The Things We Do For Sleep
I used to work with a guy who told me that each night he slept in his three year-old's bed with her, while his wife shared their bed with their other child.
"Crazy man", I thought to myself.
"What a crazy family. Why would anyone choose to do that?"
Little did I know that five short years later I would get it. I would be embarking on a little bed-swapping of my own!
Our particular bed-time dance goes something like this: Our three year-old falls asleep at around 8:30pm in her own bed. Some time later my husband and I go to sleep in our double bed. By 2:00am, our daughter wakes up and comes into our bed, and I go downstairs to spend the rest of the night on the couch.
This night-time routine isn't ideal by any means; and it's not one we would have chosen for ourselves in a perfect world. Just like, I'm now sure, that my colleague and his family hadn't chosen their unusual bedtime arrangements.
But just how unusual are these arrangements? Amongst my own group of friends with young children, not many (if any at all), have the "traditional" bedtime setup of two adults sharing a bed and the kids sleeping in their own beds all night long.
Friend 1 shares a room with her two year-old while her partner sleeps alone in their double bed.
Friend 2 bed shares with her husband and their young baby.
Friend 3 sleeps in a double bed with her three year-old, her baby and her husband. (And it's a normal-sized bed, so we're not sure how they do it!)
Friend 4 often shares the marital bed with her two kids, while her husband sleeps in the spare room, and
Friend 5 and her husband are joined every morning at 1:00am prompt by their five year-old daughter.
So why do we do it? The simple answer is, of course, SLEEP.
We've all been given the well-intentioned advice that once you show a child the way and let them sleep in your bed, they will be there forever.
Depressing huh? And that's as maybe, but we all got here in pretty much the same way. We spent weeks or perhaps months of sleepless nights putting our kids back into their own beds or cots each time they woke up, only to realise that we could have spent this time sleeping!
None of us were in favour or controlled crying. Leaving our kids to "cry it out" was either too heart-wrenching for us to bear, or else we found we had the kind of child who had the capacity, stamina and enthusiasm to cry all night long.
And no matter why the children were waking; be it nightmares, fear of the dark, or perhaps loneliness, the addition of a parent into their sleeping space just did the job. And it provided us with the optimal amount of sleep given the circumstances.
Call us lazy, call us stupid, but we're just doing what works for us.
A lot of the time the people who are the most critical about bed-sharing are those who don't have children, (just like me five years ago!) Or those who have never had to worry about sleepless nights because their kids have always fallen asleep the moment their little heads hit the pillow. And then slept like mini-logs until the sun was high in the sky the following day.
The fact that we are willing to forego nights alone with our partners is a testament to our desperation for a reasonable night's sleep.
Since becoming a mum I've learnt that some people don't like to talk about where they sleep, as it's not necessarily where one would expect. They might be embarrassed; fearing the judgement of other (better?) parents, and they might feel that they are the only people in the world who do things a bit differently. Little do they know that bed-hopping might be a lot more common than we think...
I say if something works for you, then do it! Especially when we're talking about sleep, which is kind of important. Parenthood is definitely an area where one size doesn't fit all.
So if you have unusual kid-related sleeping arrangements, it might help to know that you're by no means alone. And if you know somebody with an unconventional bedtime routine, try not to judge - because one day that could be you!
Do you (or did you) bed-swap, for the sake of sleep?
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