Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Co-Sleeping Causing Problems For this Marriage

Dear Tazi:

My husband and I are having a disagreement about co-sleeping with our children, ages 3 and 5. They enjoy crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night, and I like having them to cuddle with, too. My husband would prefer that they sleep in their own beds, and has argued that our bed is not large enough for the four of us (and then asks if I "get" what he means!).

Tazi, I chose to ignore my husband's veiled comment, took what he said literally, and suggested that we buy a larger bed. He flew off the handle and told me in no uncertain terms that children do not belong in the marital bed past infancy. He has offered to compromise and allow the children to come in and cuddle on weekend mornings, but is insisting that they sleep in their own beds through the night, every night. I think this is still far too harsh; they are still young, and obviously need their mother with them through the night. I counter-offered with the idea of moving the children's beds into our room, but he outright refused to hear about it.

My husband is threatening to start sleeping on the couch if I don't do things his way. I told him that I will not compromise when it comes to our children. We are at an impasse, and he refuses to go to marital counseling over this issue. I think it is because he knows the counselor will side with me. Who do you think is right, Tazi?

Cuddle Mama

Dear Cuddle Mama:

Oh, my aching kitten head! You have more issues than you realize, starting with the fraying of your marital relationship. If your husband is threatening to sleep on the couch as opposed to just picking up the kids and putting them back in their own beds there is something deeper happening here.

I want to start by saying that I like your husband's compromise. Cuddle time as a family is a good way to strengthen the bonds between parents and children, and many families enjoy "family bed" time when everyone - including the family pets - snuggle together in Mom and Dad's bed. This occurs, however, when everyone is conscious or in a semi-conscious state and is aware of each other's presence. A sleeping child will be happy holding a cherished stuffed toy. A husband who would prefer to hold his wife is very aware that there is someone coming in between the two of them.

Your husband's point of view on the issue...

So often, once the children are born, the husband's need for attention and love end up coming second to the wants of the child (note that I said the child's "wants", not "needs"). Many men can deal with this during waking hours, knowing that once the bedroom door closes their wife will be all theirs - even if nothing more than a restful night's sleep is occurring. By allowing your children to sleep with you through the night, you are putting a barrier - both physically and emotionally - between you and your husband. You are also not doing your children any favors. You are creating an unhealthy dependency that needs to be broken - for the sake of both your marriage and your children, and even yourself. Your elder child is reaching an age where s/he will be looking to expand his or her horizons beyond your embracing arms, and your younger one will soon follow.

Furthermore, scientific studies have shown the children who co-sleep past infancy have a greater degree of sleep disturbance and a higher incidence of poor behavior, presumably from a lack of sleep. If your children are waking in the middle of the night to come into your bed, their sleep cycle has been broken.

A recently published Japanese study showed that sharing a bedroom with a child (though not necessarily co-sleeping with them) resulted in sleep disturbance among 87% of children studied. Scientists presume that this is because parents, who have a later bedtime than their children, would pull their child from deep sleep upon entering the room. Before you think I am suggesting that you and your husband go to bed when your children do, know that I am not; the same study showed that this practice upset parental sleep cycles, and made them irritable. No child wants an irritable parent. For the sake of all put the kids back in their own beds and seek marital counseling for the widening gap between you and your husband.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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