For this edition of The Child(ish) Dad, we’ve rounded up some experienced dads to share some insights on #twinlife.
Name: Mike H.
Type of multiples and age: Twin boys, 9 months. We never had genetic testing to find out if they are identical or fraternal.
Siblings? If so, age: Older Sister, 3 ½ years
Name: Mark S.
Type of multiples and age: Identical Twin Girls, 5 months
Siblings? If so, age: Older Brother, 3 ½ years
Name: Troy G.
Type of multiples and age: Fraternal Twin Girls, 2 ½ years
- What ran through your head when you found out you were having twins?
TG: Is this really happening? Holy crap…how are we going to do this? Okay, we have less than nine months to prepare. I need to prep the house, get all the baby stuff together, support my wife because she is not physically doing well…
MH: My wife and I were not originally 100% on having a second child. Ultimately, we decided to start trying in the hopes of giving our daughter someone to play with. My wife realized she was pregnant at around four weeks. The technician was just chatting away, but then jumped right into, “So I don’t know if you are ready to hear this…”. My instantaneous thought was that we had lost the baby, but then a split second later she told us there were two. I honestly just started laughing, and continued to do so for probably 15 minutes. My wife cried. That technician didn’t know what to do. It took me probably five days to come to terms with it being real.
MS: I felt very overwhelmed and unprepared. I was prepared to add one child. I was not prepared for two.
2. How did you actively prep for multiples?
MH: Because we had already had one baby, we had an idea of what we needed. We had saved most things from our daughter. We made a list of the things we would need two of (crib, car seat, Baby Bjorn). I ended up posting on Facebook asking friends if they had any baby things they were not using. Our friends were very generous, but most were very excited to just get the stuff out of their basement.
MS: Our house was going to be too small for twins and having a toddler already running around, so I spent the summer finishing the basement to make more room. We also had to purchase a new vehicle. As a devout car guy, swallowing my pride for a Pacifica Minivan was difficult but honestly now, it’s a pretty sweet vehicle.
TG: Like any first-time parent, I read all that I could to get some perspective on how to raise children. Made and reviewed lists of what we thought we needed for multiples and then compared that to twin-specific blogs and articles about what is really necessary. We got a second vehicle sooner and much bigger than originally expected. We also made sure to discuss with my parents and in-laws what our expectations of their assistance should look like those first few weeks home after leaving the hospital. We wanted them around to help with the little things around the house like cooking, cleaning, grocery store runs, while we focused on learning how to care for our kids.
3. How do you and your wife work together with multiples?
MH: It is a total team effort. We have really upgraded our organizational system. The biggest thing we have done is put up a white board calendar in the kitchen. Time goes by so fast; it is hard to remember everything. That has really helped. It is color coded for each family member. We record where people have to be for special events, dinner menus, when the kids had baths, and when the boys tried new foods.
MS: Communication is essential. The idea of balance is never perfect when you have twins and another child in a different age group. They need different things. You have to run a zone coverage because man coverage will always leave one open, which is to say, you are inviting disaster. I joke with my wife that we run a Tampa 2 with a Robber. She never laughs.
TG: We are very much a team in this. In an effort to keep both girls on schedule, we both did feedings and diaper changes together. Even in the middle of the night, we would both get up. Now that the kids are a little older and can be slightly independent with their activities, we can take turns watching them.
4. How do you handle the witching hour (or when your kids have lost it)? Any particular strategies or tips?
MH: The witching hours suck. Just going to start off with that. The timing of it changes and is dependent on other factors (naps mostly), but it happens almost every night. We spend a lot of time down on the floor trying to keep them from screaming. Bedtime is usually around 7, but sometimes we don’t make it.
MS: As Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Keep your patience and your head about you when dealing with it. Kids are simple creatures and have simple demands. If you’re trying to eat and they need to be picked up, well now you are eating while holding a baby. Survive and advance.
TG: The biggest thing to remember during these hours is that the kids are still figuring out how to deal with their emotions. It’s just a flood for them every day. They are not doing it to spite you or make you angry; they just don’t know how to handle or share their emotions with you. Additionally, my wife and I have a mutual understanding that if either one of us is nearing our tipping point, we have the okay to just leave the room for 5 minutes to take a few deep breaths and calm down, instead of blowing up on each other or the children.
5. How do you fit decompressing/relaxing into your schedule?
MH: We are not great at fitting in relaxing time. COVID has made that even harder. We are pretty much go go go, from when kids wake up until everyone is asleep. We are now just trying to find time for individual decompression.
MS: I play video games at night with the same guys I grew up with while all the kids are asleep. We’ve been friends for 25 years and we discuss all the goofy things our kids did during the day that made us angry at the time, but make us laugh now. It gives you a good perspective.
TG: Personal time is just as important as being present for your children and significant other. We have worked out a schedule where two evenings a week, we do our own stuff after the girls have gone to bed. Additionally, we each take a block of time for ourselves during the weekend (Saturday afternoon for myself, Sunday morning for Patti) and it’s worked out really well. I see this split time as my opportunity to decompress, but during her time, I also get to build my own relationship with the girls. You have the chance to develop deeper relationships with your kids, and it lets the kids see you as an individual and not part of the parental pair.
6. How is your work/life balance with multiples?
MH: Our personal lives now are non-existent. We go nowhere and see no one due to COVID.
MS: It’s really hard as with any parent during COVID, especially if you are working from home. I’m exclusively working from home and I’m the sole earner in the household so I have to stay focused on providing for the financial well-being of the family. It’s hard not to react to the twins crying or my son wanting me to play with him. I would rather play with my son all day long, but that doesn’t exactly buy formula or pay for preschool. l try to focus on work when it’s work time and focus on family when it’s family time, and try my best to keep the two separate. Still, sometimes you have to be aware that your partner might have a situation where they are getting overrun and you need to break and help out.
TG: I am extremely lucky to work for a company and have leadership that all value family to the max. They are flexible in the hours I work and where I work them, even before COVID. I have the ability to be close by and ready to help at home whenever needed. We also have a part-time nanny, so that gives us the advantage of setting dedicated, uninterrupted work hours.
7. What is one thing you wished someone told you about raising twins (or having a house with twins and other children)?
MH: I would say the word twins and almost consider that to be one thing. In actuality they are two individual humans that need things of their own. They will need to eat, sleep, be changed and be loved as individual people. I don’t know why that caught me off guard, but it just did.
MS: Twins look alike, but that’s where the similarities end. They are 100% different people with different wants, needs, sleeping and eating habits. I expected more overlap between the two and I was wrong.
8. How do you find balance between the kids?
MH: Finding balance between kids is hard. COVID has made that even more difficult. My wife and I were just discussing that the boys seem to play with their toys more than our daughter ever did when she was a baby. My wife pointed out that Madelyn had all of our attention all the time. The boys have to play with the toys, otherwise they would be bored. They don’t get the attention their sister did at that age. My wife and I try to do fun, special activities/trips with our daughter whenever the boys are napping.
MS: I try to work within the schedule. If our son is at school, then I try to spend time with the girls. If the girls are napping, then I try to spend time with our son. When all the kids are down, I try to spend time with my wife.
TG: We make a conscious effort to alternate who gets which child out of bed, washes their hair, takes them to the restroom, etc. Our goal is to not show favoritism to either child. Now that they are older and showing different levels of interest in play activities, I can focus on one type of activity with each. Aeris likes to read books together, then run off and do her own thing, “organizing” (making a huge pile) of toys. When Aeris wants to do her own thing, Zelda will usually want to cook in their play kitchen and bring me plates of food or hot cocoa. I can switch gears and play along with each of them when they aren’t opting for independent play.
9. Raising multiples sounds stressful. Are there any parts that are easier?
MH: It is stressful. You are constantly on the move. The upside is watching the kids interact with each other. The boys worship their sister. Now that they are mobile, they follow her around the house and it is very obvious that they cannot wait until they can do more with her.
MS: A child takes up most of your free time, so adding two to the family now has reduced free time to less than zero. If anything, it’s always cool to watch them all learn new stuff and know that you taught it to them.
TG: Sure, there is plenty of stress, but you also get double the highs of watching your kids grow up. I am always amazed at how two people, born less than a minute apart, are growing up into such distinct individuals. Plus, they always have a playmate in each other.
10. What advice can you give future fathers who are expecting multiples?
MH: Try and keep the kids on the same schedule. I know it seems strange but if one of the kids wakes up, get the other one up. And, ask for help/advice when you are having problems. There are lots of families out there that have experienced the struggles that you are going through. Find people you know and reach out. It’s a weird fraternity, being a dad of twins. Ask for help when you need it.
MS: Advice? I’m barely keeping my own head above water and I consider myself pretty organized. Find a routine, hold to it the best you can, and keep the whisky close.
TG: Toddlers have not yet developed a ton of empathy for others, but it’s important to emphasize the need to share and compromise early. The sooner they can grasp sharing and delayed gratification, like letting their sibling have a specific chair or cup for this meal means they can choose during the next meal, the smoother your days will get.