When You Nighttime Parent Alone


My husband and I are really, really bad at sleep deprivation. We both prefer nine hours a night, and I love a good nap. Early in my first pregnancy, I heard people talk about the sleep deprivation that comes with having kids, and I thought some combination of “That won’t happen to us”/“It can’t be that bad”/“I have Babywise to help”.

And truly, it wasn’t terrible even after I made the switch to decaf coffee. Until we got to the third month or so and realized we had—or had created (who even knows!?)—a terrible sleeper.

My son would not sleep alone, even for naps, and so he always ended up in our bed. Two people and a baby in a queen-sized bed is rough. My mom kept suggesting that one of us sleep on a mattress in the baby’s (unused) room. But I refused. It would surely ruin our marriage (according to all the sources out there).

However, I did realize that I really looked forward to naps when my husband was at work and I could have the bed to myself. Finally, we threw down a mattress in the baby’s room, and my husband started sleeping there. When we moved to a house, we had a guest room with an actual bed, and that was even better.

I have read a lot of posts lately by moms who praise their husbands for waking up for every feeding all night long. I remember one night when the baby would not sleep, and we were both up, and it was really fun to have someone to commiserate with. And maybe having the husband up too gives you more incentive to get the baby sleeping better.

But for us, I wanted my husband to sleep. Part of it is that he had to work while I got to stay home. After all, most days I could take advantage of naps. But a bigger part of it is that I loved having him well-rested. It was better to have him well-rested than to have company or help in the middle of the night (though if I could have had both...).

I could handle the nighttime parenting if I knew that he would wake up refreshed and ready to help. Even this morning, as soon as my toddler woke up, I heard my husband’s cheerful greeting (which makes my toddler’s morning so much better).

My husband rarely gets up to take care of babies in the night. Instead he has consistently made sure I have water or snacks or diapers or an exercise ball for middle-of-the-night newborn bouncing. He’s been available to take the baby as soon as he wakes up in the morning. He’s cheerfully allowed me to have time to nap or sleep in. And I love it!

This isn’t to say that it’s perfect. I’ve had spurts of resentment—times when I’ve murdered him ruthlessly in my mind during every night-waking. It’s been hard during times when he’s slept badly for reasons that have nothing to do with babies. But overall I think it has worked much better  for me to be the one who handles nighttime parenting so I have a rested backup the next day (or even the next evening when he gets home from work). There have been times that I’ve felt frustrated that he can’t truly understand these years of consistently broken sleep. But the tradeoff is worth it. 

Even still when I tell him about a rough night with one of the boys he'll ask, "Why didn't you wake me?" And I'll remind him that he couldn't have done anything to help, and I'd rather have him rested for the next day. Knowing he's there and willing to wake up makes a huge difference even in the middle of the night.

And having separate rooms? I know it’s taboo, but it has worked for us! I can’t wait to one day sleep in the same bed again consistently, but for now, this allows all of us to get the most sleep and wake up happy and loving. And not fighting due to exhaustion during the day is way better than sleeping in the same bed all night.