I just bought one of those fancy activity tracker bands to evaluate my exercise (none) and my sleep (less than none). I’m always exhausted in the morning; why can’t I get a good night’s sleep?
Oh yeah, I’m a mom and my kids only come to my side of the bed.
My husband and I even switched one night to give me a break. What happened? They kids saw it was him on my side and went around to the other side to wake me up.
I don’t think I needed an expensive sports band to tell me why, but I do know that my queen- sized bed is suddenly too small. It’s full of arms and knees and angles of boney little kids.
I thought it was funny that my friend had to buy a king- sized bed last deployment. Yes, you read that correctly, the last time her husband LEFT she needed a bigger bed, but now I understand.
My kids keep climbing in bed with me and suddenly my big bed -- and my only peaceful time -- has been invaded. Inevitably one, or both, of my boys end up in my bed and the bed gets smaller. This started during deployment but, even though my husband is home, the kids end up in our bed at some point before the alarm goes off.
I am not alone, literally or figuratively. Co-sleeping with your kids is frowned upon by the medical community because of the connection to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS), but most of us do at some point or another.
I was at dinner with a bunch of military friends once and one mom admitted, almost sheepishly, that her sons sleep in her bed almost every night.
The mom next to her was elated. Her kid does too, but she doesn’t want to admit it! She even told her son, “don’t tell your dad!” It turns out that a lot of military spouses share a secret: our kids either start out or end up in our beds.
Love it or hate it, military life is complicated. We all have our ways of living and thriving. Our kids are doing the same thing; they are looking to us for comfort in this topsy-turvy life when they don’t know if mom or dad is going to be there when they wake up.
For some kids, mom or dad might not be coming home. Families might be broken or breaking, so that quiet time before the alarm goes off may be the peace they need. I’m going to let them have it. I’m OK with you judging me.
The truth is, the research is mixed, even when it comes to infants and co-sleeping. One study conducted at the University of Notre Dame, which includes extensive recommendations for safe co-sleeping arrangements, found that it actually promotes the health of the baby and the mother in many cases. Many others disagree, citing the statistic that 515 kids under two died in bed with an adult between 1990 and 1997 (multiple causes, all related to co-sleeping).
The problem is our big soft beds, pillows, and duvets, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is why co sleeping it is common practice in non-western cultures and there is no fear of SUIDS.
The American Academy of Pediatrics promotes room sharing for infants, not bed sharing. But what do they say about first graders experiencing a parent’s second 12 month deployment or five-year- olds on their sixth deployment?
This is my takeaway: I am more likely to suffocate them on the playground (“don’t fall!”, “please be careful!”) than I am in bed. If being attached to the parent who is home or dealing with deployment by sneaking into bed with mom is how they maintain that closeness, we’re all going to survive.
A 2010 study on the effects of multiple deployments on army teens found that the ones who have a strong connection to their non-military parent and those who are engaged in sports are the most successful in dealing with their stressful lives. Military kids have been out-testing public school kids in NC since 2011 and they have developed great coping skills.
My kids may be too cool to hug me in public, but they will hunt me down to snuggle when they are half- conscious and no one is looking.
Dr. Kristen Obst is the Program Director for the Public Administration and Security Management Programs and Associate Professor of Public Administration at American Public University. She is the proud mother of two little boys and her husband is active duty Army. She is still learning how to juggle parenting, work, and military life.