Parenting With Awareness
A family came to me with a sleep issue with their three-year-old son.
The Mother explained that she was co-sleeping and never planned to, but her son got Croup when he was a year old, she pulled him into her bed, and then when they tried the crib again, he fought going back into his crib. They had a Queen sized bed, but when our son started sleeping with her and her husband, it became uncomfortable, and nobody was sleeping. Her husband moved into the guest room and he had been there ever since.
After two years in the other room, her husband is resentful. He wants to come back and sleep in the bed and get our son into his bed in his room. She knew it is what she should do and that it is not great that her husband and I have not slept together in two years, but she didn't want to. It wasn’t just that they didn't know how to how to get their son to sleep in his bed; the truth was that she didn’t want her husband to come back into bed with me.
She found herself liking sleeping with her son. They were very close. Her son wanted to be with her all the time. He would not let her husband do the bedtime routine or pretty much anything anymore. He just wanted her, and it is more noticeable because both are working from home now. It worked for her now, but she knew she was headed for a divorce if she did not make changes.
I commend this wonderful mother. It takes a lot of courage to be so honest with your feelings. Honesty is the only way to live a real and genuine life. Bravo. Believe it or not, she is not alone.
I work with many parents who find themselves in a similar situation. When a child is sleeping with one parent, and the other grabs a pillow and blanket to sleep in the office or a guest room and does not want to, an unhealthy family dynamic can be born.
When a parent, most often unknowingly, utilizes the parent-child relationship to deflect the tension and conflict between the couple, it is called Triangulation. This concept was introduced in the 1950s by Murray Bowen, a family therapy theorist.
If you are unconsciously in a triangulated dynamic and using your relationship with your child to avoid facing the issues in your relationship with your spouse, it can be quite hard on your child and his emotional growth. Blurred boundaries can create confusion and anxiety. You can unknowingly put your child in the role of a partner, giving him too much power in the relationship. It is a weight too heavy for a child to hold and should not have to. Children want to be children and know that their parents are actually "The Parents."
While it is essential to bond with your baby and form a proper attachment, it is also essential to learn and commit to navigating your relationship as a partner and as a parent. The new role of a parent can be pretty stressful and emotional. It is a great opportunity to grow as a person, a parent, and a partner. You and your husband will not agree on everything. You may not agree on whether to co-sleep or not. Parenting will challenge you, as we all bring our own childhood experiences and wounds to the relationship.
No one sets out to have this happen. This dysfunctional relationship dynamic is often a slow creep. It is common for the dynamic to be born from a sleep issue or parents having different ideas about sleep. I cannot stress this enough. How you choose to do sleep with your children can reveal a lot about yourself. As hard as this is to face, it is an excellent opportunity to become aware of what is really going on in your family; This allows you to make more conscious and mindful parenting decisions.
Being aware and honest about the issue with your husband is a huge step. Being honest about your feelings is a huge step. The next good step would be to get some guidance from a professional, such as a family therapist.
Once you both get clear in your needs, desires, and intentions in your relationship, you can then move forward with making healthy and unified changes in your parenting and get on the same page about your child's sleep.