I can count on one hand the number of times I've slept with my partner in the past six months.
Let's be honest, I can count on three fingers. This isn't good enough but I just don't feel like it. I have a seven-month-old, a three-year-old and several jobs and, frankly, I'm busy. But lots of people have kids and jobs and the world continues to get populated. What's wrong with me?
Lately, I have even been known to actively avoid a dalliance. I confess I have perfected the exact breathing pattern that gives my fella the idea I'm already asleep when he comes a callin'. I learnt this method from that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where Ferris tricks his mum into thinking he's still in bed by using an elaborate sound recording of snores and splutters, when actually he's on a float in town singing Twist and Shout. See? Who said Matthew Broderick never taught us anything?
I never thought this would be me. Five years ago our lerve was as fresh as a pack of hot cross buns. Steamy. I'd kiss my partner at every red light. I remember the first time he held my hand. I'd broken a pair of thongs and as we crossed a road he slipped his big man-paw into mine and the world stopped. Truth be told, it still stops when he holds my hand today. But it's always so brief because mine has to fly out within 10 seconds to catch a runaway stroller/mouthful of organic rice cereal/Buzz Lightyear hurtling from hands of three-year-old towards temple of baby.
Last week I caught up with a girlfriend who's also lacking a bit in the fornication stakes. She'd read about a 30-day challenge where couples make a pledge to make sweet love every day for 30 days. She and her husband had given it a go despite having five-year-old twins and a nine-year-old, and only made it to day 17. She seemed deflated by her failure until I confessed that what her husband got in just over two weeks was what my man could expect over a period of three years.
So we're in bed. I'm smelling like a mistress from the '80s and wearing a shop-soiled size 20 negligee
And so we decided over two flat whites and a Portuguese tart that I'd have a crack, too. So I started Operation Common-Law Wife Duty Fulfilment. The first night, I had a shower, squirted on some aromatics and loitered with intent. This involved laying myself out on our bed, Barbara Cartland-style, in a new nightie I got from Myer in a "30 per cent off already reduced red-ticketed items" sale. In the end it cost me $7.13, so I was lusty AND thrifty. A potent combination.
Truthfully, it was quite nice to be boudoir-ready before the onset of what I like to call the "zombie zone". It's that time of the evening when I'm sitting slack-jawed on the sofa, with my head rolled back, begging my boyfriend to drag me up the hallway on a blanket, like a removalist with a piano.
So we're in bed. Smelling like a mistress from the '80s and wearing a shop-soiled size 20 negligee. The first thing he does when he joins me is chuckle a bit under his breath. I ask him, "Ummm ... why are you laughing? Can't you see I've gone to the effort of coming to bed tonight theme-dressed as Sally Spectra [from The Bold and the Beautiful]?"
"No," he says. "I just had a flash of you today when that bird flew into the kitchen and that sound you made." Earlier that day, an Indian myna had maliciously hopped in through an open window and flapped about the kitchen. I have a terrible phobia about birds. The following five minutes involved me waving a broomstick, calling for my kids to run and hide and yelling at my man to stop convulsing in laughter and help me.
So, despite my efforts on night No. 1 of Operation Common-Law Wife Duty Fulfilment, it turned out that both of us, by the light of our charging iPhones, laughed so hard we woke the baby. On night No. 2 we guffawed about our three-year-old's obsession with the fold-out sofa he calls his nest. On night No. 3 I had to tell him to stop talking about the time he was cornered by an acquaintance at a cafe and had a whole conversation with a cappuccino dripping off his beard. And so on.
I realised that going to bed early had given us these top-shelf moments. We could never have done this five years ago, because we hadn't done the time. To be physical together is lovely and necessary (and I've taken care of that, if you know what I mean) but the practice of getting into bed before we're written off for the day had given us the opportunity for what I realised is real intimacy. I had to take the exact steps we took when we first met all those years ago. We talked. Then we laughed. Then we got it on.
So my advice is, sure, get all Barbara Cartland with your perfume and saucy outfits, but don't jump straight to the end of the book – because all the good stuff is at chapter one.
Chrissie Swan is the co-host of Mix 101.1's breakfast show in Melbourne and 3pm Pick-Up nationally; Twitter: @chrissieswan.
This article originally apeared in Sunday Life.