I hear over and over, "Wow, I don't know how you do it." Honestly, as the mother of identical twin toddlers, there are days when I have no freaking clue either. And yet somehow I manage to keep my precious pair loved and fed and alive so…hooray for me!
Twin parents are doubly blessed, but with quadruple the stress, especially during the constantly evolving baby and toddler years. While the rewards of raising twins far outweigh the challenges, it's still a really tough job, one that requires quick-thinking, deep-breathing, and just your typical everyday superpowers.
So how do we badass mamas manage to wrangle two-at-a-time? Well to start…
We do what we have to do. All of those mindful parenting philosophies and brain-development studies are great in theory. If I had one kid, oh sure, I'd totally take the time to patiently explain why we don't run at our brother with a screwdriver. Unfortunately though, it's monkey-see, monkey-do around here and trouble happens fast. Twins are always up to some kind of mischief, not because they're bad kids by nature, but because they have a constant partner-in-crime. So yes, I have to yell at my kids when they're both about to do something dangerous. And yes, when we go on walks, they wear adorable stuffed animal backpacks (otherwise known as leashes) so I can relax during our stroll, instead of stress about blind alleys and driveways. Their once-adorable nursery now looks like an insane asylum, stripped down to nothing but furniture and bare walls after they pulled down pictures, yanked off knobs, and dangled from wall shelves during naptime. Oh, and they watch at least two hours of TV a day because…because it's educational. Also, because I'm tired.
We get a workout. You know how kids get when they want to be held all the time? Well, imagine that just when you put one down, another one asks to be picked up? And then it's "Me too, Mummy" and "My turn" and on and on, until you're finally like, "Alright, already!" Some days, I swear I spend about an hour, in total, carrying 30 pounds of little boy. So, yeah, my arms are pretty ripped…somewhere under the fat. I also get in some good cardio when I'm chasing one toddler down the footpath, with the other guy under my arm.
We put them on a schedule. Well, if we're smart, we do. From the minute I brought my boys home from the hospital, they were on a strict eating and sleeping schedule. When one woke up to nurse, we got the other one up. We created an entire bedtime routine that we still use to this day. We ultimately did some sleep training too. With twins, you have to get them eating and sleeping at the same time or else you're going to be up 24 hours a day. That's not good for you, which in turn, is not good for them. Even now I put my boys in their room for "quiet time" every day, whether they choose to nap or not.
We let them cry. One of the hardest things for twin mums to deal with is the guilt we have over not being able to give each of our twins 100 percent. There's just one of you, so when both babies want a bottle or both need to be held or both have a boo-boo, someone usually has to wait. It's especially tough in that first year, when your children are pre-verbal, and often cry to indicate their needs. It means you have to listen to the whimpers and pleas of your children more than you would like, because there's just not enough of you to go around. We get used to it though, and ultimately learn that it's not the end of the world to let your baby cry a little.
We ask for help. Maybe parents of single kids have the luxury of pretending they've got it all covered, but twin mums barely even bother. "Hell yeah, I'm falling apart, please help me," we'll shamelessly admit. So if another mum approaches us at Target and asks if we need help getting our screaming two-year-olds to the car, we hope she means it because, damn straight, we accept it. If we need to take one twin to the doctor, we will ask Grandma or a neighbour if they can watch the other one. A friend's coming over to visit our newborn twins? Could she pick up a pizza on her way?
We stick to our guns. I'll admit that when a kid is whining and pouting and throwing himself on the floor all dramatic-like, you want to give in. Wouldn't it be so much easier to just hand him the Costco-size carton of Goldfish that he asked for? Kids can smell weakness though. They find your soft spot and they poke at it. And two of them working together? Oh forget it. They will just wear you into submission, with double the pleas and screams and crying fits. It's two against one, and they are tough. So twin mums just have to be tougher. If we say "no," we mean it and stick to it and stand firm. If not, they'll run all over us.
We take breaks. Every parent needs "me time," whether you're stay-at-home or working. With twins, it's even more important because you're exponentially more frazzled. Most twin mums that I know have no qualms about taking a couple of hours to catch their breath, read a book, or get a pedicure. Sometimes, we just roam the aisles of the supermarket in a state of peaceful bliss. While I know plenty of mums who feel guilty, even selfish, taking care of themselves, twin mums seize the opportunities for self-pampering.
We do only what we can handle. I know some incredible twin mums who can take their kids to the playground and amusement parks alone, walk through the mall with their little ones strolling along at their side. Not me though. Nope. There was a period of time when I couldn't take my boys to the park alone without some kind of heart-stopping incident. For example, just as I would finish helping one kid across a high-up balance beam, I'd spot the other hanging from a rope net on the other side of the play structure. It was too stressful. It was too much. Sometimes, I left in tears. So I stopped taking them to the park alone for a while. These days, I rarely bring them along to the supermarket either. They used to just point out all of the fruits and veggies and suck down those baby-food pouches. Now, the one in the front knocks cracker boxes off their perch while the other does the stomping of the grapes in the back. Remember that break I described, wandering the aisles by myself? Solitude at the market is like a spa day. I also shop online whenever I can, and for whatever I can.
We embrace the amazing relationship between our twins. As exhausting as it may be to raise twins, the relationship between them is truly amazing to see. They shared a womb and now they share a life, experiencing every new discovery and adventure together. My twins don't have their own language or feel each other's pain (as far as I know), but they like to hold hands when they walk and sometimes nap with their arms around each other. I often come into their room in the morning to find them in each other's beds, hiding from monsters or bears or whatever new creature their collective imagination has invented. When I'm cutting their nails or washing their hair, one will often warn me to, "Be gentle with my brotha'." If one wants more blueberries, his twin will hand his over. Despite their identical looks, they are two very different, very separate little individuals. And yet, they are connected, they are bonded, as close as any two people could be. So, as tired as we are, we twin mums also know that we are so lucky to be front-row for this loving, unique relationship. That's what gets us through the very long days. It's how we do it.