Culture Clashes in the Bedroom

17 Aug

Theoretically, based on the title, this should be a racy blog about my Kentucky-bred self and my Oaxacan husband and something titilating in the bedroom. If only it were about that! When there are two small children constantly worming their way into your bed, your bed ceases to be the place for titillation.

Our household has four separate beds in it, but somehow the four of us humans are always in just one. (Thank the universe the cat sleeps elsewhere.) It’s a King-sized bed, but don’t be fooled, we’re sleeping like sardines more so than like royalty. There is always a child on either side of me, except when Conan successfully moves one over (while the child is asleep) so he can scoot in. Really, a child on either side of me is what happens on a good night. On bad nights the four year old is more on top of me than beside me, in her version of desperate puppy dog cuddling, and the baby is laying claim to my boobs for half the night, insisting that I really am still his pacifier after he’s already drained all the milk.

Imagine this but with a four year old added to the mix:

baby-sleep-positions

The other night, Lucia woke me up by rubbing her foot against my leg relentlessly. “Quit kicking me,” I told her.  “I have an ouchie,” (aka something irritating on her skin) she explained. “You still don’t have to kick me. Put some lotion on it and go to sleep.” I told her. Then she started whining louder. Then we couldn’t find the lotion for a brief moment, which made needing lotion a crisis equivalent to her hair being on fire. “I need lotion! Hurry, hurry! It’s hurting! My ouchie is hurting!” she’s screaming/crying. So of course Khalil woke up. He assumed it must be time to nurse- and if it’s not time to nurse, how about time to get up and play? Finally we calmed down both children and we’re all lying down again but I can’t sleep. I can’t even relax. I want to rise up and rebel! I want to scream back at my children. “Haven’t you ever heard of bodily autonomy?! How about boundaries?! Can I get some personal space around here?! Both of you people already lived inside my body for nearly 10 months! What more do you want from me!?” Like so many nights before, I dreamt of a whole bed, all for me.

co-sleeping-ecard

I seem to be the only one feeling like this around here, though. In Oaxaca, bed-sharing, co-sleeping, family cuddling- whatever you call it- is pretty much the norm. Often, dads are expected to sleep elsewhere for the first few weeks of a baby’s life, if not for longer, so that Mama and baby can safely share the bed. As time goes on, nothing changes. The baby stays in the bed (but Dad can move back in) till there’s another baby. The youngest in the family stays in the family bed until they get a girlfriend/ boyfriend and move to their bed together… just kidding. Kind of.

 

Seriously, though, bed sharing is not an “issue” here. In the same way that nobody cares or judges you for breastfeeding or formula feeding, nobody even talks about whether to share the bed or not. They just do whatever works in the moment. Nobody blogs about it. Nobody writes books about whether it’s good or bad. Nobody worries about how to put a stop to it, or what is the exact right age for getting your kid out of your bed. I’ve never, ever, ever heard the term “sleep training.” People don’t even talk about bedtime routines! It’s just not a thing. “No 18 year olds sleep with their parents still,” Conan reassures me regularly, shrugging, which pretty well sums up the attitude around here.

Not only is it not an issue here, but bed sharing is really practical and sometimes necessary. It’s perfect in households where you don’t have more than one bed, or where there’s not enough space in your house for real separation (like a cousin’s house where there are 3 beds but they’re all just pushed together). It’s just the way things are, at worst, and for many people it’s sweet and endearing to boot.

Not so where I come from. I’m from a culture where everything is an issue, and there’s a right side and a wrong side of every issue. Furthermore, your way is the right way and everyone who thinks differently is a jerk/idiot/fascist/child-abuser/etc. The co-sleeping hippies think the sleep trainers are heartless. The sleep training disciplinarians think the bed sharers are lax and lazy. And so on and so forth.

Here is how many people view it in the USA:

924044822bcb7d587092ede2e29ccbdb

Personally, I think that any way you survive, any way that the whole family can get some sleep and you avoid murdering your children is great. I have managed to evade that whole judging thing when it comes to other people’s parenting.

I want to be all laid back and/or charmed about bed sharing. I wish like hell that I was one of the parents I hear lamenting that their 8 year old wants to sleep alone. But alas, you can take the girl out of gringolandia, but you can’t take the gringa out of the girl. I don’t really want my kids all over me all night long. I want space! I want alone time with my partner in our own bed! I want to sleep through the night! I want to kiss my kids goodnight and leave them in a separate room, semi-forgotten till morning.

But I am a stereotypical Mexican mama all the way when it comes to babying my babies, coddling my sweet little angels. I want to be a drill sergeant who kisses the kids goodnight at the end of the bedtime routine and stoically marches out of the room till morning. But I’m the worst drill sergeant ever when it comes down to it, and not being a drill sergeant is really how I want to be.

So bed-sharing is still an issue for me, and I’m stuck in the middle. I’m like a wanna-be authoritarian granola mom. I’ve tried the in-between, no-tears, gentle and kind drill sergeant routine, too. It didn’t phase my troupe. They’re still both in my bed every night.

overlyattachedtoddler2-300x300

The real culture clash for me is that judgmental attitude towards myself: Am I doing the right thing? Am I creating a monster by allowing this? Am I really heartless if I do this other thing? Why couldn’t I just luck into kids who are good sleepers?

I didn’t start out being a bed-sharer. But we all try to work some kind of balance between your needs and your kids’ needs, usually with theirs tipping the scale. There was a period of Lucia’s life when she fell asleep alone in her bed and stayed there (almost) all night. Then we moved to Puerto and slept in a tent for months (mostly inside our house- it’s a long story), and all the sleep training went to hell in a hand basket, and has stayed there ever since.

I’ve tried all kinds of stuff since then to make my dreams of solo sleep come true, and the bigger kiddo especially just doesn’t respond to it. She has an unending hunger for Mommy companionship. She’s a horrible sleeper who physically needs to feel somebody’s presence to feel okay.  I used to think it was all my fault for not doing the sleep training thing a second time, or for moving too much, or for that Diet Coke I drank during pregnancy, or whatever other reason we use to blame moms when kids don’t do what we’d like. Now I blame her Papi’s insomniac genes instead. Or better yet, I write it all down to save for her future therapist. Bwahahaha.

Meanwhile, I continue my back and forth, wishy-washy culture clash battle with myself. Inevitably, in the mornings I resolve to change things! We’re going to get this family in shape! And inevitably, at night, when my babies need me, I give in. “I’m gonna wait till I’m five to sleep in my own bed” Lucia told me decidedly with my last valiant effort. Five would certainly be better than 18. But I’m not holding my breath yet.

So please accept my rain check on the racy blog post. Someday, my bed and my body will be more mine again. Someday.

3 Responses to “Culture Clashes in the Bedroom”

  1. Lee August 17, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Oh you are so right on the judging. I coslept w/ our kids (well mostly my middle guy, my youngest daughter seems to want her own space and only visits my bed for times of crisis–illness, thunder, itchy feet LOL People used to so seriously think I was nuts though. To me, the peace and sleeping through the night with out worrying was so worth it. The guy who I thought would never get out of the dang bed is 12 now and is totally the independent in his own space tween. Truthfully though I got just as much flak for babywearing as I did for cosleeping. For New England, we were just weird!

  2. Lee August 17, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Oh you are so right on the judging. I coslept w/ our kids (well mostly my middle guy, my youngest daughter seems to want her own space and only visits my bed for times of crisis–illness, thunder, itchy feet LOL People used to so seriously think I was nuts though. To me, the peace and sleeping through the night with out worrying was so worth it. The guy who I thought would never get out of the dang bed is 12 now and is totally the independent in his own space tween. Truthfully though I got just as much flak for babywearing as I did for cosleeping. For New England, we were just weird!

    • exiletomexico August 17, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

      At least here folks aren’t judging us- they’re more like, “why are you worried about that?” And many folks think our high-quality baby carrier is amazing- although they’re a little thrown off when Conan is the one carrying the baby. I think we lucked out on a lot of things like that in being down here.

      But at the end of the day I also just wish there were more voices out there saying, “You are doing it right.” I mean, there’s sooo much information on how to fix your child, improve your parenting, etc. etc., but each kid is different, each family situation is different. I would have saved myself loads of heartache if I had just decided long ago that there’s nothing wrong with us (even if I’m not always crazy about the sleeping set up). I still have to remind myself often that we’re all gonna be okay- but I’m getting better at that perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: