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co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Potty-training my daughter was simple. From start to finish, it took us all of three weeks before she was excited to wear “big girl drawers” and was announcing to everyone in IHOP that she’d “peed and pooped in the potty.” When it came to self-soothing, the pacifiers went missing in one night and she never looked back. However, sleep training has always been a challenging milestone for us. You name it, we’ve tried it: bed and bath time routines, night lights, white noise, and crying it out.

Ever since my daughter got a taste of our king size mattress one night when I was nursing her back to health from her first cold, she never looked back to her nursery. She’s four now, and currently in a transitional stage where she spends half the night partying to Paw Patrol before she gathers up her crew of stuffed animals and comes boot-stomping into my room to finally take it down for the night. My husband grunts and turns his back to us. I simply move over, pull back the sheet and let her nestle herself in the middle because when you’re a working parent you know any sleep is good sleep, even better if it’s uninterrupted after surrendering to a pre-schooler placing dibs on one of your pillows.

Actress and mother-of-two Tia Mowry recently addressed co-sleeping with her own children when appearing on The Breakfast Club to promote her new Netflix series, Family Reunion. When asked about how she’s been handling juggling the project with being a new mom of two (Mowry has an eight-year-old son named Cree and a one-year-old daughter named Cairo), Mowry shared that she still co-sleeps with her baby girl:

“She’s still in the bed with my husband and myself.”

The radio show hosts of course jumped in with warnings most old-school parents have about how Mowry will never be able to get baby Cairo out of the bed. The actress and lifestyle expert shared that she and husband Cory Hardrict did the same with their son until he was around age four.

“That’s what’s so beautiful about it. They’re not going to be babies forever,” she said.

Co-host DJ Envy then dropped the question that never ceases to confuse me:

“Well, what about when you and your husband want some? The baby’s in the middle.”

Why is it that whenever parents express their decision to co-sleep, folks automatically assume their sex life is completely shut down until further notice? DJ Envy and his wife have Gia have five kids. Clearly, their children’s vastly different development stages and sleep schedules never got in the way of intimacy.

For whatever reason when co-sleeping is mentioned, all of sudden people act like sex is an act that is restricted solely to your bedroom between the hours of 9:00 PM and 4:00 AM. I don’t know about y’all but my sex drive doesn’t exactly work like that. And if anything is bound to break out the creativity in a person, it’s parenthood. In addition, when you’re truly a united force against the “terrible twos” or the threenagers who suddenly learn the lost art of sarcasm, you’ll depend on one another to make your personal needs a priority when it seems like your offspring is trying to take over.

Admittedly, I spent the first year-and-a-half getting accustomed to parenting and balancing the needs and wants of my child and my spouse. Our sex life definitely changed, but it didn’t disappear. As an infant, safety kept the baby out of our bed, but nonetheless, she slept in a crib in our room. I wasn’t even breastfeeding and was exhausted by waking up every few hours to feed her, so I’m sure the libido runs low for moms who have a newborn attached to their chest regularly. As my daughter has grown older it has gotten much easier to teach her to be comfortable in her own room and help her understand the need for all of us to have our share of privacy. That doesn’t necessarily make her want to sleep in her room, but she definitely gets the hint that there are times when her parents will have “alone time” and she will need to respect that and occupy herself. Kids are often capable of understanding more than we give them credit for.

It’s also important for mothers to remember that we were whole, grown-ass adult women before we had children. With enough support, as tiring as motherhood can be, balance is key. It can take some adjustment, but it’s important to try and find a way to maintain the yoga classes, therapy sessions, happy hours and all of the butt-naked nasty sex you were used to having before someone lied to you and said kids should cease and desist any sexuality left in your body. The logistics may be a challenge, but intimacy isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips on maintaining intimacy even if you do have a little bedroom intruder on your hands:

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Lock your doors.

My mother had a saying when I was younger as I’m sure many black moms did in the 80’s and 90’s: “You only get to lock your door in my house when you’re paying bills.” If you have toddlers and preschoolers that are allergic to sleep like my daughter, make sure they are occupied and safe before you go handle business behind your closed, locked door. Baby monitors aren’t just to keep your baby safe, they’re also for surveillance. A lock also avoids any premature talks about why mommy had daddy in a naked headlock.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Adjust your lengthy expectations.

If you’re used to having marathon sex, you may have to dial down that Disney movie-length lovemaking to about a 30-minute Peppa Pig episode. Good sex doesn’t necessarily equal long or loud. And intimacy is all about making the most of the time you have with your partner. In no time, Peppa and George will locate Daddy Pig’s glasses and your kid will be at your door throwing the whole mood off so you might just have to keep it short and sweet.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Set boundaries with your babies.

My daughter is turning five this year and any time she notices I have left the room, she comes boot stomping to the bathroom door pleading, “I want to be in there with you.” At this point she’s old enough to understand everyone’s need for privacy and even attempt some manipulation to get her way. If your child is old enough to request crunchy peanut butter over creamy, they’re old enough to sit down for a conversation about boundaries and the need for personal space.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Accept that perfection won’t always be possible.

When I first met my spouse in my early twenties I wanted every night I spent with him to look like the Trey Songz “Neighbors Know My Name” video. Back then, I had time to shave my entire body, pick out a hairstyle I wouldn’t sweat out and strut to the bedroom in five-inch heels. Now he’s lucky if he catches me headscarf free with filled-in eyebrows. In addition, that “knock, knock, knocking on the wall” is usually our daughter requesting a Capri Sun. It’s not to say that motherhood can’t be sexy, but it doesn’t always need to look sexy to feel good. Sometimes “getting in the mood” is simply mind over matter. Just because there are Legos on the floor instead of rose petals and you don’t necessarily look the part, doesn’t mean you can’t feel just as sexy with your partner.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Take advantage of the other rooms in your house.

Whether you have a studio or a single-family home, don’t underestimate the walls in your household. There are ways to respect your child’s space and innocence and still fulfill your needs and that of your partner. If I’m honest, I feel the most freedom when my daughter is at another address, but when that isn’t possible, you may need to get creative and close the door behind you.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

Source: Dean Mitchell / Getty

Appreciate alone time you may have overlooked before.

Parenting definitely makes you look to moments of alone time with special appreciation. Whether it’s my 10-minute shower or the occasional hour or two my husband has when he gets off early and I’m on pick-up duty, it helps to have a moment or two that isn’t punctuated by whining, laughing or yelling just to hear yourself think. If Grandma gets the kids every other Saturday for lunch, you may have to put off the grocery shopping and get back to being all over each other while you can.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

Source: Dean Mitchell / Getty

Recognize that intimacy doesn’t always mean sexual intercourse.

Intimacy doesn’t always have to mean passionate moments inspired by “Mr. Steal Yo Girl” himself. If I catch my husband with a fresh haircut I make sure to tell him he’s looking like a snack and I’ve got an appetite. A flirtatious text, a slap on the ass, a sexy gesture when your kids’ eyes are glued to their Ipad all go a long way. Intimacy and foreplay start way before the bedroom. Don’t forget the flirting that eventually led to how your kids got here in the first place.

co-sleeping interfering with intimacy

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Avoid looking at your kids and co-sleeping as the enemy.

Planned pregnancy or not, the decision to parent is one that is made daily with each morning commute, temper tantrum and all of the stresses our children can put us through. I don’t approach every single moment with enthusiasm, but I appreciate every win and struggle that comes with parenting, and especially having a partner to do it all with. Despite DJ Envy’s advice, co-sleeping won’t last forever. Every parent has to choose what works best for their style of parenting and their child’s personality. Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone. However, if you have discovered it is for you, make your peace with your decision and proceed with parenting and meeting yourself and your partners’ needs with patience, confidence and a whole lot of creativity.

Toya Sharee is a sexual health expert who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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