There has been a bit of a conversation over at lifewithgoblins blog about bedsharing. You can check it out here. And so I thought it might be a good time to throw some of my ideas into the mix. Ones built on the work of others, nevertheless a little snippet of my twist on life and the universe.
You see it dawned on me, as I was churning through books such as: The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel; Becoming Attached by Robert Karen; Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt; Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman; The Emotional Brain by Joseph le Doux… amongst others (Yes, secret swot ), that although I love, love, love attachment theory – it only goes part of the way to explain the ‘why’ of people. I’m a bit annoying like that.
The theory I was reading was great but it didn’t always translate into enough detail for me – once I started looking at real people. And as far as I’m concerned all the theory in the world is worth squat, if it doesn’t match real people. I’ve come up with a heap of different parenting styles and then, of course because we’re human and not good at fitting into boxes, I get the intersection between many of them too. Today I thought I’d introduce seven of them with this concept of bed-sharing. Just to see what you all make of it. Remember, please, this is just one small snippet of the whole theory – and it is probably the bit closest to already established attachment theory.
1. First, we get our natural bed-sharers. The people for whom that’s just the way parenting has happened and if we’re one of these people, we couldn’t think of raising our children any other way. We have had either a highly nurturing relationship with one or more adult (probably Mum) and/or lots and lots and lots of great sex with one person – usually between the ages of 17 and 25. (Secure attachment in attachment theory.)
2. Then there are those of us I call sensitive-intellectuals until I get clever and think of a decent label. Those of us who might not have had the flashest start to life, or might have had an OK start to life just not as nurturing as group 1, and who have read enough and feel responsible towards our kids enough that we will force our way through the parenting style we were programmed with (via Mum and Dad, although they probably didn’t even realise that was what was happening and were probably doing their best) or the current ‘expert.’ There are two groups here: those of us who will pick up a baby when it cries and offer comfort. And those of us who will go the whole-hog and do the above plus bedshare – even if it almost drives us into the depths of insanity at times. (Any attachment style in attachment theory behaving like a securely attached parent.)
3. And now those of us who have had a completely rubbish start to life - and still manage to pick up the baby, to stop it (or us) being beaten, or bed-share for the same reason. (Chaotic attachment person behaving like a securely attached person in this instance or at this time.)
4. Then there are those of us who fret about safety and/or what the neighbours (actually more likely the grandmothers or our friends) think about bedsharing. So we might want to, might bedshare sometimes, but feel guilty the whole time and it all becomes a ghastly experience. We are also the ones most likely not to bedshare or even have the baby in the same room, because our partner doesn’t want to. Or we might be a solo parent, who is just too exhausted to full-time bedshare – although we may have under different circumstances. (And do from time to time because the kids sneak into bed with us and we’re too tired to do anything about it.) (Ambivalent attachment in attachment theory.)
5. Those of us who don’t bedshare and/or don’t always pick up the crying baby because we want to do what is right, and we’ve been told doing both of these is wrong. Although we might go through emotional agony listening to our darling scream and secretly enjoy snuggling with them in bed, we would never bedshare. (Ambivalent attachment in attachment theory – behaving like an avoidant attachment person in order to please someone other than the baby. Usually a husband, mother or ‘expert.’)
6. Then we get those of us who are stoics and perfectionists. Often we are the people who make it to the top of our careers and end up being ‘experts’ and/or policy makers. And those of us in this group often hate and despise bedsharing with a vengeance. We value independence and stoicism, and believe ‘tough love’ is what babies and small children need most. Discipline and routines rule in our home. The flip side is of course, that those of us in this group think our parents (although we might respect and admire them) aren’t there for us emotionally. We see emotional outbursts as signs of weakness. We just couldn’t bed-share. Ever. And some of us can’t see why anyone else should be able to either. (Avoidant attachment in attachment parenting.)
7. Then there’s those of us who give bedsharing a bad name because we do bedshare drunk, in a water-bed, with a pedophile and end up killing our kids by mistake. (Chaotic attachment in attachment theory.)
The big WHY? Well, again everyone else’s research but my concept and title, as far as I can make out.
Nurturing Limits (NL)
And they’re nothing to joke about. Unless we are super-self-aware, we probably don’t even realise what’s happening. We just react. If we have a high NL, it means we find it easier to nurture our kids and if we have a low NL, it means we find it harder. And stress lowers our natural NL. So back to our examples:
Those in group 1. naturally have an extremely high NL and for us full-time emotional availability comes easily.
2. Might have a low NL but force ourselves, a bit like torture for the first three years of each child’s life, to push through our NL and give our kids an emotionally supportive start.
3. Extremely low NL. Having to nurture a small baby just feels like another bit of stress to add to our constant state of feeling emotionally overwhelmed. No idea we’re being useful to our child long-term, just surviving – thanks.
4. Erratic levels of NL.
5. Erratic levels of NL again.
6. Very low NL. The sooner that kids are independent, the better.
7. Next to no NL, just trying to survive ourselves, thanks.
So there you go. According to my theory, those of us who are true Stoics and Perfectionists actually can’t bedshare with our kids because we have a very low NL. Our brains won’t let us, because we experience intense discomfort when *anyone* is emotionally needy – and let’s face it, babies and children are intensely emotionally needy. There’s no way that we could give emotionally all night long.We want independence and we want it fast. If we are a stoic or perfectionist who does manage to always offer comfort to a distressed baby/child and/or bedshare, we are probably able to rationalise the experience and push through our NL – as in number 2 example.
If you want to start bedsharing you must, must, must do it safely – especially when they are very small (bassinet next to the bed for the first six months isn’t a silly idea), and don’t expect it to be fun for at least six months if you’re starting with an older child. Unless you like midnight wrestling, don’t even try to start with a child between nine months and two years, they can’t seem to get past the idea that it’s not play time. Even some permanent bed-sharers go through this phase. Oh, and give yourselves lots of space, we have five of us in two queen sized beds.
And if you want to read some proper research about bedsharing go to this site here.
Don’t steal my ideas. I won’t be happy and might send aliens to hunt you down.
References: The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel; Becoming Attached by Robert Karen; Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt; Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman; The Emotional Brain by Joseph le Doux
Comments, please. Does any of this sound like you, or people you know?
(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. )