where do your babies sleep?

For the past few months I’ve been fretting about how we’re going to squeeze two children into one small bedroom. Not being the world’s best spatial reasoner or interior decorator, I struggled to see how it would all fit: a crib, a toddler bed, a dresser, a changing table, plus all those books and toys and clothes – the stuff of childhood.

Our current plan is keep the baby in our room for the first few months, probably longer than we did with S so s/he has some solid nightime sleep habits before we stick two in one room. But beyond that, we have no choice: there’s only one bedroom next to ours and I need the guest-room-turned-office downstairs to keep both its original purposes.

F has been entirely cool about the whole prospect, reminding me that for the vast majority of families in the world, everyone’s sleeping in the same room (or hut) anyway, so even restless toddlers can learn to sleep through a newborn’s cry. But I’ve been stressing about it in the way that only a nesty pregnant mother can.

That is to say, irrationally.

Which is why I was both calmed and chastened to see this photo shoot in the New York Times: “Where Children Sleep.” It’s the work of a documentary photographer who wanted to capture the diversity of childhood across the globe through images of children’s bedrooms. Equal parts familiar and foreign, touching and terrifying.

Certainly the images say much about class and poverty around the world. So it was a welcome reminder that my middle-class dilemma of having two babies in one room is quite a first-world problem. But it also touched me to see the little pockets of beauty in every bedroom: the dolls and the toys, the colors and the curtains, the personal touches that each child had collected to make their small place their own.

It’s true that everybody sleeps, as the author of the article points out. And there’s something comforting to remember that we all let down our defenses each night to become utterly vulnerable as we recharge our bodies and minds for the next day’s work.

But I’m still haunted by the fact that my babies’ work will be to rise each morning to play and learn, while other children go off to work in quarries or dumps or sweatshops.

Maybe it is only in sleep that we find the equality we deserve.

(Ok, now go click on that “first world problems” link to cheer yourself up. Or at least have a good laugh at ourselves.)

6 thoughts on “where do your babies sleep?

  1. My four-and-a-half-year-old “baby” still sleeps with my wife and I, snuggled cozily in our family bed. While I often take flack from co-workers (men in particular), we are quite happy to have him stay with us until he is prepared to begin spending the nights on his own. After all, we’re social creatures.

    As a nursing infant and tot, it worked out well that night nursing was often just a shift of position, although still awakening. And for our son, whose only desire is to love and be loved, we never saw any reason to separate him from ourselves, or to ever cry himself to sleep. The convention of contemporary norms, passed on through a cultural heritage that involved wet nurses, was no justification for us.

    There are few things as wonderful as lying awake at night gazing at the marvelous creature that is a sleeping child; or waking up to a beaming morning smile that starts your day off on about as happy a note as possible. For him, I expect it is an affirming and reassuring thing, and will provide for a stronger sense of identity.

    We like to joke that it was God’s natural means of spacing children. There simply is no more happy and lovable and joyful “method,” (or lack thereof, which is more appealing anyway) of “family planning.”

    Some call it crazy. Some see it as a growing phenomena and call it “co-sleeping.” We call it being a family.

    I love your blog. Keep it up.

    1. What a beautiful testimony, A.S.! In a culture full of sharp opinions and social pressures to raise our children this way or that, it is always refreshing to hear from parents who feel so comfortable in their choices and don’t waste time or energy worrying about what others think. Trusting our own instincts is one of the best examples we can pass on to our children, I believe.

      Our first squirmy worm never liked to sleep in our bed, even from day one. But sneaking into his bedroom every night to catch a glimpse of him while he sleeps is one of our favorite moments of the day. As you say, there are few things more beautiful than a sleeping child.

      And thanks for your kind words – I’m glad you enjoy the blog!

  2. Our 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son share a room. Before I moved them in together I was really, really nervous – would they wake each other up? Would they drive each other crazy??

    However, they LOVE it!! They go to bed at the same time, and on the mornings when my son wakes up before my daugther I just get him out of the crib to let her snooze. When we travel to our parents’ houses now, they won’t go to sleep unless they are in the same room. Its actually really cute.

    As you point out in you post, in most parts of the world entire families sleep together in very small spaces. Have you seen the documentary “Babies”? If not, I HIGHLY recommend it. It does a great job of beautifully putting things in perspective, and it was a true joy for ALL of us to watch.

    1. Oh I am so glad to hear your experience of two in one room has gone so well! It’s true that kids are so much more adaptable than we think sometimes. I need to remember that!

      And yes, we loved “Babies,” too. Sometimes F and I joke about the Mongolian baby who’s lying there swaddled up while the chicken pecks all around him – his parents certainly aren’t stressing about it! (But I can never watch that scene of his mother jumping on the back of the motorbike right after giving birth without wincing – tougher mama than I!)

  3. We are planning to put our boys together soon! The baby is still with us…in our bed…sigh!:). (well only part of the night now.). Our first was a wiggle worm too and slept with us one time!!! I am nervous about it too, but the reality is that they have to learn to share at some point. Just think, we are preparing them for college. I have found (and wish I could remind myself not to worry) that most of these transitions go smoother than planned. For example, I was nervous about traveling and all sleeping in one hotel room. It has gone so well each time though. You are right, we are fortunate to have this problem to worry about.

    P.S. What a cutie picture!!!

  4. I know what you mean! We kept Bella in our room (in her crib) until we just moved–so that was almost a year! I always reminded myself how lucky we are to have this problem. Now they are in their own room, but with baby #3 on the way, Bella is going to be making the move in with Joe pretty soon! I actually think it will go okay, even though I am still hesitant! But I know they will figure it out soon!
    I know that the little man will do great–he will probably love his lil’ bro or sis in the room with him.

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