Co-Sleeping Changed My Marriage
Before my husband and I had our daughter, we were really excellent parents. We knew all the answers and gasped at the atrocities of the way others handled their children.
Yeah, you can go ahead and laugh.
We were going to do this and that, because obviously it was the only way to be. I was going to have a joyous breastfeeding journey with our baby and her perfect latch, and she would eat only home-made baby food and certainly never repeat any cuss words she’d heard from her parents.
Fast forward and there I was, spending half my life attached to a pump because she had a horribly shallow latch; she wouldn’t even eat baby food so that went downhill fast; and of course she’s repeated at least 3 four-letter words she’s heard from my mouth (in context, at least, so I gave her some leniency for that). I’ve committed more parent faux-pas than I care to admit, and my former self would be entirely embarrassed of my current parenting situation.
On the subject of the “right and wrong” of parenting, we came across co-sleeping relatively quickly. Our daughter slept in a bassinet next to our bed for the first six months of her life. This decision was mostly out of convenience and necessity, to savor the small increments of sacred sleep, and save the 3 minutes it took for me to stumble across the house, half dead, at any sound from the baby monitor.
Eventually, she slept in her crib…kind of. She’d have stints of sleeping in her crib, but those were few and far-between, and even as I researched every method of sleep training, she would wake at least twice a night. Keeping her in our room in our bed was the easiest thing for all of us. Although she was an occasional sleep ninja, she sure was cute and cuddly, which helped her case when I debated each night on where to put her down for her first episode of sleep for the night. So there it became our routine. It was easier for her to go to bed with me and my husband to join us later in the night, after we’d both drifted off to sleep.
I’m not saying this isn’t good. Or wasn’t good. It WAS good. I don’t think she’ll have any attachment issues or sleep disturbances because she cries, even now, when I tell her she has to sleep in her own bed. I also don’t think she’d have any issues if she’d slept in her own crib in her own room from day one. This isn’t a right or wrong on how your kid should sleep. But I will say this, which could turn into an unpopular opinion: co-sleeping was not good for us. It changed our marriage and not in a great way.
What came along with my early bedtime with our little one was less time for my husband and I as a couple. Being parents who both work full-time, our evenings were filled with dinner, dishes, and a few moments of rest before bath and bedtime routine. What I didn’t realize as we went through our daily activities, and I retired for the evening at 7:30 with our daughter, was that we weren’t spending any time together. We had no moments of our very own, just the two of us, without bottles, snacks, toys and messes. We spent precious time with our girl, but we neglected each other. We stopped communicating about anything other than the bare necessities. I am 100% not saying this was entirely based on the fact that our daughter slept with us at night, but her presence did change and seriously diminish our intimacy on all fronts.
Our nights now are still a struggle. Our daughter is 3 and we do a lot of bartering, begging and pleading to get her to sleep in her own bed. Sometime between 12:30 and 3 am, she’s sitting up in her bed yelling “Mom!”, at which time I roll out of the bed and stumble through the dark to help her gather her “blankies” and “stuffies” to bring back to our room where she snuggles in between us for the rest of the night. I lose a little more sleep these days than when she and I tucked in about 8 pm. I check the monitor to make sure she’s breathing about five times before I close my eyes and my internal alarm sounds if she doesn’t wake up at her normal time asking to come into our room. It’s not convenient or easy, but it’s working.
My husband and I have time for each other. We talk and laugh and watch an episode or two of shows we try to keep up with together. We are entirely alone (well, except for the dog), and in those brief moments, we reconnect with each other after what has usually been a long day of responsibilities. In those moments, our only responsibility is to each other and to nurturing our marriage.
So whether your child is eating organic cage-free eggs or day-old chicken nuggets for breakfast this morning, remember that in order to pour into them, you have to be full yourself. Marriage is tough and parenting is tough and together they can feel quite literally like banging your head on a brick wall at times. Keep it up, mama. Keep doing what you can to encourage the growth of your marriage or relationship with your significant other, and I can promise that will translate into your parenting as well.