Jayson Gaddis’s life changed big time after having one kid, then two.
Less than a year ago, new research came out to show that contrary to popular belief, Dads are built for being actively involved in raising their kids. This is certainly true for me (For a summary of the full article,click here).
For whatever reason, I have no desire to keep “hunting,” working 24/7, spending vast amounts of time alone away from my wife and kids, or playing the field. I also don’t feel trapped in my marriage or with my kids. Quite the opposite—I find marriage awesome and helpful.
However, it is VERY true that after having children, my sex life took a major hit. A recent study suggests that is due in part to me being high in testosterone pre-kids and then low in testosterone post-kids. Once a high-testosterone dude has children, his testosterone goes down, at least temporarily.
These variations suggest in ways previously unknown that men are born to be dads. In part, this is because lower levels boost behaviors that are good for parenting – nurturing, holding, feeding, soothing, burping, diapering, etc. – and keep a man focused on his offspring instead of competing for a mate, explained the researchers.
I’ve certainly had friends share that they felt like they were playing second fiddle to their nursing baby who had all of their wife’s attention. It triggered a real sense of loss, resentment, and even jealousy. My experience was a bit different.
I pulled away from my wife (due to my own triggers of having a baby) as she wanted more and more connection from me. I took easily to the helper role and showed up relentlessly and consistently for her and our kids which, at times was me avoiding our connection and intimacy.
Whatever your experience is, the research is suggesting that simply becoming a father triggers a lot of hormonal changes for men. Of course, male conditioning could certainly have men overriding any impulse to be more involved in parenting with the endless messages men receive about the burden of “being tied down,” and referring to their wife as “boss,” “old lady” or “ball and chain” as if the women are somehow responsible for a man feeling claustrophobic in his family life. Add in kids and men can feel even more trapped as if their children are taking their lives from them.
It was very different for me. Becoming a new dad was the most exciting threshold I’ve ever crossed. Daily I’m immersed in love, play, and challenge. Challenges such as sleep, money, and my sex life are very real and fertile practice opportunities to grow. To a certain degree, having kids has been a giant sacrifice where me and my self-interests have become less and less important. Loss is simply a part of the magic of surrendering to being a parent.
One practical “cost” of having kids was that my sex life changed.
My sex life changed so much that I hired sex coach and tantra teacher David Cates. He helped me surrender to what is, which was a great first step in trying to change anything. Previous to conception, my wife and I had a very alive sex life (I’ll spare the details largely to protect and respect her privacy). Once the kids came, the game changed. The windows were few and infrequent. We were, and still are, both exhausted. David helped me navigate new this new, unknown terrain that very few men talk about.
I found myself asking questions like:
Am I the only guy who experiences this? Why are no other dads talking about this? Is there something wrong with me?
As a couples psychotherapist, I know all too well what can happen with couples who don’t attend to their connection after kids come into the picture. This is where couples can slowly become distant and eventually end up as roommates, not having sex for years. This is also the window where the most affairs happen. I’m clear that’s not going down in this house but when lazy and overwhelmed, I can see the slippery slope.
Looking back to our first-born I can say that my hormones were indeed altered. Something big had shifted. Very early on, my attention was on taking good care of my pregnant, then breastfeeding wife. Resource her, so she is fully resourced to grow life inside her body then outside her body with breastfeeding. Most of my energy and attention was, and is on, my family.
My wife and I have a shared context that our connection is the bedrock of our family.
If our connection suffers, our kids pick up on it and react accordingly.
So, we are both committed to deepening our relationship despite the challenges we face. That means having honest conversations about our sex life and our connection almost daily. Each day I dance the dance where “being too tired” could be excuse covering up my fear of moving closer to her, or it could also be a real experience and I need rest, not sex.
This new study is promising because too often I hear other dads’ lack of involvement being blamed on biology. Now, research backs up my own experience which suggests that having children has helped me slow down and be present to my brilliant family even more. I wonder if other men will do the same, or if women long for their absent partners to be with them on the parenting/intimacy ride?
Image of family with new baby courtesy of Shutterstock