The bedroom practices that nobody talks about

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

On Saturday, Jeffrey Stein, a journalist at the Washington Postinterrupted his usual tweets about the latest scandal on Capitol Hill to muse about a disturbing conversation he and his wife had with friends.

"Several months ago, a couple we are friends with said they don't sleep on the same side of the bed every night. As in, every night when they get into bed, they don't know who will sleep on which side. Still blows my mind."

Indeed, Stein's mind was not the only one blown by this concept – the tweet quickly went viral, with over 93,000 Likes. Meanwhile, the replies, some 3000 of them, ranged from anger to bewilderment, with many pronouncing the practice as insane.

"What about bedside tables?" This was the most common follow-up question. Stein explained that after careful fact-checking, his friend said he had only one bedside table, but that the other side of the bed had a windowsill on which to place a phone or whatever it is people like to put there.

There were a few who said they did it, too, and a few others who said they delighted in the act, but only in hotel rooms. But I could only chuckle ruefully.

"Hold my pillow" I said to myself. "Because I can go one better. My husband and I don't have set sides – we don't even share a bed!

"In fact" I continued on in my thoughts, suddenly smug about this utter lack of intimacy in my boudoir, "Nobody I know sleeps in the same bed!"

"What do you mean nobody sleeps in the same bed?"asked my editor when I mentioned it.

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"Nobody I know with kids under five has both parents sleeping in the same bed!" I replied, possibly too triumphantly. "I don't know what to do with this information" she wrote back.

Fair enough. I was similarly horrified myself. But that was before I had kids. No, that's not entirely true, because my son, when he was first born, did sleep in a different room, and my husband and I did sleep in the same bed. Though, mind you, the experts recommend that the baby sleep in the same room as you for the first six months to a year.

We ignored such advice – for the sake of our marriage, we said.

But then one fateful night, that changed. You can ask almost any parent of our generation about this – there is always one such night when the baby is either sick, or something in the routine has changed, and the strict rules you've been following about separation of babe and partner collapses, leaving you all entangled on the one mattress because you are too delirious from lack of sleep to care.

And, your child, once cosily ensconced, appears to intuit on some semi-conscious level, that this is the high life. This is, you might say, their version of the hotel room, and they have absolutely no intention of ever going back to the cot next door.

I kept this shameful secret to myself. I couldn't feel good about co-sleeping, because co-sleepers are committed – they begin with everyone – in the bed with them, (and usually another kid, maybe a dog, maybe a cat). What I was doing was … well, it was exclusionary, really. Dysfunctional? Probably. So I stayed silent.

That was until a lovely stranger at the playground was fretting about her sleepless baby. She was a single mum, she told me, but then added these golden words, "Oh every man I know is sleeping in the kids' room while the mum and the kids sleep in the double bed."

And with that, I opened up, not unlike a large quilt myself, and began to share my sleeping arrangements with whoever would listen. I quickly found I was not alone. Of course, the majority of us never intended for this to be the case, and we expect it will end before puberty kicks in. (Fingers crossed!)

Though in the meantime, my husband says he enjoys the single life at night, and while I don't relish being kicked in the ribs by a three-year-old, I am grateful for one thing – I no longer hear him snore.

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