On Sunday I got to spend Father's Day with my actual father for the first time in many years.
For a long time I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, too far from my parents in the Philadelphia suburbs to visit for a single day. And last year, of course, there was no question of seeing my dad because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, with everyone vaccinated and the four-hour drive cut down to 50 minutes, we got to have a good old fashioned brunch.
And it's not just Father's Day that's different. In July, I'll travel to Michigan to see my sister and meet my nephew, who is almost 9 months old. There's a Fourth of July barbecue with my husband's family on the books. Christmas plans are being sorted with siblings and parents.
Not being able to see and hug my family was one of the hardest parts of social distancing. I knew that finally hugging my parents, finally holding my nephew, finally celebrating a holiday with an in-person meal, would be special. I wasn't prepared for how much it would buoy my mental health even when we weren't in the same room. Just knowing that I will likely see my sister who lives abroad this Christmas is enough to lift my spirits, to bring a little more hope to my life after a year of fear. And when we are in person, I can feel my mood rise.
I'm sure this family honeymoon won't last forever (after all, we love our families but sometimes they drive us crazy), but along with mundane trips to a coffee shop and other "normal" activities I took for granted pre-pandemic, I'm so appreciative of what I have now.
Today's family chat: Couples who sleep in separate rooms
An increasingly popular practice among committed couples is sleeping in separate bedrooms. It might be the best thing for the relationship, but it's also something worth talking about as a family.
Separate bedrooms are far more common than you might think. A 2012 survey by the Better Sleep Council and a 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation both showed one in four couples now sleep in separate beds. But "there's still shame attached to it for some people because of how taboo the topic is," says Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of medicine at Yale's School of Medicine and author of "The Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine."
Kryger says no couple should feel embarrassed of the practice. "For a lot of couples, sleeping apart can be the best thing for their relationship." However, experts agree sleeping separately impacts the family as a whole, and it's important parents address the sleeping arrangements with their kids.
Kryger has met with families where children have experienced embarrassment, insecurities or concerns as a result of their parents' sleeping arrangements. "Some kids have even wondered if their parents' decision to sleep apart means they're not in love anymore," he says.
Parents can also worry they're modeling unhealthy behavior or that their children may want to similarly sleep apart from their significant other someday.
"Each couple should examine and discuss clearly and specifically their thoughts, feelings, and needs around this issue to find a mutually satisfying compromise," says Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona.
Some common reasons couples sleep apart include problems such as snoring, restlessness, parasomnia, frequent trips to bathroom or incompatible sleep schedules.
Kryger says, "There's no research that suggests that couples who sleep apart for the purpose of better sleep have any less of a romantic connection than couples who share a bed."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Just the idea of seeing my family has me smiling