For the past few months I’ve been fretting about how we’re going to squeeze two children into one small bedroom. Not being the world’s best spatial reasoner or interior decorator, I struggled to see how it would all fit: a crib, a toddler bed, a dresser, a changing table, plus all those books and toys and clothes – the stuff of childhood.
Our current plan is keep the baby in our room for the first few months, probably longer than we did with S so s/he has some solid nightime sleep habits before we stick two in one room. But beyond that, we have no choice: there’s only one bedroom next to ours and I need the guest-room-turned-office downstairs to keep both its original purposes.
F has been entirely cool about the whole prospect, reminding me that for the vast majority of families in the world, everyone’s sleeping in the same room (or hut) anyway, so even restless toddlers can learn to sleep through a newborn’s cry. But I’ve been stressing about it in the way that only a nesty pregnant mother can.
That is to say, irrationally.
Which is why I was both calmed and chastened to see this photo shoot in the New York Times: “Where Children Sleep.” It’s the work of a documentary photographer who wanted to capture the diversity of childhood across the globe through images of children’s bedrooms. Equal parts familiar and foreign, touching and terrifying.
Certainly the images say much about class and poverty around the world. So it was a welcome reminder that my middle-class dilemma of having two babies in one room is quite a first-world problem. But it also touched me to see the little pockets of beauty in every bedroom: the dolls and the toys, the colors and the curtains, the personal touches that each child had collected to make their small place their own.
It’s true that everybody sleeps, as the author of the article points out. And there’s something comforting to remember that we all let down our defenses each night to become utterly vulnerable as we recharge our bodies and minds for the next day’s work.
But I’m still haunted by the fact that my babies’ work will be to rise each morning to play and learn, while other children go off to work in quarries or dumps or sweatshops.
Maybe it is only in sleep that we find the equality we deserve.
(Ok, now go click on that “first world problems” link to cheer yourself up. Or at least have a good laugh at ourselves.)