Sun, Jan 11, 2009 - Page 14 News List

Book Review: Bedroom reading: How to have sex after having kids

Columnist Heidi Raykeil and sex therapist Ian Kerner discuss why sparks fade from bedrooms of new parents and offer practical tips for what to do about it

By Paul Nyhan  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE, SEATTLE

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It’s a cliche, a running joke, and yet a reality for many parents that once a baby is born a couple’s sex life starts dying.

It’s a problem that generations of moms, dads, columnists, counselors and talk-show hosts have debated. Yet questions remain about how to keep the passion once baby makes three.

Now Seattle’s own chronicler of sex and marriage, Heidi Raykeil, gives her take in Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide To Getting It on Again. Raykeil offers a refreshing twist by giving equal time to the views of dads and moms.

In 260 pages, Raykeil and her co-author, New York sex therapist Ian Kerner, explain and debate why sparks fade from bedrooms of new parents, detail their own struggles and tell parents what they can do about it.

Their advice is timely in an age dominated by the idea of yummy mommies and sexy celebrity parents — with full-time trainers.

Instead of simplistic New Age advice, Raykeil and Kerner offer practical tips for parents who live in the real world of dirty diapers, post-pregnancy pounds and little or no free time. They speak to dads and moms by dividing each chapter into “What Moms Want Dads To Know” and “What Dads Want Moms To Know.”

This isn’t necessarily a book for SNAGs (sensitive New Age guys) because Kerner and Raykeil write about typical fathers — guys who may not always share their feelings with their wives — a group the publishing industry largely has ignored, Kerner said.

“New dads need a place to go to learn about it, not just learn about the way our wives want us to learn about it,” said Kerner, a married father with two sons.

For example, he suggests that when dads talk about the disappearance of regular romps in the hay, they’re helping — not hurting — their marriages.

“I can’t help but think the guy who speaks up about the lack of sex, and tries to initiate, is really fighting to save the relationship,” he said.

Raykeil counters some of Kerner’s arguments in exchanges that sometimes read like radio talk show banter. But the two often are on the same page, agreeing that “sex matters … a lot” in a marriage.

In recent years, Raykeil emerged as Seattle’s modern version of Dr Ruth, a hip, witty mom dedicated to helping parents reclaim intimacy. The one-time preschool teacher isn’t a psychologist, but her first book, Confessions of a Naughty Mommy: How I Found My Lost Libido, resonated with parents.

It started seven years ago, when Raykeil mentioned her dying sex life during her weekly mothers group. Initially, other moms met her admission with silence, but then it sparked a spirited conversation. After that Raykeil noticed there wasn’t a lot out there on the topic, so she began a column that led to her first book.

“It was completely accidental because no one else was doing it,” Raykeil said.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer family reporter Paul Nyhan talked with Raykeil about why she wrote the book, which will be released on in bookstores on Jan. 27, and how it might help dads.

Paul Nyhan: Conventional wisdom holds that most dads don’t read parenting books. How do you get this on his bedside table?

Heidi Raykeil: I guess you get it through their wives, though you hope that their wives pick it up and leave it open on the bedside table and they pick it up out of curiosity or desperation.

PN: I like this idea [from Kerner] that a husband who asks his wife for sex is a white knight trying to save the marriage.

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