never think to pick up diapers or milk on his way home. Mad that he doesn’t have to sing all the verses of “The Wheels on the Bus” while trying to blow-dry his hair. Those of us who were weaned on “Fear of Flying” or “Our Bodies, Ourselves” understand that we’re responsible for our own orgasms. But then couldn’t somebody else take responsibility for the laundry once in a while?
Researchers say women have some legitimate gripes. Most two-income couples without children divide up the household chores pretty evenly. After the kids come, however, men may be happy to play with Junior, but they actually do less around the house. Men’s contributions to household chores increased dramatically in the ’70s and ’80s, but haven’t changed much since then, according to Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins. And it isn’t just that Dad isn’t doing the dishes. Researchers say many new fathers—55 percent—actually start spending more time at work after a child is born. Experts can only speculate on why: fathers may suddenly take their role as breadwinner more seriously. Others may feel slighted by how much attention their wives lavish on the new baby.
But men are mad, too. “The big loser between job, kids and the dogs is me,” says Alex, a 35-year-old financial executive from Manhattan. “I need more sex, but that’s not the whole story. I want more time alone with my wife and I want more attention.” They may not be perfect, but most husbands today do far more around the house than their fathers would have ever dreamed of doing. They’re also more involved than ever in their children’s lives. And they want points for it, points they’re not getting.
Experts say very few women openly withhold sex. More often, lingering resentments slowly drive a wedge between partners. After two kids and 10 years of marriage, Bill, an actor in his 50s, loves his wife, Laurie (not their real names), though he’d like to have sex more often than the once or twice a month they average now. Laurie, a graphic designer in her 40s, agreed to hire a babysitter and make a standing Saturday-night date. But when Saturday rolled around, she was too tired to go out. They missed the next week’s appointment, too. She’s tired, she says, but resentful, too. “I get angry because he doesn’t help around the house enough or with the kids. He sees the groceries sit-ting on the counter. Why doesn’t he take them out of the bag and put them away? How can I get sexy when I’m ticked off all the time?”
Advice on how to stay connected, however, varies widely. Traditionally, marriage counselors have focused on bridging emotional gaps between husbands and wives, with the idea that better sex flows out of better communication. More important than a fancy meal at a restaurant (where you can still have a rip-roaring fight, of course) is to just make time to sit down and talk. The Weinreichs managed to rekindle romance after their sons, now 18 and 21, got a little older. All it really took, Maddie says, was being more committed to intimacy.
But a new breed of marriage therapists take a more action-oriented approach. Regena Thomashauer, a relationship counselor and author of “Mama Gena’s Owner’s and Operator’s Guide to Men,” agrees that scheduling time together is essential. Use the time to have sex, she urges. Michele and Marcelo Sandoval, 40 and 42, respectively, sought help from Thomashauer when they were expecting their first child; now they make two “dates” a week. “We call them dates,” says Marcelo, “but we know it means sex, and we make it a priority.”
Author Weiner Davis has a similar strategy: just do it. Don’t wait until you’re in the mood. And view thoughtful gestures, such as letting your spouse sleep in, as foreplay. Chris Paterson, 31, and his wife, Tara, 29, say Weiner Davis has helped them. Early in their marriage, they had sex nearly every night. But after she gave birth to their first child, Tara lost interest.
Their nightly sessions became infrequent events. In addition to raising the kids, now 6 and 2, both Tara and Chris run their own businesses—she has a Web site called justformom.com and he’s a general contractor. Tara says she’s just exhausted. Chris also shoulders part of the blame. “I haven’t always been the most romantic, getting-her-in-the-mood kind of individual,” he says. Since talking to Weiner Davis and reading her book, Chris and Tara say they now have sex almost once a week, when they “try really hard.”
Most therapists do agree on one thing. You can’t force a sexy situation. There’s nothing wrong with