The current issue of Macleans has an eye-catching photo on the front. A family of four is crammed into a double bed; it looks horribly uncomfortable. The headline is “Battle of the Bed.” I am intrigued by the article, which has a pleasantly balanced perspective and looks at how co-sleeping affects “reactive” sleepers — those parents who actually suffer from having their children in the bed. It does not look at co-sleeping from a cultural or ideological, i.e. attachment parenting, standpoint.
I learned that one in four North American children relies on their parents to sleep, which didn’t surprise me. I have a lot of friends who co-sleep with their kids and they are all wonderful parents. I don’t know their motivations for co-sleeping, whether it’s something that evolved naturally or if it was a conscious choice on their part, but it seems to work well and I respect that wholeheartedly.
My husband Jason and I made the decision not to co-sleep before our kids were born and we stuck to it so rigorously that I am now incapable of sleeping when they are there. If one of them enters the bed due to a nightmare or feeling sick, I become tense and anxious, tossing and turning for hours until I finally put my foot down and carry them back to their own bed. At times it makes me sad because I’ve missed out on those idyllic nights of cuddling up to a little warm body, but then I read about the many associated problems in Macleans and feel quite happy with our decision. These are the reasons why I didn’t want to co-sleep:
1. I need my own space. I love and adore my children, but I do not want to be with them 24/7. Knowing that I have a place to go where they won’t be is extremely important. That’s not to say they’re not allowed ever; A. usually naps in my bed, but nighttime is different.
2. I value deep sleep. I don’t like cuddling while I sleep, even with my husband, so having a hot, squirming child’s body in the bed would seriously impede my ability to get much-needed rest. I am very grumpy in the morning if I haven’t gotten at least 7 hours of solid sleep.
3. My kids go to bed early and that’s my time to be either alone or with Jason. Maybe I sound like a horrible mother, but if I had to lie down with the kids to get them to sleep, I’d quickly grow resentful. I like having an easy bedtime routine: read books, put on PJs, brush teeth, plunk into bed, good night and I don’t want to see you till the morning! (Yes, sometimes I actually say that when I’m frustrated by the number of times they get out of bed.)
4. I get up early, around 5:30 or 6 a.m. If there were kids in my bed, they’d probably get up, too, and that would just be a bad time all around.
5. Sex life, people!!! Keeping that spark alive is challenging for anyone who is run off their feet with little people. I don’t care how creative some couples may get when they’re forced to look for alternative locations and ways of having sex, but there’s something to be said for knowing that a comfortable bed with luxurious sheets is always available upstairs. It allows for natural and easy spontaneity.
6. I just don’t think it’s good for my kids. Again, this comes back to my personal child-raising philosophy which is that my job as parent is to prepare them for the world and to teach them independence. (I know that doesn’t work for everyone, nor should it.) I can’t help but think that if my child cannot even sleep alone, then where will he find the confidence to face the daytime world? I don’t want future sleepovers to be horribly stressful, nor trips away from home.
7. I knew I wanted a second baby and co-sleeping becomes a lot more complicated with two kids in the bed. It wouldn’t feel right to co-sleep with one and not with the other, so it was simply better for us not to start.
This is what worked for us. What about you readers? Did you choose to co-sleep with kids or not?