Bed-sharing is something that works really well for some families, and not so well for others. All over the internet, there are plenty of hot debates over the topic of whether or not to bed share with your baby, as well as whether or not you should co-sleep. Unsurprisingly, one issue that comes up again and again no matter if you're talking about bed sharing or co-sleeping, is that of sex and co-sleeping. In the case of parents who are romantically involved, either married or otherwise coupled, it’s pretty likely that they are people who want to have sex with each other. It seems logical that kids in the bed, or even in the room, could make parental sexy time more of a challenge, and so I suppose it makes sense that there’s a certain amount of interest in how co-sleepers manage to get it on with a kid in such close proximity.
Maybe that natural curiosity explains why, it seems like every few weeks, I see another article pop up assuring me that not only is co-sleeping not ruining the sex lives of parents, it’s actually managing to improve matters. Well, can co-sleeping really improve your sex life? In my case, the answer was a big old no.
First of all, I have a couple of necessary caveats. If you are a co-sleeping parent and you have an excellent sex life with your partner (or partners!), I have no ill will towards you. In fact, if you find yourself in this fortunate position, I’m incredibly happy for you. Actually, I’m happy for all parents who manage to have active and satisfying sex lives, no matter their sleeping arrangements. Ditto for parents who aren’t having sex and are happy and comfortable with that set-up. Basically, I’m thrilled if you have something that works for you. And if you want to share about it, more power to you. My issue, however, is when these types of essays start to get prescriptive.
My partner and I both work, we divide the household tasks as equally as we can, and we take on our fair share of the parenting responsibilities. And after all of that work, we don’t have a whole lot of energy for anything else. And yeah, I’ll admit it, that often includes not having a whole lot of energy for sex.
The arguments are more or less the same across the board. American couples tend to have sex at night, in their beds, or at least that is what popular culture leads us to believe. And that thinking lends itself to the fact that when you and your partner share a bed with not only each other, but also a child or children, having sex in your bed at bedtime is suddenly not an option. So, what do you do? Many, many co-sleeping advocates will tell you that this is how the magic happens. Because apparently, sex that happens in bed is boring sex, and not having that as an option forces you to get creative. Getting creative can be very good for your sex life, and it's a really nice idea, but based solely on my own very unscientific, ahem, research, I'm here to tell you getting creative absolutely did not work for me. In fact, my marriage didn't get any spicier.
We started co-sleeping during the hellish four-month sleep regression, and didn’t move our angelic child back to his crib until he refused to do anything in our bed other than climb on us, breastfeed, and scream at the top of his lungs (at around 9 months old). So we weren’t co-sleeping for terribly long, but during that roughly five-month long period, I didn't notice a marked improvement in my marital sex life. And as far as I can tell, there was one very simple reason for that: We were exhausted.
Look, parenting, especially parenting babies and very young children, zaps the life out of you. And if you aren’t independently wealthy, you probably also have to work, and you likely also have to cook and clean at least some of the time, and all of that work adds up. I keep thinking that we are about to turn a corner, that soon my child will reach an age where it will get easier and I will be less tired and less overwhelmed, but it hasn’t happened yet. My partner and I both work, we divide the household tasks as equally as we can, and we take on our fair share of the parenting responsibilities. And after all of that work, we don’t have a whole lot of energy for anything else. And yeah, I’ll admit it, that often includes not having a whole lot of energy for sex.
Half the time, I don’t have the energy to get creative about dinner, let alone think of new and exciting places for me and my spouse to get busy.
And let me tell you something, when I am bone-tired and desperate for sleep? That isn’t when I’m at my most creative. As it turns out, it's difficult for me to be creative and “think outside the box” when I’m exhausted and covered in baby drool. Half the time, I don’t have the energy to get creative about dinner, let alone think of new and exciting places for me and my spouse to get busy.
Also, frankly, being in near constant contact with my baby made it harder for me to even remember that sex was a thing my body could do. As the breastfeeding parent in our family, co-sleeping meant that breaks from physical contact were few-and-far between for me and my little one. And while I love snuggling with him, I have my limits. During those rare and beautiful moments when we were separated, like say, when he was napping in the bedroom and I was in the living room, I didn’t want to touch anyone under any circumstances. I didn’t even want to pet our three attention-starved cats. I became obsessed with carving out what little personal space I could, and that didn’t leave much room for getting romantic or snuggly with my partner.
All of that doesn’t even get into the issue of time, but suffice it to say that we had none. When you cut out night time as possible sex time, and you have a baby who requires near-constant attention, your opportunities to even consider having sex are severely limited. We pretty much would've had to do it during his nap times, which of course happened during the day when my partner was typically at work. Hypothetically, we could have jumped on each other during his naps on her days off, but then most of the time either I was working, or we were catching up on household chores, or some combination of the two. And again, if we’d managed to find the time and get in the mood, we'd then have to “get creative” or as I like to call it, “search for a place to take your pants off.”
Co-sleeping wasn’t the thing that made us too tired to get it on on the regular, but it was one more obstacle that certainly didn’t help.
Maybe some new parents have more time, energy, and creativity than I did, but that’s not what I heard when I talked to friends about it. In fact, other co-sleeping moms seemed to be just as frustrated as I was. The truth is that while creativity is all well and good, it is just plain easier to have sex when you have, you know, the opportunity to do so. Co-sleeping wasn’t the thing that made us too tired to get it on on the regular, but it was one more obstacle that certainly didn’t help.
And while I won’t claim that there was any magical transformation once he transferred to his own crib (we are still very tired people; I still require breaks from touching), it certainly helped to simplify things. Maybe I’ll be more excited about “getting creative” in the sexual department once he’s in school, but for now it’s a relief to have the option of turning to my wife in our big, comfortable, child-free bed. Nothing improves a sex life quite like having an actual chance to have sex.