15 Ways I’ve Fought for Personal Space While Sleeping Next to a Toddler, and Lost.

by renegademama

My youngest child will be three in June. He still sleeps in our bed. If you think my parental rights should be revoked or are going to comment about all the ways you successfully got YOUR sweet gem out of the bed, please send me an email and tell me everything in great detail, but be sure to do so with a tone of pretentious disdain for the likes of me. I swear I’ll read it.

I’ll read it with all my heart.

You can be very sure I will not delete it.

For the rest of us, the “co-sleepers” by choice or necessity or simply because we are losers, I’d like to share with you fifteen ways I’ve tried to get some personal space at night, because I think there are some really good ideas here.

  1. We tried “deciding” not to have a fourth kid, but then we did, because newborn breath is intoxicating and we forgot they become toddlers.
  2. Then we tried “sleep training,” but the sound of his crying was sad at the level of Goose dying in Top Gun, so we gave that shit up before any real effort.
  3. We tried putting him in a bed near our bed but the child can walk, so he walks to the nightstand, scales it, and crawls between us, which he calls his “pot,” or, for the non-toddler world: “spot.”
  4. About 10 times a night, I shove him as far as possible to the other side, against my husband, because then the toddler gets the physical closeness he craves while I get the NOBODY FUCKING TOUCHING ME which I crave, but as soon as I move him, he spins his legs out and sticks them on my chest, using my husband’s head as a pillow and my boobs as a footrest.
  5. I’ve tried trying to convince the toddler to go sleep with his siblings in some other room, but he just looks at me and says, “No thanks, mama. I stay here with you.” And then I stare at him slack-jawed, because how could anything so adorable be so annoying?
  6. I’ve tried creating the classic Wall of Pillows, but the toddler simply launches himself over the pillow wall back into his “pot,” which is zero centimeters from my body.
  7. Sometimes I put a pillow over my head, thinking if I turn the room black and drown out the sound, I’ll forget there is a 30-pound sweating, snoring machine wedged against my shoulder blades, but the toddler seems to think this is a “hide and seek” game, so as soon as he sees this, he lifts one corner of the pillow, victoriously shouting BOO in my ear. And then he gets back into his pot.
  8. I’ve tried sleeping in the other kids’ room but their beds are covered in stuffed animals and I’m 90% sure the sheets haven’t been changed in three years, since that is the exact amount of time it’s been since an actual kid has slept in those beds. (They prefer to sleep together in the living room or on our bedroom floor because apparently “co-sleeping” is a family disease.)
  9. Since the actual pillow wall doesn’t work, I’ve created a psychological boundary made of wishful thinking and broken dreams. In short, I simply will him with all my might to get the hell on the other side of the bed. This does not work at all.
  10. Whispering “holy fuck somebody help me” repeatedly. Nobody hears it, and nobody cares.
  11. Announcing to my husband, “I am so glad we aren’t having any more kids.” This would be a lot more believable if I weren’t crying four hours later over a newborn onesie I found in the back of a dresser.
  12. Declaring with great fervor and a very serious face: “For sure we are going to Ikea this weekend to let Arlo pick out some bedding for HIS bed, which will be on the floor no matter what by Sunday and he’ll never be in this bed again!” But then I forget Saturday morning or on Sunday evening he has a bath and is wearing flannel pajamas with purple dinosaurs on them and I think, “Oh my god you’re my last baby. I SHALL NEVER KICK YOU OUT.”
  13. I’ve tried Zen-like full radical acceptance of the present moment.
  14. But I can’t because the present moment sucks. A toddler just kicked me in my butt crack.
  15. Pretending my co-sleeping is actually some sort of deep overarching parental philosophy when actually it’s just that I like my babies there more than I hate them there but also sometimes I hate them there with all my soul but am too lazy to change it and those sweaty little cuddly heads complicate the shit out of the whole thing.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m doing here.

If anyone needs more helpful parenting idea lists, just let me know. I’m here to serve.

Maybe next week I’ll do potty training. I have endless ideas that don’t work on that one either.

the sweaty toddler head in question

**

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more stuff I shouldn't have said out loud:

  • Lisa D'Alessio

    Good luck with that. My daughter slept with us for ten years. Ten. Years. We had a queen sized bed. I spent those years perched precariously on the edge, while she had full access to sleep sideways in the center. Middle of the night, “God help me, she is moving to her own room tomorrow!” turned into soft dawn light on her face and her eyes opening and a smile on her face and morning giggles and tucking her into my body and holding her close, her sweet baby smell turned into little girl turned into tween and she was still so very wiggly and precious. When we put a queen bed in her room, and let her choose the paints and wall paper and curtains, we lost her to the wonders of her own space. She’s 17 now….I don’t think she’ll sleep with me now if I paid her, although she might if the price was right. I’ll research it and get back to you.

    • Betty

      Lisa, us too! Our daughter is 17, and while she did actually have her own twin bed next to our bed, she stayed in it until she was at least…11? 12? She did sleep with us as a baby/toddler, and I would have killed to be able to perch on the edge of the bed, but she kicked DH too much so I had to sleep in the middle where it was TOO HOT and I couldn’t kick the covers off!

  • Lizzie Lau

    “I like my babies there more than I hate them there.” YES! I’m still co-sleeping with my 7 year old, who for a long time, told me that when she gets married her husband will have to sleep on the floor because she will be sleeping with me. Lately she’s revised her future plan, telling me that there will be no husband, but she will have a baby girl and I will be the one changing the diapers.
    I only get to do this once, and despite all the awesome unsolicited advice, I’m going to continue to do it my way.

  • Rose

    Please I will take all the parenting lists you care to dish out cause that shit is to die for funny! As always thanks and cannot wait for your book!

  • Mrs Marcos

    I didn’t think I would co-sleep…I am someone that doesn’t care to snuggle when sleeping but when our only child arrived 5 years ago the only way he would sleep was on top of me so we became a co-sleeping family. And I justified it because I came to love the extra time with him since I was working 40 hours a week and he was in daycare so I looked at it as more time snuggling. We kept thinking maybe he would grow out of it eventually and at 5 years 2 months he said to my husband “you sleep in there with mommy, I’ll sleep in my bed.” And I think he has come in a total of 3 times due to illness since then (that was 4 months ago). My husband and I are quite dumbfounded and I have to say sometimes I’m a little sad and miss him, mostly because I know this is another sign of him growing up. So, my inexperienced, unsolicited mom advice would be try not to rush him too much? He looks awfully sweet and snuggly in his “pot.”

  • Stacey

    #8!!!! I thought I was the only one who didn’t know the last time the sheets were changed in the children’s beds. I also don’t know the last time they slept there. I don’t feel so alone anymore. I love the feeling of mommy solidarity.

  • Jennifer

    After going through all these emotions, you will inevitably arrive at acceptance. Enjoy it. It does not last forever. I nursed my son until he was 2 1/2 years old and he slept with us until he was 9. He only moved because his baby sister cried during the night and he decided his room was quieter. BTW, I lost him to cancer last summer at the age of 30. Not a day goes by that I don’t cherish all the quality time I spent with him.

    • Denise

      Oh Jennifer, thank you for sharing that and making my family bed bearable tonight.

      My 6 and 9 year old would both sleep in our bed every night if there were room enough for their (sweaty, snoring) bodies. We finally acquiesced/acknowledged this is our life and put a bed next to our bed for our 9 year old, but he’d be in the middle too if he could.

      • Jennifer

        Thanks.

    • Josie

      I am so sorry for your loss, but I am so pleased you have those precious memories to keep with you until you meet again

  • Sarabeth Matilsky

    I just had to spit quietly so as not to laugh loudly and wake up my toddler, who is currently sleeping (napping) off her night of cosleeping while I grumble and groan and think: “anyone else with four kids would know how to DO this by kid #4! So thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one…

  • Sal

    I am so there with you and I so desperately need my space after years of co-sleeping. We bought a king-sized bed because of this, but of course my kiddo rolls/moves all night long. He turned 6 and finally I decided to keep the cat in his room at night, he LOVES the cat, and now he stays in his room. This is not advice, just a reminder that it is likely nothing that ever occurred to you before that might work. Everything is a phase. Good luck!

  • Sue

    Hi Janelle… WOW A BOOK~!!! I can’t wait to read it. PLEASE make sure you tell us where and when we can buy it…
    Now, on to the sleeping with kids thing: I am in an older generation than all of y’all, and in my day we brought the baby home from the hospital and put her in her bed, and when she was 6 weeks old we moved back into our bedroom so she not only never slept in our bed with us but did not have anyone in her room with her after she was six weeks old. We were also told (by our doctors, mind you) Not to nurse them, Not to pick them up except to feed them and then put them right back to bed when they were done with their bottles, Not to spoil them by picking them up when they cried (we were “allowed” to do that only if they were hungry or needed clean diapers), not to do a lot of the things we WANTED to Do, but were too afraid of the doctor to break HIS rules. (See where I am going with this?) Did our kids grow up better than yours will? I seriously doubt it. Will your kids be better than mine turned out to be?? Maybe, but who knows?? Parenting is not an exact thing. Trying to make it exact will drive you crazy, just do what feels right TO YOU, (not someone in a white coat who has never birthed a child, for starters.)and then Cross you Fingers and HOPE for the Best!!! It is all you can do. GOOD LUCK, all you moms out there whose kiddies are still at home… I miss the hell out of mine, especially the times I did NOT have with her because I wasn’t supposed to HOLD her unless she was hungry…

  • Gayle

    I love reading you because you are so perfect(-ly real!) My kids (9 & 11) have worked out a schedule because I won’t let them both start out in my room (they both end up there, but hey…) I am not a touchy person at all, but they are, and it works for us…thank God we have free will and don’t have to abide by the Supermom laws!

  • Kathleen

    CONGRATULATIONS on your book!!!!!! I am so excited for you! I can’t wait to read it! You are the best.

  • Rosie

    So nice to know I’m not alone! I am still breastfeeding and cosleeping with our first born who is 15 months old now. My husband is not happy about it at all (both the extended breastfeeding which he feels is unnecessary and the cosleeping which he feels is inconvenient and ‘not normal’). We have tried to get baby to sleep in his room or in his bed pushed up against ours but he just gets so upset and won’t settle until he is in the comfy spot between us. I do miss the cuddles and intimacy with my hubby but nothing beats sleeping next to my little one, the snuggles at night and waking up to that toothy grin – I wouldn’t and couldn’t change it for the world! Being a working mama it’s also allowed us to keep the closeness and special bond between us. I worry about the future all the time and feel stressed and unsure about my choices… is just trusting your natural instincts the right thing??? But reading this blog post has made me feel not alone. Thanks for that xx

  • Ceciel

    You are amazing. Love.

  • Taryn

    This is funny on so many levels. I never let them sleep in my bed after 9 months or so, I listened to dying Goose until they got the point, because I’m a selfish human being who wants her space. But hearing about co-sleeping at that age, especially when told by a mom dancing on the fence between “this shit needs to stop” and “omg I need another newborn” is rather a delicious predicament. Thanks for not taking this mom thing too seriously, too many people do.

  • Anne Myers

    So funny I couldn’t catch my breath, especially for numbers 7 and 10. Congratulations on finishing the book. If you didn’t write, it would be tragic for the rest of us!

  • Karen

    Yes yes yes! I never understood cosleeping until I had my babe. Three and a half years later I still love it despite feet in the back sometimes. I love you snuggles is the best alarm clock I’ve ever had!

  • Rach

    i got the toddler out by some miracle at 2, but he always comes back. This morning at some ungodly hour he clambered up into his ‘pot’ singing and trying out all his latest noises which involved a bear growl, a cat’s meow, a woof, and a screechy ‘eeeeee’ sound. I opened one eyelid to look at my husband who was clearly awake but pretending to be asleep and he had the biggest smile on his face. I did too.

    I love my own bed but geez I miss co-sleeping too – it’s such a weird thing. Some nights I climb into my bubba’s bed and wake up in the morning still there because I just can’t bear to be away from his chubby hands and widdle cheeks and soft curls… arghhhhhhh…..

  • melissa

    this was the best addition to my day – my sweet boy turned 3 in february and is still in the “big bed”…i regularly contemplate ways to give him the boot before his younger brother or sister arrives in september, but can’t imagine having him ten feet down the hall in his own room. not only does he use me as a pillow/punching bag, but the next time he nails one of my overly sensitive pregnant lady boobs i may hurl him across the room in my “sleep”.

    thank you for writing! i am always giddy with excitement when a new post arrives in my inbox and never know if it’s going to make me laugh, cry, or both. can’t wait for the book – or your advice on potty training. 😉 keep kickin’ ass super mamma.

  • Sierra

    We never really did the co-sleeping. We’ve each snoozed on the couch with our son, but he’s never really shared our bed. I was (and still am) too paranoid I’d roll over and smother him. But one night that my husband was on baby wake up duty, he thought it would be a great idea to bring our son in the bed with us (heaven forbid he sleep on our son’s floor like I do). Needless to say, I woke up at 3am to a toddler playing with my belly button.

  • Chenay

    Oh man, thank you so much for writing this. We co-sleep with our newly turned three year old and lately she’s been wanting to sleep in her room, which is great, but of course, it has to be with a parent, which is always me, in a twin-sized bed. And did I mention I’m 32 weeks pregnant? So much fun. Thanks for making me feel less alone and keep up the great parenting work!

  • Linda

    I got nothing here. I also have 6 kids who all basically slept with us at will. Our youngest is 11. Daddy now has her trained to come get him (!) when she’s ready to fall asleep. He lays down next to her and scratches her back and then falls asleep in there. My new dilemma is do I let him sleep and enjoy the bed all to myself, or do I go get him? Enjoy it as long as they’ll fit in the bed next to you!

  • Lara

    I remember a time when my younger child was 4, and my husband told him that I needed some privacy to use the bathroom. He very sweetly and earnestly offered, “I give you pivacy, Mommy!” then followed me into the (eeny teeny) bathroom and shut the door. Yup. I was recently describing to an as-yet-childless modern-dancer friend about how kids want to share your center of gravity until they’re about 8. Maybe we’ll make some choreography about the phenomenon. May as well get some art out of it, right?

  • Annabel

    Mine is now seven, and sometime back between three and four I just could not be touched all night every night anymore. Including by my husband, but that’s a different story… Sorry, TMI. Anyway, to lessen the ordeal of the transition we designated Saturday night as sleepover night in our bed. Other than moving it to Friday night, that continues. She’s tall for her age, and I swear she grows extra sets of elbows, knees and feet while she sleeps. I cling to my 18 inches of mattress space, the child velcroed to my side and the large unflappable cat refusing to get the hell off my pillow. But I also know on some level she needs the closeness still, and I’ll be a wreck when she finally decides she’s done with it.

  • Joyce

    Thank you for your hilarious take on life! I will never regret co-sleeping, and although now I limit it for my two tween/young teen kids, they still like to occasionally sleep in my bed. I still like to cuddle with them. When their dad died, none of us wanted to be alone. We all slept together for a week. Of course, they couldn’t touch each other, but both wanted to cuddle with me, so I was squished in the middle!

  • Jennelle

    OMG, I have these thoughts nightly (or rather, in the morning) when I wake up after passing out with my nearly 5 year old who loves to be sleeping with me. In either my bed or hers. I usually lay in hers, with the wishful thinking that I won’t fall asleep, in my street clothes until 3am.

  • Brett

    I think I just “leaked” at work while reading this…..

    my 15 month old is still nursing, but not enough for me to have leaked for at least 6 months!

    thank you!

  • Meg

    Love this. For reals.

  • Jill Wear

    Girl, my son is ALMOST NINE and still sleeps with us for the most part. We all play the game of pretending that he’s going to sleep in his room, then he just walks out and gets in our bed when he hears me turning in for the night. One of my girlfriends with a teenager says he’ll bail on us when he discovers masturbation. Great.

    At least we have a king size bed.

    • Betty

      Jill, thanks for the belly laugh!

  • Cristina

    Oh God! Are you in my head or something??? Just now i’ve moved my 2 year old to her own bed which is in the room she has to share with her sister. But she wont sleep in it unless im with her. She has a ritual though… I have to take her socks off, kiss her feet, sing her the exact same 3 songs, tap her back for like 5 minutes (non stop) and then she climbs and sits in my syomach, pulls my shirt up and hers too, and puts her belly button next to mine. after a while she goes back to the bed, and after talking at the tp of her lungs i get frustrated and scream *its bed time, Coco, please stop!* she cries a little, gives me a goodnight kiss and then falls sleep. By then its 10pm and im exhausted. But you know what i love to smell her hair, tap her little back and cherish every minute just because she is the last baby.
    Also, my other kids ask me too sleep with them and we make sleepovers every weekend.

  • Amy

    Yes–wall of pillows, whispering “somebody help me” in vain, and #12! I’m with you. I currently cosleep with a 2 year old and 2 five year olds, in one queen bed. I wouldn’t even mind this; it’s the “them waking up the instant I do” morning part that gets me. I am NOT a morning person and hate having people clinging to me first thing.

  • Kris

    I almost woke my 2 yr old laughing. She is plastered against me on top of 1 arm so I’m twisted at a bizarre angle with a crick in my neck holding my phone propped against a boob typing slowly with my thumb. Oh, and her bed is 2 feet away &likely occupied by a bunch of stuffed things & a cat.

  • Audrey

    OMG These are the EXACT thoughts I have every night (minus the sibling stuff) and my son is almost six, so…

  • Melissa

    This is awesome. My husband and I have a pushing contest (with our 3 year old) at night when she comes into bed. She used to hit us, to wake us up to let her into bed, but I have since taught her that hitting is not nice (Parenting WIN!) so now she will politely tap on my shoulder or back to let me know that she is there.

    She always gravitates towards me and I am literally, hanging off the bed, with no pillow. HOW DOES ONE SLEEP LIKE THIS?! So, I will push her towards my husband (mind you, we have a king size bed) but then I get the FEET. I get the feet on my chest, my stomach, in between my legs, on my back, anywhere BUT WHERE THEY BELONG. There was even a time that her head was ON MY HEAD! HOW IS THAT COMFORTABLE!? We have tried the bed next to our bed, then she just wakes up 100 times asking me to cover her with her blanket. STOP MOVING SO MUCH AND YOUR BLANKET WILL STAY ON YOU. We have tried the whole “you will get a treat or toy if you sleep in your bed and wake up in your bed”. Works about 13% of the time.

    Do they grow out of this at any point because I think this is the reason I am so exhausted all of the time.

  • Erika

    I coslept with my son until he was 7 months old, got him used to his crib and then left his father and moved from Nebraska back home to California. Needless to say, the transition put quite the kink in the previous progress. Finally got him falling asleep in his crib, but he would wake around 2-3 am so I’d pop him in bed and nurse him again. This continued until he weaned at 2. He still sleeps with me on occasion, but I’m really cranky when I don’t sleep well (and I don’t sleep well when he’s crammed against me and I’ve got the dog between my legs) so it doesn’t happen much anymore. There isn’t even another adult in the queen bed and he still manages to squish me into the final 18″ on my side…

  • Brianne

    Are you me?! Lol! I found your site about 10 minutes ago because my 12 month old ( 4th child) won’t sleep and came across losers who don’t sleep train! I had to send it my husband because he thinks we have the only non sleep trained baby in the world!! Thank you for the laughs!

  • Jessi Roe

    The minions have field tested various co-sleep deprivation tactics throughout the years ranging from the meh-hot-breath-on-the-face-is-for-noobs test run to the insta-insanity ticket of peeing on a parental unit while pretending to be totally nailing the potty training ruse. The good ol’ roll over and pull off the covers while pinning Mom’s hair and/or nipple to the mattress rendering said Mom frozen while also being in agony is also note worthy. Beware the elbows and heels.

    We are battle weary, but I blame the longevity that is the War of Beds in our assumption that finally being able to buy a real bed off the floor with some space AND NEVER TAKING THE PLASTIC OFF would mean winning precious inches into the fabled land of “Middle Bed”.

    Rookie. Mistake.

    Now the 5 year old mocks us with his Yoda commentary and has perfected the art of cold toes in the butt cheeks boundary establishments, the 8 year old has decided the bigger bed purchase was because we missed her presence (maybe we did because she talked in her sleep and maybe we had conversations back with her trying not to snarkel; our oldest will be 18 this year, my feelings are butt hurt so no you shut up), the 100 pound dog has been brainwashed by said tiny tormentors to believe she’s a lap dog, there are lovies everywhere and no I am not counting my Raja or Wamba amongst those lovies because there is nothing to see here so keep scrolling, Schultz, and my husband, who has grown a beard-shield blessed with the sacred snores from blissfully slumbering parents in fairytale land that enables him to insta-coma when said beard hits pillow, is also trying hard to be the Human Torch we never needed (but do those stinkers use the icicle toes to the buttocks maneuver of death on him? No! But I know a certain wifeling…no, I’ve said too much!). And when those two have tricked the husband into “Just just one extra hug since we are sleeping ALL THE WAY IN THE OTHER ROOM RIGHT NEXT TO THIS ONE BUT ARE SEPARATED BY A WALL HOW COULD YOU YOU MONSTERS and I begin to unfurl into a starfish of delight cackling with glee, out pops the soon-to-be 14 year old who asks if we can have a girl’s night. How one child can create so many moving arms and legs is boogling.

    I’ve taken too long to “potty” and am now been sought out for “snuggles” and other such trickery. If you read this, send a couple movies the kids somehow haven’t already seen that aren’t “stupid”, “boring”, or “not Whovian enough” (read that with a Holms’ smirk for maximum effect) so we can maybe nap but most likely find some way to curl up together where he isn’t breathing on me and my fan doesn’t turn him into a white walker while arguing about what show to catch up on on Netflix before finally starting one and then crashing 5 minutes in. And toilet paper as a sign of good faith so they don’t suspect a thing.

    Just kidding, not only have they totally seen through your rouse, but they used up all the toilet paper.

    Good luck and God speed, fellow Sleep Deprivationairions.

  • madeline duffin

    I am a single mom who started my son sleeping in my bed, never worried about rolling on top of him, enjoyed the ease of breastfeeding at night and then I had to go back to work. I worked at night and had to get him used to sleeping alone at my mothers. Eventually he got used to the new arrangement. When he was two I started working days so our night time relationship resumed. now he is eleven. I still enjoy our sleeping in the same bed, we talk about our days and he slips into his folded over comforter and I slip into mine so it feels like we are sleeping in our own beds but we happen to share one mattress. I don’t feel any kicking, cold feet or stealing of the covers. I joked with a girl friend that maybe he will not get out until he has a wet dream.

  • jessica howard

    I just found your blog and love it! You seriously had me cracking up with this list.
    And yes, we Co sleep too. And no, it is not (really) by choice but it also kinda is.😂

  • KB: Mother of Gremlins

    I swore up and down and left and right and in CIRCLES that I wouldn’t co-sleep with the youngest (5 in December) … and here she is, curled around my 8mo pregnant stomach, petting my ribs whenever the baby kicks or I squirm trying to get air because “the baby likes me”. No, yes, maybe. I don’t know little gremlin but your mother is overheating and needs to peeee. And the saddest joke I’ve ever told? Oh, we bought a cute little crib for womb-tenant, that we all know for a fact will get almost no use while we scoot deeper into the king sized bed so I can balance a doe eyed kindergartner on one side and a newborn on the other >__> oops, sorry hubbeast.

  • Liz

    This right here: “Pretending my co-sleeping is actually some sort of deep overarching parental philosophy when actually it’s just that I like my babies there more than I hate them there but also sometimes I hate them there with all my soul but am too lazy to change it and those sweaty little cuddly heads complicate the shit out of the whole thing.”

    I’ve also tried sleeping in her toddler bed with her, which was not well thought out. Not only did it cause hip and back pain reminiscent to labor, but I had no exit strategy. So, I spent the rest of the night in pain with a toddler sleeping on top of me in my bed. We’ll miss this when they’re 16 and want nothing to do with us…