Parents/children bedroom configuration....
September 23, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Is it weird for kids to sleep downstairs and parents to sleep upstairs?

We're looking at a house we really like. The odd thing is that the top floor is pretty much all master bedroom. Two other bedrooms downstairs, and one of those would be Little Llama's room.

Is it odd for a kid to have a room downstairs and mom and dad upstairs? I can't think of another house I've been in with that configuration, and I remember being a kid myself and fearful of monsters and intruders and I think that would have bothered me, however I was also afraid of monsters and intruders despite the fact that in my childhood house, my parents were downstairs.

Are kids afraid of monsters no matter what? Should I be concerned about safety? Is this as unusual as it feels?

The master bedroom also has a fairly large dressing room. For now, at least, since she's so little, that would be her bedroom but at some point she would move downstairs into one of the lower bedrooms.

It's unlikely we would or could re-purpose the master bedroom -- it's very much "the master bedroom" and the downstairs rooms are not king-sized bed material.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it would be strange to have very young kids on the first floor while the parents are on the second. Some people in my family have masters on the first floor and kids upstairs, and I think that's kinda strange as well. When they're older, not as much - my brothers slept in the basement while my parents were upstairs and that didn't seem weird. As a parent, it would bother me in the sense that "intruders come in on the ground floor, and get to the kids first" sort of way - even though that's obviously very unlikely.

FWIW, I slept in what was essentially a walk in closet turned bedroom until I was in the sixth grade. It never bothered me. Any older than that and it probably would have - I had to walk through my parents room to get to the bathroom. Obviously, YMMV on that one. But I think that's a workable solution until she gets older.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: My folks and brother slept upstairs, and I slept downstairs, but this never struck me as weird. I sometimes worried about monsters and intruders and stuff, but I think no more so than any other kid. When I got older it was nice to be able to sneak in a little late-night reading and maybe not get caught as easily, too.
posted by ldthomps at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2010

We are in the same position as we use an upstairs room as a lounge room and the downstairs room as the kids bedroom. We had similar concerns and our kids are younger (3 and nearly 1) but in reality I do not think it need be a problem. As long as your kids know that you are there (even if upstairs) then that should be sufficent.
posted by numberstation at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2010

I grew up in a house with a similar layout. When I was younger, I slept in the bedroom downstairs and my parents slept upstairs.
posted by Ruki at 6:18 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: I doubt your kids will think anything of it if that's what they are used to from the time they are small.

The thing that would make me nervous is being on a different floor in case of a fire. But having well-maintained smoke detectors out the wazoo would probably make that not as much of an issue.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2010

We faced a similar dilemma and ultimately decided to sleep downstairs, on the off chance someone broke in and the kid keeps a messy room, so putting her downstairs near more public spaces would have been a probable disaster.
posted by nomadicink at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2010

My older brother had a downstairs bedroom from ages 10 to 18. His biggest complaint was the noise - people talking, the TV, the telephone, etc. Otherwise, he seemed fine with it, but he was older than your little one.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:22 AM on September 23, 2010

I owned a house where the entire top floor was a master suite and the three other bedrooms for our three kids were downstairs. No issues whatsoever. We did have an alarm which gave us some comfort. I loved that house.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:26 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

As soon as I was old enough not to share a room with my little sister, I was put in the only downstairs bedroom. After watching horror movies I would occasionally worry that an alien or monster or what have you would walk in the front door and get me first, but it never did happen. And I'm sure I would have found reason to be just as concerned if I were upstairs. They might come in through the window!

The only problem we had with this setup was the fact that my bathroom was also the only bathroom downstairs, and it was forever strewn with all the bathroom accoutrements of a teenage girl. The lip gloss was everywhere!
posted by chatongriffes at 6:29 AM on September 23, 2010

My parents and I slept on different floors my whole life (I assume they had me near them when I was an infant, but the kids rooms were on a different floor.)

This is not a problem. It's just a matter of what you're used to. It literally never would have occurred to me that anyone would think it was a problem until your question, and, as a potential parent, it's always struck me as a desirable situation.
posted by endless_forms at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

(The grammar fairies seem to have hit me with the ugly stick this morning. I plead insufficient wakey uppy . . . stuff.)
posted by endless_forms at 6:31 AM on September 23, 2010

Our 6-year old (only child) sleeps upstairs. The master bedroom is downstairs. He's perfectly happy with the arrangement. He has a light within reach, a flashlight and stuffed animal friends on the bed, and the cat tends to come in and out. We don't really discuss monsters or show him anything in the realm of horror movies, and he doesn't have any serious fears or anxieties, so I suppose the ingredients really aren't there. He also gets a lot of reading time at bedtime, which I think gives him things to focus on besides ghosts and monsters when drifting off.
posted by crapmatic at 6:34 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I knew a family growing up that had the older kid upstairs with the parents and the younger kid downstairs. Having kids bedrooms downstairs does not even register to me on the list of weird things a family can do. Especially with a "nursery" space upstairs while your kid (and future infant(s), if that is your plan) can be easily reached when they still need regular middle of the night care, if this house is the right one for you, go for it.
posted by fermezporte at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2010

It's pretty common in larger houses. The big advantage is it gives the parents more privacy from the kids.
posted by Mitheral at 6:44 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sister and I slept downstairs while my parents slept upstairs. As a little kid, I never felt emotionally charged in regards to our family's sleeping arrangement. Even in my youngest memories, I don't recall envying or feeling repulsed by the idea of my parents sleeping on same floor as I, like many of my friends' families did.

Sure, there will still be monsters in the closet and under the bed, as I imagine every kid goes through, but mom and dad were still very close by.

Sound always traveled better through our walls than our floors, so as I entered the teenage years, I really appreciated the floor separation since I could get away making more noise late at night. My mom was also a sensitive sleeper, so the floor difference allowed my sister and me to host sleepovers in our rooms instead of the basement or the family room.

Let me tell you, sleepover secrets are much more exciting and intriguing when told in the confines of a protected space (ie, my room) than in public space.
posted by nikkorizz at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2010

I slept downstairs from the time I was nine; house had master bedroom plus two up, and two down, and we had four kids, so the oldest two got moved downstairs. I was fairly convinced if an axe murderer broke in he would murder me first, but I only worried about that intermittently.

Sometimes when I was 9 and 10 and it really bothered me, I'd go upstairs and sleep in my brother's bunk bed. But that wasn't even possible after I was 11 (brother moved downstairs too) and I don't recall being upset about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:53 AM on September 23, 2010

(I have to say, it actually currently bothers me that our master bedroom door is four feet further down the hall than the nursery door, both on the 2nd floor, in case an axe murderer breaks in and goes to the baby's room first. So probably you should take my answer with a grain of salt since clearly this has been bothering me for THIRTY YEARS and I should just get over it already.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:55 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up in a house like this- parents on a different floor- and it was not a problem for us kids.
posted by vincele at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2010

I was always jealous of kids who slept on a different floor than their parents. Seemed to be so much cooler and more grown-up.

As a parent now, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all.
posted by gaspode at 7:04 AM on September 23, 2010

We looked at a house with that layout also. Ultimately it just seemed too weird for us.
So we are all upstairs in a different place.
Growing up, my parents were downstairs and kids were upstairs.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:28 AM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: This is excellent; thanks everyone. I just wasn't sure whether this would be another of our parenting fails but it sounds like it would be okay.

She's 2 1/2 and would probably sleep in the dressing room in the master bedroom for a year or two, depending. It's a decent sized room -- enough for a bed and dresser for her. I guess we would move her when she stopped sleeping in a crib and developed more ability to articulate her needs.

Although having to cross a room strewn with dolls and Legos to reach the master bathroom will undermine the whole elegant master bedroom experience we'll get used to it.

And frankly we're living in such a small space now that it would be really weird to suddenly have her so far away.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2010

Another data point: our 2.5 year old daughter has always (and I mean always, from birth) slept in her own downstairs bedroom. For the first few months we slept across the hall in the guest room downstairs, but that was mainly for our convenience, not hers. We moved back up to our upstairs master bedroom when she started sleeping through the night at 7-8 months old.

She still has a monitor in her room, and we leave it on in our room, so we can hear her if there is a problem. And she's fully capable at this point at getting out of her bed, turning on the light, opening her door and coming upstairs to get us if she needed. She knows we sleep upstairs, and seemingly has no issues or concerns about this. Kids are flexible, and "normal" is whatever you do routinely with them.
posted by griffey at 8:04 AM on September 23, 2010

I actually think this is an advantage, as kids get older. Their space will be closer to the family space, and you can keep tabs on them without going out of your way. I've thought having the kids on their own floor can lead to (more) mischief, whether it's not making beds or being on the computer at all hours, or whatever.
posted by Sukey Says at 8:05 AM on September 23, 2010

I would not hesitate to do this, but I also know totally reasonable parents who have been uncomfortable with it to the point of making house choices based on this issue.

My real concern is that you simultaneously have small children and an elegant master bedroom experience. Clearly you live in an alternative universe from mine!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:08 AM on September 23, 2010

Sleeping alone on the main floor will make it a lot easier for her to sneak out after curfew when she is older. No, I'm not speaking from experience. Why would you ask that?

We've had the master on the main set up since our kids were 6 and 8. The tiny little bit of extra confidence she might get from not having you on the other side of the wall will be good for her, if it matters at all.
posted by COD at 8:11 AM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: We sleep on the top floor. The kids sleep on the bottom floor. Judicious placement of a monitor lets us know when someone is getting into something that they shouldn't. We also get about a one minute warning before we get a visit from The World's Happiest Alarm Clock, aka, my daughter.

As far as monsters and nightmares go, we've been lucky in that there has been little issue. I think the biggest thing is making sure that there is nothing that little hands can get into in the kitchen. I think the only real problem we've had is croup and you can hear that across town. That and when the World's Happiest Alarm Clock decides everyone needs to get up, then everyone gets up - but that would be an issue excepting locking her in, which is clearly off the table.
posted by plinth at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2010

We have a 1950s bungalow with a basement. All 3 kids are downstairs and we turned the main floor bedrooms into a master bed/dressing room and an office. At this point, the only bathroom in the house is on the main floor (we're working on that) and none of the kids has a problem even getting up in the night to come upstairs to the bathroom (I will be happy when this doesn't need to happen however). At first we used a monitor. Now we don't.
posted by kch at 8:26 AM on September 23, 2010

We lived in a house that had a bunch of different levels (man, there were a lot of stairs in that house, now that I think of it). There were two bedrooms upstairs - the master bedroom and my younger brother's room. My room was one level down from the main floor, which also had a den, a bathroom, and a guest room, plus a door that led to the backyard and stairs to the basement/laundry room/playroom. I don't think I ever thought of it being weird -- this was from age 5 to 8. We had an alarm system, which probably was a factor in not worrying about it.
posted by pised at 8:40 AM on September 23, 2010

1) My daughter is 9 and her bedroom is above our office. God help anyone trying to work while she is playing, because it sounds like a herd of elephants running around up there. Our next place will definitely have her bedroom on the lower floor. My older daughter is not as bad, but you can hear her clomping from downstairs also. So my wife and I would be cool with your house from that POV, but...

2) One thing my wife is adamant about is having laundry facilities on the same floor as bedrooms. She hates schlepping heavy laundry baskets up and down stairs. This will always be a problem when your bedrooms are on separate floors. You have been warned.
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:58 AM on September 23, 2010

We purchased out house in the spring of this year. Top floor is all master and 3 bedrooms downstairs. We have a (now) 9 month old who sleeps downstairs. When she was born we were in a house where all of the bedrooms were upstairs. Since she is so young I dont think it matters really. The only inconvenience is us when we have to get up in the middle of the night and go up and down the stairs.

Security did come up when we were looking at the house before purchase in regards to us up and baby down. Our situation is unique though as it is a flag lot with only one way in/out of the property and we are completely fenced in. The UPS guy dosnt even come through our gate! So no, I do not see it as weird.
posted by NotSoSimple at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2010

Response by poster: And she's fully capable at this point at getting out of her bed, turning on the light, opening her door and coming upstairs to get us if she needed. She knows we sleep upstairs, and seemingly has no issues or concerns about this. Kids are flexible, and "normal" is whatever you do routinely with them.

Don't you worry about this though? I'm not overprotective but six months ago she was eating ladybugs so I'm not in awe of her good judgment or our ability to anticipate every demented thing she might consider doing.

Chesty, Yeah, we'd be giving up our elegant experience. It's okay though. We have two pets and a kid -- we don't have a lot of elegant experiences anyway.

Plinth, what kind of monitor, like a regular baby monitor?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:09 AM on September 23, 2010

We currently have a ranch with a split bedroom plan, our room is all the way across the house from the kids. I HATE IT. We use monitors and when they need us, we have to drag our sleepy fannies a long way and it's always making me nervous. We are looking for a new house and number one priority is all bedrooms together, whether up or down, I WANT to be near my kids. Just my thoughts, we have eliminated several great houses cause the bedroom situation wasn't ideal for us. Everyone has their preferences, I want my kids close at night.
posted by pearlybob at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2010

did the same with kids 4 and 6 and had no problems.
posted by swmobill at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2010

I slept downstairs starting at age 6. I was kicked out of my room, right across the hall from the master bedroom, due to the birth of my younger sister. Both my sisters slept across the hall from my parents, and I must say I got the better deal.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on September 23, 2010

I didn't sleep on the same floor as my parents after I was five. The only problem was that I was an inveterate night-reader, so I had to learn how to wake up to an alarm clock.
posted by catlet at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2010

I have recently had The Fear put in me about the possibility of daredevil toddlers climbing out their upper-story windows, so this arrangement sounds great to me. Plus, won't you be downstairs hanging out near them for the first few hours of their sleeptime, anyhow?
posted by redfoxtail at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2010

I slept downstairs (in the only downstairs bedroom) from when I was 8 years old. It was fine. If I were a parent, though, I'd only put younger kids down there if the doors and windows were really secure. I wouldn't worry so much about intruders, but about the kids getting OUT and wandering the streets without me noticing.
posted by lollusc at 7:23 PM on September 23, 2010

I thought I had nothing to say to this, and then about halfway through reading the thread, realized that I slept on a different floor from my parents for most of my childhood! I seriously just never thought of it--it was a split-level with the kids' rooms in the lower level and my parents' room upstairs. Guess that's a vote for "not a big deal."

That started when I was about 9, though, and I think it would have been very hard for me when I was younger. I had a lot of nightmares and then would be very anxious when I woke at night, and I was close to 9 before I was able to cope with these things myself. Of my three kids, who are 3, 6, and 9, the 9-year-old could probably do it now, the 3-year-old could probably do it now, the 6-year-old, no way. So, if I were thinking of buying a house like that, I would want to be sure there was some kind of workable-for-awhile option to be on the same floor until the kid or kids are ready to be on a different floor.
posted by not that girl at 7:59 PM on September 23, 2010

I grew up in a house like this; it made for awesome sneak-out-of-the-house easiness when I got to be a teenager. So, you know, there's that.
posted by judith at 8:13 PM on September 23, 2010

RE: sneak out of house ease. A simple unmonitored alarm with door/window sensors puts just as much of a kink in plans to sneak out as plans to sneak in.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on September 23, 2010

The only thing I can think of is the child being able to go out the front door alone in the night. At 6 years old they can get a decent head start on you before you wake up, get out of bed and get down to the door. At 16 you will have different worries about them heading out into the night.

As an aside for the people saying alarm system. Your child WILL know the code to shut it off. Google will teach them that tape, magnets or a screwdriver will get them out the door in minutes. Oh, and blocking the motion detectors keeps the lights and beeps off the master bedroom panel. I am speaking from experience.
posted by saradarlin at 11:23 PM on September 23, 2010

Best answer: Anecdotal: When my daughter was four, we moved into a house with a master bedroom on the second floor. My partner and I started sleeping up there immediately, and it was fine--she called once in a while, but I could generally hear her, and she'd come get me if I couldn't.

Two things changed my mind about this. The first was funny--I went downstairs to find her in the kitchen, very seriously cracking eggs...well, sort of into a bowl, anyhow. She was making her breakfast, she said. I don't think she'd thought past the cracking and beating eggs part, but it was still a right mess. But we had a chat about how she shouldn't do that on her own, and it was okay.

Until a month or two later, when I went downstairs in the morning to find her in her bed, completely asleep, having vomited onto her pillow and into the shoe box in which she kept some of her toys. When she woke up, she sadly told me that she couldn't get out of bed and she'd called me, but I hadn't heard her. We moved our bedroom downstairs that night, never mind that you couldn't fit our bed and a dresser into the room. There are two moments of being a parent that still kill me, some years later--the first is the time she fell and needed stitches in her forehead, and I had to hold her down while they stitched her up. The second was coming downstairs and realizing that she'd needed me and been unable to get to me, and I hadn't come. Never again.
posted by MeghanC at 11:26 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For a variety of reasons, all of which are too much to get into for this discussion, my husband and I sleep in the basement. Our three kids sleep on the 2nd floor of our house. We solved the distance problem very easily: a wireless doorbell. For reference, the kids were 10, 7 and 4 years old when we started this.

The wireless doorbell is mounted on the 2nd floor, outside the kids' bedrooms. The part that makes noise is situated in our bedroom in the basement. We have let all three kids know that they should push that button ANY time there's a problem - a bad dream, a wet bed, someone's feeling sick, etc. - and a parent (okay, really, my husband) will come up immediately.

This means they don't have to traipse through the house in the night (scary!) or track barf down two flights of stairs.

In our case, the boys don't need night time supervision in the sense that some of the above comments. It has definitely worked well for us.
posted by VioletU at 12:24 PM on September 24, 2010

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