Oh, co-sleeping. There’s little better way to sow division in a local mother’s facebook group than to post something absolutist about co-sleeping. (Or vaccines. Or breast-feeding. Or—you know what, never mind, the mommy wars are completely out of hand. But that’s a topic for another day.)
Fundamentalist blogger Lori Alexander wants women to think twice about co-sleeping. Because, you know, women always need to be sexually available to their husbands, and having a child in bed rather puts the kibosh on that extremely important completely and constant sexual availability.
Lori begins as follows:
This topic is one that I have written about before and received many angry comments and even blog posts written against what I taught. There’s not one verse in the entire Bible that commands that parents sleep with their children. No, not one. Usually, it’s the wife who wants this to happen. If the husband wants it, that’s fine but if not, it’s not.
See, in Lori’s world, sexual availability goes one way and one way only.
Some have said I was wrong teaching this because mothers know what is best for their babies and children, but God commands wives to submit to and obey their husbands in everything! If a husband doesn’t want children sharing the marital bed with him, then they should not! Wives obeying their husband is clear in Scripture. Husband, after all, are the leaders of their families!
I’m curious, what is the point of naming women the keepers of their homes if husbands are allowed to overturn any decision they want?
Lori links to an article by a psychologist who claims that co-sleeping destroyed his marriage. Um. Okay.
The modern motherhood monster stalks the earth, dropping in on facebook groups or mommy baby library circles snatching women and carrying them off to its lair. There, women subsequently spend countless hours researching the perfect organic, non-GMO baby food, paging through vaccine-related injuries, and god knows what else. Women’s sense of self can all but disappear, absorbed in this thing that has taken them.
And yeah, that can be bad for marriages. Also women. It is bad for women. I wonder about it, sometimes. Where did it come from, this creature? When did it begin preying on women? What is it that makes some women so susceptible to its wiles? If I had to guess, I would suggest that it was born out of a larger problem in modern society. For instance, the gender wage and opportunity gap. Or perhaps, a deep and abiding fear that one’s children will be worse off than oneself economically unless they have a leg up.
Perhaps trying to be the absolute best BEST mother at home can distract from problems at work. Or maybe stay at home mothers are attracted to the mommy wars as a way to find validation, in absence of a career. It’s possible that income inequality plays a role as well—if I had to guess, I would posit that the women most engaged in fights over vaccines, say, are those with the most free time and disposable income.
We’re ranging a bit far afield, here, though. My point is simply this: co-sleeping does not destroy marriages. Failure to communicate destroys marriage. Failure to work through disagreement destroys marriage. An inability to find some sort of compromise destroys marriage. Refusal to listen to one’s partner destroys marriage. Allowing your kids to sleep in your bed? That does not destroy marriages.
When my children were young, my husband and I co-slept. We threw three foam mats on the floor, creating a king sized bed (and then some). The four of us slept there together, all piled up. There was plenty of room. If I was ever squished, I would just get up and move to another part of the mattress. Sometimes I even slept crosswise, below my children’s feet. Sometimes I miss those days.
My husband and I were both on board with this plan. It saved a lot of trouble at bedtime, and it worked for us. What about sex? Well, it wasn’t like that was the only room in the house.
But does Lori know that?
If your husband doesn’t want the children in bed with you, then obey him! Our children never slept in our bed and our children turned out to be wonderful adults. Your marriage bed is for you and your husband alone. There’s no great benefit to children sleeping with their parents. After all, everyone is sleeping. It matters not where they sleep, but it is important to be available sexually to your husbands when they desire it (1 Corinthians 7:5). Children in the bed interfere with this important aspect of marriage. Don’t allow co-sleeping to destroy your marriage!
This need for sexual availability. Do some men’s sexual urges happen so quickly that it’s impossible to get out bed and relocate to another room? Is that what’s going on here? Because frankly, I’m skeptical.
There are plenty of reasons not to co-sleep. Now that I don’t co-sleep, I love being able to roll over—or get out of bed—without worrying about waking one of my children. My youngest used to wake up when I got up early to get grad school reading done, which absolutely sucked. But of all the reasons not to co-sleep, the need to be able to have spontaneous, immediate sex at the drop of a hat seems like a weak one.
That said, if spontaneous, immediate sex is your thing, definitely don’t co-sleep! There is no one-size fits all here. You do you!
Also, here is what I Corinthians 7:5 actually says:
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Lori’s paraphrase of this text, remember, was that “it is important to be available sexually to your husbands when they desire it.” I don’t think that is what that verse says.
For one thing, this verse doesn’t gender it. For another thing, the verse is about whether it makes sense for a married couple to be abstinent so that both parties can devote themselves to prayer. The answer is, yes, provided both parties have agreed to it, and provided it is only for a time, and not permanent. The verse does not say you must always and at every second be sexually available to your husband.
You know what? Let me put this verse in its context.
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
First, nothing here is gendered. You literally cannot read this passage and come away thinking men are all horny and sexual and that their wives need to put out to keep them satisfied. That isn’t what it says.
Second, the whole point of this passage is that it is better not to have sex and that having sex is a concession. Do Lori and her husband abstain from sex from time to time to engage in prayer? Because frankly, that’s something a straightforward reading of this text suggests that they should be doing.
I can’t even with this. Why do some people have to make parenting—and relationships—so dang formulaic and complicated? It’s as though people delight in making life harder for themselves.
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