Thursday, September 23, 2010

Just do it: Bedsharing and Sex

Photo credit: Fabrizio Salvetti
It's pretty obvious I'm a fan of the family bed if you read this site. Now I've talked about safety, breastfeeding, the psychological bonuses, etc, but there's one topic that I get a lot of whispered, flustered questions about: sex.

Fair warning this post will talk about sex in frank and often humorous ways. It's pretty PG-13, but if you don't like to talk about sex or don't want to think about Josh and I playing hide the sausage, see ya tomorrow!

Ok, now that my mom has been warned, let's get down to business.

I've been given laundry lists of reasons why bedsharing is a bad idea. I've been told it doesn't teach baby how to sleep. I've been told it's dangerous. I've been told I'll never get my kids out of my bed, but more than anything I've been told it will ruin my marriage.

Now other than wondering how having happy, well-rested kids will ever hurt my marriage, I have a feeling this is really about SEX.

But nowadays, what isn't?

My mother warned me that having a baby in bed meant I couldn't keep my husband happy. Ignoring all the anti-feminist sentiments there, let's focus on what she was really saying: you can't have sex if you bedshare.

I have living proof that she's wrong sleeping on my lap.

Sex is the glue of some relationships, the perk of others, and the cherry to some. The first thing we have to accept is there is no average amount or set location for sex for couples. If you think that's a lie, you have bigger things to worry about than bedsharing. I'm as guilty as anyone. After 5 years of marriage and over a 12 year relationship, I sometimes hear someone talking about nightly sex and get jealous. Seriously? Nightly?! Have they discovered the Fountain of Teenage Sex somewhere? Draw me a map. But then someone admits they do it once a month and I feel better.

We have sex about twice a week. I'm averaging that out. Some weeks it's zip, others it's 3 or 4 times. The point is we have sex, and we bedshare full-time.


Well, we aren't very sexually-repressed so that helps and we aren't constrained by the idea of appropriate times and places to have sex. We rarely have sex at night in bed. We might grab a quickie while our kids are playing in the living room. The key to this is to wait until your toddler is thoroughly engrossed in a game or to pop in a favorite movie. The baby goes in the exersaucer. It gives us about ten-fifteen minutes. After 12 years, we can get to the point in ten minutes :) Or we sneak into the bathroom, laundry room - you get the idea. Our toddler goes to bed in his own room and often joins us later in the night, and I can lay the baby down to sleep in the bed or in her swing if we want more than 10 minutes or if the mood strikes.

The point is we have sex. When we have a dry spell, it has nothing to do with bedsharing. It's usually the result of money issues, work schedules, illness, this blog - but not bedsharing. As Rachel of Free Childhood notes good-naturedly, bedsharing didn't kill her sex life: "That would be exhaustion from toddler parenting and pregnancy." Wendy of ABCs and Garden Peas says having a new baby is more likely to have an effect on your sex life, but she thinks bedsharing actually helps it: "I think bedsharing can make for a satisfied, fulfilled mom, and that kind of mom is more likely to have a healthy libido."

Photo credit: Ed Wolstenholme
How to have great sex life as your relationship grows, as you add kids and stress and work and life is a whole different issue. My suggestion? Take a look at what's really keeping you from having sex. Don't get so caught up in the "right" time to have sex, and take the time to initiate (even if you don't really feel like it). Let's face it, moms, a lot of us just get too caught up in everyday stresses and responsibilities to find the time or energy to want to have sex. The great thing about sex, though, is that it usually winds up changing your mind about wanting it pretty quickly.

Oh, and when your mom asks you how you will ever have sex with your husband if there are kids in your bed, tell her what I told my mom, "Mom, not everyone has bed."


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

LOVE IT!! This seriously addressed everyone's opinions and all the questions I used to have about bedsharing. A+++!!

Crystal - Prenatal Coach said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you! Since bed sharing is a completely new topic for me and one that I know very little about, I appreciate your honesty in tackling this topic that is on so many people's minds. You explained it well :)

Katie said... [Reply to comment]

Haha! Made me laugh. I don't personally bedshare but you still gave me some needed advice about the when and where of my sex life! LOL

Carla said... [Reply to comment]

Oh I have a story this reminds me of, but it's too personal to share without permission. All I can say is it made me lolz. ;-)

mamapoekie said... [Reply to comment]

waahahahaha the teenage fountain of sex... please tell me where it lies if you find out!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Great post! Thanks for sharing this. I agree with everything you said. It irritates me that so many people think sex MUST take place in bed at night. Geeez - get a little creative! :-)

Raven said... [Reply to comment]

This is a great post. I bedshare with my six month old and my significant other and I have a more than healthy sex life. (We actually do have sex almost daily. The secret to which I've found is nothing more than just doing it. Even if you don't feel like it, even if you're tired, just do it anyway. You'll usually find that after you get started you want to and it helps you rest.) My daughter is a heavy sleeper and she has a bed of her own in my room. Sometimes I will just lay her in her own bed and then bring her back to my bed when she wakes up (which she does to nurse 3-4 times a night still.) Also, computer chairs, couches, etc are great alternatives to the bed when the mood strikes. Bedsharing has never been a problem to our sex life and it confuses me when people assume it is.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Bed-sharing in my opinion is just an extended umbilical cord. The baby doesn't gain anything from it more than the comfort of a warm body and closeness to its mother. I think it's popularity stems from the mothers' anxiety about the eventuality of having to let her baby become an individual. I'm not trying to say that bed-sharing is detrimental to a child's development, just that your space should be your space not to mention as a child grows older and in to his or her critical development stages it will become increasingly difficult to ween a child off of it. Bed-sharing in the first 18 months is in my opinion perfectly healthy but beyond that you may be creating more work for yourself than you anticipate.

Food for thought.

Jenn said... [Reply to comment]

Well anonymous, my son goes to sleep in his own bed and sometimes chooses to join us. I plan on having him fully weaned off the family bed before he leaves for college, because it will just be to hard to do it then.

Jenn said... [Reply to comment]

I would also add that bedsharing is practiced in cultures all over the world since the beginning of time. It is nothing new, and it is well-documented that is does provide baby with security necessary for healthy development. My son is independent, outgoing, and easily engages with others outside my presence. He bedshared full-time for 19 months and now has the option to come in if he wakes up in the night. I'm perfectly happy to share my bed with my kids. If I want my own space I'd rather it be somewhere that I'm conscious.

What it comes down to is choice. As a babies I guide my children's choices regarding sleeping, eating and activities more. As they get older, they are given more choices, gently guided. My son is put to bed at night, he chooses stories and songs, and stuffed animals and if he wakes up he can choose to join me. As he gets older I will promote his own individuality by giving him more and more choice. I don't need a crib to promote a sense of self nor do I believe a crib could achieve that.

Wendyrful said... [Reply to comment]

I love your post! I have a friend who had, along with her own children, a teenage exchange student living with them for a year... She shared that they had a sex 'closet' for a while. They had a mat and blankets tucked away in their closet, so that when they had time and inclination, they could escape the shared bed, and not worry about getting 'caught' by an older child, etc. if they tried to use another location.

Amy Wright said... [Reply to comment]

In most other countries, besides our "western world", bedsharing is not an option, and those kids turn out fine. I also think our western way of thinking of independent people rather than the "family unit" is distorted. I share with my 10 mionth old. He goes back and forth between my bed and the pack n play at the nd of my bed. My 3 year old shared the bd with me until... well... somtimes that still happens, but not very often. Did i mention he has autism. Oh, and had I not bedhared with him, his issues would have been way worse. He actually craves skin contact, that's not my opinion, that's fact from therapists. So... I say give our babies what they need. They don't come from the womb ready for strict schedules and independent attitudes. They are dependent creatures. It hasn't been until recently that we have subjected our children to all of this, Only to fit our modern fast paced lifestyles.

Francesca said... [Reply to comment]

Haha, amen to that! I agree (from experience): it's not bedsharing that hurts your sex life, it's parenting in general!

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