I never thought I’d be the mom who shares her bed, or even her room, with her kids. I always thought those moms were too soft. Pushovers. Moms like that have no appropriate boundaries. Yet, two kids later, here I am drifting off to sleep with my husband on one side, my 18-month-old nursing on the other, and my preschooler snoring in his own bed across the room. We’ve become that co-sleeping family. It’s a love/hate relationship.
There are aspects of the arrangement I wouldn’t change for the world, but also some things I wish were different. For starters, by room-sharing with my kids, I enjoy unparalleled peace of mind. I don’t have to rely on monitors to keep tabs on my little ones; they’re only a few feet away. I hear every breath, hiccup, and cough through the night. When my son has a nightmare, I hear him toss and turn. He can tell me what’s scaring him and I can comfort him without either of us having to leave our beds. Priceless. However, since we moved his bed into our room, the night terrors he was having every night have all but stopped, so it’s really become a non-issue. He also knows he’s free to sleep in his own room whenever he wants, and he does choose to sleep alone sometimes. Some might be concerned that a child will never choose to sleep alone, but families all over the world room-share. I’m not worried. If it becomes a problem, we’ll address it. For now, we’re all happy with the arrangement (yes, even my husband).
One not-so-pleasant part of co-sleeping is that at any given point in the night, someone is all up in my space preventing me from getting comfortable. I might wake up with a toddler draped across my neck or a preschooler’s foot buried in my rib cage. I sleep in all manner of contorted positions to accommodate all the other beings that share our queen sized bed (including a cat and dog, some nights). To my amazement, I’ve grown accustomed to the awkward sleeping arrangements and wake up feeling very rested most mornings.
And then there’s the question of one-on-one time with the husband. Most people wonder how parents who allow their children in the bed at night manage to stay intimate. In all honesty, I think co-sleeping has strengthened our relationship in that area. When we had the room to ourselves, the physical aspect of our relationship became a little too predictable. Now, we have to be creative and sneaky, which is way more fun. It feels like a treat rather than an obligation.
If my 18-month-old daughter wasn’t so young it probably wouldn’t be an issue, but she still refuses to go to sleep if she’s not curled up in my arms. That means, if I go somewhere, she goes with me. There are no relaxed, carefree getaways for my husband and myself at the moment. Sometimes I feel like the lack of space might drive me mad. Thankfully it hasn't yet.
There are so few clear-cut “right” or “wrong” choices in parenthood. It seems that most of the decisions we make all fall somewhere between “helpful” and “not so helpful,” and even then, what may be helpful for one family may not be helpful for another. When I was a new mom, the decisions I made were mostly to comply with what’s considered "normal" in our culture. I sleep trained him. He had his own room. I weaned him after eight months (which seemed like a lot). I started him on jarred baby foods as soon as my pediatrician mentioned it. That’s all fine, and he is turning out to be a great kid.
But in the four years between my two kids, I did a lot of reading, thinking, and reflection. I now have a better handle on what makes me comfortable as a mother. I am comfortable allowing my baby to tell me what she needs. I don’t mind that my life revolves around her… I am her world. When I was a first-time mom, I felt like I needed to have the answers, and that it was my job to determine when he ate, when he slept, how much, how long, and I tracked it all on an app that created charts and graphs and, if I’m being honest, a sense of control. This time around, I’m over trying to micromanage my baby. Turns out, she has a pretty smart body that knows what it needs. I trust it, and I trust myself.
I’m a different mom today than I was when I first began this journey, but I am okay with changing and growing over the years. It’s far and away the best thing I can do for my kids.