The Family Bed

When people learn that we have a family bed, some squeal with delight a “oh us too”, some are genuinely intrigued and curious to understand further but this post is inspired by a different reaction; those that are instantly defensive and sharing their “infallible” reasoning why it would never work for them.

Now, I don’t care where your family sleeps, you don’t have to justify it to me of course and in fact, there have been times where the family bed was more of an option than the default for us but I am very interested in the way we talk AROUND concepts, tying certain pieces together without any actual supporting substance as though it is a universal fact. When something is classed as such, we stop thinking about it at all, we just follow the script and narrative and we feel security in our decisions that are essentially undertaken on auto-pilot. Because I know people aren’t trying to justify it to me, they’re trying to maintain justification for themselves and their own reality.

For someone to hear that we have a family bed and whatever follows as their concern just isn’t, it cannot compute because a family bed must mean the presence or absence of something they do not wish to have the presence or absence of so that they can discount it as an option without further consideration. If we are living a truth that this need not be the case, they then need to explore the actual reason for their discomfort and well, that’s uncomfortable, that’s hard work. Sometimes it is just easier to discount new information, however valid than to have to absorb it into your own life and choices. So I’d like to address some of the things I’ve heard using our reality…

I need privacy

Don’t we all? Luckily privacy is a concept, not a bedroom. Yeah. Think about it. It is our cultivated family culture to respect and facilitate each other’s needs (whether that is privacy or something else), externally enforced boundaries are unnecessary when you have them clearly within yourself!

Intimacy with my partner is important

I agree! Thankfully, intimacy is more than sex and sex is more than a location. Imagine that? A close relationship grows from the people, not the circumstances they happen to find themselves in. I would find it concerning if the location for sleep was something that compromised the health of our relationship and it would indicate to me that there were deeper issues to be worked through.

Yeah, but I mean sex. How can you have sex?

I feel like I am bestowing some ancient, hidden secret here so gather in nice and close… unless you’re our extended family, then back away ha… further… okay let’s get to it…
1. Find a room that is currently unoccupied and will be for the foreseeable short future, using basic logical reasoning and common sense
2. Have sexual interaction to the mutual preference of the consenting adults present
3. Repeat as often as desired by those involved

Parents and children need to sleep separately.

Oh? Cool, so why? Sleeping separately makes sense when you have a house with many rooms as is the current trend but that is a social construct, a choice. It is not a biologically imperative or forgone conclusion. Independence is something that grows internally from a secure sense of self and attachment to ones community. “Independence” forced externally, isn’t independence… it’s survival and a really robbing experience because a person isn’t making a choice to grow, they have no choice at all. If you think of other communal mammals trying to force a strict segregation between family members, it seems kind of ridiculous. The only reason it doesn’t with humans is conditioning.

I mean, it is okay when a baby is young but surely at some point it is wrong, even a legal concern?

That’s a worrying place for your mind to wander! A bed is a place designated for sleep, sleep is not inherently sexual. If something immoral is going to happen, it will happen no matter the sleeping arrangements. Again, people and not circumstances! But seriously, if I didn’t trust my partner enough to have a family bed (or he, I) then we certainly wouldn’t stop at that being our boundary; it would be no family home, it would be no family! Laws don’t stop immoral people acting so and laws are not the reason moral people make the choices that they do. Can a family bed be corrupt? Yes, of course. Because anything can. It feels a little victim blaming to suggest it is the fault of the situation, rather than the person who made the choice to hurt another.

No one would get any sleep!

Have you discussed this concern with your family? If people are fighting sleep, it would be valuable to explore why that is? I think it is important a child has ownership of their autonomy, when sleep is something you do because you’re tired and not because your parent says so, you don’t exactly have much reason to fight it do you? In our house, as a bed is primarily for sleep, a person wishing to do so takes priority and we work around that need. With younger children, I think it is a pretty hilarious expectation that sleep would be undisturbed regardless of where everyone is sleeping but being in the same space at least means nobody has to get up. Thankfully, it is transitory. Sleeping with toddlers and babies is a blur of feeding, settling, changing, singing, tangling and juggling. Sleeping with our 4 and 7 year old? It’s just sleeping 99% of the time. And when it isn’t (illness, nightmares…), it wouldn’t be even with separate rooms. Parenting just never is a from waking to sleeping job, it’s a constant part of who you are.

They’d be in our bed forever

This is a hard one to hear because it says to me that the child would prefer to be with their parents and perhaps even the parents would prefer it to but instead, they’re making choices based on a far off future maybe. Forever? Really? Do you really see a child’s preferences not changing at anytime in their life? Collaboratively figuring something out only gets easier with time, as a child grows to understand more and more from life experience. Don’t make a decision now, that you can make later and you can! Wait until it actually no longer suits and figure it out as a family instead of when there is merely an idea that it might one day no longer suit.

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Happy bedsharing!

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18 Comments

  1. Our son is 5, and cosleeps even though he has his own bed. We don’t have rules about who is supposed to sleep where. Sometimes he falls asleep in his bed, other times he gets up and wants to be with us. There’s no problem with that.

  2. We coslept with our boys until they were 6.5 & 4.5 . It was awesome and i loved it. Nice to have separate rooms now but i also miss the coziness of usa all being together (we just shared a hotel room recently). the biggest difference between there and home was we were woken up sooner as there was no other room for the boys to retreat too. Otherwise it was a delight.

  3. Amino! Our bedrooms look like twinsies. Seriously. Ikea mattresses on the floor – a double and a single. Side by side. Our daughter is 6 and I fall asleep holding her hand.she taos me on the shoulder if she has a bad dream, which is a few times a year and told me that she feels safe and happy when I’m beside her. Why would I mess with those feelings!

  4. This is such a great post. I like the way you have explained it. Our six year old sleeps with us most of the time, so it’s nice to have more ways to explain to anyone who raises an eyebrow. Good work!

  5. We don’t have rules about who sleeps where. Sometimes it’s my husband and I in our bed and our 6.5yo in his. Other times it’s all 3 of us in one bed, sometimes it’s one parent and child in our bed and the other parent in the child’s bed or on the couch…we did exclusively cosleep for a looooong time. But now our son’s over 4 feet tall and moves around so much in bed that sleeping with him is like sleeping with a drunk octopus who’s trying to find his car keys…lol!

  6. We have our six month old and almost three year old sleeping in our bed. We have a twin size bed beside it where our almost 5 year old sleeps. It is extremely rate that there is not another child in the twin bed and one sleeping on the floor. Our kids, all the way up to age 16 now, beg us to have a family bedroom. I love that they would even want to do so, but the insanity of 11 of us in one bedroom? ?

  7. We coslept until our son was 12.5. Then, just like with nursing, when he had no need for it, he started sleeping in his room. No fanfare, no drama.

    If we needed an intimate moment, or evening, or morning, we found the space and place and had our privacy. Our son is a thriving independent thinker, a natural leader among his friends. We think he is so secure and settled in part because he was allowed to “depend” on us, especially me, for stories, talking, and coziness without the structure of it being forced. Natural dependence (connection & support), unhindered, creates personal independence (confidence from within, based not on fear but love).

    At 6 it was the same bed as us. At 10 he had his own twin bed in his room, and his own futon in our room. He started to do his own routine and stopped wanting stories read. At 8-9 he read to me, which was awesome!

    At 10-11 would say, “tell me about you,” and I’d say okay pick a number between 3 and 40, and he would. I’d recall a sweet or funny or adventurous time from my life (at that age) and tell him the story. It was an amazing experience, only lasted a few months. Had he been in his own room, if not by his choice, I believe we would have missed those connecting opportunities.

    He is 13.5 now, taller than me, and says goodnight, sometimes via text, lol. Here’s the cool thing- I’m enjoying my bedtime now with my books and dogs, and hubby and I watch movies in bed and talk, all that good stuff.

    A word about marriage- it can and does work with co-sleeping. I always admired my husband for supporting my being able to trust and embrace the reality we embarked upon, since we had no plans for exactly what our parenting style and family life would look like.

    It just happened, naturally!

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