When our first child was born my husband was in the Hellenic Air Force stationed on an island which required a 26 hour ferry boat odyssey to reach, weather permitting. Seeing as there was no work for me there and minimal facilities I had stayed in Athens to work and enjoy the benefits of civilization. We racked up enormous phone bills and saw each other only when his leave was long enough to make 52 seemingly endless hours of foot stink, BO, whining, crying and motion sickness worth the effort.
I had rented a tiny but centrally located apartment with easy access to public transport so I could get to work and my ob-gyn. While on my own it was perfect, easy to keep tidy, with a green grocer, butcher, bakery and supermarket all within a three block radius. It was basically one room with a tiny galley kitchen and a bathroom the size of a telephone box. There was also a side storage area (a glassed in balcony so in summer it was too hot and in winter too cold to be of any other use) the highlight however was a 9m X 3m tented veranda where I could sit and have my coffee overlooking the city and the sea to the south, the Parthenon to the west.
When my husband was finally transfered to Athens however my little love nest seemed to shrink like wool in hot water. After 4 years on Rhodes and 2 years on Karpathos he had accumulated an incredible amount of stuff. A lot of it he had never even taken out of boxes, it was stuff his mother had sent him that he really had no use for but knew she would be deeply hurt if he sent back or gave to charity. 10 sets of curtains, all with elaborate floral patterns of completely different color schemes. 2 sets of decorative plates, one featuring a variety of ships, the other flora and fauna. A table service for 18. Enough wool blankets to keep a Red Cross disaster unit supplied for a year! The veranda and the hot-house store room were completely filled with boxes!
His refrigerator was too big to fit in the kitchen so we plugged it in on the veranda, the washing machine too so that the waste water could run via a hose through the kitchen window and into the sink. I had made do with a small folding table and two chairs in the mini kitchen, now we had a hard wood dining set as well as an iron and marble patio set. After about a month of shifting fiddling and clandestine tossing out operations we had finally established a semblance of order. The arrival of the dining set had meant that the dining nook, which I had used for the baby’s crib and changing table, would have to be vacated. With a bit of polystyrene insulation, wall paper and some of my mother-in-law’s flowery curtains we managed to transform the hot-house storeroom into a long narrow nursery.
During all of this transitional chaos, among other things, my husband and I were more or less trying to reinvent our relationship. Having spent so much time apart, fully occupied by so many different concerns and essentially living alone, it was not at all easy to find ourselves thrown together with such limited time and limited space! Because we didn’t have a car, only my husband’s motorcycle, the thought of looking for a spacious house in the suburbs was a mid-summer night’s dream. I had to be close to public transport as we certainly couldn’t afford to buy a car at the time. It goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that a big part of our stress factor was aggravated by the fact that it appeared to be practically impossible to have sex. It seemed like any time a window of opportunity presented itself, and he and I had managed to relax sufficiently, some interruption would inevitably present itself: the baby would wake up hungry, my mother-in-law would call (repeatedly until we picked up the phone), I’d get a fax from the office, an earthquake would occur, Jehovah’s witnesses would knock, aliens would invade… it was as if the very forces of nature were conspiring against us!
With the help of a sympathetic neighbor we started taking walks in the evening. It was like being back in high school: seeking out secluded areas in city parks to make out, borrowing a friend’s sofa while they went to the movies, borrowing a rental car from the production office to drive to a “parking” spot. We had tried out the bath box in the apartment but it was simply too hard to maneuver in there. We are both over 6ft tall so even though the land lord had removed the shower taps (the shower head was right in the middle of the ceiling with no curtain, just a drain in the middle of the floor) and replaced them with wing-nut keys we still kept banging our elbows and knees and collecting bruises.
The reason I’m sharing all this is to underline the fact that where there is a will there actually IS a way, many ways in fact. With a little imagination you can keep your sex life alive despite time, spacial or economic constraints. Just don’t forget that the most important sexual organ is your brain. If you support each other emotionally and share the pressures of parenthood you can ease stress and maintaining a healthy sex life is hugely important to stress management. Their is nothing healthier for young children than to see their parents in love and expressing affection. I’m by no means suggesting you do the down and dirty in front of your toddler(s) but their is nothing wrong with hugging and kissing. Happiness generates more happiness, take advantage of that fact when they are young! You will need all of the stored happiness you can get your hands on when they hit puberty!
Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.