Co-sleeping in Japan

I have always been surprised among international couples how often this cultural difference has brought them to the brink of divorce.  You might think it is just a mother kid bonding thing, but many foreign women with Japanese husbands complain about the same thing.  For most Americans, it would be unimaginable to in the heat of passion grab an and arm or leg and find out you have snagged your child instead of your lover.

I believe that this form of attachment parenting has many advantages, especially for parents of newborns who awaken on their own schedules.  However, much to the dismay of many foreigners who marry Japanese, the co-sleeping does not stop when the infants no longer are nursing.  It goes on for years and years and years.  5 year-olds, 12 year-olds and even 15 year-olds.

The family bed or the entire family sleeping in the same room is normal in many cultures of the world.  It is not as common in the United States where I am from though.  It is neither wrong or right.  It is just different.   As for me, my attitude toward co-sleeping is overall very negative.  As much as I hate it, I hate having conflicts with my family members even more.  So, there I am communally snoozing.

Personally, co-sleeping has always been difficult for me  because I  cannot get adequate sleep on my day off due to chronic sleep disorders.  I have a part-time night job from 11PM to 4:30AM.  I am off every week,  on Thursday and Friday nights.  It is ironic that my time off work is most disruptive to my sleep cycle than working around 3 jobs is.   I often wish I could enjoy the two evenings that I can sleep like normal folks do.  I cannot even manage that although I have already been awake for 24 hours.  I end up on the computer at night until my eyelids get heavy enough and usually cannot get to bed before 2AM.   I’m  out of it when I return to work on Saturday nights.  I just does not work well for me.

I usually wake up feeling angry at nothing in particular and say some outrageous things to my family members.  I note this because between my first cup of coffee and the time when I slip between the sheets for sleep, I am a very mild-mannered and calm person around my family.  Normally, I rarely ever raise my voice in my house.

Co-sleeping contributes to more potential problems than just sleep disruption. Communication suffers as well.  Being married means talking to your spouse even if is just lying in bed gossiping about the neighbors.  Since communication no longer becomes natural, I find myself forgetting to speak to my wife during the day also.   I have told my wife I do not mind doing the family bed thing sometimes but I do not want it to be the norm 365 days a year.  It falls on deaf ears.

My wife is concerned about my comfort and she suggested I could sleep in our master bedroom alone and away from distractions.  I have a very nice large bed with a high-grade Sealy mattress.  In the past 10 years, I think I have only slept in the bed 3 times. But even that doesn’t work for me.  It is too unnatural as a married man not to sleep beside my wife. 

Intimacy is not a pressing issue with us as we are in one of those May-December relationships.   I don’t identify with the term “married.”  We are in a co-parenting arrangement.   I am past my prime and I am 10 years older than my wife.  But I think if the clock was rolled back to when I was in my 30s, one of us would have suitcases by the door.  But now that the elephant has entered the room, let me address SEX.  I think anyone who has sex in the same bed or the same room as their kids is a freak. Also, I could never imagine intimacy in the same location that children may have slept the night before.  I am not so naive to think the bed is the only place but the marriage bed should be kept sacred in my opinion.  For this reason, I have always forbidden my children to ever sleep on that nice almost never used bed in our master bedroom.  That bed is only used to fold laundry on though.  Maybe someday, as senior citizens, if someone spikes my oatmeal with something, it might be used for something more traditional.  For now it is just a fancy bedroom decoration.

Surprisingly, I feel like my bonding with my younger children is harmed more by relinquishing my privacy and always having them just an arms length away.  By the time I wake up, I feel like I need a break again.  A rest from a rest.    It’s a very conflicting feeling because wanting to spend as much time with my children is important for me.  Spouses who are solely devoted to each other as husband and wife are better prepared to emotionally support each other and their children. 

Co-sleeping or attachment parenting will still be a work in progress.   Marriages are full of compromises.   I have often read that the family bed works well for many families, but the key point is that both have to be in agreement.  Otherwise, there will be serious problems that can lead to divorce.

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10 comments

  1. One really important thing to keep in mind is how the very concept of “family” differs between East and West. I’ve noticed that in Japan, the basic family unit consists of mother and child, and their needs are given precedence over everything else, unlike in the West where the basic family unit is composed of husband and wife, and all other family members are expected to go along with what’s best for them. I know it’s a overly simple explanation, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

    I have heard many sad stories of loveless unions between Japanese and Westerners (usually it’s a Japanese wife and foreign husband, but sometimes it’s the other way around, too). The lovelessness seems to start mainly after kids come along. I feel so sorry for these people. They must feel utterly abandoned, especially if they’ve sacrificed a lot to come and live in Japan with their partners.

    One of my earliest childhood memories is of my parents arguing about sleeping arrangements. My mum thought it was perfectly natural to have me in bed with her, and my father insisted that I sleep in my own room. In the end they compromised by letting me sleep in a camper-bed in their room! (It didn’t prevent their divorce a few years later, though.)

  2. Im glad someone recognizes that it is indeed a huge sacrifice to live in a country where 100 percent acceptance doesnt happen. Then, not getting the needed emotional support at home to pile on top of an already stressful life. If that isn’t enough, the mother in law usually tells the foreign wives how to live, how to sleep and how to manage their kitchen. If the lovelessness eventually results in divorce, the foreigners are often if not always alienated from them children after the split.

    Most foreigners to get here working in the first place are toward the top in the education bracket. If they would have stayed put in their own country, they would be moving up the ladder. Only here can we work in the same profession and around 50 years old, you are still an entry level worker.

    I used to be such a prude. Now if I hear of someone being emotionally neglected by their Japanese spouse, I figure its OK to go look elsewhere to this basic human need. Not that I would be brave enough to do it myself.

  3. Kevin, we only did is when the kids were infants, to assist with 1. Nursing easier and sleeping and 2. Bonding.
    After the kids were old enough to be in a crib or bed, that’s where they went.

    No way would I allow the co- sleeping on a regular basis….libido being what it is and all. 😉

  4. You have a Master Bed room? go there, sleep well. you don’t have to get a divorce, but I would. and cut the bills 50/50 . She is not being a wife , she is a partner. I think that you are a very kind person and you deserve better. just sayin’. She needs to commit to a real relationship or move on, so that you can enjoy your life with someone else.

    1. Its a nice bed. Funny thing, I built a pretty decent sized home by Japanese standards and we only use half of it. The 2nd floor where my MBR, kids rooms are never used. Its true I think the correct status for us is co-parent. For the time being, she is the main breadwinner as my language school still has a lot of empty seats in it and I am taking minimal wages from there. I definately got an indifferent person. It hard to go out for any type of recreation. She isnt up to it unless its her relatives our friends. A lot of my friends married to Japanese kind of get sucked up into a JApanese family and get forgotten by their spouses. But most of them live in an urban area where there are people of their kind to socialize with. Im kind of out in the boonies by myself. I have thought about moving on but I need to raise my kids.

  5. Maybe you shouldn’t have married a Japanese woman then. It seems the cultural difference in this case is too much for you to handle, especially if you’re looking for justification to cheat on her. Grow up

    1. this is a troll. Obviously he did not read the article. I am the writer of the original writer and am good with my interracial and bicultural marriage. geez what an asshole.

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