My Co-Sleeping Toddler Is Making Sleep — And Sex — Impossible. Help!

A dad whose sleep and sex life are harmed by his co-sleeping toddler seeks the counsel of our Cool Mom. She has thoughts.

by EJ Dickson
Originally Published: 

Cool Mom, I have a toddler. She’s amazing (What dad doesn’t say that, right?). But she is. Smart. Playful. Energetic. But she’s also cramping my style. She’s been in the habit for, oh, the past five months of slipping into bed with us and sleeping with us for most of the night. It happens like four nights a week. I don’t mind the occasional family snuggle But I need my space, my sleep, and a chance to have sex. My wife is totally fine with it. In fact, she’s against the idea of us telling her to stay in her room because this is just a phase. TLDR: I’m being cockblocked by my toddler and haven’t had sex in about a month. — Ryan S, via email.

As I write this I am using my asleep 2.5-year-old’s butt as a pillow, so yeah, I sympathize with your plight.

In a perfect world, bed-sharing would follow the same rule as breastfeeding: You know they’re old enough to stop doing it when they’re old enough to start asking for it. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and once you’ve started sleeping in the same bed as your kid — which, I should probably note here, should be after your child is older than 12 months, as bed sharing with an infant younger than that has been linked to a significantly higher risk of SIDS — it’s really, really hard to stop. And that’s not always because your toddler still wants to sleep with you. Often, as your particular case makes clear, it’s the parent who is way more attached to bed-sharing than the child is.

If you’re really not okay with bed-sharing with your daughter in any form, then that’s a conversation you need to have with your wife. She needs to understand that as attached as she is to sleeping with your daughter, you are equally attached to getting a good night’s sleep, and there are various techniques you can use to transition her to her own bed, such as getting her a cot to sleep on in your room before moving her back to her own space, or sticking to a more rigorous bedtime routine. None of these techniques will be totally painless, and there will be tears associated with any of the myriad Pantley-Karp-Ferber-Weissbluth methods you eventually settle on trying. The point is that you and your wife have to come to that decision together, and she needs to understand (and probably does, to a large extent, if she’s just as bleary-eyed and horny as you) that there’s no negotiating with you on this one.

But if you are, as you say, open to the occasional snuggle, and you do want to continue bed-sharing to some extent without sacrificing your sex life at all, fortunately, as any couple that co-sleeps will gladly tell you after a glass or two of Pinot Grigio at PTA night, bed sharing isn’t the death knell of a couple’s sex life. You can still maintain just as active — or even more so! — a porking schedule as you did prior to welcoming this tiny, farting third party to your bed. You just kind of have to get creative about it.

What does this mean? Having sex in the types of exotic locales that you would have previously considered the mere stuff of Penthouse letters: like, for instance, desktops, or kitchen counters, or living room coffee tables. Or, if you are me and my husband, the living room couch, because we are old and creaky and tired and it’s super comfortable. Apologies to anyone reading this who may have visited our home at any point. Actually, no, I apologize for nothing. Once you enter a parent’s home you automatically waive your right to not be exposed to all manner of bodily fluids.

Of course, none of this addresses the central issue at the heart of your query: How do you get the damn kid out of your bed for good? As someone who slept in her own parents’ bed till the ripe old age of four (and who slept on their floor for a good year or so after), I will say that there is one thing that is guaranteed to get your daughter hightailing it to her own room: peer pressure. At a certain age, she’s going to visit a friend’s house or go on a sleepover and she’s going to be shamed into realizing that not every one of her friends spends the night sleeping with Mommy and Daddy, and that will probably be impetus enough to get her to slowly start spending the night in her own room.

But if you simply can’t wait that long and the upholstery on your couch makes your ass break out in hives and you feel like you absolutely must copulate in the confines of your own marital bed, you can always get a spray bottle from CVS and treat your daughter like a cat trying to climb up onto the kitchen table to get a sushi roll. Just kidding! Or am I? (I am.)

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