room with her bassinet pulled up against my bed. This way my husband didn’t have to wake up at every night feeding too, so at least one of us had some mental capacity. But after a few weeks, it occurred to me that I was feeling lonely because I missed my husband’s touch (we are spooners at night). I crawled in bed beside him for 20 minutes before returning to the baby, and it struck me how rejuvenating that small gestures was. We had been so focused on the baby’s needs as new parents and hadn’t realized how much we were neglecting our own. Simple touches are so important and the need for them is very human.

  15. Megan says...

    Two things:

    My best friend started a family before I did, and I remember her lamenting about how someone was ALWAYS touching her, whether it was her young daughter throughout the day or her husband in the evening/through the night. Honestly, it sounded terrible, haha!

    When I got married and became a stepmom, my sex life didn’t change terribly, but when we adopted two young dogs, nearly all sexy time came to a screeching halt! Our little dog doesn’t let my husband come anywhere near me, and both our dogs are often in the room just staring at us when we do manage to enjoy some intimacy. C’est la vie!

    • Yael Levy says...

      When I became a stepmom, our sex life was really impacted. I was surprised, perhaps naively. My stepdaughter was a toddler and even 4 years later, she’s still super tactile. She wants hugs and cuddles constantly, which is sweet, and I’m sure I’ll miss these days when she’s a standoffish teen, but there are days when she’s climbed on me all day and then my husband wants to climb on me too? No thanks!

  16. Emily says...

    “Choose a woman”
    “Let herself become unattractive”
    “mothers routinely ignore the very real and legitimate needs of their husbands”

    DUDE. DUUUUUDE.

  17. Anonymous says...

    Yes.

  18. Charlotte says...

    This article doesn’t sit well with me. I’m all for prioritizing my spouse where I can, but that first year after baby is born? IT’S SURVIVAL.

    I don’t think we should be placing pressure on ourselves or our romantic partners during this stage of life. Relationships ebb and flow, and there are seasons in every marriage (with or without kids).

    I would hate to think that every snuggle or kiss I give my baby is taking away from my husband. It’s not a zero sum game.

  19. Lana says...

    My friends and I have had countless conversations about this, and most of the time we’re always like, “Just do it! Everyone’s happier if we’re all just doing it!” But then sometimes we’d talk and tell one another that we resented having to always be the person in charge of fulfilling everyone’s needs. Then, I recently read “Untamed” and Doyle talks about how sex shouldn’t seem like a service just to keep things running smoothly and that really resonated with me. Sex after a baby is hard! (So is sex almost three years after a baby!) I think stuff like this has a tendency to make women feel bad, and while it may be true, it’s just one more thing for us to worry about. I told my husband the other day that if he wants to have sex with my body, he needs to be having sex with my mind, too.

    • Rachel says...

      OH MY GOSH YOUR LAST SENTENCE. Yes! I needed to hear this.

  20. Our son is 25 and what I wouldn’t give for some of those baby hugs and kisses. They are magic! I’m melting just thinking of them.
    This is an interesting post and I do think that baby gets the most attention, from Mom and Dad in our case. We were older parents with one child and we adored him. I am sure that we gave each other fewer hugs and kisses during that time. We worked and we were exhausted.
    We were lucky in that family members took care of our son a few times, so that we could take a couple of extended trips and rediscover each other.
    At some point our son started going to summer camp and he was away for two weeks (first summer), then four weeks (subsequent summers) without him. Time for more rediscovery of your life partner!
    Then it was time for college and the empty nest. The baby kisses were over, but we each got lots of time for kisses, etc.
    Life, it has its tradeoffs and its magic.

    • Elizabeth says...

      ❤️

    • Agnès says...

      Love your comment as an older mom of a single child ( he is 6 ). I love comments from older mothers they are so helpful they give me hope. Thank you!

    • Court says...

      Dottie- this is beautiful.

  21. J says...

    I remember when you first posted this and have thought of it since (and had a baby in 2016 so I really “got it” then. This feels like such an impossible situation sometimes. Add to it that 2 years postpartum I was (finally) diagnosed with PPD and went on antidepressants that made my libido completely dormant and my ability to orgasm completely nonexistent. After 2.5 years of that I’m finally seeing a psychiatrist to help me go off the meds (with her support plus my therapist of course). It’s crazy to feel sexually “awake” again after more than 2 years. But still, I’m not that interested in doing much with my husband! I’m just so fucking burned out. Like, if we were on a Greek island together? YES PLEASE! But in our bedroom, 10 minutes after putting our kid to sleep? It’s just too much whiplash for me, from responsibility to pleasure. Add to that, my husband is a really touchy-feely person and I’m just not. Sigh.

    • C says...

      I could’ve written this. Also totally burnt out with a touchy-feely husband. Nothing helpful to add but wanted to say you’re not alone! ♡

    • Lane says...

      I feel this so hard, J. I love my husband to pieces, but he could have sex all the time and in the middle of the pandemic, trying to balance work, two kids, e-learning, and just the general malaise that comes with life these days, I have zero interest in it. Like…call me in two years, and then we’ll see.

    • Abigail says...

      Yes, the whiplash! That’s exactly what it is! My daughter has her hand down my top 99% of the time (I haven’t breastfed her for nearly a year, she just loves boobs I guess) so to suddenly flip a switch and feel sexual is so difficult. I just want my boobs to myself for a little minute damnit.

  22. Caitlin says...

    Jenny, I want to be your friend. Sending you all the squishy toddler and baby hugs.
    XO, overwhelmed & out-touched quarantine mom

  23. Sarah says...

    This post really hit me the wrong way, and felt very dated/regressive. But then again, I am not a fan of Esther Perel. The message here felt like the only value that woman can provide is by giving pleasure and sustenance to their spouse and children, via their bodies. And the person who commented above that she never says no to her husband just made me feel sad and icky.

    • Nicole says...

      I totally agree with you. I expected this to be more about prioritizing yourself and getting breaks from the endless touching (i.e. take baths! Go for long peaceful solo walks), and letting your partner take on more of the baby needs. Instead, it sounds like, now turn around and go smoother someone else with more affection! I love to love on people, but this didn’t resonate with me.

  24. n says...

    I just realized I could say the same for my cat. He sleeps with his head on my shoulder while I hold his paw. My boyfriend may be a bit jealous, oops..

  25. Ari says...

    Since COVID started, its been hard. My husband and I split our work days with our 2yo son – I work 7am to 12:30pm and naps, he works from 1-7pm. The person not working is on childcare duty. We all have lunch and dinner as a family and my husband and I hug before meals. Most days it’s the only physical affection we can muster for each other. I literally hang on him and he whispers to me “we’re okay”. I’m so grateful for all he’s doing and carrying for me during this pandemic. I would completely burn out without him. Much peace, strength, and rest to single parents right now. I hope you have a good support system.

  26. Nicole says...

    On the one hand, I get this. Marriage/partners need to be a priority, and physical intimacy is a crucial component of a relationship.

    BUT, I get so annoyed by seeing this advice given to women couched as self-care or as a responsibility to maintaining a healthy relationship. It often seems like a thinly veiled way of saying- give your husband/partner attention or he’s gonna leave you for someone who will. It plays into the archetype of frigid/harried mom who focuses on her kids to the exclusion of everything else. Yeah, in many cases it is true because it is hard to DO EVERYTHING!

    Rather, I wish the focus was on men/partners/society to ensure that moms are supported and have adequate resources to ensure that we can have time to ourselves and have our needs met. Who is asking what we want or need? Not to mention, moms and older women in general are often de-sexualized by society. Where is the focus on this: how do we make women who have gone through so much bodily and hormonal change feel connected to themselves again? What can men/society to do help women have the mental and physical capacity to care for themselves and their children and their partners and their jobs and their homes?

    I know Dr. Perel is a relationship expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the problems to this are deeper than moms using up their physical affection on their kids. Sorry, rant over:)

    • Lainey says...

      Here here! I can’t say I disagree with anything in this piece but something about this sentiment rubs me the wrong way right now. I get that this was written a few years ago, but it just feels very not of this moment. It’s also really interesting to see the general difference in tone in the comments from a few years ago. I’m working long hours while somehow figuring out how to manage distance learning for my kids and dealing with personal health concerns. Oh, and the world is freaking on fire (literally and figuratively, as a Californian). No, I’m not going to add not showing enough affection to my husband to my litany of worries!

    • Caitlin says...

      👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    • Katie says...

      Loved everything about this comment. Thank you for articulating what I was feeling.

    • Jenna says...

      I just want to say that this is SUCH a good point. When I read this post just now it made me feel… not good and I wasn’t sure why, and THIS is exactly why. I think Cup of Jo is great but it is interesting to reflect on some of the older posts and how thinking/awareness has changed with time. It would be interesting to hear Jo’s thoughts on her older posts like this (maybe she wholeheartedly agrees, but just the same).

    • Emily says...

      I feel this so hard! I’m really glad that women are being encouraged to prioritize self-care but in a dependent relationship it requires the other to make space, both in the day and mentally, to acknowledge that person’s needs and to encourage them.

  27. A says...

    My girls are 3.5 and 5, and I never experienced a transference of physical affection reserves from my husband to my kids…in my mind those have always been two very distinct experiences and one could never replace the other, for obvious reasons. :)

    The biggest blockade for me was a deep, unyielding resentment at how unbalanced our roles were. How much agency he continued to operate with in the world, whereas so much of my life was dictated by the sheer physicality of pregnancy, nursing and caring for young babies…not to mention the mental load of containing the entire rubric for both children inside my head. It was shocking how much my life changed, and how comparatively little his did. I felt extremely disconnected from him.

    All of that to say, I 1000% agree with others who are saying moms do enough already and that this topic is on dad! To do more with the little ones, to rub your shoulders, to make you laugh, to order your favorite meal to go, to create space for you to reconnect to pleasure generally. But also, really, to just help more so you’re less tired.

    • Savannah says...

      A you describe this all so perfectly! That rings so true!

    • Sarah says...

      So well said, A. I love the phrase “the mental load of containing the entire rubric for both my children inside my head”.

    • K says...

      I have a good husband who is a good dad, and I am extremely grateful for that fact. I agree with you, though, that the change to my life after having kids was so much more significant than the change to his. It’s hard to fully explain this to him, and one time in frustration I said “do you know what size shoes our kids wear?” He did not, and I could tell you that one needed an 11 in natives but a 12 in Nikes, but our younger son has a wide foot so natives aren’t great.

      It probably wasn’t a fair way to make the point, but man there’s just so much in my brain and so much depending on me to get it done.

      I also have a demanding, full-time job, and it feels like I’m responsible for working and for all the traditional “mom” labor. In fairness, though, there are a lot of things I don’t want to let go of because doing them makes me feel better about the fact that I’m not home with my kids all the time.

      Tl; dr: being a mom is complicated and confusing and exhausting and infuriating but somehow worth it

    • katie says...

      K – YES! The shoe sizes. Husbands just not aware of it all. I completely feel this.

  28. Sarah K says...

    This was beautiful. My youngest is 6 now and I miss the baby times so much. I loved the cuddling, wearing him in a baby carrier, breastfeeding, etc. And those fat baby legs….

  29. A says...

    Listen, I know how lucky I am to have two healthy, happy children. I have suffered loss and I KNOW I am so so so lucky. But all I want right now is for NO ONE to be touching me. For like an entire week.

    • Alex Pearl says...

      I’m in the same boat – with the same appreciations and so badly want the same thing. I’m also going to throw in that no one talk to me for one week :)

    • Kiana says...

      YES! THIS!

    • M says...

      Omg, same. I tell my husband that when the pandemic is over I’m going on vacation all my myself. To get off a plane and be alone in a new place – a dream!

    • Alison says...

      I have four teens over here and for my 20th wedding anniversary this summer, I asked my husband for a weekend alone. Not with him. Just me.

  30. Louisa says...

    But now aren’t you dying for one more middle of the night diaper change with those short little legs?? I’d give up all the kisses from my husband for a year if I could nurse my newborn in the middle of the night one more time. I’ll have my husband for 80 years (if all goes well) – but my baby girl outgrew my lap overnight.

    • M says...

      No. I rejoiced to the Gods when my babies learned to sleep through the night.

    • Kelli says...

      THIS!!!! I so needed to hear this- I’m in the thick of the midnight nursing stage, and I’m Just. So. Tired. Thanks to you, tonight I’ll do my best to look at things in just a slightly different light <3

    • Molly says...

      Sitting and nursing my 5 week old son and this made me cry! Trying so hard to soak up all of these precious moments together and remember he will never be this little again.

    • Sara says...

      YES YES YES

    • Denise says...

      You think you’ll have your husband for 80 years, or even 50, and then it turns out he dies just ten days short of your 21st anniversary. For all the women who lost their husbands, please kiss your husband every day.

  31. Agnès says...

    Absolutely, my son still gets more affection from me than my husband, (he’s 6…) That makes me think…

  32. I think this is especially true for families that co-sleep. This post is a good reminder that our kids our going to be better off with parents who nurture each other, and carve out time (and affection) for each other.

  33. Dee says...

    This is so right on. I would have never thought about it but even last night while the baby was napping my husband and I ended up playing like little kids on the carpet and were tickling each other and kissing and it was refreshing to just hold each other.

  34. mar says...

    My baby is 5 weeks old and I already see how much I miss my husband’s touch. I miss cuddling in bed and simply kissing when he gets home instead of him rushing to help out with the baby. I know this will come back but after an exhausting day struggling as a new mom, there is nothing more rewarding then a kiss and a hug from your partner.

    • Dana says...

      Mar, you’ll get there! My daughter turns two soon and I remember thinking in the first few months of her life “will I ever just get to cuddle and sleep normally with my husband ever again??” YOU WILL! And it’s just as lovely as it was before the baby, if not more so. Sending strength to get through this beautiful, exhausting time.

    • Virginia says...

      Mine is 6 weeks! Happy new motherhood! Hope you are hanging in there!! Mine is the absolute sweetest, but it is hard! Loving the snuggles

  35. Great post and I can totally see how this happens. The other night in bed I rubbed my husband’s back and head (he’s a baldy) and he was in such heaven. I realized it had been a while since I did that when I used to do it all the time!

    Also, as kids get older I think we touch them less and less for a variety of reasons, which is weird to think about when I have a toddler, it’s kind of hard to imagine. I think it’s important to stay affectionate with your children even as they grow into adult people.

    My sister told me she read an article that said you should hug your children at least 12 times a day. She started this with her three girls, the oldest being 14 and someone who doesn’t love to hug. As my sister started making an effort, her oldest became much more affectionate over time and will now even come to my sister for a hug where she hadn’t done that in a very long time.

    Last note, I remember once when I was home for Christmas as an adult, my dad gave the the longest, sweetest, early morning hug. It was just the two of us up. I remember realizing in that moment just how much he missed me. It’s a hug I’ll never forget. I told my sisters about it later and we all cried together, then laughed. He’s an affectionate guy anyway but this was something more, you know? So vulnerable and honest and in the moment.

    Anyway, great post, really got me thinking. :)

    • Jenny says...

      As a single lady quarantining alone (plus dog), this hit different. Do mom’s get privacy in their own bodies? And how do you get close to the erotic without it?
      It’s been so long since I hugged! It’s been so long since I’ve held a friend’s fat baby! So long since my last first kiss! The demands on mothers are so huge, and the physicality of the role so important (carrying a car seat upstairs with groceries! I see you moms! I see your forearms or IRON!), I wonder who is helping moms now. I hope it’s dads, or other mom, or partner. And I hope you know that when this hard time is over, if it ever gets older, I’ll babysit your fat baby because you and I are on the same team. And babies are rad. And moms need time, even just alone with themselves. And cool aunts need hugs too!

    • Caitlin says...

      Jenny, I want to be your friend. Sending you all the squishy toddler and baby hugs.
      XO, overwhelmed & out-touched quarantine mom

    • K says...

      Jenny, thank you so much for saying that. What a boost.

  36. Anonymous says...

    As a mom to a 5 and a 3 yo who did extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, I know that it’s tiring to have young kids. I think you have to let up on the “musts” in life to come through that time of your life with all your relationships intact. I didn’t work which I suspect helped greatly in having more energy for sex, I also never made cleaning the house a priority but rather giving the kids what they needed and also keeping the romance going with my husband even if it was at 1am. Do you really need a clean house more than you need your marriage to be happy?
    I never kept my husband from my breasts even while breastfeeding. So what if there might be a little milk coming out? It’s natural and it’s normal. Some comic relief if the milk starts spraying at the “wrong” time.
    I may not have initiated sex much during this time but I just about always said yes to his advances and never regretted it. If you let yourself go with the flow breastfeeding can stir up feelings that you then can translate over to your husband and he’ll be happy you did :)
    Other than that – talk, talk, talk! Be open about your feelings and where you’re at and you’ll be able to make things work!
    I can testify that kids don’t have to ruin your marriage or your sex life (even if they for a season might make things a little harder). It’s all in how you prioritize in life, I think.

  37. Nicely written blog posting! Hits home! Married with 2 kids… 2.5 and 7 months old. Sex? What’s that? And even if I did remember… who has TIME for that? SIGH… your post strikes a chord. I stay at home with the kids and take care of the house; he works 55+ hours/week and wants to watch tv or sleep. I know that I am GUILTY of showering my kids with affection that Daddy misses out on. Walking AWAY from the computer now… time to go snuggle up to my sleeping husband, I think.

  38. Anonymous says...

    i agree that intimacy goes out the window. my husband and i are on our second child now and there is no romance or intimacy left at this point. everything i have goes to my boys. but, at the end of the day, after work, cooking, cleaning, bathing, putting to bed, i am exhausted. is it really supposed to be my job to keep the romance between me and my husband going too? time for the men to step up and add something to the marriage.

    • Marian says...

      YES!!! Exactly this. There’s something that rubbed me the wrong way about this post (and a mans comment above, kill me). I know it wasn’t intentional, but it felt like guilt-tripping women for yet another thing we don’t do right as mothers. I don’t WANT to kiss my baby less so that I can kiss my husband more. I want my husband (he’s so great to be clear) to step up and take more of the physical brunt with our daughter. I don’t want to be the only one responsible to keep the romance alive.

      After a long day of parenting maybe the husband can offer a massage or a bath… I don’t know if I’m making any sense but this post triggered some shame and guilt in me, which is not another thing I need right now.

    • AE says...

      @Marian, I agree with you! My partner and I don’t have any kids (yet?), but I’m already getting teased for not initiating. BUT, why am I initiating after a) working full-time outside of the home (he’s always worked from home and has been On a reduced schedule due to covid) b) do basically all of the chores c) am the breadwinner and constantly stressed/ thinking about that while also d) managing a chronic illness. One of my biggest reasons for dragging my feet on the kids front is that I KNOW this will only be exacerbated when/ if we have kids.

    • Ann says...

      Anonymous and Marian, thank you for your posts of affirmation.

      My husband and I divide up parenting responsibilities pretty equally, but I am so over touched by the end of the day. I just want to watch something in bed, or take a really hot bath.

      My husband took a while to come around to it, but we’ve decided that like we justify things our kids do with ‘it’s a phase’, this too is a ‘phase’ in our intimacy.

      I do not want to go months without sexual intimacy, but I won’t be pressured or guilted into multiple times a week, or a set schedule when I just don’t want to.

      It’s working for us.