Lost Libido

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Jamilah Lemieux: This episode contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and Dad or Fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Monday, July 18th. The Lost Libido Edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux, a writer, contributor to Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting column, and mom to Naima, who is nine. And we live in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. I write the homeschool and family travel blog, Dutch Dutch Goose. I’m the mom to three littles. Henry, who’s ten, Oliver who’s eight, and Teddy who’s five. We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Zak Rosen: I’m Zak Rosen. I make the Best Advice Show podcast. My kids are Noah, who is almost five, and Amy who’s almost two. We live in Detroit.

Jamilah Lemieux: Today we’ve got a very, very, very interesting question from a father who is no longer attracted to his partner after she gave birth to their child. So needless to say, this episode might not be appropriate for little ears. We’ll also do a round of recommendations. But first we thought we’d update you on how we spent the past few weeks of our summer break, quote unquote. Elizabeth, your Instagram has been full of kid friendly travel. How’s that been going? Where have you been?

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Okay, so we went to Yellowstone and got out of there just before all of the flooding and craziness. And then we flew to Chicago. Jeff had a conference and so I had the kids in the city by myself doing all of the amazing Chicago things and remembering just like what an amazing city Chicago is.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Then we drove down to Notre Dame and saw some old friends and took the kids to our alma mater for the first time. And that was great. Met up with a couple of my classmates from Saint Mary’s. I do want to say that while I feel like overall it has been really great, it has definitely reminded me that like children are assholes a lot. They are the same asshole when you are traveling as when you are not traveling. And while I got beautiful pictures and I always encourage you like just get out there because it’s better than them being assholes at home and you feeling like you missed something so that a lot of Chicago was this negotiation of like, this is a lot of work for me to have these three kids in the city. We haven’t done a city in a long time, maybe even since Europe. And so the kids are kind of older and more mobile and like Teddy does not have the city skills.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: And so it was just like there were just moments of me just being like, okay, it is totally okay. Like we went to the Museum of Science and Industry and they have the like chicks that are hatching and all of I think they’ve been there since like the twenties. They, since the museum opened, they’ve been letting you watch Hatching Chicks. All Oliver wanted to do was to watch a chick hatch.

Elizabeth Newcamp: We between every exhibition that we went to see, like go to go learn about whether could go check the chicks. Go do this, check the tags. We are like we. I think I got there when it opened and it’s like close to five and we still have not seen a chick actually leave the egg. You know, they’ve all got holes. And I just, you know, Oliver is like, this is the one thing I wanted to do. And sure enough, at that moment, the egg cracks open and they all look at me and said, you said it takes 10 hours, but we watched it happen. So I was happy to be the bad guy for that, for them to get to see this and just be so excited to see this chick actually actually hatch.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: So we have these lovely moments, you know, then they all scream because we had to walk to the bus and take the bus back and there was traffic and all of this. But I try to just remember the lovely moments and let the rest of the stuff they would have yelled at me here too. So might as well be be in Chicago having a great time. If you go to Chicago, do the architecture tour that I was so worried about doing it with the kids, I thought they were going to be so bored. And we got on one of the boats on the river and I learned so much and the kids were mesmerized. And it was we just were blessed with like beautiful weather that was sunshiny and not too hot. And I gave my kids the entire wrong impression that Chicago has beautiful weather like all the time. But it was great. It was really nice. My dad grew up in Chicago, so sent some nice pictures back to him of of the kids at places he had gone or where my grandparents had works, things like that. So that was fun.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Zach, you’ve been traveling too, though?

Zak Rosen: Yes. We went to Tel Aviv where my wife’s family is from. I have family there. We have friends there. Ami had never been. We made it through the flight. Miraculously, no, I just watch TV. Ami slept and didn’t freak out. So just that in itself was a huge a huge victory. And it’s a seven hour time difference there. I was nervous going in that the kids were going to be fucked up with their sleep schedule. But somehow, like we normalized pretty quickly and the biggest victory of the trip was that we all were able to start going to bed. Like 11 p.m.. And then we would wake up at like 10 a.m..

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Zak Rosen: So this was so such a great way to travel because we could go out to dinner late, we’d go to the park late. It was just such a, you know, a novel thrill for the kids to do Night Park. That’s what we call that. We’re going to go to Night Park like at 9 p.m. and then not wake up super early. So that was glorious. They ate really well there. They were much more adventurous in how they ate there than they are at home. Went to the beach, saw friends, family. I got covered that until near the end of the trip. And then I had to leave Shira with the kids as I isolated for a few days. So that was a disaster.

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Zak Rosen: But we got like most of the vacation and before that and you know, it really for like weeks leading up to the trip, I’m like, is it worth it? Is it worth it to have this this excruciatingly long, like 20 hour travel day? And the answer is a resounding yes. Even despite the COVID, I mean, I think the trip was long enough. It was 16 days to warrant the long travel. I think if it was ten days or less, it wouldn’t have been worth it. I was proud of us for for being adventurous. We had a a really special time. I slept with one kid and share slept with the other and we would alternate each night. So that was another fun novelty for the kids. Noah’s swimming now. She swam in the ocean. We found a bunch of seashells.

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Zak Rosen: It’s also interesting just to think about, you know, my wife and I talk about the occupation a lot and like, at what point does it become necessary for us to start talking about it with Noah? It’s a conversation we’ve had on the show before, like, you know, have have the hard conversations, maybe even before they’re ready. But talk about it now. And the the perplexing thing about Tel Aviv in particular is that it is this incredible bubble where you don’t have to necessarily think about the occupation. You’re not in East Jerusalem. You’re not you’re not near the wall. So like, if you aren’t geopolitically aware, you just think you’re in the greatest city in the world and you are. But there’s always the. But how about you, Jamila?

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Jamilah Lemieux: I did some traveling. It didn’t quite go the way that I wanted it to go. And I went to Charlottesville, Virginia for a couple of days to attend some Juneteenth weekend events at Monticello. That is the plantation that was owned by Thomas Jefferson. I did some social media work out there. It was really fascinating shout out to the listener that I met and there was a fan of the show who works at Monticello and yeah, like they gathered and this is the first time I’ve been there for a similar event where they’ve gathered the descendants of people who were enslaved at Monticello.

Jamilah Lemieux: So some of these people are also descendants of Thomas Jefferson because he had children with Sally Hemings. But a lot of these people, you know, are not his direct descendants, but they’re just connected through their families having this shared trauma together, you know, and this history. And it’s interesting because there are people who are descendants, and I think they had 400 and some odd families represented this time, which makes it like the largest convening of the descendants of formerly enslaved people at the place where their ancestors were held. Some of the folks who were there had two or three ancestors, you know, who had been held on the same plantation. So it’s just really fascinating to see, you know, that kind of ability to trace back your history for African-Americans is really not common.

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Jamilah Lemieux: And then I went back to New York for a week, as you all probably know, unless you’ve only been listening since 2019. I moved here from Brooklyn. I moved to L.A. from Brooklyn. And I miss New York very, very much. And so I went back for a week. I decided for my first post or not post, but since COVID started Trip, I wasn’t going to bring Naima any ID, so I go having a good time, see some people, and I did and it was great. And I got COVID.

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Jamilah Lemieux: So I was supposed to go to New Orleans for the Essence Festival. I was doing a panel for Planned Parenthood. I love New Orleans so much. I always have such a good time at Essence Festival, even if I don’t go to any of the shows which I was going to go. And I was just like devastated when I came out of my quarantine because I tested negative on a Thursday. I was supposed to leave early Friday morning. Naima tested positive. So that was not great because then I went from my isolation period into hers. And so it was a good reminder that, you know, we had been slacking a little bit on our masking.

Jamilah Lemieux: I’m really glad that she’s masking a dance camp because at the other camp she was that it was a matter of if you require that your child mask, then will keep them in a mask. But, you know, all the kids are taking their masks. And I was taking my mask off in places where I wouldn’t have taken it off before, like the airport, you know, and just being a little bit too comfortable. So, yeah, COVID came and reminded us that she’s very much still here. We hope that you. All are having some fun and getting some summer vacations in, too. We’re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we will get into today’s listener question.

Jamilah Lemieux: All right. I hope you’re ready for this one. Take it away, Sasha.

Speaker 4: Dear mom and dad, I feel awful, but I’m having a hard time being attracted to my partner after childbirth and her resulting immobility. No exercise in recovery. I feel petty. But it’s not just body shape. Patriarchy crap. I can’t swing her. We can’t have sex standing up. She can’t be on top, etc.. And sex after kids or while we approach 50 is always tough, but I feel like it’s gotten more complicated and impossible to talk to her about it because she’s been understandably scared by our thin obsessed society. I kind of hate myself. I’m working on it, but it sucks because I’m so in love with her and in love with parenthood. But I’m losing my libido and it’s only my fault. I want her to feel loved and beautiful. And obviously I want a healthy sex life. Any ideas or resources? Fuck my life.

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Jamilah Lemieux: I’ll put you on the hot spot. Zach, you’ve had a partner who’s given birth to children. Are you to a monster?

Zak Rosen: I don’t even know where to start here. It’s good that you’re being reflective about this stuff and not just telling your wife to just go to the gym, because that would be monstrous. There’s a lot of complex stuff to unpack here, but in the meantime, masturbate man.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Can I just put it and say, I guess I feel like, you know, fuck my life. Your expectations are off like they’re completely off. I think that if you had this amazing sex life before, you should be so thankful for for what you have and stop trying to seek that. In this moment of this phase of your marriage and parenthood, because I think it’s unfair to you and I think it’s unfair to your wife. And instead, what you need to be doing is thinking about what things look like going forward and how to meet some emotional needs, how to meet those intimacy needs in ways that you are both capable of now.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Because this seems to me like, well, I can’t be here any more. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. It’s like, Yeah, but what can you do that will build those bonds? Because this you could be in this situation if one of you got cancer, you could be in this situation if something. So one of you had some kind of terrible accident and sex was not an option for a while, for whatever reason. And I think those are the type of things when we partner up that it’s like when when we say for better, you know, for worse, for sickness, for for health. This is what we’re talking about are these kind of things. And you need to figure out a way to weather this storm together. If she is not capable of talking about the the sex issue, find something else that brings that intimacy.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Right, because you can exist on that. I’m not saying forever. I understand that sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, but there are just times in which it can’t be for whatever reason. And so that’s why I was like, You need to masturbate and then figure out how to how to emotionally support your wife, whatever that looks like. Because it sounds to me like her body is going through a lot. Not only that, but the emotional and the pressure on new moms with the touching all the time and the emotionally caring for someone and then not sleeping. It is like for a lot of women, all of this sex stuff is very, very mental. Maybe for some men, too.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I can’t, I, I don’t know. But asking her to do more mental work at this point is not going to help anyone and only drive you further apart. So I think if you do really love her, you will deal with your whatever need to to orgasm separately from working on rebuilding this intimacy in this new life, of having having a baby in the house and all that means for her and for you.

Jamilah Lemieux: I’m curious to know, when was this baby born? Because if we’re still talking about mobility and recovery, it sounds like that was pretty recent. And I don’t you know, it’s certainly possible that your partner had a C-section or there were some complications where maybe recovery’s taking a bit longer. But even in those situations, recovery from childbirth is not a forever thing. Right? It’s not taking as long as it did to make the baby for her to get back to, you know, a new normal, but to a normal in which she can be belong, where she can have sex standing up. I don’t know if you don’t think that big women do those things, but I assure you, if you can’t fling her once she’s healed from having the baby and she’s like clear to have sex, her lack of feeling ability is not on her. It’s on you.

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Jamilah Lemieux: Big girls get along. Okay, big girl, stand out. Big girls get on top. That’s not to say, you know, that there aren’t challenges. Like, if this is a different body type for your partner, then you know, her own relationship to how her body is changed may impact her enthusiasm for sex or her, you know, eagerness to do certain positions or whatever. But I think that that is where you come in and you seduce her in a long term relationship.

Jamilah Lemieux: Sex can become utilitarian and mundane, but you know, this thing that gets done and as long as it’s done, everybody’s fine. And when it’s not getting done, everybody’s not fine. But like. She doesn’t need boring Tuesday night’s sex from you at this point. You know, like, imagine what her libido is going through at this point. You know, and she’s had to deal with all these hormonal changes. Like you have to make her want to do the things that she’s capable of doing with you.

Jamilah Lemieux: You know, whether that’s setting the mood, taking her out to a nice dinner, taking care of all the chores so she gets a couple of hours to relax, making a bath for her, putting on some music like you need to lean into whatever romance and seduction looks like. And you also need to talk to her openly about how you’re feeling, not about her body, but about missing sex, you know, and about wanting that to be something that you all continue to share in together and being willing to, you know, do what you need to do to make her comfortable and, you know, interested in it.

Zak Rosen: Just to that point. Because I want to I want to hear Jamilah what you think about and Elizabeth, what you think about this. So because he’s saying it’s impossible to talk to her about it. So it’s a it’s a kind of landmine situation. What are some tips for this person to to talk to their partner about this without shaming them?

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Elizabeth Newcamp: I mean, I think it’s impossible because it seems to me like he’s approaching it, like we need to be doing this thing and we’re not doing it. Type of conversation as opposed to like, I love you so much and I think you’re so beautiful. How can I support you? You know, how can I make you feel good? The focus should be on how can I be here for you in this moment? As opposed to like, how can I make you do this thing that I want to do?

Jamilah Lemieux: And you say that she’s scarred by her thin obsessed society, which does tell me that her body changes are a part of this for you. You know, and that is something you are really going to have to make your peace with, that a post-baby body is a different body that is part of what you signed up for. You all agreed to have children. You know, there was never any guarantee. It never should have been in your mind that she was going to, you know, necessarily look the way that she did before.

Jamilah Lemieux: When you masturbate and you take this time to take care of yourself, you know, in the meantime, I would suggest checking out some MILF porn. Get comfortable with body types that are more like your partners, you know, like women who have had children, women who have breast that sag and stomachs that are presence and accounted for and big thighs. You need to watch some real bodies having sex and that is something that you all can do together. You know, if she’s not a porn person, I wouldn’t necessarily, you know, suggest springing that on her. But I would say I think you should be very intentional about that, making your sort of porn habit, because it can get you comfortable with something that we are socialized not to find attractive.

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Jamilah Lemieux: You know, you don’t see bodies that look like they’ve had children in, you know, positions of desirability terribly often, you know, on television or in magazines. There’s been a tremendous uptick in the diversity of bodies that we see in the media in the past 5 to 10 years. But it’s still largely young life bodies that are supposed to be desire. And so you’re going to have to unlearn something that’s been indoctrinated into you. It is body shape, patriarchy, crap. It is the logistical things that are not working, not being able to flaying her and having sex standing up. These are things that can change over time. And I would suggest that maybe you get into the gym if she’s got a little bit more to love. You are also approaching 50. You get into the gym so that you can lift her.

Elizabeth Newcamp: To me, I think that’s great advice. I also feel like we should talk about this idea that like a doctor clears you to have sex after six weeks in some cases, or that there’s some expectation at six weeks that while things are maybe healed enough to have sex, that you are like ready or that someone is ready, and that it seems to me like they’re also. She may feel shame because she doesn’t feel ready, and that might be why she doesn’t want to talk about it. Right? Like if everyone’s saying, hey, it’s been six weeks, we should be able to talk about this, or let’s say it’s been more than that. We should we should be ready to have sex because you got cleared and now it’s 12 weeks.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Right. And I have these needs again. There’s just all this other stuff that I think you can be checking in about. And I loved email. I love your idea of like slowly building up those things. So like, how can we be romancing her on the long term? And I wonder if, like, can you guys shower together? Can you take a bath together? Can you do some of these very intimate things and, and be very clear that like this does not have to lead to sex? Like, I just want to do this with you because I like having this time with you. I like being naked with you. I like doing these things and we do not have to have sex. But again, just that reaffirming through your actions and you, in your words, that you find her beautiful.

Jamilah Lemieux: Well, fuck my life. Good luck to you. If anyone else out there has any tried and true tips for getting the heat and spark going, post baby email us. Mom and dad at Slate.com. Or send us the voice memo. You may hear it on the show. And feel free to send any other questions there as well.

Jamilah Lemieux: Finally, it is time for some recommendations. That part of the show where we talk about stuff we think you should check out Zak. What are you recommending this week?

Zak Rosen: I’m recommending a beautiful children’s book called My Name Is Yoon. It’s by Helen Horvitz and illustrated by Gaby Switkowski. My friend Lucy sent this to me. I sometimes forget that, like, the best kind of like surreal art lives in in children’s literature. And that’s that’s true of this book. It’s about this Korean girl who moves to the United States. Her name, Yoon, means shining wisdom. And when she writes it in Korean, she loves it. But her father is instructing her. She needs to learn how to write it in English, and it brings to bear some shame and resentment. And it’s kind of her working through these feelings of being a new American while also figuring out how to kind of reclaim and celebrate her identity, which has been kind of recontextualized with this big move. So beautiful book. My name is Yoon.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: I just put it on hold at the library because it sounds amazing. I can’t pass up an opportunity to tell you that there’s some very cool stuff happening in space, and I think you should check it out with your kids. The first is that the Webb telescope posted its first pictures and actually I was at the planetarium with the kids yesterday at U. Sappho when they released the first picture. And the woman who runs it there put it up on the dome. It’s the one of like if you stick your hand out a grain of sand in space with your hand fully extended, and they took a picture into it. And there’s just, you know, hundreds of galaxies, thousands of stars which all contain planets, just like the measurability of that.

Elizabeth Newcamp: And NASA’s has done a great job of coming up with some activities and things that you can do. So if you’re looking for something kind of more formal to do, head over to their website and they’ve got everything laid out. You can just print it and do that with your kids. Otherwise, just pull up the picture and ask your kids what they think. Because I just think it is an opportunity to make them realize how small we are. And sometimes that’s really important. And my kids had so many great questions and things to imagine, and I love when they ask questions that we honestly do not know answers to. So I encourage that.

Elizabeth Newcamp: The other thing is that Comet K2 on Thursday made its closest pass to the Earth. You’ve been able to see it through a telescope since May and you will be able to do that through September. But the virtual telescope, which we have linked to, you can actually go see a really high powered telescope. Take a look at this comet that’s quite large, passing close to earth. And that’s another just cool opportunity to show your kids something. If you have a home telescope, you should also be able to see it over the next couple of days and you can look online how to find that. So to opportunity is to look at space with your kids.

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Jamilah Lemieux: Very nice. I am recommending a book. It’s called Patriarchy Blues. It was written by a young man named Frederic Joseph. I was little skeptical about it at first because I kind of feel like, you know, guy becomes feminist and, like, writes a book about it immediately, you know, very cliche, but it is a very vulnerable and worthwhile examination of how patriarchy impacts men, black men in particular. It is one millennial man’s POV and his experiences with pop culture and community and how he came to understand manhood and, you know, unlearn some toxic beliefs and attitudes that he held about what it means to be a man. And it’s just really an interesting read. So A Patriarchy Blues by Frederick Joseph.

Jamilah Lemieux: Well, that is it for our show. We’ll be back in your feeds on Thursday, so be sure to tune in. And while you’re at it, please subscribe to the show and give us a rating or review on Apple or Spotify. This episode of Mom and Dad of Fighting is produced by Rosemary Belson and Christy, Taiwo, Mac and Jola for Zak Rosen and for Elizabeth Newcamp. I’m Jamilah Lemieux. Thank you for listening.