By Janan Graham-Russell.
With my son came new lines, new curves, and new aches; changes that compelled me to rethink how I understood my body and what ‘desire’ meant to me. Motherhood is often depicted as belonging to everything and everyone but yourself. It is a constructed space, arranged in and around notions of womanhood and/or personhood. There’s little about claiming your sexual desires as a mother/person with a child that fits neatly into that space, let alone cultivating a sense of passion for your body as one learns to navigate parenthood.
Living in a binary universe, pregnancy as well as parenthood, and sexual desire seem like the inverse of one other; a Madonna/’whore’ label that flattens the complexities of caring for others and caring for one’s sexual needs and wants. Then there’s the Stifler’s/Stacy’s Mom archetype: the mother whose sexuality is clearly there but at the same time, managed by others’ imagination. We know a lot about Finch’s desire for Jeanine Stifler (yes, she has a first name) but Jeanine remains a mysterious figure, appearing at seemingly random times. She acts as the bridge between Finch’s teenage years and manhood. I want more for mothers, I want more for myself; acknowledging that the things that brought us pleasure before having kids never left after they were born. Instead, those wants and needs transformed.
So, in honor of the ‘mothers who wanna love on themselves and/or their partners’, here’s a list of affirmations.
1. I will define what ‘desire’ and ‘pleasure’ mean to me.
Some days (ok, most days), ‘desiring myself’ looks like twerking in front of the mirror at home. What does ‘desire’ mean to you? Even more, what does ‘feeling good’ look like? The relationship between emotions and the body is unmistakable. At the same time, recognizing and encouraging that relationship requires, well, time.
One of the biggest questions in cultivating one’s sense of sensual pleasure (whether that is directed toward someone else or yourself) is ‘when will I ever have the time?’ It’s one that stops most of us from acknowledging and acting on them. No one wants their kid to burst through the door like the Kool-Aid Man during ‘sexy time’. Think about the ‘mundane’ acts that can translate into self-appreciation: taking a shower, choosing an outfit, rubbing your scalp, or putting lotion/moisturizer on your body. Explore the curves and lines (old and new) that make you, you. All of you. ‘Make time’ by using the time that has been there all along.
Above all, remember that your definitions of ‘desire’ and ‘pleasure’ will not look like anyone else’s. And that’s ok.
2. I will advocate for my sexual needs.
When I became pregnant, one of my first priorities was to work with a birth doula. Not only did she know the process more intimately than me, but she became one of my fiercest advocates for my expectations during and after birth. That process became a framework for how I understand the word ‘advocacy’ and the role it plays in understanding my sexual needs and wants.
Being an advocate for your sexual needs doesn’t mean you need a graduate-level understanding of sex, self-care, and/or self-love. Advocating for yourself means setting and managing your expectations by recognizing boundaries. What are you open to? Where do you draw the line? At the end of the day, the buck must stop with you.
3. Embracing my sexual desires/pleasures doesn’t make me a bad mom/parent.
Finding and embracing what makes you feel good doesn’t mean you love your children any less. The love you have for them and the love you have for yourself, though different, is interconnected.
As the old adage goes, “we are our own worst critic.” At the same time, that doesn’t negate the very real external judgment that may come from others who don’t agree with prioritizing the sensual self. Embracing your ‘and’ demands breaking out of the ‘either/or’, which, in terms of the latter, is a second-language to most of us. The ‘either/or’ may come with an incredible amount of shame and/or guilt when our needs don’t line up with others’ conception of the term. However, shame and guilt rob us of finding and nurturing our best selves. Unlearning both require being patient with ourselves and our capacity to grow into who we can be.
You know yourself better than anyone else. That includes your desires and sense of sexual pleasure.
Live in that. Love in that.
What affirmations and/or rituals would you suggest for moms who want to reclaim/embrace their sexuality?
Offline, Janan loves to watch films, do cardio workouts, and spend time with her partner, three-year old son, and loved ones.
She can be found on Instagram @ananthropologyof.
Image credit: Thu Anh on Unsplash.