Now that you and 40 million other people around the world have read Fifty Shades of Grey, you may be feeling a little, er, friskier, than usual. But even if you have the notion, how on earth do you find time for the motion?
Consider a little economic theory. The term, economics, comes from the Greek word 'oikonomia' meaning management of a household. And as any working mother knows, the amount of time you have for romance is definitely a function (some might say, afterthought) of juggling all the activities of your busy life.
So in the spirit of a mash-up between E.L. James (author of Fifty Shades) and Adam Smith (the godfather of modern economics), let's define a few economic terms and see how they can apply to your household…and your bedroom!
1) Scarce resources
Money, time, energy, no matter how much you've got in one area, it seems you always need more in another.
When romance has become scarce, it's because the resources you used to allocate to it (afternoon delights, grooming rituals, costly lingerie) have now been re-allocated to other activities…like feeding kids, eavestrough cleaning, sleeping and other important, but possibly less arousing tasks.
We're not suggesting you never do laundry again, or leave your kid sitting on the curb after dance class. However, in order to balance your scarce resources, there must be mutual agreement on times when the laundry waits a day and the kids go to someone else's house for a playdate.
2) Production possibility frontier
The idea of a production possibility frontier is that in any given day, there are limits as to how much your household can accomplish. Work, school, dinner, cleaning up, homework, piano practice, yoga, after-work run, emails, horizontal mambo...guess which activity is most likely to get pushed off the priority list?
Economics is the art of making choices based on your production possibilities. It's about starting each day looking at the long list of all the things you want to get done (including romance with your sweetie), then deciding which ones you must do and which you could live one more day without.
3) Opportunity costs
Sleep, watching your favourite tv program, exercise, sleep, getting dinner on the table, reading bedtime stories, sleep…there are a million things that you choose to do instead of making time for you-know-what and most of them do not feel like choices.
When you give up one opportunity for another, economists look at those lost opportunities as a cost. Suppose you choose sleep over sexy-time. The opportunity cost would be missing out on 20 to 40 extra minutes of sleep (on average). Which, when you are exhausted, seems like a very high cost - we hear you.
However, what you may not be thinking about in those decision moments are the opportunity costs of not having sexy time. By choosing the extra sleep, you miss out on the other, perhaps more valuable opportunities: the potential for a big-O that releases stress and gives you a deeper sleep, a partner who feels loved, and maybe even a more harmonious day tomorrow. Perhaps 20 minutes of sleep for all of that is not so high a cost after all?
4) Division of labour and comparative advantage
You cook dinner, he cleans up. You take the kids to soccer, he checks their homework. It's called division of labour and you know all about it. But divvying up the many chores and errands doesn't necessarily require a fifty-fifty split. Good economics is about allocating scarce resources, efficiently. You delegate tasks according to who has the comparative advantage in being able to get each job done, quickly, easily and with the best results.
You laugh, knowing your husband will take forever to clean out the dishwasher, putting everything in the wrong places just to give you the comparative advantage. But when the kids are in bed and you're busy packing the school lunches and he realizes that waiting for you to then clean out the dishwasher is the only 'opportunity cost' standing between him and a little nighttime nookie…just see how quickly those dishes disappear!
5) Marginal utility
Economists say that marginal utility is a measure of how much value a consumer places on having one more unit of something. If you have no clean towels, the marginal utility of doing laundry and creating a supply of clean towels is high. Once you've washed three or four clean towels, the need to do laundry becomes less imperative. The marginal utility of adding more clean towels to your existing stack tends to decrease. In theory, you could stop after laundering the essentials, to make more time for other things….other, more fun things…
Marginal utility is an important consideration when it comes to your household. You don't always need to go from 'good to great'. With scarce resources, often good is good enough. If the cupcakes you made for the school bake sale are dry, add a little extra icing and move on. Or, call us crazy, put the kids to bed and send your husband to the store to buy cupcakes and ready-made icing. While he's gone, light some candles in the kitchen, open a bottle of wine and put on the iPod. Together you scrape off the existing icing, redecorate them with ready-made icing so they look homemade and…do we really have to spell this out for you?
6) The law of diminishing returns
Classical economists would argue that, based on the law of diminishing returns, your third O-moment will be a little less enjoyable than your second, which will be slightly less awesome than your first. Each added item consumed provides a little bit less of the original pleasure. We think this is a theory worth putting to the test!
A recent book called It's Not You, It's The Dishes defines the term in a slightly different way. The authors point out that the busier a couple is, the greater the opportunity cost is of doing the deed. Therefore, your likelihood of sneaking in even one climactic finish begins to diminish…hence, "the law of diminishing orgasms".
However, a survey of 2,183 women on British website Netmums found that after reading Fifty Shades of Grey, couples who normally did the business once a week are now doing it up to three times a week, with no complaints of diminished satisfaction!
If you do it, you will come
Well, if you're not already feeling hot and bothered by all this economics talk, perhaps you really should pick up a copy of Fifty Shades and get in the mood. The founder of Netmums was quoted as saying, "The book has set Britain's sex lives on fire with even worn-out mums finding much more time to make love. It's a phenomenon which has put a smile on millions of women's faces — and the twinkle back in their partner's eyes." We think even Adam Smith would approve.
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