My wife is co-sleeping — sharing our bed — with our two children. I understand why she sleeps with our baby, who’s breast-feeding, but not why my 6-year-old daughter must sleep in our bed. I’ve quit sharing the “family bed,” as I need my rest. I fully believe that my daughter should go to her own bed now. My wife does not agree. In fact, she refuses to even discuss it. We never were a high-frequency sex couple, but we’re verging on becoming a sexless one.
Beyond that, I’d like to get back to sleeping in the same bed with my wife without getting a small foot planted in my face.
“Barrier methods” of birth control like condoms, a diaphragm and the cervical cap aren’t 100 percent effective at blocking sperm from entering the uterus, but one barrier method is: the 6-year-old between you in bed asking, “Can I have a Popsicle?” “Do cats have bellybuttons?” “Who will take care of me if you die?”
I know, saying no to kids is so 1989, but somebody should really try to bring it back. As I wrote in my book I See Rude People, there used to be kid places and adult places. But even the martini lounge is no longer adults-only in places like New York City, where more and more, bar fights consist of little Anson clocking little Kamil over the head with his plastic truck. Beyond how a child who rarely gets told no grows up into an adult entitled brat, what do kids have to look forward to if, at six, they’re sleeping in the master bedroom after a rough night at the bar? And sure, studies suggest that co-sleeping may prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS rate is lowest in cultures that co-sleep), but there’s yet to be a report of a kid dying of SIDS at age 6.
It is good that your wife is sleeping with the baby. Anthropologist and infant sleep expert Dr. James J. McKenna finds that co-sleeping babies cry less and breast-feed more often and for longer durations. They tend to synchronize their breathing with the sleeping parent — perhaps training themselves in how to breathe — and spend less time in the deepest stages of sleep, during which quick arousals to recover from apneas (pauses in breathing) are more difficult for them. Because, like SUVs, sleeping parents are prone to rollover, and because a baby can be smothered by blankets or a soft mattress, it’s safest if the mother sleeps with the baby in a sidecar or bassinet next to her.
It’s bad enough that marriage means committing to have sex with only one person until you die. It’s not supposed to be one … or fewer. (“Do you take this woman to stiff you on sex till death do you part?”) Marriage is also a partnership, not a dictatorship, meaning one spouse doesn’t get to set policy by shutting down all discussion. That said, the spouse getting the refusals to talk has to refuse to accept that. Your wife isn’t playing fair in lavishing all her attention on the kids. You’re still there, and not just to bring home the bacon and then repair quietly to your new sleeping quarters — the pink bedroom with the princess duvet. You need to talk about how much sex you’d like, and how much she’s willing to provide, and work out a compromise. If your marriage is going to last, acrobatics in the marital bedroom had better not amount to your 6-year-old practicing her cartwheels on what used to be Mommy and Daddy’s bed.
The clique and the dead-tired
My boyfriend thrashes in his sleep, keeping me awake. We have a spare bedroom, so I suggested we do our sleeping separately. He worries that friends will see our separate beds and think we have sexual problems. I’m tired of going to work exhausted — and not for a good reason.
What kind of friends do you have that they’d come over for parties and inspect your home for signs of sexual activity?
And how would they know you’re sleeping in separate rooms? Would your door have a Barbie and a feather boa nailed to it, and would his have a sign that says “Girls Have Cooties” with a Post-it from you: “Actually, I got those taken care of at the clinic last year”? The truth is, per news reports, more and more couples are doing their sleeping separately — for reasons like yours. It is common to arrange your life around impressing your friends … when you’re in seventh grade. But, if your adult boyfriend cares this much about what people think, why leave anything to chance?
Send out Evites: “Dear Friends, We’re taking a break from having nonstop stupendous sex to throw a party. Please join us for dinner. Watch where you sit.”
Read Amy Alkon’s book: I See Rude People: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society (McGraw-Hill, $16.95).