We want to take some space to celebrate a part of life that often gets overlooked for moms — Self-pleasure.
We live in a culture that often de-sexualizes motherhood. Moms often feel pressured to appear 100% dedicated to their children with little room for their own multifaceted identities. And one massive part of being a human is your sexuality.
So what does it mean to be a mom and to be feeling yourself? There aren’t a ton of nuanced cultural models showing us the way here.
For some inspiration, Louise Head spoke to three moms:
- Jo, a wellness blogger and women’s life coach.
- Melissa, founder of Sex Positive Families.
- Jess, a queer, femme mother of two, about their relationship with motherhood and self-pleasure. Here’s what they have to say.
Why is masturbation vital to you as a busy mom?
Melissa: Masturbation is a huge stress reliever and natural way for me to relax. I wear many hats as an entrepreneur, parent, and partner. Masturbation allows me to spend time immersed in my pleasure and connection to my body.”
Jess: Masturbation helps me tap into the sensual woman in me that doesn’t get to come out and play very often these days.
Jo: A lot of women go through this feeling that I’m a mom now. I can’t pleasure myself. Or, all my pleasure belongs to my children, all my joy belongs to my children, and that mentality was always dangerous to me. One of the things I discovered about masturbation is that it’s something I can give back to myself. It’s a way of honoring my body, of acknowledging my joy. It’s a gift that I can give back to myself. As a busy mom, I deserve not only to feel good physically through fitness or eating well, I not only deserve to feel good through my family life or with my partner, but I also deserve to feel good physically in my body.
How has having kids changed your relationship to self-pleasure?
Jess: Having kids has made me more in tune with my body. My last child was born at home with midwives at my side. The whole experience changed how I feel pleasure because I know exactly where I’m feeling pleasure. Epidurals numb everything, so being able to feel all of my body and muscles contracting gave me a mental roadmap of my body that I can follow when masturbating. Now I know where all the hot spots are!
Melissa: My body has experienced pregnancy and childbirth twice in the last 21 years. As a result, the changes my body has encountered along the journey of parenting have at times led to lower libido, less confidence in my appearance, impacts to my mental health and physical pain related to body changes. Reconnecting with my body during these experiences hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had to be intentional about the time and attention I put toward my pleasure–sometimes related to sex and sexuality, other times focusing in on non-sexual experiences that bring me joy–and not feel guilty about the process. Raising kids and juggling the many other demands within life can sometimes feel in direct conflict with attention to self and pleasure, but I’ve been parenting long enough now to realize that if I’m not taking care of me first, nothing else and nobody else will be cared for. So it’s imperative that I prioritize my pleasure routinely.
We live in a culture that really de-sexualizes moms and often promotes mothers being selfless caregivers who can’t prioritize their own needs. How do you fight that cultural pressure?
Jo: Once you become a mom, there’s this idea that you can no longer be sexy. Birthing a child is technically physical trauma so as a mom you look at your body in a completely different way because of this trauma. Trauma is an event that changes your perception in the world — motherhood and the fact that your body is changing changes the way you see yourself. You no longer see yourself as this sexual creature. I don’t see women like myself with stretch marks or looser skin looking sexy. Magazines and the media don’t label them as hot so how am I supposed to connect with this idea that I can also be sexy?
For me, I think sexy means beautiful, confident, strong and knowing yourself. It doesn’t mean sex to me. It just means this energy of confidence in yourself when you walk into the room.
It took saying, “You know what media and social media? I’m so over this idea that as a mom, I can’t be myself, I can’t celebrate myself. If self-pleasure or stepping into your sexuality is a form of celebrating yourself then why the hell not? Why as a mom am I denied that?” And when I have to ask myself who is denying that [pleasure] from me, I was like, “Fuck that’s myself…I’m the one who hit that subscribe button, and I can unsubscribe to that narrative any time I want.”
Melissa: I’m a big believer that time is always available; it’s a matter of how we prioritize our time. This society does a good job of imposing shame on acts of self-pleasure and sexuality. It also can construct a lot of barriers and stressors that can move us further away from our bodies and our wellness. I remind myself of this regularly, so I don’t internalize shame or guilt if ever I feel too exhausted or out of touch from self-pleasure. I recenter myself by things like journaling, deep breathing and openly communicating what I’m feeling to my partner and those closest to me.
Now that you have kids, what tends to get in the way of masturbation?
Jess: My partner’s changing schedule and the daily grind of chores and general Mom business wears me out. Sometimes I’m just too tired. To make the time I try to schedule it for when I know I’ll be alone. Like in the shower, or while my partner is at work, she works nights, and make sure the kids go to bed on time.
Jo: Are you using it now to cope? That can be one of the things to look out for. There are days where I’m like, “Ah I’m so over today. I just want to masturbate all day long. I just want to make myself feel good. Don’t bother me.” So I think I have to self regulate sometimes and just ask myself, “Am I doing this because I’m pleasuring myself or am I doing this because I’m trying to run from something?”
I think what can get us in the way of trying to connect with [pleasure] is thinking that our pleasure as a woman is designed for somebody else and is supposed to be given to somebody else and I think that can be dangerous. That messaging has to be reframed and rewritten.
What advice would you offer to other moms who are struggling to reconnect with masturbation and themselves as sexual beings?
Jess: My best advice is to take time for yourself. Especially the stay-at-home mom’s like me. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a routine. And it’s even easier to forget the woman under the Supermom identity. Take time to remember the beautiful things about yourself inside and out. And seduce yourself! Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you’re sexy and deserving of pleasure. Take a hot sensual bath with yummy smelling oils and lose yourself in the moment.
Melissa: I stay connected to sex-positive content and thought leaders like Afrosexology, Emily Nagoski, Erika Lust, and Jet Setting Jasmine, to name a few. Their content challenges me to prioritize my pleasure, stay connected to my body, address old traumas, and it stimulates my senses. I also raise my children in a sex-positive way, which means we’re equipping them with the knowledge and tools that help them understand bodies, consent, pleasure, sexuality, relationships and the world around them without shame or taboo.
Doing so can feel like a rebellious act in this culture, but it’s important that my children position themselves for healthy, satisfying sex lives, regardless of how they choose to pursue and express themselves into their futures. I also regularly incorporate small acts of self-love like writing affirmations to myself and affixing them to my bathroom mirror, relaxing naked after showers for as long as feels comfortable, consuming my favorite foods and drinks regularly, and keeping quality lube on hand.
There is no one way to claim your pleasure. If it feels good, that’s enough. It does not have to be justified, explained or approved by anyone else. Pleasure is your birthright. The more we pursue it as parents, unapologetically, the more effectively we are modeling our value and worth, which can give permission for the children we raise to do the same.
Jo: One of the first things I would say is that motherhood is just womanhood. There’s no need to separate the two. It’s part of a woman’s journey should she choose to embark on that road. Stop isolating yourself as “just a mom” thinking that other women won’t be able to relate, or see you or hold space for you as you talk about certain things.
[Also], I will tell [my kids], “Mom needs about fifteen in her room.” It’s the same as, “Mom needs to take a shower for 15 minutes. Mom needs to take a phone call for 15 minutes.” I think the more mothers can get comfortable with placing boundaries around their time and the more they can communicate that openly with their children, the more the children will be so accepting of it. And they don’t need to know what you’re doing behind closed doors.
After speaking with these insightful moms, it’s clear that culture sometimes pits motherhood against self-pleasure, making you feel as if you have to choose between the two. However, these women are finding creative ways to own their sexuality and integrate it as a beautiful piece of motherhood. For the moms who don’t get asked nearly enough about their own pleasure, how do you tap into that creativity? What really makes you feel sexy? How can you make a habit of saying no to guilt and shame when you need to put your pleasure first?
Maybe you can try out your new line, “Hey, mom needs 15 minutes,” and go have a little date with your fave toy and some lube.