During this back-to-school season, parents are juggling everything — including meal prepping, adjusting their work hours to pick up their kids on time, to helping them with their homework in the evenings.
Amidst all of that, many may struggle to fit sex into their busy lives.
This is a "pain point for a lot of partnerships," according to a sex and relationships therapist.
"Maybe in the summer they had more flexibility, they had more time to go on vacations or go to cottages and what not," said Kelly McDonnell-Arnold, founder of Bliss Counselling.
"And now they're back into the hustle and bustle of a million activities and all the structure that goes along with school and homework… especially if their kids are feeling overwhelmed by going to a different grade, or going to a different school."
McDonnell-Arnold gave Yahoo Canada the scoop on what parents can do to keep their sex life alive. Read on for everything you need to know.
Don't wait around for desire: Expert
According to the expert, kids thrive when they see their parents being playful, having fun and are connected. Having sex and being intimate as a couple in general is what helps create those secure attachments.
In order to do that, McDonnell-Arnold said couples need to prioritize communication and time to connect one-on-one when their days get busy.
"They can stay up for an hour after bedtime, or maybe go home if they have more energy in the morning after dropping off their kids to school (to have that private intimate time)," she explained.
People tend to think sex is supposed to just happen naturally, but in longer-term monogamous relationships, women's desire can often turn from spontaneous to a responsive desire.
Waiting around to feel like you're going to be in the mood, you'll probably be waiting a really long time.Kelly McDonnell-Arnold
"This means they'll respond to a situation first and then desire will present itself, or they might become aroused before the desire presents itself, so waiting around to feel like you're going to be in the mood, you'll probably be waiting a really long time," said McDonnell-Arnold.
McDonnell-Arnold suggested ensuring there's "some foreplay" during the day.
She added, focusing on quality time and those moments in the morning where you can make eye contact with your partner and kiss before starting your day, or greet each other at the end of the day and kissing for a longer time.
"Not missing those micro-opportunities for connections is important," said McDonnell-Arnold, explaining those moments help build sexual tension and desire.
She also believes couples should schedule dates or time to connect without the pressure that it will lead to sex, but could still create the opportunity for sex.
"Even if you don't want to have sex, you could at least be connecting emotionally which could then cultivate more desire for sex and closeness another time, so I think scheduling time together on a calendar will support a better sex life," McDonnell-Arnold said.
How to tackle stress in the relationship
McDonnell-Arnold explained holding a lot of stress in the body and mind can make it harder to feel, or act upon, sexual desire.
"When one partner wants sex more or a different kind of sex than the other partner, then it starts to add some strain and discord within the relationship, which is really natural for a relationship to experience at some point," said McDonnell-Arnold.
But if it goes on for long, she said the discord can break a secure functioning relationship.
"When I'm working with people who are experiencing that low desire or a mismatched one, they try to focus on lighting the candles, putting on lingerie or whatever they can to get into the mood," the expert recalled. While this might help in some situations, oftentimes both or one of the partners are simply burnt out.
"They can put their foot on the gas all they want, but if it's on the break, they're not going to go anywhere," she stressed.
"So going back to the communication piece and asking: what's really the block or barrier to our sex life? And how can we approach this together?"
For example, McDonnell-Arnold said one partner may be doing more than the other partner when it comes to house chores that is causing stress, or maybe financial worries are killing a sense of playfulness in the relationship.
You don't want to just add sex to the to-do list and turn it into a chore.
That's when couples need to at least make a plan on how to best tackle their financial worries so that their stress levels can go down and make room for more connection, McDonnell-Arnold suggested.
"You don't want to just add sex to the to-do list and turn it into a chore, because you want it to be fun and playful."
However, when people do reach a point where they can't communicate on what's going on and their sex life isn't improving, the expert said that's when more needs to be done.
"If they can't have a conversation without it turning more into conflict, then they should definitely reach out for help because you don't need to face it alone," she advised.