Some months ago, I wrote about getting used to the idea that it wasn’t the end of the world if our kids knew that we were having sex. It wasn’t even the end of the world if they overheard anything, although we did try to keep it quiet.
People would point out that kids like knowing that their parents have sex, even if it does gross them out. I just didn’t buy it. I don’t remember ever thinking how glad I was that my parents were having sex. I certainly wish I didn’t remember ever having overheard anything. Seriously. Ew.
While I’ve gotten used to the idea that it really is okay to have sex when the kids are in the house, I still have a definite preference for waiting until they’re all out. And I still wasn’t convinced that it mattered to the kids that we have a sexual relationship.
It turns out I just might’ve been wrong about that.
Drawing back the curtains
When I began this blog nearly a year ago, my husband and I agreed that he and I would keep it between the two of us. We wanted to see how it went before we opened it up to people we know in real life. I would stay largely veiled, using only my first name, a geographic area rather than a state, and a picture of my eyes only. Throughout the past year, we have gradually made decisions to unveil just a bit at a time. A couple of our real life family members and friends have found the blog (but neither wanted to broach the subject with me). I began to use my last name. I switched to a fuller picture of me. We told our best friends.
This week, we decided to tell the kids (all young adults). I am doing more writing and researching, I’m preparing to attend a writing conference, and I’ve had several situations when I’ve had to schedule blog-related phone conversations around my kids’ schedules. Although I am still doing a job search, I am also trying to develop a business of sorts from home.
It was time to tell them.
It turns out they already knew. Well, they didn’t know I have a blog that people actually read. My daughter searched my name on twitter and found me. Once she saw my profile description there (it mentions the word “desire”), she clicked away because, as she told her friend, “My mom has a sex twitter.” One of my sons had seen something I’d left on the screen while I was in the bathroom. (The location of my laptop would have required him to be intentional about looking, so he and I will be having a conversation about honoring the privacy of other people’s screens.) My other son found some notes I had left out.
None of them knew exactly what I was doing, but they knew that they didn’t really want to know. Not a single one of them mentioned anything to my husband or me, although they talked to each other. I talked with each of the kids individually this week. All of them were relieved to know I’m doing more than just writing about my sex life. I reminded each of them that while they are welcome to read the blog (at which point every one of them shouted “NO!”), once you know something, you cannot un-know it. “Read at your own risk,” I said.
Just like people say that kids like to know their parents have sex but don’t want to know the details, my kids were happy to know I’m doing something I find meaningful, even though they don’t want to know the details.
Why kids want to know their parents have sex
My husband was with me for the conversation with one of our sons. I apologized for not having done a better job of keeping him from seeing what was on my screen. He said I’d done a good job of trying. “But Mom, you guys do a good job of trying not to let us hear you have sex, too. You do know the floorboards creak really loud, right? We always know when you’re doing it.” I knew I’d come along way because I did NOT die of embarrassment. In fact, I think I might’ve actually smiled.
He went on to say that he and his siblings are glad that we have sex. (He did shudder a bit while saying this.) “Really?” I asked. “Why does that matter to you?”
“Because it would be awful if you weren’t.”
He told me that the topic of parents having sex had come up in conversations with his friends. Several of his friends have parents who have sex only once a month or so. (They apparently know this because of overhearing once-a-month sex, or, more often, overhearing their parents argue about it.) He told his buddies how lucky they were that they only had to hear it once a month. All of his friends turned to him and said how they would much rather have his problem of having to hear it more frequently. His friends said things that actually made him thankful for his parents’ sex life:
- “It’s always tense around my house.”
- “My parents barely look at each other.”
- “I haven’t seen my parents kiss in years.”
- “My dad tried to pat my mom’s butt and she glared at him. In the morning I found him asleep on the couch.”
- “I hate the tension at dinner.”
He said it’s nice that we don’t have that kind of tension. We don’t argue like we used to. He and his siblings don’t wonder every other week if we’re getting a divorce. “I don’t like hearing you have sex, but I’m really glad you have it. Okay, this conversation is so over. You know I get to crack jokes about you being a sex blogger, right, Mom? That’s going to be how I cope with the fact that we just had this conversation.”
For years, I was frozen by trying to mesh my identity as mom with my identity as wife and lover. Then I was horrified that my kids would actually know their dad and I have a sexual relationship. And even after our sex life and marriage began to transform, I was still embarrassed if they knew at the time what we were doing.
I need to rethink that. I’m struck by the fact that my son’s friends are jealous that he has parents who have sex—because that is such a better experience than living with the constant tension in their homes.
Which would you rather have your kids grow up with? Occasionally overhearing their parents having sex, or overhearing arguments about sex and constantly living with tension and wondering if their parents are getting a divorce? The fact that our intimacy is strong enough to include sex is part of how they know the marriage is strong and the family is stable.
I still don’t want my kids to overhear anything, and I do wish we had a way of silencing the floorboards. I don’t want to throw it in their faces, just like I don’t want to tell them too much about the blog unless they have specific questions.
Meanwhile, I told my son that the next time he hears the floorboards, he can just think about it as me doing research and professional development.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net