Do you have a question for the moms of How Do You Do It? Ask away in the comments or through our Features page.
This week’s question comes from Lyna, who has a 3-year-old and 10-month-old twins. She’s concerned about not spending enough time with her twins. After a long day of work, she comes home emotionally and physically exhausted, and finds it difficult to spend time with her two babies. She worries the twins are not getting enough from mom, and that she might be favoring her firstborn at their expense.
First, Lyna, cut yourself a little bit of a break. Being a mom is great, but it’s also hard, frustrating, tiring, and comes with a lot of internal and external pressures. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think you “should” be doing, especially as it relates to things you don’t think you’re doing “enough.” We all deal with it, whether we have other kids or not, whether we work outside the home or not. You’re far from alone.
Also, words of wisdom from LauraC, via her moms of twins club: “Your babies do not know any differently than what you do with them. They do not know that singletons get held more or got more attention. They only know their own reality. The babies have no expectations of you – you have expectations of yourself.” Your twins do not know that they are having a different experience than their older sister had at their age, and frankly, they don’t care. They have learned from day one that sometimes they have to wait their turn (though they might not be happy about it, of course!), and are not automatically emotionally scarred because they were not held as much as their big sister.
Now, on to strategies. First, as is a common suggestion from the HDYDI moms, have you joined your local moms of twins club? Many of them offer some kind of new mom/mentoring/big sister program, so you may want to try to connect with nearby moms who also have an older child and infant twins, or have already gone through it. It will help to see, first-hand, that your experience is not so unique.
Second, just jump right in there. Don’t let your worries about “not being able” to play with or hold both twins deter you from playing with either of them. Ten months is a great age, as they can play more independently, they can sit and probably crawl, etc. They will love it if you just sit on the floor with them, read a board book (or five), play peekaboo. Heck, they even get a kick out of playing with a basket of laundry that needs folding. Like TraceyS talked about last week, consider changing your outlook. Redefine “quality time” in your own mind. It doesn’t have to look the same as it did with your singleton, and in fact, it’s impossible for it to look the same. It doesn’t have to mean lots of holding and carrying, which can often be quite impractical with two babies. It can mean all of you singing silly songs together, or whatever.
Third, divide and conquer. Cynthia likes to switch off which boy she puts to bed each night, while her husband takes the other. A nice little dose of quiet solo time with each baby to cuddle, read stories, etc. And assuming your 3-year-old goes to bed a bit later than the 10-month-olds, that still leaves special time for her after they’re down for the night. Carrie and others are all about having “dates” with one child at a time on the weekends. Trade off with your husband who has which kid(s), and then have an outing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Go to the coffee shop, go to the grocery store, just go for a walk. But taking time to focus on each child one at a time, even if it’s only once a week or so, can go a long way.
Some other recommendations include, while your twins are still a bit young for family dinner time, postpone adult dinner until after the kids are in bed. That allows you to use as much of their awake time as you can to focus on them instead of other things. Consider a carrier, such as the Ergo, for carrying one baby hands-free (whoever is fussing more or enjoys the carrier more). That allows you to pick up the other when necessary, or play a game with your toddler, while one baby at a time gets some close contact.
While this particular variety of mommy guilt (I’ve heard it referred to as “second child syndrome”) is amplified with twins, it’s not unique to moms of multiples. Anyone with more than one child, especially if you’ve had a singleton first, has to come to grips with the fact that the younger child(ren) will not have the same “infant experience” as your first. All of us with twins (or more) have worried that maybe we aren’t holding them enough, singing to them enough, or any number of things we feel we’re “supposed” to be doing. We each have more than one child, but there’s still only one mommy. Learning to play independently, or to entertain each other, is a good skill. You don’t have to, nor can you, entertain each of your three children precisely equally at all times.
There you have it, words of “wisdom” from your fellow moms. Cut yourself a break, and redefine in your own mind what constitutes meaningful interactions with your kids. Find ways to play with all three of them at once, encourage them to play with each other (I bet the 10-month-olds get a huge kick out of playing peekaboo with big sister!), and try to set aside time with each of them individually, even if you can only manage it with one child per week. It will pay off for the kids, it will pay off for you, and it will allow you to get to know each of your children as well as you know your first. Good luck!