Where to begin?
Like most mamas, I spend my time lovingly pulled in all directions. Keeping the kids' lives and school flow in order, tending our home, nurturing a partnership, and working full-time usually feels like it requires all of my attention.
Fortunately, I’ve spent the last decade as a somatic sex educator, doula, & embodiment and intimacy coach - so I know I need to switch hats sometimes, from the part of me that wants to be lazy and let it be, to the part of me that actually needs more.
At the end of the day I usually feel ready for a serious Netflix and chill vibe, and I know I’m not alone in this. The last thing on my mind (and the last thing my body thinks is appropriate to pay attention to!) is my own desire and eroticism.
“That’s for when you have extra energy,” says the body. “That’s for when you feel turned on!” says the mind… And I know this is true for the majority of mamas: the struggle to keep family life balanced and still somehow feel deeply and fully alive and connected to your sensuality is HARD.
Where’d you go, Eros?
Studies show that pregnancy and childbirth can dramatically change our relationship with this part of our lives. Up to 40% of women report a marked difference in their sex life after having a baby. The thing we don’t talk about much, though, is how and why that can carry on for years.
Eroticism can fall by the wayside unless you really engage with it. Eros, by definition, is sexual desire and physical love. And if we are stressed-out and caught up in the daily obligations and habits that run our lives, eros can be the last thing that ends up with any true attention. That’s because our nervous system will prioritize survival over sex, and even daily stressors can register in our biology as a threat to safety.
Eros also thrives on novelty and adventure - and cleaning up after dinner while yelling “Remember to FLOSS!” all the way across the house isn’t really the sexy kind of vibe that makes you want to climb on a table and dance like you (maybe did at least once) in college.
Maybe it’s a dip in your libido, or feeling like there’s less passion or excitement in your relationship; maybe your sensuality starts to hum quietly in the background instead of taking up the space it did before you had kids, or maybe you just feel less vibrant than you used to - and you can’t put a finger on why.
Either way, when you touch that part of you again - after not feeling connected for a long time - you realize how much had been missing. Your sexual energy, your passion and your joie de vivre are at the very center of who you are.
Sexy mama! (Really.)
This is especially true for mothers, because being a mother means being a lot of things to a lot of people. It means you never really get to “turn off” or “tune out” - even when you’re sleeping, you are still paying attention to every little noise in case someone wakes up and needs you.
And when your nervous system feels that level of constant “on-ness”, it’s much more likely to deprioritize your libido, and prioritize your need for rest or elevate your stress hormones so that you can keep up with all the constant demands.
The most important thing for all of us to get on the same page about is that motherhood and sensuality are intimately intertwined. Sex is what brings children into the world, after all.
Unfortunately, society often portrays motherhood as a time when women are supposed to put their sexuality on hold, as if the two are incompatible. Ever heard of the Madonna/whore Complex? It speaks to the subconscious societal expectation that women either need to be pure, “virginal” and wholly devoted to their children and family (like Mother Mary), or that we are only sex objects to be desired and consumed.
This semi-conscious belief about women’s sexuality has been around for thousands of years. In this day and age, it contributes to our belief that motherhood and sexuality are incompatible, and leads many women to feel guilty or ashamed for wanting to embrace their sexual sides. It is these cultural assumptions, coupled with the insane pacing of our society, that can leave us dissociated from this part of ourselves.
How to get your groove back.
If the pacing of our lives and antiquated cultural beliefs about motherhood and sexuality are getting in our way, then what is the antidote? I believe that we can find it in the opposite action. Actively nurturing one's sensuality, eroticism, and pleasure can actually support a woman's experience of motherhood in powerful ways. Eros can be a grounding foundation on which desire, personal wellbeing, relational intimacy, and even our ability to parent well can rest upon.
When it comes to motherhood, sensuality – the experience of pleasure through the senses, sexual or not – can be especially important. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding all involve intense physical sensations, and can be powerful opportunities for us all to connect with our bodies and see what they are capable of.
However, many women feel disconnected from their bodies after these experiences, sometimes because the process was so difficult and sometimes simply because their bodies have changed so much that they don’t know where to begin. This is where embracing sensuality can be especially helpful.
So, what can mothers do to support their connection with their own eroticism?
We asked the people who know best: mothers who are actively cultivating their own sensual connection with themselves. Their tips - coupled with some of my own favorites – make a nice roadmap.
Here are some tips from real moms, just like you:
- 1. Masturbation as meditation. One mama recommends Dipsea for passive pleasure and keeping a vibrator in your nightstand. Another mama recommends self-pleasure as a practice for filling her own cup.
- 2. Getting Away! “It might be hard but getting away from parenting and making space for myself to go & play is essential.”
- 3. Take time to be with yourself. “I wear sexy clothes, especially undergarments, just for me”. Another mama suggests savoring alone time no matter where it happens, in the car - in the bath, just light a candle, put on some music and enjoy.
- 4. Nude Photos - It might be edgy but edgy is where eros thrives. So grab your camera, and become your own creative director - just for the fun of it.
- 5. Dance! Many mamas responded that dancing is what makes them feel most connected to their sensuality. Slow music, booty shaking music, cry your heart out music. You name it - it will do the trick.
- 6. Connecting with strangers - This one might sound a bit out of place but hear me out. A lot of what makes us feel alive and connected to the world is having adventures and new experiences. Part of the challenge of motherhood is that things can feel repetitive and predictable. “Telling strangers how beautiful they are” is one moms suggestion, we’re guessing because when you light up another person, it also lights up something joyful within you.
- 7. Getting fresh in your own body - So many mamas responded that haircuts, dressing up, getting playful with how they look actually helps them feel more connected to this part of themselves.
- 8. Spontaneity - You’ve already heard me say that novelty and new experiences are essential elements for eros to thrive. Being spontaneous, even if it’s the route you take driving to school or what you buy at the grocery store, lays down new neural pathways, and new neural pathways are the thing that keeps your mind feeling awake and excited about life. It also just so happens to be the part that excites our erotic mind with possibility.
- 9. Connect with something erotic every day - a few mamas mentioned the ways they do this. Some pause to fantasize about a kiss or being touched a certain way, while others dress up for themselves, and still others spend time focused on self-pleasure. Whatever the pathway is, it will support you.
- 10. Get playful - The things that really put our stress out of mind are usually playful. Laughing, dancing, fun conversations, dinners with friends - all have the common theme of enjoyment and play. When we bring play into our lives intentionally it will open up doors into the sensual and erotic part of ourselves naturally. Because who we are when we play is the same part of us that enjoys playing during sex.
And again, sensuality is the experience of pleasure through the senses – in bed and out of it. This can include things like the taste of a delicious meal, the feel of the warm sun on your skin, or the sound of a beautiful piece of music. Sensuality is not just about sex, although sexual pleasure is certainly one way to experience sensuality. Rather, sensuality is about opening ourselves up to pleasure in all its forms, and allowing ourselves to fully experience the richness of life.
As for this mama, I have a commitment to myself every day, at least one time a day, to have an intentional moment of pleasure and sensuality with my body. This could be 5 minutes naked in the sun (I just moved into a spot with a beautiful *extra* private yard), or listening to some music at the end of the day by candlelight - swaying my hips & touching my body in a way that reminds me how beautiful, alive, and sensual I truly am.
It is a practice that has changed my life.
Want more? Sign up for our newsletter