The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Having Great Sex More Often


In my relationship, reserving the energy to access our erotic personas has required establishing some structure. Here are a few of our (loose!) rules, plus two sex therapists’ advice on keeping it hot when you’re a tired-out parent.

Touch as much as possible throughout the day. 

Kissing hello and goodbye, couch-snuggling while watching TV, spooning, drive-by butt pats: It’s all money in the sex bank. “There has to be a continuity of touch and sensuality so that it’s not a feast-or-famine situation where you don’t touch all week, and then all of a sudden there’s an expectation to have sex,” Voron says. In other words, foreplay isn’t an activity, it’s a lifestyle.  

Prioritize relaxation over sex.

Hochberger echoes the need to proactively create the conditions for desire, and prefers to frame sexy time as “relaxation” time to avoid expectations of intercourse or orgasm. In her experience counseling people in heterosexual relationships, “It can be really difficult for some women, more often than men, to snap into the headspace to enjoy sex because of the ‘oh, God, I need to do this NOW’ pressure.” 

Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, pressure can evoke a stress response, transmitting a huge “NOPE” to the parts of your brain that control arousal and physical response.  “Our genitals respond to fear, which can result in vaginal clenching and tightness, as well as erectile unpredictability,” Hochberger says. “It causes our bodies to brace, rather than to relax into an experience.”

Hochberger suggests lying on your back together with your eyes closed for some deep breathing. Consider emitting a deep sigh or moan on your exhale, she adds (this may make you laugh, and that can be relaxing too!). Breathing can help you access your erotic persona because it relaxes your sympathetic nervous system (associated with the body’s fight-or-flight stress response) and triggers your parasympathetic nervous system (which is related to rest and relaxation), Hochberger says. When your brain is telling your body that it’s safe, you can pay more attention to pleasant physical sensations. 

You can also try to reset and reconnect by looking into each other’s eyes, or hugging chest-to-chest, for one solid minute. “You’re allowing yourself to turn on another part of your body and shut out the outside world’s distractions,” Hochberger says. If tuning into each other turns into satisfying sex, great. If not, you’re still stoking the intimacy fire.

Schedule time for intimacy.

“Let go of the belief that scheduling isn’t sexy,” says Voron. “What’s more unsexy is just not having sex until you feel like there’s a spontaneous moment for it.” When you’re up at 6 a.m. every day, working, and shuttling kids to activities, months can fly by before this magical organic moment presents itself.

What often happens next, Voron says, is that “one partner becomes convinced there’s a lack of interest from the other—when in reality, you’re both just not being strategic about carving out a time that actually works.” She recommends looking at your calendar together to find a time when your energy-level peaks overlap. For example, you might pick a Tuesday night because work hasn’t zapped your energy reserves and the kids don’t have the swim or karate lessons that delay their bedtimes later in the week. Or, if one or both of you are more of a morning sex person, it could be a stolen hour after daycare drop-off.

Go ahead and schedule a backup time too.

So many things can pop up to derail your Sunday Sex Night. You’ve suddenly remembered your promise to make cupcakes for a school party, or you’re still catching up on work you had to pause for parent-teacher conferences, or you’re running on three hours of sleep because your toddler refused to stay in bed last night (or they’re refusing to stay in bed now, when you want to hook up). Then there’s the most common culprit:  One or all of you is sick from the latest school-fueled virus


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