“Not tonight honey,” is the archetypal housewife’s response to her husband’s frequent advances. So common is this scenario in bedrooms around the world, the topic is oft-raised and mocked in all kinds of comedic references to marital life. Why is this?
Before my partner and I had a child, I can’t recall either one of us ever rebuffing an invitation made by the other. And in the early months after our son was born, there wasn’t much chance of rejection due to the dramatic reduction in the number of requests all around. And sure, on many nights I am simply too tired, or he is, but that message gets across well before any ideas are placed in any heads or any suggestions are made. All in all, we’re probably just your average first-time parents when it comes to the activities of the bedroom. What stirred me to consider in depth this particular dynamic of domestic life was a recent twist that we experienced in the usual order of things.
Since I have been working full days again as a ski patroller (in my opinion one of the best jobs on the planet), Ian has taken responsibility for primary care duties for 12 hours per day, 3 days per week. One day I came home from work physically exhausted but vibrant and buzzing from the day. Fresh air, physical exertion, a sport I adore and terrific camaraderie were an electric combination for my psyche. Full of vitality, I was even more thrilled to come home to the two people I love most in the world.
We orchestrated our usual activity-packed evening, and once we had put baby to bed, cleaned up dinner and taken our showers, we could both finally relax and unwind from the day. What struck me on that particular evening was how completely different our moods were. Fresh from an invigorating day spent indulging in my chosen pursuits, I was quite simply aroused by life and more than willing to cap off the day in style. Ian on the other hand was not merely bodily exhausted but mentally frazzled, strung out, and in no mood to pursue extracurricular evening activities. It wasn’t as though I couldn’t relate, as there had been many such nights for me after I had looked after baby all day. But it did inspire me to contemplate women, men and how our often vastly different roles produced such divergent dispositions and energies at the end of the day.
Perhaps women do not necessarily have less sexual energy and desire than men, as the male-dominated media might have us believe. Perhaps instead we have simply adopted roles in life that demand much more from us – physically, spiritually, emotionally – than we were previously accustomed to giving. As mothers, the vigor that used to fuel our personal ambitions, creativities and dare I say libido are now being funneled almost exclusively into our families and household duties. When we can turn the domestics over to the partner and give ourselves the chance to indulge in “the original me” for a bit – with all of its accompanying challenges, passions and rewards – what could be more stimulating?