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Bed time

(29 Posts)
Jett99 Sat 10-Dec-16 10:54:17

Hi smile Okay so our living situation is a bit of a pain at the moment. I have lived with my boyfriend for one and a half years, and he has his nearly seven-year-old daughter every week Friday-Monday. She's a lovely kid and we get on amazingly, so absolutely no problems there. However, she has no consistency in her life - she goes to her paternal grandparents to sleep on a Saturday night where there aren't any rules, and at her mum's she also stays out at different houses during the week when she's in school the next day, so during the week, she can easily stay at five different houses. Me and OH have been talking and he's desperate to sort things out because we feel so bad for her - she's poorly and tired all the time, and she's grumpy which is totally understandable!
Sleep is one of the main issues. Because she's passed around so much, she has no consistent bed-time routine. She shares a room with her sister (not OH's kid) at her mum's, she shares a bed with her grandparents, she crashes out with the whole of her mum's family at cousins' during the week, and here I can't even keep up. When I met my OH, he was sharing a bed with his daughter every night, and then he began getting her to sleep in her own bed. But two years later, we're still having problems. She frequently gets in bed with us during the night and wakes me up - I'm a really light sleeper, and she and my OH take a lot of room up in the bed, so I often end up on the sofa. However, if I'm not there for the night, she's allowed to sleep with OH. I've been away for a few weekends now, so she's back in the habit, and it's doing my head in - I'm back on the sofa, not sleeping properly, and being woken up at 6am on weekends. Not only that, I feel bad for her because it's like when I'm back, I'm kicking her out! And then vice versa.. It's a lot of mixed messages in my opinion, and she's started doing it at her mum's house with her mum's new boyfriend, which OH doesn't like and her mum always takes her back to her own bed. I said to him that it doesn't seem right to accept it at our house with him and not at her mum's because how can she know where she stands? I completely think that if he wants to share a bed with her then that's fine and it's entirely his decision, but it's my choice to not to have to put up with it. I'm at the point of moving out - I'm swamped with work and am constantly knackered at the weekends, especially because she is taking hours to get to go to sleep at night as well, sometimes as late as midnight, even though she initially gets in bed at 8. If she's having nightmares or she's poorly, that's different, but as a general rule, wanting people to sleep in their own bed isn't unreasonable, is it? I'm just wondering whether, since she's only here at weekends, is it something I have to put up with and I just have to sleep on the sofa? I've spoken to OH saying that I can't carry on as is, but I have no intention of telling him what he can and can't do. Obviously OH isn't happy and feels like I'm giving him an ultimatum, so am I overreacting? Thank you in advance smile

changeymcchangeface Sat 10-Dec-16 11:03:44

Oh god that would do my head in! I would forget the ultimatum and just move out, get your own place, your own bed and then he can see you on your terms rather than having the complicated situation you're now in where you feel like you're kicking his DD out of bed to stay there.

DP is the same, his DD shares his bed and I've stopped staying at their house as it's just too awkward plus I don't want to sleep on a pillow covered in someone else's nighttime drool

It's between him and his ex to give their DD some boundaries but it seems neither is willing to do so. At the moment it's sleep, but as she grows up it will be any number of other things (going out late, doing homework, food battles, not helping tidy up, having boyfriends round etc)

Do yourself a big favour and keep some distance between you and this situation as it won't work out well for you unless he is prepared to do some actual parenting rather than Disney-dadding!

Jett99 Sat 10-Dec-16 12:02:50

I'm glad it's not entirely me! Exactly, I have to remind myself that it's OUR house! It's OUR bed, and if it were our child, I certainly wouldn't let my child kick me out of bed, never mind if she were my child, I wouldn't let my partner be pushed out. God the relief sometimes when you find someone in your situation! How old is your DP's daughter? Yeah I totally agree, she already doesn't like doing as she's told, but I don't blame her because it's the adults' responsibility to teach her. OH definitely isn't completely soft - he doesn't take crap from her regularly, thank god, but he definitely isn't as proactive as he should be in my opinion. I think it's easier for parents who only have their kid(s) part time because they're not wholly responsible for the child's behaviour. Thank you for your advice though, and I'm definitely going to keep my distance.

LHReturns Sat 10-Dec-16 13:48:48

OP, you sound like a saint!

The more experienced SMs will be along soon to advise how you can manage this, but what you describe fills me with horror.

When I first started staying over at my (now) husband's home, his daughter and son (at the time they were 8 and 6) would both end up in his bed at some point in the night. While I had no problem if that was their way, I had no desire to be in bed with children that aren't my own. My view on this has not changed in the four years we have now been together and I love them dearly and am very close to them both. So on those nights I slept in the guest room and everyone was happy. However we only have the DSC every other weekend, so I had my bed and my DH all to myself on the weekends in between which made it manageable. Sounds like you have this EVERY weekend? Hideous.

I was brought up that you sleep in your own bed (except when sick or a big problem) - and my DS now 2.5 doesn't ever sleep with us either. We certainly have wonderful morning cuddles, but he does not actually sleep with us ever. Actually if there is a problem one of us parents would usually go to HIS bed and be with him there. He wouldn't come in with us.

I dunno, to me an adults bed is an adults bed. It isn't a family bed.

Jett99 Sat 10-Dec-16 14:04:36

LHReturns Thank you! God, it fills me with horror, too! I don't know, it makes me feel like it's not my home. Yes, every weekend!! Precisely, if that's his way of doing things, then fine, but I do not want to have to deal with that. I have to say that I wouldn't be happy spending 50% of my time sleeping elsewhere (the couch, because we don't have a spare room).
Exactly the same here about growing up, except when I did get in bed with my mum, my dad got kicked out. They've always had a bad marriage and it drove the wedge even further between them - I've seen this happen a lot and I feel like bed time / after children are asleep is much-needed time for couples to spend together. OH's daughter gets all of the attention throughout the day (as should be the case), and I pitch in more than most, helping 50/50 with getting ready / homework / tidying up / tea time / baths / bed time. It's not like I begrudge her the attention - I just feels like this is not healthy for me and OH! I would like to have a bit of privacy and intimacy together and not feel like I'm in the way in my own house. Not only that, I'm sure his daughter would get a better night's sleep without chopping and changing all the time.
I spoke to him this morning and said I couldn't continue with this, and he initially was like Right well I'll tell her she can't get in my bed then. Notice the 'my bed'. I said I'm not being in a position where I'm kicking her out, so he has to pick whether she can come in bed whenever she wants or she has to sleep in her own bed until the morning, and he should decide that as if I weren't in the picture. He said he will continue to have her in his bed when I'm not there (away with work a lot at the minute), and so I said fine then well I can't stay here. He's not said anything to me since, apart from 'Well you seem off' before he went out. I've not seen him for a few weeks and this is what I come back to? Urghhhh.

ElphabaTheGreen Sat 10-Dec-16 14:13:15

This is difficult.

Many children bed-share with their parents for multiple reasons, including the set-up you describe where the child starts out in her own bed, then comes in with the parents in the latter half of the night. As long as all parties are happy, there is no detrimental effects to the child's sleep by doing this.

In this case, however, not all parties are happy, and I can understand why you're not happy having your sleep interrupted by a child that isn't yours - I work full time and haven't had a sleep on the weekend past 6am in donkeys' years, but that's caused by my own children, which takes the edge off. However, this little girl's life sounds terribly inconsistent. She must feel like nobody wants her and it sounds like co-sleeping is about the only way she has of feeling like somebody's priority. I think you need a long chat with your DP, taking this point very seriously into consideration, and what you can do about it, even if it means bringing all parties together to agree a consistent plan of action as it's doing her no favours at all.

Jett99 Sat 10-Dec-16 14:26:45

Completely agree with you Elphaba. Definitely agree with you about when it's your own children, although to be honest, I'm not sure I'd like it all the time if it were my own children! I'm a rubbish sleeper and I'm get grumpy and can't function properly when I'm knackered.
Yeah, I can't even imagine what her life is like! I feel horrendous for her, and OH and I have frequently spoken about the impact on her life - he has strained relationships with her mum and his own parents, so unfortunately she bears the brunt of that and getting everyone on board is basically impossible. He has said that in the new year, he's going to try to tackle what he can, but I have to admit that it's not easy for him. He only has control over what happens at the weekend, which is why I suggested to him that if she at least had a consistent routine with clear rules at the weekend, she might feel better. I totally understand her feeling like that, but it doesn't seem like her well-being is a priority for the other adults in her life - staying up until 2am sometimes on weekends and being fed rubbish until she's poorly. It's so horribly unfair on her. I care about her a lot, but it's the constant struggle between not wanting to intervene as an outsider, and wanting her to have a better set-up than she has at the minute and not wanting to feel like I have no say in the rules in my own house. My OH will be home in a bit - any suggestions on how to tackle this conversation?

LHReturns Sat 10-Dec-16 14:56:53

OP, the reason I was happy to skulk off to the guest room when I knew DSC were going to end up in bed with Dad, was for the reasons Elphaba describes. I didn't want to upset the stability they were finding with their parents each in separate homes (there was a three year gap between divorce and DH and I starting to date). And (again, at the time) DH had only just bought the house in question, so I was sensitive to them doing what get needed to feel at home. But it still doesn't change that it isn't the way I choose to do things.

I will never forget the first time it happened...I got out of a quiet bed to go to the loo and by the time I got back there was two grinning kids in it, placed to be BETWEEN DH and me!! Not my scene at all. I was frozen with the intrusion and surprise of it all.

OP I too am an insomniac which was another reason why I would prefer to have escaped the bedroom then gone through a process of easing them into more time in their own beds. While they can all fall asleep again straight away, I lie awake for hours. My issue, but one I need to manage carefully.

I'm not sure about how you talk to your DP because it comes down to where he is on the subject. And your DSD is still very young.

For me I started by making a clear point of getting up and out of bed when the DSC first started coming into our bed. This happened a few times, and DH was very uncomfortable about me going. Essentially he didn't want to upset me on a subject which he wasn't sure if he was right on anyway. He had never had a GF meet his kids or to stay before

So while I was sleeping in the guest room he started returning them gently to their beds when they came to him, and if necessary he stayed with them there until they were settled.

It didn't take long before they realised that coming into us wasn't PLan A until 7.30am (which was DH defined time when morning cuddles were allowed to happen).

I did explain to DH very gently that I didn't want to intrude on his valuable traditions with his kids, but I was not used to kids being in the grown ups bed which for me is a private place for sex and relaxation as a couple. DH was very open to this conversation and he proposed a set of ground rules (like what time they could come in in the morning). He was actually much stricter than I would have been.

What he never did was tell them they weren't invited anymore. He started by simply leading them back to their rooms every time they came in while being very kind and loving. He then stayed with them until they were asleep or happy...

I would say within about a year the DSC have never appeared in our room again. Mainly because they are complete lazibones nowadays! I am glad because I don't want my DS thinking our bedroom is open all night to him either.

Jett99 Sat 10-Dec-16 16:21:24

Well actually for me, OH’s daughter gets in my side!! Not even next to her dad, so I’m squished between them both! OH tried putting her on his side in the beginning, but he turned away from me like he was annoyed that I didn’t like her in our bed and I think he took it very personally, all of which made me feel really left out. When I started getting up to sleep on the couch, he got annoyed like he felt like I was making him choose or I was being petty.
She and I have a wonderful relationship, and when she wakes me up saying she’s poorly or having a nightmare, I’m so glad we have such a comfortable relationship. However, I think it’s because she knows I’m more likely to wake up - OH barely wakes up when she gets in bed, so it’s not like he’s going to get up and put her back in her own. My OH is the same with me - was a single dad for about four years before he met me, so it wasn’t ever something he’d thought about.
I have just spoken to my OH and we have had a sort of conversation about it. He still maintains that when I’m not here, she’s got open access, which I’m not too big a fan of because it makes me feel bad and weird. Your point about never saying ‘you can’t come in any more’ is a great one - definitely better than her feeling rejected. He’s said that he’s going to make sure to lead her back to bed if she gets in in the night when I’m here. I’m not sure how good a resolution this is, or if it will work out, but I guess it’s better for now.
Thanks everyone for your help and advice! smile

ElphabaTheGreen Sat 10-Dec-16 16:41:44

I'm not sure I'd like it all the time if it were my own children! I'm a rubbish sleeper and I'm get grumpy

Oh, it's fifty shades of shit, but they give you very little choice on the subject grin I, at least, have the visceral reward of small pleasures in my children's smiles, actions etc that make the shit worthwhile. I have no experience as a step-mum, but as someone who isn't fond of any children other than my own, I can't imagine you get those same rewards.

Maybe present your DP with a strategy to make feel more doable, rather than just deciding to do 'something' in the New Year? It needs to be an approach that acknowledges fully her need for security, support and as a valued and important person in the house. I would suggest the following:

- I assume she has her own room? Starting now, and not the New Year as this bit is easy groundwork, make this room the very best place in the house for her. Take her out shopping for new sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases, heck a new bed if you have the finances, so that she is in charge of creating her own space that she gets excited about.
- Play with her in her room A LOT - both you and DP. Really silly stuff, lots of laughing to make it a happy place. Even do things like have picnic teas in there so it becomes a safe, cosy, secure place in the house where loving and supportive things happen. When you have her there for which ever part of Christmas you have her for, open her presents in there, and she can decide where in her room she wants to put them.
- Build up for her - 'after Christmas, this is where you're going to sleep ALL night! Won't that be amazing! You'll be surrounded by all your new stuff and toys and be so comfy in your lovely bed that you made!'
- Start setting a bedtime routine - milk and a banana about 7pm is a good start as these naturally contain tryptoohans which induce tiredness. NO TV or iPad/iPhones after 6pm - none. Screens excite the cortex too much and have the opposite effect. Bath, teeth, then stories in her room. Lights out at 8pm, or after x number of stories. If she starts to want to go to sleep in there, fantastic, but for the time being, let her come through if she wants to.

After Christmas/NY:
- Any way you possibly can, get your DP to sleep on the floor in there for a few nights, so that if she wakes in the night, he is there. If she wants to get onto his sleeping surface, he needs to keep putting her back in her bed, with reassurance that he's not going anywhere.
- Once she doesn't need putting back into her bed, get him to sit with her, until she falls asleep - leaving his sleeping bag/air mattress/whatever there, but he goes back to his own bed once asleep. She may wake up and see he's not there, so he just puts her back to bed as he would if he was in the room.
- After a few nights, remove his sleeping stuff from her room altogether, as she should have worked out by now that it's all for show.

Re-inforce all of the above with a sticker chart - e.g. a sticker for each night spent sleeping the night in her own bed, even if it entailed several returns to bed. Five of these equals some kind of reward. And so on.

Does this seem like a realistic plan?

ElphabaTheGreen Sat 10-Dec-16 16:45:08

Cross post, sorry. I kept coming back in between doing stuff - this isn't really going to work if she has open access on other nights. It needs consistency. She's not getting it anywhere else in her life by the sounds of things - can he not see the benefit of providing it here?

LHReturns Sat 10-Dec-16 19:00:15

I think Elphaba's advice is absolutely excellent. Absolutely the right way to approach this. Would have worked perfectly with my step kids.

And also a little 5 year old needs total consistency! She can't understand that different rules apply on different nights - her dad is being selfish if he thinks that can work.

changeymcchangeface Sat 10-Dec-16 20:02:51

Yeah I think his half-arsed 'solution' shows a lack of understanding about whose bed it is! Either it's yours or it's hers, you don't share a bed with a child who isn't yours.

My DP's DD is 8 and as far as I know still sleeping in his bed at his house, but doesn't come into mine any more. She used to come in and he'd put her in between us and then turn over and go back to sleep, while she would want to sit and chat to whoever was awake (me!)

I made it quite clear to him that he's welcome to do what he likes at his house but that I don't feel comfortable sleeping over there now, but if they come to me, my rule is no DCs in my bed.

I don't let my DCs sleep in my bed - tbh I did for a few months after their dad moved out, but my DD would wake me up flailing around/whacking me in the face, so I started sending her back to her room. I also don't let them come in in the morning and wake me up as I struggle to get back to sleep. I'm a very light sleeper and I have health issues that mean I don't function well if tired, so as far as I'm concerned it's not negotiable - if he wants to stay here he has to accept my rules.

I know it feels petty not accepting his gesture, but it still makes you out to be the problem and will cause resentment in the future.

Jett99 Wed 14-Dec-16 17:50:15

Sorry for the delay - been a mad busy week!

Elphaba - all brilliant advice, most of which I’ve suggested and the rest I will. Yeah, his ‘something’ is annoying - he has form for knowing that something needs doing, but then not properly tackling it because he doesn’t want to piss people off / cause problems. We’re moving house after Christmas, which is why changes are probably going to fall after that. I tried that approach last time - all brand new bedding, a new bed, cushions, toys, fairy lights, pictures and posters for the wall etc. Thanks for the advice about the milk / banana! I totally agree with you about the screens, and recently they’ve been going off before tea, which is good.
The star chart is great - we’ve used it before for other things and it worked well, but when we tried it for bed time, it wasn’t as successful. Will try to start it up again and make it all exciting etc. It does sound realistic, but like you say, it requires consistency. OH can see the benefits, of course, but with a lot of changes lately, he thinks she needs the comfort, and doesn’t want her to feel neglected or pushed out. I see that, but I don’t think he’s willing to change his stance on that. I asked him what would be the case if I weren’t here, and he said she’d be allowed in with him in the middle of the night, but he would start taking her back to bed ‘at some point’ because she’s getting older.

LHReturns - That’s exactly what I said! I’m sure she can’t keep up with different rules at different houses, never mind different ones at different times in the same house.

changey - Exactly what I thought - this is my bed, and I get 50% say about what goes on in it!

This is my problem. I feel extremely uncomfortable about the fact that this agreement doesn’t stand when I’m not there. He’s said that hypothetically if I had to stay out one night in a year, she’ll be allowed in in the night when I’m not there. I don’t know exactly why it makes me feel annoyed and uneasy, but I guess it makes me feel like it’s not my house. I can’t tell him what to do with his own child, and he has had a brief conversation about sleeping in her own bed all night after Christmas etc., but I’m struggling how to deal with it. These sorts of conversations make me really anxious, because I feel like I’m sticking my nose in. I don’t want to be in a position where I feel like I’ve got to move out to make a point - everything is perfect otherwise, but I want a say over what happens in my own house!

Lunar1 Wed 14-Dec-16 19:34:49

I'll be honest I think the bed sharing is the least of the problems. I know we shouldn't judge, but I think this is an appalling way to bring up a child. She needs consistency and stability, not reign passed around like a ticking bomb.

Nobody really has to be responsible for overseeing her upbringing as she's never in place long enough. I don't know how anyone can love someone with such crappy parenting standards. You have lots worse to come if this carries on.

Jett99 Wed 14-Dec-16 19:56:24

Hi Lunar, I agree that it's not a good way to bring up a child, but so does my OH. As I have mentioned, with rocky relationships with other parties, he's another dad who is forced to go along with some things he doesn't like because otherwise the mum will stop contact as has been done before. In order that his daughter's life isn't awful, he wants to be civil with her mum and keep the line of communication open in case of problems and emergencies etc., but he fully recognises how frankly rubbish the situation is. He would have her full time if he could, but that's not an option, so trying to offer her some of what she needs at our house is all he can do at the moment. He is a brilliant parent on the whole, but we have different perspectives on this particular issue is all.

Jett99 Wed 14-Dec-16 19:56:30

Hi Lunar, I agree that it's not a good way to bring up a child, but so does my OH. As I have mentioned, with rocky relationships with other parties, he's another dad who is forced to go along with some things he doesn't like because otherwise the mum will stop contact as has been done before. In order that his daughter's life isn't awful, he wants to be civil with her mum and keep the line of communication open in case of problems and emergencies etc., but he fully recognises how frankly rubbish the situation is. He would have her full time if he could, but that's not an option, so trying to offer her some of what she needs at our house is all he can do at the moment. He is a brilliant parent on the whole, but we have different perspectives on this particular issue is all.

Lunar1 Wed 14-Dec-16 20:14:26

He's not doing all he can though, and is agreeing with this by farming out his dd on some of his time too.

Imagine how this will be when she is a teen. Can you remember how sneaky you could be as a teenager? Splitting her between 5 homes over a week which is split across a separated couples family, who exactly is going to take responsibility for checking where she actually is? Will she have a close enough bond with anyone to tell them what's going on with her, or will everyone just get snippets of her life and never put the pieces together?

He's making excuses for not doing anything about this, his mum won't stop contact-she hardly has her anyway!

MissMargie Wed 14-Dec-16 20:36:43

Imagine sleeping in a different bed every couple of nights. That would be bad enough if you slept alone but she is sleeping in a different bed with different people. AAaaaaagh. Really gives me the creeps.
All those different smells, noises, snores. She must smell of whoever she last slept with. I'm sure she keeps clean but your hair would pick up the smells from the pillow. Who wants to smell like their DGF?
It really can't be good for her, and though you can't change what happens elsewhere you can change to a more normal life when she is with you.
If you do that as she gets older she might decide to tell her DM, DGM, Dwhoever else she is sleeping with, that she would rather have a sleeping bag on the bedroom floor for her to sleep in alone. If sleeping alone is never introduced to her how can she know how pleasant and private it is?
It is also a situation where the risk of sexual abuse must be v high.

Jett99 Wed 14-Dec-16 21:35:40

Lunar contact has already been stopped on several occasions in the past year when OH has brought up things that make him uncomfortable when her mum has her, and sometimes he hasn't seen her for weeks, further upsetting her schedule and leaving him fearing that it will happen again. He has informed his parents that she won't be staying there any where near as much after Christmas, and that it will just be a one-off soon, but it's not gone down well. I totally agree with you that it's not acceptable, as he would, but it's not quite as straight-forward as it seems, which is sit everyone down and come up with a solution - the involved parties are not quite as rational and selfless as would be ideal.

MissMargie I totally agree with you, I think she needs to be introduced to it properly to see that it actually is quite good! I have secretly thought that as well about the abuse :/

MissMargie Thu 15-Dec-16 09:37:45

Being an insomniac for years my DCs never slept in my bed. But DH would let them occasionally, but because he couldn't be bothered to get up and take them back to their beds! which imho is why many DCs are allowed into DP's beds.

It is also teaching her strange boundaries. I just never shared beds.

LHReturns Thu 15-Dec-16 09:54:11

Me too MissMargie - not only were we never invited into my parents bed, as an adult my sleep is very poor so kids, dogs (and ideally husbands) are kept elsewhere.

I feel sorry for this little girl. Good sleep for me requires stability and routine and a safe consistent place to relax. I assume children need this even more.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 16-Dec-16 00:15:12

She's six and she stays at 5 different places every week? Have I got that right?

That is quite seriously unstable for a child. Is your DP stable enough to offer a better alternative base? If this came before a family court there would be some questions over this surely?

Atenco Fri 16-Dec-16 03:14:23

Well, on the practical side, I was a single mother so quite liked my dd getting into my bed on cold winter nights. But it was all solved with hot water bottles. So I offer you that as a possibility.

As for the inconsistency of your dsd's sleeping arrangements, is there any way your DP could try to have her during the week, instead of on the weekends? At least that way she would be sleeping in the same bed for most of the week and getting enough sleep to be able to concentrate at school.

Jett99 Fri 16-Dec-16 14:54:11

Yes, at least four places a week. Her mum doesn't work regularly, but my OH does, and her mum's other children also stay out at weekends at their dads', so she has the weekend free - having her during the week would never be agreed to. I've suggested trying to keep her for an extra day/night during the week so she's at least got more of a base, but that wouldn't go down brilliantly because OH would technically be the 'main parent'. Also, he would struggle picking her up at 3.15 because he works until 5, so she would be passed round even more until he could pick her up. It's a nightmare and it doesn't seem solvable because no one can jointly come up with a plan.

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