Bed sharing with a toddler
July 21, 2014 8:32 AM   Subscribe

My wife has shared a bed with our toddler since she was born. I was never comfortable with it, and so I have spent a long 2 years on the couch. There is no end in sight and it's messing up our marriage. More below.

When our daughter was born she was so small and fragile and I was afraid to sleep with them, for fear I would crush her. I support my wife in thinking that co-sleeping had benefits, but I just couldn't do it. Then later I didn't sleep with them because basically I got a lot less sleep, and I became less supportive of co-sleeping. Now I don't sleep with them because I am really uncomfortable about sleeping with a child in the bed, something about it just doesn't sit right with me. It's caused a lot of distance in our relationship, not to mention there is no intimacy occurring. It seems to be a pretty non-negotiable thing, and I am not making any headway in getting this to change. I feel less and less happy in my relationship because of it. I am tired of the couch. Of course there is more to it than that, there always is, but. . . .do I push harder to change this, or do I just live on the couch until something external comes a long, like maybe my daughter goes off to college, and changes things.
posted by mouseboy to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What has your wife said when you've talked about it with her?
posted by palomar at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2014 [19 favorites]

It might be helpful for you to examine your feeling that it "doesn't sit right" with you to co-sleep now that your daughter is older. Where does it come from? What does it consist of? Are those fears real or imagined?

With that said, two years old is a perfectly fine time for a child to sleep in her own room. Do you know why it's non-negotiable? The bed is yours, too. It might take some doing, but it is totally possible for your daughter to gradually begin sleeping in her own room.

Can you be intimate with your wife at other times and places than at night, in your bed?
posted by woodvine at 8:39 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you guys usually have decent communication and problem-solving skills? Because it seems really weird to me that you two haven't found a way to work this out in the past two years. Is this really just about co-sleeping, or does it point to a deeper issue in your relationship?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

At the very least, tell her it's your bed too and if she doesn't like it, she and the toddler can sleep somewhere else.

Yes, try to arrange intimacy in other places and times, explaining carefully to her how important it is to you and the marriage. If she's completely uninterested in you and is solely focusing on the child, well, that's a dealbreaker in my opinion. YMMV.
posted by Melismata at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you've reached an impasse it's time for marriage counseling. You need someone to mediate this for you and to teach you and your wife how to negotiate big issues in your marriage.

Here's what you can say to your wife, "We seem to be at a stalemate on this issue, and I suspect that it's not just this issue, but our relationship that's at stake. Between us, I think there's got to be a way for us to arrive at a solution that we can both feel good about. Since we're not able to do that on our own, I think we should meet with a counselor who can help us negotiate this, and other issues in our marriage."

I will say that Husbunny and I have separate bedrooms and we're blissful about it. I'm a light sleeper and between his CPAP, my sleep-wrestling and my snoring, sleeping together just doesn't work for us. Separate bedrooms have been GREAT for our marriage.

One thing to consider is your own room, with a real bed and your stuff in it. When you and your wife want to have sex, you can use your room. When you all want family time, it can be in her room.

Separate bedrooms doesn't mean no sex. Why not propose moving your kid's stuff into the master, and you move into that room for now. You can always change it around if things change.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:48 AM on July 21, 2014 [38 favorites]

You sound really resentful, and I don't get the sense that the cosleeping is the only issue at hand here. Have you told your wife you miss her and miss sleeping with her in your bed? Have you had discussions about this previously or have you just been biting your tongue this whole time?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Considering that it is something that really bothers you (I think, understandably) you will have to somewhat push for it. How non-negotiable is it really? Even if you can't use the bed for intimacy at all, has it not occurred anywhere else? Does she know how important it is to you/how much have you actually talked about it? I do think a lot more information is needed to give a more thorough answer and to see how reasonable or not either of you is being.
posted by hejrat at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2014

It sounds like you need to talk more. My husband was also unhappy about children sleeping in our bed; he just didn't get that I was exhausted after working every day at my full time job plus my two part time jobs, and bed times were such a struggle that it was easier for me to just collapse with the youngest child. He would not get a job so I could work less, would not cook/do chores to lighten my load, wouldn't help put the children to bed, and wouldn't deal with the children at night if they had nightmares. He also wouldn't get up with them in the morning (he insisted on sleeping in every morning until at least noon). So yeah, at the time I wasn't too concerned with once again prioritizing his needs over mine when I was already running on empty. Is it possible your wife is also very, very tired and there are things you can do to make it easier for her?

Try a new night time ritual of just you and the child; gentle, mellow playtime, sleepy time yoga for stretching, a bath, a half- hour of reading, and then put the child to bed in their own bed (with sheets the two of you went together on a special trip to the shop to pick out) with some songs. This would give your wife some "me time" (no chores allowed) and break the pattern.
posted by saucysault at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

We co slept. I don't think my husband ever loved it but we had a huge king bed and we made it work. My son coslept until he was 4. The next step was a toddler bed at the foot of our bed. Maybe you can suggest a toddler bed at the foot of the bed.

Let her know you love her AND your daughter and wanted to be included in a family room. (If you indeed feel that way). It will be a step that doesn't feel like you are trying to separate her from your daughter, just be included.
posted by beccaj at 8:53 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It seems unlikely to me that the wife has no idea intimacy is important.

This is a communication problem, and this is a failure to co-parent as a team, and it will end your marriage - if it hasn't already, because 2 years is a long time to not talk about and participate in team parenting. Finding a counselor who can teach the two of you how to talk should be the most urgent task in your life right now.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

This would be a deal breaker for me. Kid moves out of the bed, immediately.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2014 [23 favorites]

Though I am not a parent, I've seen plenty of parents post articles to my Facebook news feed on how cosleeping is a Bad Thing™. Though it may be a good idea to use Google to find some of these articles, I'm sure your wife could find an equal number of articles on how cosleeping is a Good Thing™.

Other than that, there are some better suggestions upthread like a toddler bed and marriage counseling.
posted by tckma at 9:17 AM on July 21, 2014

I co-sleep/bed-share with my child and my husband sleeps in the guest room. He has an actual bed. He is a light sleeper and our kid wakes every 1 to 3 hours - I have the benefit of oxytocin releases to help me get back to sleep easily. I like cosleeping because I work outside of the home and I feel this gives me a way to spend more time with my kid. Dr. James McKenna is the leading researcher on mother-baby behavioral sleep in the United States, for some scientific background.

Anyway, sleeping in separate bedrooms has had it's pluses and minuses (plus: sleep for everybody! baby snuggles for mommy!) (minus: less impromptu late-night/early-morning intimacy). But time can be (and has been!) made for intimacy.

I think the bed sharing issue is a red herring. Barring any severe developmental issues, your child will be out of your bed long before she goes to college. I agree with the above that there are other issues at play in the relationship. Babies can be HARD on relationships. I think the thing my husband and I struggle the most with is we can no longer be "selfish" - there is now a small human requiring most - if not all - of our free time and free brain cycles, even. So jealousy pops up sometimes when one of us notices the other taking time to do our own thing or when the number of days since we spent couple time together starts getting too high. It's how you deal with this that will help or hurt the relationship.
posted by jillithd at 9:19 AM on July 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I do think this is something that time will take care of on its own. At some point, your daughter is going to realize that her friends don't sleep in the same beds with their mothers. However, that might be years away. You do sound resentful - how is your relationship with your daughter and your wife otherwise? Do you go to the pediatrician with your wife and daughter? I might go to the next appointment and tell the doctor that you would like to ease the kid's transition into her big girl bed and does she have any suggestions for how to make that go smoothly. The pediatrician might support co-sleeping but then you can talk about how it's affecting your relationship.
posted by kat518 at 9:20 AM on July 21, 2014

I think there are two issues here. One is co-sleeping, which you may or may not be able to come to a resolution about through talking with your wife -- possibly via couples counseling or some other mediation, if you find that you can't have the conversation alone. Even the most hardore co-sleeping advocates have an end date in their mind - what is your wife's? It's possible you are at the end of this journey and a few more months will end with your daughter in her own bed. Or it's possible your wife wants this to continue till kindergarten, or till puberty (at which point, trust me, your daughter herself will have something to say about the arrangement if she hasn't already). Knowing her own definition of what she wants the two of you as a couple to do can help you have the conversation.

The other issue is that no one should have to sleep on a couch for longer than a temporary visit. It's bad for your health, bad for your mental health, and bad for the couch, as well. I don't know what your living situation is like, but if there is room for a couch, there is room for a twin bed. I don't suggest using a bed in your child's room (I am assuming she has a room, even if she doesn't sleep there?), as it will make a later transition to it harder for her. But many couples who have to/choose to sleep separately fit an extra twin bed into their bedroom disguised as a daybed/couch. Or if there's no other room for it, you can replace the couch with a bed that dresses up like a sofa during the daytime. This accomplishes two things: You are taking care of your own needs (I am a grownup who lives here; I sleep in a bed with sheets and covers like a grownup who lives here), and it sends a clear signal to your wife that she also needs to compromise here. So long as you're sleeping in what looks like a temporary arrangement, she can give herself plausible deniability that you are just going through some phase of disagreement she can wait out. I would also argue that not getting a good night's sleep on a regular enough basis makes it harder for you to have any talk with your wife about things, because not sleeping well messes with your capacity to think clearly.
posted by Mchelly at 9:23 AM on July 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

I agree with roomthreeseventeen. In my personal opinion, co-sleeping with any child past age 2, max, is only the beginning of helicopter parenting and doesn't teach the kid that mommy and daddy have their own lives too. There are plenty of articles that support this (though, yeah, there are plenty of articles that say the opposite). Making your husband sleep in the other room because you'd rather bond alone with your child? That's kind of sick.
posted by Melismata at 9:25 AM on July 21, 2014 [30 favorites]

We have coslept with both our kids; our youngest is 5 and still shares the bed with us. We're working on transitioning him to his own bed, but he has to be ready for it.

It's a great way to attach to or with your kids, that's for sure. It's a cultural thing for us, though. It's pretty common in Japan, where families sleep together in the same room, until the kids become teens (when they want their own space).

I don't think this is "helicopter parenting" and I don't really such a thing exists as "helicopter parenting" anyway. Or, if it does, it has nothing to do with me and is none of my business. The only thing I care about is what happens in my house. I can't really judge how other people parent.

Anyway, I think intimacy between the parents could be seen as a real casualty here. You're on the couch, so I am assuming you and your wife are not having sex. Much.

If you are on the couch and your wife and child are in another room (not an uncommon scenario by the way, and there is nothing wrong with not sharing the covers or even the same room as your wife, if you both agree with the situation), you need to re-establish the bonds of intimacy somehow, and the only way to do it is to move back into the bedroom and embrace co-sleeping.

You're on the couch, and your wife has, so to speak, the high ground.

As for sex, choose another room? I don't know, but in my experience, a mother's bond with her child trumps everything else. It's biology pure and simple. You're not going to win your battle.

The question is, can you rebuild relations with your wife to create a harmonious household once again?

Once again, I don't have an issue with co-sleeping. I think it's fun and is a great way to bond with kids and to provide them with more emotional resiliency (and even stave off mental illness once they hit the teen years).

But after the age of five, it's time to move them out.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 AM on July 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also, in my opinion, once you have children, mommy and daddy don't "have their own lives." Your life is your children (in my opinion). So that's why cosleeping works for us.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:35 AM on July 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'd work on getting back into the bedroom at least, either a twin bed for you in the room, or maybe a small toddler trundle bed for the toddler as a step to getting them used to sleeping in their own bed & out of the room. They can sleep on the floor next to mum if it makes the transition smoother.

Co sleeping is great for the kids if both parents are on board and happy, but the benefits of happy parents who feel connected to each other outweighs any benefits from the current set sup. The current set up is not working for you both so a compromise needs to be found. It may be you need to do more around the house so she has more energy & so having you back in the bed being intimate isn't just another energy drain on her, it may be that you guys need to go to counselling & work out what the real underlying problem is.
posted by wwax at 9:41 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's hard to know what all if going on here from your brief statement but given you're hoping for advice from random people on the internet, I can deliver! If you're starting off only with the solution being co-sleeping must stop, I can see why she might not want to "negotiate" with you on this.

I can think of a lot of solutions that could have been taken sooner, and I agree with above it sounds like you have other things going on. Having a baby and nursing and caring for a baby can be a huge transition and I think sometimes women who carry the baby and nurse are having a different experience than what men understand. Their needs in order to have intimacy may have changed and you might have to learn to have intimacy in a new way. She may have more parts of her body that are tender or sore in ways they weren't before, she may have experienced birth trauma or high stress issues that have increased her sense her child may need to co-sleep longer (every child is different and close contact can be very beneficial for health if the child is having specific stress or health issues). She may be dealing with fatigues and stress, not to mention body changes and flabbiness and stretchmarks that all add up to not feeling as sexy as before. It's a whole new process figuring out the sex again.

Some mothers sense their children are high needs and are providing for that but since they are meeting those needs the child doesn't display many problems and others might think the level of nurturing is unnecessary. Some mothers really are smothering but feeling the child may need to cosleep longer may be a valid position she is sticking to for the welfare of the child. Think how much research finds that increased maternal attention is healing for epigenetic damage, there really may be some kids who need this and our failure to attend to their early needs may lead to worse problems later.

Do you love your wife? Do you want intimacy with her again? Do you want to know if, honestly, there are some things you're messing up right now too that are making intimacy harder? Maybe just as your wife is not aware of or able to provide for your needs right now, you're missing an understanding of what she is going through and needing from you too.

If you really want to rebuild this, try setting aside the resentment and start trying to rekindle the love with your wife, by communicating with her more, showing you love her more, and letting her know that you miss the connection with her you once had and want to feel that closeness again, because you love her. If you go to marriage counseling try to approach it from that place, wanting to rebuild things, rather than wanting to make your wife change or see your way. If this really is an ultimatum for you, be prepared that she will take you up on the suggestion of divorce and if that is what's needed that may be the way things go.

I have never been married, so did not contend with dealing with a husband involved, but was dealing with a high stress situation and a colicky child who really needed to be held regularly to be comfortable and for whom cosleeping was really helpful for.
posted by xarnop at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

There's so much personal here, but I have to ask since it doesn't seem to have come up yet: It's been two years. Why don't you have a bedroom? I mean, you might not be content with a bedroom, either, but anybody breathing would be discontent with sleeping for two years on the couch. I'm presuming your wife isn't actually sleeping in bed with the kid every moment the kid is asleep, because kids tend to go to bed early--so if you had a separate bedroom, it seems like that would allow for bed-related alone time without disturbing the kid, and then if your wife felt it was important to sleep with the kid, she could go do that?

Like, I know people who do this, and it seems to have worked for them, I dunno if it'd work for you. But even if this cosleeping thing is fine, "oh you can just sleep on the couch forever" is not.
posted by Sequence at 9:43 AM on July 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

There is no "I'm right and you're wrong!" answer to this. You have to negotiate a solution with your wife that makes all three human beings happy.

I suggest introducing chance into this arrangement: flip for it each night. Heads, your daughter sleeps in her crib and you sleep with your wife. Tails, your daughter sleeps with the two of you. No more of this couch shit.
posted by pracowity at 9:50 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know what the solution is here, but if I were you, I would put a bed in your daughter's room and either she sleeps in it or you do. I would also suggest that as a transition to your daughter sleeping alone, mom and daughter should co-sleep in daughter's room while you are in the master bedroom.

As others have said, I think you are being reasonable and suggest that you have an independent third party discuss this with you with the goal of coming up with a solution and addressing other marital issues.
posted by 724A at 9:52 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Now I don't sleep with them because I am really uncomfortable about sleeping with a child in the bed, something about it just doesn't sit right with me.

It would help if you could get to the bottom of your discomfort and articulate what exactly about sleeping with them doesn't feel right to you.

do I push harder to change this, or do I just live on the couch until something external comes a long

It's not just that you should push to change this, but clearly you need to change some fundamental things about your marriage. Why would you tolerate sleeping on a couch for two years? Why would your wife think that this is okay? Why aren't you two making love -- or communicating effectively?

Your discomfort is not an issue for you to overcome on your own -- it's something you and your partner should explore and discuss as a team. You need a solution that involves 1) open, loving and warm communication 2) each of you having a comfortable place to sleep each night and 3) a plan for discussing and addressing both of your needs for intimacy.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:57 AM on July 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm on your side here, man. My wife and I have two young children, and I'm glad we were more or less on the same page about co-sleeping: only during the newborn stage.

Physically, it sucks to sleep on the couch. Symbolically, it does too. Every night,
you are metaphorically relegated to a second-class status in your own house, marriage, and family.

The longer this co-sleeping situation continues, the harder it will be to end. I've been a cousin's house where their 7 year old was still sleeping at the foot of their bed. It might work for them (I didn't ask), but my opinion is that the parents should have their own room and the children theirs. You most likely agree.

I disagree with the commenter above who said, "a mother's bond with her child trumps everything else." Parents bond strongly with their children, sure, but this situation is a choice your wife is making.

So how to solve? I don't know. These half measures being suggested like flipping a coin or putting a new bed somewhere don't get to heart of the matter how the child is symbolically getting between the two of you.

Does she realize how strongly you feel about this? If not, make it clear how this is pushing you away and tearing apart your marriage. I guess you should turn to marriage counseling if that doesn't work.
posted by Leontine at 10:07 AM on July 21, 2014 [17 favorites]

Do you have someone who can intervene on your behalf? Someone other than you needs to explain to your wife that co-sleeping is less important than allowing a child to grow up in a stable home where mommy and daddy love each other very much.

Don't sleep on the couch any longer. Man up and reclaim your bed. Put a small mattress or sleeping bag on your bedroom floor for your toddler for the first week. Make it fun, set up a pup tent if you have the room. For the second week, put a sleeping bag on the floor of your child's room for your wife. Do not budge on this. Eventually she will become uncomfortable enough to see how silly it is for one spouse to be pushed out of bed for someone who will eventually grow up and leave you.

All that being said, does your wife work full time? Is she away from your child most of the day? If so, then you need to encourage her to work less, even if this means you working more. Biologically speaking, she needs a lot of time with your child. If she isn't getting it during the day then she will need it at night, in which case, disregard my first two paragraphs. If her working less is not an option then you could and should take on most of the household duties so that she can spend time with your child when she gets home from work, instead of cooking, laundry, paying bills, etc. If you make time for her to have time with baby, it should pay off well for you. And don't forget date night! At least once a week, find a babysitter (don't leave it for mom to do) and take your wife out on a date. Remind her why she should want you in her bed again.
posted by myselfasme at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

"a mother's bond with her child trumps everything else"

This has been my experience as well. Once the 2nd child was born, I became a second class citizen, even without the co-sleeping component.
posted by The Blue Olly at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. To add some more info, we had a really good relationship before the child, but it has been a real struggle since, which I understand is quite common. Our daughter doesn't have her own room, and we are pretty low on rooms in general. I have tried really hard to do my part, to change diapers, clean the house, make meals, be generally a useful husband, so I don't think I have been bad about trying to meet my wife's needs, though I am definitely getting less interested in being so helpful. But we fundamentally disagree on several aspects of parenting. I grew up in a very different kind of household, where kids did not share their parents beds. I am aware of the studies about benefits of co-sleeping and mental health later on in life. But we have done this for two years now. I don't believe that the mother-baby bond should trump all, because a healthy relationship between the parents is of benefit to the children as well, and I don't think divorce is particularly good for children. Neither of us feel like we have a lot of time for good communication, and by lack of intimacy, I don't necessarily even mean sex, I mean closeness, the idea of having sex seems to far removed to even worry about, I would settle for a half-hours snuggle on my sagging couch. Yup, those of you who suggested counselling are right I am sure . . .
posted by mouseboy at 10:20 AM on July 21, 2014 [15 favorites]

Is your daughter a good sleeper? Does she sleep through the night? Does she fall asleep easily on her own?

I ask because it's possible the co sleeping is a practical function. When a child won't fall asleep on her own or wakes through out the night getting out of bed multiple times a night to settle a toddler is exhausting. If your wife was the one "on duty" at night she might just be trying to get more sleep.

What about buying a twin bed (you will eventually need one for the toddlers room anyway). Put the twin bed beside the master bed. You sleep in the twin, your wife beside you with the toddler on the outside (a bed rail or wall can be used to make sure she doesn't fall out). Then you can begin a gentle transition to her room.

Intimacy is very. Helping everyone get more sleep will put both of you in the right mood to reconnect.
posted by saradarlin at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, counseling. An idea for discussion: does your wife not want to have more children? A lot of couples begin their child-bearing stage with the idea that they will have at least two children (that is, they agree on the importance of siblings); if she had a traumatic pregnancy or childbirth, or if she finds parenting the one child overwhelming, she may not want another kid and is wedging the toddler in your marital bed as a way to postpone a difficult conversation about family size.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2014

Can you afford to go to a therapist?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2014

Based on your update, is there only one bedroom? What is your plan for where your daughter will sleep when not in your bed? In a crib in the corner? If she can see you guys there is a good chance she is just going to scream to join you.
posted by saradarlin at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

(Counseling may be available at little or no cost through your employer, or via a local clinic, or through university services if either of you is a student.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2014

I would settle for a half-hours snuggle on my sagging couch.

This seems like a reasonably low-conflict place to start (either in therapy together or just the two of you). Try to separate your disagreement with each other about co-sleeping from your emotional distance from each other. Is she willing to work on other ways of fostering closeness and intimacy?

If you can make headway on the emotional distance and intimacy, it will almost certainly be easier to work on the issue of this big disagreement.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2014

Our daughter doesn't have her own room Where do you envision her sleeping then? It sounds like the co-sleeping is the practical option for now. Also I am definitely getting less interested in being so helpful, yeah, don't do that. That speak volumes that you think taking on a fair 50% burden of household duties is "helping". No, you "help" someone when you think they actually have the responsibility to do something and aren't you great for lowering yourself to their level to "help" and darn it, they should be more grateful. Child-rearing is hard work; it sounds like your wife has done the majority of it (unless you are sprinting out of the couch each night, several times a night, to soothe your child - after also putting her to sleep in the bed every night). Since your wife has night duty now it would be fair for you to have day duty (all chores, cooking, childcare during the day). Doing, not "helping". And believe me, a clean house, food someone else cooked on the table, and clean sheets on the made bed, while a happy toddler sleeps after someone else has put her to bed, is successful (and necessary) foreplay for most mothers of infants/toddlers.

You indicate you grew up in a different type of household, so what have you done to create opportunities for that kind of household to exist? Back to my husband, he threw the "I was raised different (better) than this" argument at me a lot. But he didn't see how comparing the role his stay at home mom had to me was really not fair when he also expected me to be the breadwinner. Why do you hold the platonic ideal of "children in their own bedrooms" when you don't provide the bedroom? Is this really resentment at your wife, or are there feelings of inadequacy about you as a provider tied up in it too? If there isn't time for communication - why? What else has become more important than communication and what can you change to make time for communication?

At the same time as you wanting more physical closeness, your wife is probably overwhelmed in ALWAYS having little hands touching her. She may not need physical closeness from you and may even be repelled by having to serve yet another person's needs above her own. Give her space away from work, the baby, you and everyone else that is constantly putting their needs above her own so she can get grounded before you start making demands that will distance her further. As much as you are carrying lot of resentment for her, she is probably carrying a lot of resentment for you and the fact that so much has fallen on her shoulders while you sleep uninterrupted on the couch
posted by saucysault at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2014 [37 favorites]

Best answer: Do you have a crib with removable sides? You might consider attaching the crib to the side of the bed. That could give your daughter a bit of her own space while still letting her snuggle with mom if she needs to. (Although this wouldn't give you a private space for intimacy, obviously.)

With my son, we spent about a year with him, age 2-ish, sleeping in a twin bed in his room. At a certain point during the night, he'd cry and I (the mom) would come into his room and lie down with him. It was easier for me to spend the rest of the night in there then to stay awake long enough to come back to our bedroom. And this worked well for us -- just that one brief wakeup for me, plenty of snuggling for the kid, but also adult relaxation time for my husband and I. Just these last few nights, he's started sleeping all the way through and coming into our room when he wakes up in the morning. When he was younger, we did this on a twin mattress on the ground, not a full-on bed.

As a mom and a wife, I hope to think I was open to discussions about my husband's needs being met -- but I know there was a part of me that got (and still gets!) defensive whenever I perceived criticism of my parenting choices. I know I would have responded way better to a conversation that began "hey, what solution can we come up with that gets me back in the bed but still lets daughter gets all the cuddle time we need?" rather than one that went "isn't it time already for you to stop with the co-sleeping?" Of course, if you really do feel like your wife is making the wrong choices, then you need to discuss that too -- but try to separate out the two issues of your needs and your thoughts on her parenting.

(A hint for if you do want to have that conversation -- to get yourself into a good frame of mind, think about areas of her parenting where you really respect her a lot. Maybe think about if there are any times where you doubted her parenting choices but now in retrospect you think they worked out well. Tell her these! "You know, I'm still not quite comfortable with the co-sleeping, it's not the choice I would make myself. However, I know that I've been wrong before... when you wanted to do X and I said we should do Y, I see now that daughter has really thrived with X. You're an awesome mom, and I love and respect you for that. So let's talk, you tell me more about why cosleeping is so important to you, I'll tell you more about my discomfort, and we'll try to find some solution that works for all of us.)
posted by wyzewoman at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

FWIW, around 2.5 years is when our daughter started to proudly accept our praise along the lines of: "Wow, you slept all night in your own bed, all by yourself, like a big kid!" Believe me, this was rare--our daughter has been a horrible sleeper since day one. Just shy of 3, we still do a fair amount of co-sleeping. My wife and I start out the night together in our bed, with our daughter in her (full-sized, on-the-floor) bed in a separate room. When she inevitably wakes, my wife goes into her room and spends the rest of the night with her. It's not ideal, but it's what has maximized sleep for the entire family.

Our daughter has been reacting really well lately to the idea of getting a "new, big kid" bed and sleeping in it by herself. So that's our next step. My wife's also going to go on her first vacation since becoming a mother, and I'll be in charge of getting our daughter used to the idea of sleeping by herself.

My point in sharing all this is: Co-sleeping doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can change it, or gradually leave it behind. If I can do it, then anyone can, because as I mentioned, by high-needs kid has always slept like shit!

If I can say anything with certainty about your question, it's that you should not have to sleep on the couch. The rest is all negotiation, and compromise, and active problem-solving between you and your wife.
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:57 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Two years old is old enough for a weekend with grandma.

Can you send your child away for the weekend and go on holiday? You might be able to talk it out then.

Yes your wife might be concerned about how your child will sleep but if you make the vacation attractive enough to her, she might go along.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:29 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a toddler bed that fits a crib mattress, put it next to the bed, and transition the 2 year old to it. It can be hard to make that transition; the separate bed is a good 1st step for both of them. Other issues would benefit from therapy.
posted by theora55 at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I slept with my mother until I was 14 years old, when I moved to the couch. My parents were not intimate (it had, by my birth, become a very transactional relationship on my father's part) and I can honestly tell you that seeing my parents so devoid of love for each other did a number on my psyche.

Your daughter is young, at two, to consciously feel anything like that, but emotionally? I wouldn't bet on her not picking up on the obvious divide between you and your wife.

I have a three month old daughter now and she moved to her own room at 6 weeks old (and we co-slept beforehand but never bed shared). She sleeps better and we sleep better. We'll bring her into bed for snuggles if she wakes up a little earlier than normal and that is awesome family time. Not bed-sharing doesn't mean putting a rift between you and your child, it means creating a different sort of familiar intimacy. This is not a question of helicopter parenting, it's a question of the emotional health of your family unit. Families for whom bed-sharing works are welcome to keep on bed-sharing indefinitely, but that is not the case for your family since you are clearly very unhappy.

You need to talk to your wife. Does she truly understand what she's asking you to give up (emotionally, physically, and psychologically) by having you sleep on the couch for years? And if she does understand, does she even care? I also suggest couple's counseling to work through it, I feel like you've gone way past anything a heart-to-heart could fix.
posted by lydhre at 1:38 PM on July 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh man, this is so hard. We went through a period where the baby was extra fussy (4 month sleep regression for the win!) where baby slept with me in our bed and my husband slept on the airbed in her room. He's just too heavy a sleeper to share a bed with a tiny baby. She's 9 months now, and big enough to manage in between us as needed, so she goes to sleep in her own bed and then comes to join us when she wakes up (sometimes 5-6am, yay!; recently more like 2am, sigh).

So we don't cosleep like you do. But I can speak to some of the ways in which a baby affects a relationship, that might be related to some of your underlying problems. I work, but my husband works longer hours. He means well, and helps some, but not as much as he thinks he does. At times it seems that my life is entirely controlled by his work schedule - when he comes home in the evening, he puts a kid to bed. When he doesn't, which is at least twice a week and often more, I have to put two little kids to bed by myself. I don't get to work late. I don't get to go out in the evenings because he's not home in time. And I get SO OVERWHELMED. As someone mentioned above, I absolutely get jealous when he takes time for himself. (Is that a grocery bag with a new bottle of Jack Daniels in your hand? Sure would have been nice if you'd got home for bedtime instead of stopping at the store. Must be great to get to stop at the store in peace instead of wrangling two screaming kids. GRRRRR.)

Exhaustion and lack of free time makes us all terrible people. Most of the time I'm nice. But when the baby is especially needy, and the preschooler is especially loud, and I'm exhausted, and husband doesn't seem to be pulling his weight, I stonewall him. Sometimes it seems like I just don't have any more capacity in my heart to show him compassion. During these times I'm not receptive to criticism, and I'm not proud to say, sometimes outright mean. Because I can't take it out on the kids, y'know? I hate it, and I try to keep a lid on it, but sometimes I just can't.

She could be feeling this way towards you for all the mother-of-young-child reasons outlined above. (I will say that dads seem to categorically underestimate the amount of work that moms do, when calculating their share.) You are clearly having the same kind of feelings towards her - being excluded from your bed is hardening your heart. And of course these things feed off each other.

We've had intimacy problems too, of the sort you describe. The never actually connecting with each other enough to get around to a snuggle. If you can schedule 15 minutes into your day to sit and talk with no tv on in the background, it helps. We sometimes sit on the porch with a drink in the dark for that time. The intimacy problems are definitely contributing to your lack of progress in coming to an understanding on the cosleeping issue.

I think your best chance of getting a foot in the door with the cosleeping is to try and find a time when neither of you is too tired or stressed, maybe after you've done something fun, and try not to be too combative about it. (Again: This is SO HARD, especially when something's been simmering for a long time) Ask questions and listen to the answers, like how long do you see this lasting, where will toddler sleep once she eventually leaves parental bed, does wife have any ideas about how you can rebuild relationship. I'm not saying this because she is queen and you should defer to her, I'm saying it because you somehow have to bypass the reflex-defensiveness that probably crops up when you bring this up. If you've argued about this in the past, the conversation can easily short-circuit (we've already had this fight before, copy-past contents) and you want it to be different this time.

Good luck. I hope you guys get through this. It is so, so, hard, and I say this as both the wronged and the wronging party in many interactions.
posted by telepanda at 1:41 PM on July 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

and I became less supportive of co-sleeping. Now I don't sleep with them because I am really uncomfortable about sleeping with a child in the bed, something about it just doesn't sit right with me.

This part of your question rings a bit...not untrue, but something similar. As a random person on the internet, it seems unlikely to me that your opinion of sleeping with a child in the bed has actually changed in any theoretical sense, and much more likely that this is more a reflection of your frustration with your personal situation.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! You feel what you feel, and it is totally a legitimate, reasonable thing to be frustrated about two years of not sharing a bed with your partner*. I'm just saying that I think that the more honest you are with yourself about your feelings, the more likely it will be that your conversation with your wife is productive.

*Though you make it pretty clear that not sharing the bed was partly/mostly/all your decision. Your partner might actually be pretty frustrated too. Just a thought.
posted by solotoro at 3:30 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe I missed something, but I'm confused. I was going to suggest that your wife could transition the situation by sleeping with the child in the child's room and then returning to your shared bed after the child falls asleep. But you said you don't have a room for your child. So how is the child supposed to NOT sleep in your shared bedroom?
posted by Dansaman at 10:13 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Soon your kid will be at the age where they would have normally transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed or at least a twin bed. It was age 3 for mine. That's when you make the kid part of the move. You get the Big Kid Bed and decorate the room accordingly and make it special for them. Then its Their Room and there's no need to be in the big bed with Mommy and Daddy. Now if your wife if using the kiddo as an excuse to not be with you or be intimate, well, thats another story all together. Somewhere in the middle of all of it, I hope you find your answers.
posted by PJMoore at 12:56 PM on July 22, 2014

Another vote for counseling. It seems unlikely that the co-sleeping itself is the actual reason for the distance and lack of intimacy. Lack of direct, problem solving communication, getting into a cycle of resentment (rather than teamwork) and possibly unequal division of expectations/responsibilities seem much more likely candidates. I suspect your wife's version of "what the problem is" would be very different from what you're seeing as the problem.

Two years of this building up seems therapy worthy, but if you won't/can't go that route, you guys need to approach this as a problem to be solved together, set aside (even temporarily) as much of the negative emotions as possible and brainstorm. Try not to get sucked into recriminations, or rehashing of old arguments, tit for tat stuff. The challenge is to figure out how you can both have your needs met. If you need to, try abstracting it. It's not your problems, it's friends of yours or characters from a play, how would you two jointly and as a team solve the problem.

Of course first you have to identify what you really want and need to be happy. You seem to think having your daughter sleep somewhere else (though where is seems very unclear) and you being in the bed is your 'end goal', but is that really what you want, or do you want to rebuild the love and intimacy that you feel is lacking? Distinguishing these is important because you can't go into a constructive, problem solving conversation if you have already made up your mind that there is one and only one way to meet your needs. Doing that doesn't leave any room for meeting her needs also, which again, I'd put money on being very different from what you think the problem is. The goal for a good marriage is a mutually positive arrangement.

To emphasize, this would not be a conversation about co-sleeping, it would be a conversation about how you both can be happy together and start rebuilding your marriage.

And to reiterate what others have said and turn it around: sleeping in different locations (or co-sleeping with a child) does not equal lack of intimacy, love or sex (just finding some different venues : ), and sleeping in the same bed does not equal intimacy, love or sex.
posted by pennypiper at 1:12 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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