“My kids will sleep in their own beds, every night. I will not have children sleeping in my bed.” —Me, before having kids.
Last night, I slept next to an 8-year-old who had a scary dream. The night before that, I bribed a 4-year-old with the reward of a strawberry donut, if she would stay in her bed the whole night.
The night before that, I attempted a full eight hours’ rest with a 1-year-old co-sleeping bedside me, his mouth attached to my right boob, from two until seven AM. And if I’m being really honest, the night before that, at four AM I helped my 6-year-old (we have four kids) take a middle-of-the-night shower to wash himself off after a bedwetting episode.
The days are long in motherhood, but the nights can be longer.
That’s why I’ve never related harder than to Magnolia Network’s Joanna Gaines, who this week posted a photo on Instagram of her in bed, attempting sleep between two of her five children, with one of their lovies (looks like a Cuddle + Kind doll) hanging out on her head.
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“Slept pretty good last night,” Gaines captioned the shot.
Same girl, same.
Sometimes, motherhood is doing whatever works, even if it’s not what you ever thought you’d do before you had kids.
For me, that “whatever it takes” time is the middle of the night. I just do what must be done to get through it, and sometimes that means co-sleeping with my kids. And while I usually prefer my kids to sleep in their own beds, most nights one or more of our tots winds up in our bed for a whole variety of reasons—an overnight breastfeeding session with my baby, as comfort after a bad dream, or even as a faster way to get my preschooler back to sleep.
American culture likes to emphasize self-soothing, independence, routine and autonomy in parenting—and in childhood. There is an entire infant/child sleep culture around getting kids to sleep through the night, in their own beds, as soon as possible. And I get it—I definitely don’t get the deep quality rest that I used to get when I didn’t have four kids, and in my dream world, everyone would go to sleep when they’re told and stay in their beds until 7 am.
But what is working for us right now, and it seems for Joanna Gaines and family too, is to cope with the overnight parenting woes by bringing kids in close for a cuddle.
If that’s your story, too, I hope you give yourself a rest from thinking you need to be doing something differently. Your kids want to be close to you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.