From my own Googling on the subject, it’s clear that I’ve hit on a pretty divisive subject. And the answers do seem to fit 2 firm camps; the yeses and the nos. Cultural and religious reasons for not allowing boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers aside, what do you think about them?
From what I’ve been reading on various forums, generally, people seem to be more accepting of the idea for their sons rather than their daughters. Which, as a Mum of both son & daughters, I don’t really understand. Why is it more ok for a son than a daughter? Because, presumably, someone’s daughter is involved in this scenario.
Is it a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’? Or are we still not affording young women the same rights as young men?
The big question
Until recently, this subject hasn’t entered my psyche. It seemed to be something that would come up at some point in the very distant future. Neither son or eldest daughter seemed to be remotely interested in having a relationship with someone else. But, as with most things in my life, there I was one day, in a world of my own, when it suddenly became a reality.
Last week, my eldest daughter sent me a random text asking me to put her curtains in the washing machine. That wasn’t too surprising. She’s the kind of girl whose bedroom is either immaculate or harbouring 20,000 dirty mugs. There is no in between. So I just assumed she was in one of her immaculate bedroom phases.
When she got home, she ignored the dog (her dog!) and immediately asked if I had washed her curtains. I turned away from the cooker, spatula in hand to look at her, and noticed that she had a weird glow. And she was SMILING.
She’s never smiling when she walks through the door. Instantly my Italian-Mama-genes activated, and I was beyond suspicious.
Before I had a chance to do anything other than arch an eyebrow, she started talking and about 46,388 words fell out of her mouth at the same time. The general gist being; she’s been seeing a boy for a while, he’s amazing, he makes her happy and she just wants to be around him all the time. Could he come for dinner the next day? And would it maybe be ok for him to sleepover soon?
Allowing boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers?
You’re either going to think I’m crazy. Which is probably justified.
Or, you’re going to think I’m wise. Which is fully justified.
But straight away I said yes. No hesitation. No thinking it through. (that bit isn’t unusual for me). And no panicked phone calls to an adult with more adulting experience than my own to ask their thoughts on boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers.
I’m not sure who was more shocked by my answer, me or her.
My reasons for allowing it.
There are a few reasons that I said yes, which I’ll get to in to in a minute. But first, I wanted to say that I am absolutely not suggesting that every parent out there should make the same decision that I have. Every family dynamic is different, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another. But if you are struggling with making the decision about allowing boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers yourself, here are my reasons why I did say yes.
Firstly, my own experiences played a big part of my decision. As much as I hate to admit to it now, I do remember what it was like to be 17 and in love. I wanted to be with him 24/7. He literally consumed my every waking thought. So I understand what she’s feeling.
Secondly, because I had my first baby at 18, I can’t be part of the ‘not under my roof’ parenting gang. It would be incredibly hypocritical if I suddenly adopted this stance.
Thirdly, I don’t want her (or her brother) feeling like they have to move out to get enough privacy to form a normal relationship with someone. They are both many years away from being ready for that.
Fourthly, I don’t want to create an environment where my children feel like they have to go behind my back to do things. Potentially they could be putting themselves at risk to get around me trying to protect them, which defeats the whole object.
And lastly, in a matter of days, I’m going to have a 19 year old and an 18 year old. Both of them legally old enough to buy alcohol, get into debt, get married and vote. I can’t keep treating them like they’re children.
Allowing boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers is a subject that’s come up in the past. And I like to think that I deal with the subject in a firm, but fair way. There are set boundaries that will be stuck to.
1. Bringing someone home from a pub/club for a night will not be tolerated. I don’t want to wake up with a stranger in my house, and I don’t want my younger 2 never knowing who is or isn’t here. Or growing up thinking it’s perfectly fine to have a stream of one night partners coming through the front door.
2. I will allow boyfriend / girlfriend sleepovers providing there is a genuine, age appropriate and consensual relationship.
3. I want to be asked if it’s ok first.
4. No contraception = no sex.
Not many boundaries admittedly, but enough.
So the very fact that she listened to me, took on board the boundaries that I had set and asked me first, shows me that she’s ready.
It also demonstrated some other things too.
My daughter could quite easily sneak anybody into our house, at any time of the day or night if she really wanted to. And I’d probably be none the wiser. She’s done it before with a (female) friend who had run away from home. Which I had no idea about until 2 policewomen walked into my bedroom in the middle of the night. And she could quite easily sneak out of the house whenever she felt like it too. (Which again, she has done in the past). But she didn’t do either of those things. She made the right decision to respect the boundaries that I had set and ask me if it would be ok. That shows me that she’s being respectful of me, her siblings and of herself.
By not selecting the sneak in or sneak out methods of teenage relationships, her question shows me that she is maturing. As does her thinking consciously about her decisions, instead of doing whatever she pleases and dealing with the fallout afterwards. (She may now be more mature than me. Shit!)
It also shows that she’s past the horrible phase where she wouldn’t speak to me about anything. She used to say that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than it was to ask for permission, which is an immature way of thinking. I’ve said to her countless times in the past, that if you’re doing something or seeing someone that you can’t tell your Mum about, it’s not right. So for her to come to me and tell me about it in advance, shows me that she’s maturing, and means this is probably a happy and safe relationship.
Where there’s a way, there’s a way…
Even if I had said no to him staying over, she’d find a way of spending the night with him. She often stays at friends houses, so I’d be none the wiser if she said she was staying with one of them. I pulled this myself as a teenager, and said I was staying at a friends house for a birthday sleepover. But we actually booked a room in a B&B for the night. Not for sex, we literally just wanted to sleep cuddled up together for the night.
So I know from experience that teenagers always find a way. But I’m actually quite pleased that she’s going down the upfront route rather than the lying one. This reaffirms what I think about her being respectful and mature.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Actually, I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times over the years. I personally think sex is the best. And that all consensual adults have a right to enjoy sex with a partner of their choosing. Yes, for some people that means waiting until they’re married, and that’s cool. If it’s their choice. Other people might want to get it on with a different person every weekend. Again, if that’s their choice, they’re happy, safe and it’s consensual – crack on. It’s a broad spectrum and I’m personally somewhere in the middle. As in; I think having a connection to someone is important before jumping their bones. I’m not a one night stand kinda girl but, I don’t think sex should be saved for or exclusive to marriage.
You might be thinking that I am condoning a sexual relationship between her and her boyfriend. I’m really not. She’s said herself it’s not about that. It’s about lying in bed watching films cuddling and feeling close to him. And I honestly don’t see the problem with that. When you have an emotional connection to someone, it’s natural to want to spend lots of time with them. And in my opinion, spending time snuggled up is about forming a kind of intimacy that you don’t get from rushed meetings. Think about it, when you’re asleep you’re at your most vulnerable. So spending a night with someone when you’re at your most vulnerable, helps to cement your trust in that person.
And, as a big believer in empowering girls and young women, I believe that she has the right to decide when she feels ready to want to build on her relationships.
Empowering girls and young women.
Empowering girls and young women is incredibly important, even here in the UK. At a time when self esteem amongst young women is taking a massive hit, due in part to social media, we need to be building our future women up.
Research by Girl Guiding in 2019, showed that 90% of girls over the age of 10 are unhappy with their bodies. And 71% apply filters to some or all of the photos they take. That shocked me. It’s crazy high. The sample size was 2,000 girls, aged between 7-21 years, not all of whom were Girl Guides. You can read the full survey here.
79% of the girls had experienced some form of bullying or unacceptable behaviours, from name calling to controlling relationships. That’s almost 4 out of every 5 girls!
By empowering and inspiring girls and young women to have confidence, believe in themselves, develop emotional resilience and a positive self image, we are supporting them to lead full, happy, secure lives where they can achieve anything they want to.
There’s a company called Girls Out Loud who have fantastic values for all girls to live by. You can read them on their website here.
The kind of relationship I want for my daughter is : a trusting, safe, respectful, mature and comfortable one. One where she feels empowered and is making her own decisions that are right for her, physically and mentally. And yes, a part of that is wanting her to be sexually empowered.
Sexually empowered doesn’t mean ‘free’, ‘loose’ or sleeping around. It means having the power over her body and her decisions. Being confident to say yes or no, being comfortable in her own body, and making choices for the right reasons. I don’t want her doing things exclusively for validation, but rather because she’s ready and she wants to. If it makes her feel good as a result, then that’s the cherry on the top.
What I want for her;
I want her to form a relationship with someone that’s honest and respectful. And not be exploitative. A relationship that won’t damage her self-esteem, but makes her smile to herself at random moments of her day.
I want her to feel the good butterflies in her tummy whenever she thinks of her special person. And not the anxiety butterflies that come when you’re in a relationship that’s wrong. I want her to be excited when her phone pings or rings, not fearful of the person on the other end.
I want her to spend her days in a little bubble of loveliness, not feel like she’s trapped in a situation she can’t handle.
But most of all, I want her to surround herself with people that see the fiercely loyal heart that beats strong inside her. People who are as proud to be around her as I am.
I think my part in all this, as her only parent, is trusting her to trust herself to make her own decisions that are right for her. And giving her the space to do that.
What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.
All of what I’ve said applies to my son too. I see no reason why they should be treated differently because of their gender. And there are lessons to be learnt about female empowerment for boys too. For our family, this isn’t difficult. He has the pleasure of living with a Mum and 3 sisters. He sees female empowerment in action all the time, and it’s normal for him. Which I think is going to stand him in good stead for when he meets his special someone. And like his sister, so long as he respects my boundaries, allowing a boyfriend / girlfriend sleepover for him won’t be a problem for me.