I always remember a friend of mine, who will remain nameless, giving her husband one of the most sexual, romantic traffic-stopping kisses in the world. It was on a sparkling summer day years ago as she bade him goodbye for work. My friend, a stunning woman with charcoal black hair and smoky blue eyes, was deep in the embrace of her reporter husband, a former hockey player, oblivious to the rest of us gaping across the street at such straightforward lust. I have never forgotten that kiss and it has long caused me to wonder about something. My friend was a stay-at-home mom. I had a job downtown. Assuming that kiss was indicative of the rest of her life, I couldn’t help ask who has better sex lives – go-to-work moms or women who stay home.
I’ve been both. I stayed home with my kids for five years and endured the label of “not working” with my grouchy comeback, “not working for money anyway.” Then for another half decade, I was a “work mom” as my daughter called it. I know what it’s like to expand my swear-word vocabulary as I careen through rush-hour traffic to make it in time for the day-care pickup. (I say this so that the stay-at-home moms won’t make an effigy of me during crafts-with-their-kids time and bring it to the schoolyard for the work moms to bash with their briefcases before they join together and burn it.) In any case, I can’t actually remember my sex life in great detail except it must have happened at least twice because I have two children and I don’t remember buying them anywhere.
But everybody likes to speculate about other people’s love lives. If you’re lucky, you think yours is the best and feel sorry for everyone else. This happens mostly at the beginning of a relationship. Or never. So, when Chatelaine asked me to find out whose sex lives were better, women who stayed at home or women who worked outside the home, I figured everyone would think the other woman was getting it more often.
However, there’s one thing that they all – MITHs (Moms Inside the Home) and MOTHs (Moms Outside the Home) – have in common, and that’s kids. No one’s sex life ever improves after children come along. It’s just a matter of how steep that downward spiral is. Linda, a Toronto financial analyst, stayed at home for years, worked part time and eventually full time. “I think I completely lost interest once I had my first child.” Linda says that lack of interest was pretty constant during the stay-at-home and back-to-work years. A scary thought for those couples em-barking on parenthood, so maybe hide this magazine from them.
Still, somebody must be doing it. And some more than others. But getting more doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better. You could be going at it daily and it’s still crummy or you could be making out just three times a year, but when it happens, it’s great. (Actually, if it’s only three times a year, anything would be considered great.) So, when I spoke to women across the country (whose names have been changed) about their sex lives, we looked at how often it happened, how good it was and technique, which everyone puzzled over (some people weren’t even sure what technique was). We also discussed the things that went into creating a good sex life; things such as how much time you had available in your life to actually do it, how stressed out you were and how good you felt about yourself.
I tried hard to be fair to both groups and talked to moms working inside the home, moms working outside the home, their husbands, their sex therapists and my hairdresser. I have to confess. I went into this figuring that the MOTHs would have it over the MITHs. But I found precisely the opposite. The who’s-getting-it-more-award goes to the MITHs.
The biggest factor is time. We only have 24 hours in a day. Say we need eight hours sleep. That leaves 16 for everything else, and if you spend nine hours a day at work, that means, well, you have to fit the laundry in some- e where.
And that’s when it seems to cross over into your sex life. Stay-at-home moms definitely have a leg up (or sometimes two) in the time-for-play department. Elina, from Stratford, Ont., has two kids, two jobs and one husband and tries to fit a sex life into all of that. “After the dishes are done, children in bed, laundry in ruins, the last thing in the world on my mind is a sex life. I just want to sleep undisturbed.”
When you are exhausted, it affects quality as well. She confides, “One night my husband caught me counting ceiling tiles. We were in bed, and he said, ‘Are you counting something?’ What could I do? I said, ‘Ceiling tiles. We’re missing one.’”
Sally Breen, a Vancouver sexuality counsellor, says a mother working outside of the home has some pretty big time commitments. “Even the amount of time she gets on her own is limited and she can start to pile up a little bit of resentment about that, so that when her husband makes an approach, she’s more likely to think, ‘I just want to be on my own.’”
My hairdresser agrees. Not only is he married to a stay-at-home mom, he’s a natural source for this sort of cutting-edge info. As he’s trimming and coiffing these women, he gets the impression that stay-at-home moms seem to be more active between the sheets. “The opportunity is certainly there.”
Laureen, a MITH in Saskatchewan, married for 18 years, says not only does she have the time, but she puts it to good use. “It can be morning, afternoon, evening.” Her husband is a farmer and never really too far from the house. “It could be anytime,” she laughs. And if the children are around when they’re in the mood? “We usually just say we’re very tired and we are going for a nap.”
Lily, a full-time homemaker in Chatham, Ont., with two kids, initially worked outside the home for several months, then quit to stay home. When she was working it was, “Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am. You didn’t have anything extra to put into it.” She says once she established herself as a stay-at-home, the quality improved. “It wasn’t that great, because we did have kids, but it was better.”
Self-esteem is another thing that comes up when you’re talking to women about their sex lives, but it’s kind of a grey area. While moms working outside the home generally feel pretty good about themselves, so do the women at home. The funny thing is, the work moms I spoke to think they feel better about themselves than the stay-at-homes. The truth is that while many of our own mothers may have wanted to be out in the workforce when they were pushing strollers, today’s stay-at-home moms have braved the poor salary, sticky working conditions and lack of status to do something they truly want to do.
These women are at home by choice – and exhibit the same sense of drive and professionalism as their going-out-to-work counterparts. In fact, there are probably more women in the workforce who would like to be at home than vice versa, but their money situation just doesn’t allow it.
As well, Breen says how you feel about your job probably doesn’t affect your sexual self-image. Just because you’re CEO doesn’t mean you’re any randier than the temp with the pierced eyebrow.
Joyce, married for 30 years and working in a law firm in Chilliwack, B.C., disagrees. “I think you feel better about yourself when you are out working and helping out with the family income.” But she does acknowledge that you’re only have a limited amount of time to play with. “I think it’s just a matter of working women juggling their time. I don’t think that they are more exhausted.”
She jokes that stay-at-home moms can get the laundry done in the daytime, but women working outside of the home have to multi-task at night. “So, they have to be, like, it’s on the rinse cycle, let’s get at it here.”
But whoa, watch out. When sex becomes a chore, it can be easier to ignore than the laundry, and maybe with more serious long-term consequences (although I never tried ignoring the laundry for a month). The thought of having to try to fit sex in between the darks and the delicates is nothing but an added stress.
“Women don’t like to have sex on a schedule,” says Breen. “It makes the sex more important than the person. They [men] want some frequency and they’re caught up a little more in numbers and getting it.”
So, if you have the time, you’ll probably be doing it more. But will it affect how good you are at it? Of course. No one ever made a gourmet dinner in five
minutes. (If they did, could they pass along the recipe to me?) A meal is always better when you’ve spent time making it lovingly and put it in the oven, rather than just looking at the package and throwing it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Offers Breen, “If you are getting some sexual activity but very little couple nurturing activity, over a period of time, your batteries will get low and sex will become less enjoyable for you.”
My hairdresser put the whole technique issue a bit more bluntly. “How many positions used to be more important 15 or 20 years ago. Right now it’s almost like if it happens it’s good – any position is fine.”
The best of all possible scenarios stars Catherine in Winnipeg, who is self-employed with an office in the house. Her husband also works out of their house and these folks are having a wonderful time. “We never have to wait until it’s dark. There’s always the chance for a nooner. Or a before-nooner.”
Technique is better because they get to talk about it more. “My husband is my co-worker. We talk about our relationship all the time.” That’s when they’re not doing it.
So, what about my friend and those shameless mouth-watering kisses on the street with her husband? Was that embrace a sign of what went on behind her closed door? While I never got up enough nerve to ask her, I know there’s no reason to be jealous. Shortly after that kiss, her husband got a job as a foreign correspondent and she didn’t see him for weeks at a time. It goes to show you that one way or another, you’re gonna get screwed.