Beth Kerner

“Mommy. Mommeeeeee! I needed a wipe and you didn’t listen!”

My five-year-old daughter has backed her naked bottom up to me, waving a wet wipe. Once again, I’ve been busted for shirking parental duties while listening to a steamy romance audiobook. This one’s about a young woman whose family died in a flaming car crash, and “who can never love again.” Will the smoking hot orphaned-adult-turned-real-estate-tycoon thaw her heart (and loins!) by bringing her to orgasm again and again?

I’m trying to retrace my steps to figure out how I became this zombie with a Bluetooth permanently stuck in her ear. But make no mistake—instead of taking very important calls, I’m listening to graphic sex scenes and the predictable romance tropes wherever I go: riding the elevator, driving my car, watching my kids play soccer, and writing emails. All. Day. Long.

It all started with Outlander, a series by Diana Gabaldon, that’s set in 18th century Scotland and combines every single genre I thought I hated: historical fiction, romance, fantasy, adventure. My neighbor fervently suggested it, so I read them and became... ummm... obsessed. Just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, I read them all again—then watched and rewatched the TV adaptation, Googled the male lead constantly, and counted the days until the show would return after an agonizing hiatus. I retreated into this world of fervent passion and adventure, spending less and less time on my job and my family, and more and more time fighting back the fear I was losing my mind.

Here I was, a modern American woman living the freaking dream, and inheriting the having-it-all legacy for which our mothers paid so dearly. Add in a handsome, progressive husband pulling his weight, two whipsmart kids, cute house nestled in a cuter neighborhood, lovely friends with identical political views, and a demanding job which supplies all the Leaning In a girl could ever want.

So. Why did I want to shut it all out to roll around under a tree with a non-existent seldom-washed chauvinist from yestertimes? I was seriously freaking myself out. Because the truth is that the more I asked myself these questions, the crazier and more estranged I felt from all I held dear. I found myself gripped by the fear I was going to look back on this life—blessings notwithstanding—and wonder who lived it. As much as I’d come to grips with the fact that being a grownup was way more difficult than I’d bargained for, I was absolutely overflowing with a searing longing to feel something... something way more.

I started talking about it to a few trusted confidantes. Slowly, I began naming the things that made me want to jump out of my world and into a fictional one. I stopped trying to convince myself I just had to get up earlier and reorder my to-do list to wrest satisfaction from my charmed life. And little by little, I started living in reality—where I have a beautiful, exhausting family, and a marginally satisfying job, but shockingly few tools to shoulder the suffocating stress of “having it all.”

At the advice of my nearest and dearest, and the support of my ever-game husband, I started investigating my sexual fantasies by inviting them into our bed... and living room, shower, backyard, office. By leveraging the vast stockpile of steamy romance novels as reference material and revelational audiobook technology (which allows me to appear as if I’m living a normal life), I am reborn. As it turns out, the shame of consuming hackneyed love stories with cringe-inducing cover art is a small price to pay for what I’ve stumbled upon.

While most aspects of my privileged existence are doing their damnedest to snuff out my fragile libido, I’ve found my antidote—my magic potion to reverse the curse of the everyday grind. Cheesy romance in one ear (the spicier the better) keeps me in a steady state of sexual preparedness, fighting back the fugue state brought on by each ass I wipe or kiss; each downtown commute; each oblivious instance of workplace sexism; each hair removal session; each recycling bin I drag back from the curb—all the barely accomplished tasks that consume each day in the life of a working parent. And finally, when the dishwasher is running, the chunks of food have been swept out from under the kitchen table, the infantile client has been soothed, and the field trip permission slip has been signed, I get to overachieve in the sack with someone I love. And yes, I do feel something more. Way more. With someone who has been right here, slogging it out with me all along.

My biggest regret is that nobody shook me by the shoulders sooner and told me what I’m telling you. Regardless of whether you’re in a position to change things, name what feels good and what doesn’t. Don’t waste your energy convincing yourself that you enjoy what you actually find distasteful. It dishonors the people and things you love—not least of which should be your crazy, quirky, kinky self. Along with the privilege of participating in watching life bloom, having kids is making a choice to defer your needs over and over again. So if you haven’t already, look for a break in the action, track down what gives you pleasure, and bring a little of it back home. ASAP.     

Got a true parenting story you’d like to share with True Parent? Email steve@trueparent.com. Want more True Stories? Trueparent.com has all new audio stories featuring real parents like you.