The New York Times “Motherlode” blog has a lively discussion going about getting kids out of the marital bed. I can relate, even if my queen-size pillowtop is not of the marital variety.
Who couldn’t love this guy who wrote the blog, pleading for advice on how to get his preschoolers out of his bed? “I’m tired of wrapping myself in a Power Rangers blanket with my legs dangling off the edge my son’s tiny bunk bed, while he nestles next to my wife on my Tempur-Pedic mattress!”
Co-sleeping is an over-argued mommy war topic that I’m not really interested in rehashing, probably because I haven’t figured out my position on the matter. And the matter – for me, a single mom – is blurred by the fact that sometimes I feel lonely sleeping by myself.
Here’s my single mom co-sleep story:
When Helena was born, I was married and her crib was in our room. The plan was for her to sleep in her own bed, us in ours. Half the time she wound up in our bed because a) I nursed her in the middle of the night, and we just fell asleep that way, or b) exhausted, I knew the easiest way to get her to sleep was to plop her in between my husband and me, or c) there is quite possibly nothing more delicious than sleeping next to the person you love the most. Which in this case, was Helena.
But then I would need some space and I wanted to “train” her to sleep alone. So there was lots of back and forth and inconsistency.
When Lucas was born, I was on my own, and I wanted a straightforward plan. This meant that his official bed was my bed. His sister slept in the second bedroom, and he slept in the middle of my mattress. It was easy to nurse him and sooth him, and I delighted in waking up to his sweet face, which by some miraculous force, erupted into a brilliant smile at the exact moment his eyes opened each morning.
By now, Helena was in her own big-girl bed and could sneak into mine. Most nights, we were entangled in what was known as the “Mommy sandwich”: A stiff pillow was placed in the middle of the bed to keep Lucas cozy and safe. I was curled up next to him on the left side of the bed, sleeping on my side. Then Helena would sneak in and cuddle up on the six inches between me and the cliff – two tiny bodies locking mine into position for the rest of the night. I was constantly exhausted, and my body ached all day from the immobility.
Now, for the most part, everyone sleeps in their own big-kid bed, but toasty little sleepy bodies often make their way into mine. I struggle with letting them stay. On one hand, if they’re scared or lonely and want a 2 a.m. snuggle with their mom – isn’t that my job? And what if I love to feel needed, and love a sleepy little snuggle bunny?
Well, nothing wrong with that, except that I don’t always feel that way. Sometimes – often times – I need my space. It’s not fair that one night I open the duvet when they toddle in and allow them to snooze until morning, then the next direct them back into their own rooms before they have a chance to protest.
This conundrum is not unique to single moms. However, there was a moment a couple years ago when I realized that I felt lonely when the kid were happily snoring in their own beds. For a second, I longed for them to join me. That is not cool. It is not a kid’s job to keep their mom company in bed! That was when I realized I was not only ready to date, that I had an obligation to fill that need in my life, lest I thrust it on my kids.
This was also the time that I invested in a lock for my bedroom door and got serious about a no-kids-in-bed policy. I started envisioning a man occasionally sleeping in that bed, and as much as it pained me, there needed to be some church-and-state separation at my house. Adults in one bed, kids in another.
More or less, that is how it works now. But sometimes, exhausted moms roll over in bed in the morning and are surprised – delighted even – to find a brilliant smile gleaming at them alongside the sunrise.