Like screen time, suction cup dart guns, and cereal with sugar in it, bed-sharing is something that just sort of creeped into our lives despite previous and vehement protestation. By the time we realized bringing our children into bed wasn't a "one time thing" but, in fact, our new way of life, my partner and I weren't interested in changing it. The good news is, we both enjoyed it and agreed it was a good decision for our family. Plus, there are things you can only learn about your marriage when bed-sharing, many of them actually pretty cool!
I've often heard that bed-sharing is a death knell for a romantic relationship. One of the people I have heard this from is me, years before I ever had children. As with many 20-somethings who do not have children, I was pretty convinced I knew way better than anyone else the psychological reasoning behind "the family bed." Basically, younger me postulated smugly, it was a parental capitulation to bratty children and a creepy, codependent behavior that would smother the little ones and take a toll on the marriage that had spawned them by over-prioritizing the children over each other. It could also be a way, I suggested, for one partner to have an excuse to get out of sex.
I was a pedantic little sh*t in those days and, like most pedantic little sh*ts, didn't have any idea what I was talking about despite my obnoxious certainty. When I had children of my own I figured out within weeks that bed-sharing often comes down to simply wanting to get more sleep. Beautiful, glorious sleep. Plus, it turns out it doesn't destroy your marriage! It can actually deepen your bond by teaching you the following things:
How Important Sleeping In The Same Bed Is To You As A Couple
Committing to bed-sharing with a child (or children) is going to really highlight your commitment to sharing a bed with your partner. Even under good circumstances, it gets crowded. Not everyone is suited to sleeping in a crowd. That's just fine. Some couples extol the virtues of having separate rooms all together, with or without children. Whatever works for you is great. However, in some instances, some people realize that cozying up with their honey is worth putting up with some discomfort. It was for me and my partner and I honestly couldn't tell you why, but it was.
Who Actually Takes Up More Room
When mattress real estate becomes so very coveted, you learn quickly to check and see if the grass is greener on the other side. The nights when I would be hanging off the edge of my mattress only to look over and see my partner sprawled out in all his manspreading glory there would be murder in my eyes.
How To Speak And Understand "Groggy Mumble"
The good thing about bed-sharing is that it requires a lot of verbal and non-verbal communication at, say, some ungodly hour in the morning. I don't know about you, but my mouth, tongue, and brain don't work at three in the morning. This means I speak in a lot of groggy mumbles, in a bed-sharing situation. Like, if our infant needed to be changed, I would roll over and tell my husband
"Hn. Hn. Swtee, ts yr turna chner dpe."
Which he would rightly and immediately translate as
"Honey? Honey? Sweetie, it's your turn to change her diaper."
Who's The Good Cop And Who's The Bad Cop
Coaxing a bed-sharing child to sleep can be a bit of an ordeal and, as in any good crime procedural, there's usually a Bad Cop ("You know what, there's a perfectly good crib in the other room he can sleep in if he doesn't want to stop moving around and throwing toys at us") and a Good Cop ("Come here, sweetie. You just need some extra cuddles..."). I truly do believe success comes down to a joint effort, but it's interesting to see who falls into what role when the time comes.
Precise Interpretations Of Impromptu Hand Gestures And Meaningful Looks
While groggy mumbles eventually become easily understood (and your parenting lingua franca), sometimes even that quiet murmur is too risky: you really, really don't want to wake the baby. So you learn to speak like a pitcher and a catcher through a series of made-up hand gestures, pantomimes, and stares. When you come to the point where you realize you have had an entire conversation without saying a word, it's really pretty cool.
How Completely Your Child Owns You
For my partner and I, this came about when our son was splayed in the exact center of the bed, he was clinging for dear life on the tiniest sliver of mattress, and I had given up completely and was lying at the foot of the bed like a wistful puppy who dreams of having a pillow one day.
How Little Collective Sleep You Need As A Couple
I feel like bed-sharing tips the scales closer toward parenting equality than having a child in another room. When someone actually has to get out of bed, it's usually one parent who is getting up more often (and, let's be real here: in a hetero relationship it's usually mom). Sometimes that's practical (for example, if one partner is breastfeeding and the other isn't). In other instances it's just bad habits; one person not asking for help and the other not thinking they should.
When the baby is in the same bed as both of you, you're both going to wake up, or at the very least you're both going to wake up more than you would have if you weren't all in the same bed. Because of this, you quickly find out how sustainable that is and, trust, children will push you to the exact edge of breaking.
The Exact Moment You Really Wish You Had A California King
I know lots of couples want a bigger bed whether or not they have kids, but when you're bed-sharing parents, that wish becomes a raging fire inside of you that will not be dimmed. Every night you spend in a tangle of limbs fuels that fire until you either put it out by buying a massive bed or it consumes you. My husband and I are among those stupidly precious couples that fall asleep cuddling, so before we had kids we always smugly asserted that a Queen was plenty of room for us. "A King bed isn't cozy enough," we mewled tweely.
Now? Yeah, now we want a King bed. We want one so, so badly and we can't have one and that fact destroys us daily.
How Creative You Can Get With Sex Locales
Because the bed is going to be out a lot of the time. (Not always—we would often put our children down in a crib or co-sleeper at the beginning of the night and bring them in after their midnight feeding.) Does this mean your sex life dies? Well... sometimes. But other times you just sort of revert to your high school, teenage sleuth-sex mode, bang wherever and whenever you get the chance, and hope you don't get interrupted by a family member.
How Amazing It Can Be For You, As A Couple, To Have Everyone's Heartbeat In The Same Place
When bed-sharing works, it really works; not just between parent and child, but between parents. Knowing everyone in your home is safe and sound in your little nest is a wonderful, incomparable bonding experience (and totally worth that foot in your face).