I meet mothers of twins left and right these days. I swear, they’re everywhere. Even if you’ve never before seen a set of twins in your town, the moment you discover that you’re expecting them, they will suddenly seem to be all over the place. Many of the moms I meet have older twins (meaning, they’re able to dress themselves, put their own dishes in the sink, and find it fun to retrieve the mail for you each afternoon), and they comment that raising twins gets more fun every year.
Only about 1% of all the women I’ve met say something stupid like, “Oh, it only gets harder as they get older.” I’ve never understood those women. Even if that were their perspective, what benefit does it provide either of us to communicate it? So if you run into that lovely lady, just smile and keep walking, or start bawling and wail, “I’m not going to make it!” and wait for someone nearby to come to your rescue.
One wise mom I met perfectly summed up the “how” of it when she said, “People without twins make such a big deal out of how you do it. You just do it! You have a sense of humor about it as often as possible. And you take it a day (sometimes an hour) at a time.”
Some people will comment that God never gives you more than you can handle, and you will respond, “Yes, but unfortunately, I think he’s confused me with someone else.” Then the baby you’ve been praying would sleep for at least six minutes will sleep for an hour, and you will get on your knees and be thankful and probably fall asleep there for an hour yourself!
A finely tuned sense of humor is critical. If you don’t have one, get one — fast. After all, few situations in life are true catastrophes, even though they may initially feel like they are. When you smile at or laugh at a situation, it passes almost instantly. When you cry or yell, it sticks around much longer. Yes, occasionally you’ll start laughing and then stop midway through and stoically profess, “Okay, but seriously, we have got to figure this out,” or not laugh at all, and instead yell,“We need to fix this right now!” But if you try the former approach as often as possible, it will help tremendously. As writer Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”
David, father of twin sons Jonathon and Jake, remembers, “At one point, our boys were having a particularly bad night. My wife and I were in the middle of changing the fourth diaper in one hour, plus two sets of sheets — and it was 3 a.m. My wife said, “At least it cannot get any worse!” We got back in bed, and our 2-year-old daughter promptly walked into our room proclaiming she did not feel well. Within 10 seconds, she vomited all over the four loads of freshly washed and folded laundry. All we could do was laugh. The alternative was simply too depressing!”
Start this moment to realign your expectations. I recently heard that it takes approximately 196 hours per week to raise triplets. What’s the problem with that? There are only 168 hours in a week! If you divide the 196 hours by 3, and thereby presume that the tasks associated with each baby require approximately 65 hours, it could be reasonably estimated that raising twins takes approximately 130 hours per week. I’m certain that the third baby does not, in and of himself, take up the whole of those additional 66 hours. Therefore, I’ve concluded that raising twins takes somewhere between 130 and 196 hours per week. That’s a lot of hours. Clearly, a few lifestyle modifications are in order.
If you are a person who needs your house to be spotless day-in and day-out, invent a 12-step program that breaks your need for a completely clean dwelling all the time (unless you have a full-time housekeeper). I remember an evening when David arrived home from work. I was sweating, unshowered, hungry, and unable to find Jack’s pajamas that I had just set out. Poor guy mentioned something about a major sale on speakers he’d waited years to buy. My retort was simple and straightforward. Through clenched teeth, I said, “Money does not grow on trees and neither do housekeepers. Look at this place! Now give me some help!” I think I actually scared him because he didn’t waste any time. He went straight for the vacuum cleaner. Whether it was my appearance or my demeanor that frightened him into action, I’m not entirely sure.
Accept that you will not dine on a gourmet meal every night unless you can afford a personal chef. In fact, there are still many nights when I find a bowl of cereal absolutely delicious, and as I mention later, I continue to rely on the power of a good multivitamin.
Accept that your holiday cards may not go out until March — or learn to love the idea of simply Facebooking your holiday wishes to everyone! (Facebooking is an official verb at this point, isn’t it?) As David frequently commented, “There aren’t enough hours in the day or adults in this house!” If you allow it, you will have 7-mile-long to-do lists — and that’s okay, provided you train yourself to prioritize three or four to-dos in a week instead of in a day, as might have been your practice in the past. Accept that, in most cases, having uncompleted to-dos at the end of the day is not the end of the world.
Most parents of twins marvel at how flexible they become. As innately organized and efficient human beings, they never would have imagined they’d choose to spend an evening watching a movie before they cleaned the dirty dishes. Or that, pulling out of their driveway to go meet Santa Claus, they’d switch gears — literally — because one of the babies’ diapers exploded all over her brand-new Christmas outfit (the white one). For most parents, this shift in mentality is as much of a blessing as the arrival of their children. They have a newfound awareness of the truly important things in life versus the merely peripheral details.
If you weren’t organized before, I guarantee you will be soon. If you were organized before, you’re going to “kick it up a notch,” as renowned chef Emeril Lagasse would say.
I was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital in preterm labor when I was 32 weeks pregnant, and I came home for only 24 hours before I went into unstoppable labor and delivered Jack and Henry at 35 weeks and 2 days. The boys were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 16 days before we were able to bring them home. What the boys’ little vacation in the NICU gave us was the extremely welcomed opportunity to get things as ready as time permitted. But to be perfectly honest, the best way to organize is simply to live it and see what works for you. It won’t be more than 15 hours before you’ll have some high-priority challenges that need solutions. Fast. And you’ll come up with them just as quickly as does every other mother of multiples.
Remember, you would not have been blessed with multiples if someone didn’t have complete and utter confidence that you were up to the challenge.
To learn more about the day-to-day challenges that come during the first year of twins, read Elizabeth Lyons’s Holy Sh*t…I’m Having Twins!: The Definitive Guide to Remaining Calm When You’re Twice as Freaked Out.