You’ll find lots of stories online about twins being a big cause of divorce, and it might freak you out. Maybe you’ve just found out you’re having twins and you’re wondering how you’ll cope? Yes, having our twins has been work, but it has been the cause of a lot more laughter than fighting or tears in our house and if anything, it has made us closer together. How do we do it? What can you do to help protect your marriage while raising twins? Here’s my advice, (for what its worth) and in no particular order.
1. Encourage your spouse to look after him or herself. Babies teach you how much we reflect the behavior shown to us. If you smile at a baby, they smile back. If you scowl or cry, they get upset and cry or yell. Older humans are like that too; only we get better at disguising it. So be nice to your spouse. Encourage them to go out with some friends, sleep in the guest room to get a good nights sleep, or go get a massage (in my case I have to book hubby in for one or he’ll never go!). In a healthy relationship, you’ll find that kindness reflected back to you, plus you’re setting a great example for your kids.
2. Don’t stress out if you catch your spouse in a lie. It happens. You find out hubby has been getting a beer with friends instead of working late in the office. Agh! Is lying a good thing? No. But he (or she) is stressed too and knows you're stressed, and most likely doesn’t want to feel like a shit by telling you he spent an hour chilling drinking beer or wine or hanging out with friends while you had your hands full of kids. Sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique, and people will say anything to catch a break after enough sleep deprivation. If you catch them - which is usually the case – (esp when they get tagged in photos in facebook!), use it as an opportunity to practice being kind (see above). Just say "hey let's figure this out together - we got this!" Having faith in your spouse is hard but remember the reflection thing? If you tell him (or her) he's a lying shit, he'll likely throw it back at you. If you tell him, “Hey I get it, go have a beer with your friends” (and mean it), he'll likely do the same for you.
3. Sleep train! We started sleep training the twins at six months – they had started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks off and on, but after the four month regression, all that went out the window. If your twins are not regularly sleeping through the night and getting a couple of good naps (1.5-2 hours each during the day) by six months (and if they’re safe, fed, and dry and your pediatrician says it is ok), it is not the end of the world to let them grizzle themselves to sleep. Honestly the first night I felt like such bad momma but that lasted one night. Now they go to sleep in about 60 seconds, and I feel like super mom! Warn everyone within hearing distance that you're sleep training and just do it. I got my evenings back with my hubby and elder daughter instead of us all walking around with screaming babies in carriers desperately trying to get them to sleep! Yes, they still wake up in the night sometimes but not nearly as much, and the added bonus is they both seem better at sleeping through the other one crying.
4. Look after your other kids too. Whether they are two, four or 11, bad behavior can surface when twins (or any new siblings! arrive!). And you won’t have a lot of time and patience to deal with it! It isn’t easy to add twins to the mix no matter how old siblings are! Having to share mommy, daddy, space, possibly toys. But I don’t think you need to single out older children to show them you still love them. I find that family outings picked by the older child are very effective. Just give them options that will work with twin babies! We’ve gone to the zoo, the aquarium, the movies and everyone is happy. Big sister feels like she is prioritized, the babies get a different activity, and we all get to have some family fun in the process. I loved the super nanny show and book and love and consequences. The naughty step was a godsend for us with our willful 3-year-old!!! (Who is now 11!)
5. Spend less. This is a tough one because babies can be expensive, and money stresses a marriage faster than anything else. And it doesn’t matter how much you earn – unless you’re Jeff Bezos, you can pretty much always outspend what you earn, and that’s what marketers want you to do! Read some blog posts on how to save money with babies, check out Pinterest, or ask your local Moms Club (a great resource if you haven’t yet joined) for tips. My favorites: Freezer meals instead of take out or eating out, buying used baby items from Facebook groups instead of new, trading for babysitting, and asking around for hand me downs… there are lots of ways to save money, and it all adds up! Take care of your items and save the boxes and when you’re done with them, you can turn around and sell them. Facebook groups are my favorite - or eBay for smaller items or pass them along to someone else. I always pay it forward, giving away things that I’ve been given and it is good manners in my world to ask when someone gives me a hand me down if they’d like it back after I’m done with it. Plus, making room for baby and then baby proofing are great times to turn some of the clutter into cash – check out my blog post (coming soon) about selling things on eBay and Facebook groups.
6. Use some time saving delivery services. Having no food in the cupboard is stressful. So is dragging out infant twins to go to the grocery store when you’re tired and/or hungry. Take advantage of the many delivery services for groceries and household items. See my blog post on my favorite sources for online and delivery items (coming soon).
7. Divide and conquer but work together. That sounds like a contradiction but now is the time to play to your strengths! Don’t suddenly expect your spouse who can barely find the kitchen to become a gourmet chef! Being short of time and sleep deprived does not bring out one’s inner Martha Stewart. Figure out the bare minimum things that need done around the house for you all to survive, put up a chart and divide according to who can do what most easily. In our case, hubby can cook a couple of things well, so he does dinner once a week otherwise we’d be eating chili and spaghetti non stop. We also discovered that he’s a pretty good sous chef, so we do a big shop once a week or two and prep freezer meals so they can just be pulled out during the week. Our oldest daughter makes a mean salad and has been learning to sort and load dirty laundry. And our new thing, since the babies are now going to sleep at 7, is that we are all spending 20 minutes outside doing yard work after dinner (baby monitor in hand!). There is a real sense of collaboration and 20 minutes feel easy – we stop before we’ve had a chance to get tired and crabby!
8. Play and laugh about the little things. It goes against a lot of things you might read, and every relationship is different, but you don’t need to start doing weekly date nights or forcing togetherness with extravagant outings or gifts. You might find that the best way to reconnect is to have breakfast in bed while the babies are taking a nap. Or play a board game! (our new favorite is apples to apples - there is nothing like an hour of laughter to feel human again!) Just remember to spend some time playing – whether it is with your babies or after they have gone to bed (the sleep training thing really pays off!)
9. Find someone positive to talk to, in person or online! Looking after two crying babies, maybe other kids, trying to work, cook, bathe… all sounds so stressful! I know or me I lump everything together when I get stressed, and everything seems terrible and overwhelming. My Mum is good at talking me down off the fence, so hopefully you have someone in your life, either a parent or friend or sibling who can calm you down when it all gets overwhelming. Find an online forum if there is no one in your area – my facebook twins group is amazing for venting and supporting each other through those crazy days when nothing goes right!
10. What about counseling? If things start spiraling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. But IMHO, until you get some sleep, counseling isn't going to help much - it's a bit like trying to tell someone to breathe underwater! And probably things will be said that no one means just because you are so exhausted! Even the sweetest people turn into raving lunatics who can barely speak English when they are sleep deprived.
I hope some of this helps! Remember this too shall pass. And it could have been triplets ;) And I’d love to hear what you do to support your family life through the addition of twins!
Hi! I'm Erika and I'm an info addict! I love travel, vacation rentals, online education, primal and paleo living, crunchy (ish) parenting, holistic nutrition, lavender, bees, animals, technology, and sustainable living. This blog is a central space to pull together my research and writing on a wide variety of lifestyle topics! I hope you'll join me for a few minutes and share your thoughts in the comments :)