One Negative Twin Comment Too Many

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My very first negative twin comment experience happened when I was pregnant, gleefully scanning an early ultrasound photo in the office copy room. One of my coworkers walked in as I was walking out, ultrasound picture in hand.

“What’s that?” He asked me, eyeing the photo.

“Uh … nothing …” I wasn’t quite three months along, and not ready to share this news with my coworkers.

“Ah – it looks like an ultrasound pic. Congrats. When are you due?”

“October!” I said, in a rush of excitement. “But I am actually having twins … so they will probably come earlier than that. The latest will probably be toward the end of September …”

He looked at me with such utter shock that my heart stopped. “Twins?!!! Are they natural? Oh boy. I feel sorry for you. That’s going to be awful. How will you guys afford it? Two babies?! You don’t even know what one newborn is like. Is Steven okay with this? Is he upset?” (Yes, this is the actual conversation. I kid you not.)

Granted, he had a young child who still hadn’t started sleeping through the night and a marriage that was on the rocks … maybe twins was overwhelming to him … but still. I walked back to my office with a heavy heart. It was almost as if he had shattered something beautiful and innocent that I had held dear in those first few weeks. We hadn’t experienced any negativity in the least  from family or friends, and my husband was over the moon. My coworker’s comment, I would soon find out, would be the first of many not-so-nice comments about twins.

I am always stopped short in my tracks when a stranger or acquaintance says something rude to me about twins. I don’t react right away. I don’t know how to react. I usually keep moving, and the whole time regret not saying something rude back. Regret not standing up for myself and my children.

In the beginning, it would shake me to the core. I would cry to my husband when I was home later, feeling sad and awful that people could be so insensitive, especially when talking about my children, who were completely innocent of the fact they were twins and sometimes perceived to the outside world as a burden. In the months after their birth, I quickly grew a thick skin, and the comments started to roll off of me. Instead of tearing me down, I let the rudeness slide right off of me, and I would keep on walking.

Perhaps you could say I recently reached a third stage of enlightenment: talking back.

It was during a weekly CVS trip. The woman at the counter that day was one who always waited on me. While she doted on Jack and Mara, she always had something a little rude to say about them. Today was no different.

“Ah! They are getting so big!” She says, peering into my stroller.

“I know … they are nine months old already. Its starting to fly by!”

“I hope to have a baby with my boyfriend … I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer … I’m 36 and I think my time might be up,” she says.

“No! A lot of women have babies a little later. My sister-in-law is almost 37 and has a baby. My boss started having kids when she was 40! It will all work out,” I tell her.

She leans in, as if sharing a secret with me. “Well, there are twins on my side of the family, and my boyfriend’s side … Oh My God! I can’t imagine!” She wrinkles her nose as if smelling something awful. “I would die! I’m sorry, but I think it would be awful.”

I say nothing and pay, walk my babies out of the store, and head for the car.

By the time I get to the car, I am fuming.

By the time I unload Jack and Mara, I am ready to go back in and say something to her.

I march back into the store, and go back to the pharmacy counter. She spots me, and walks over. “Hi – did you forget something?” She asks.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know … your comment was rude. When you are talking about twins to a mother of twins, you shouldn’t say they’re awful.” I pull my sunglasses off. “Its fine if you think that way, but it was really rude for you to say that to me.” I’m shaking.

The woman looks genuinely taken aback. “No! I didn’t mean it like that. I think if my boyfriend and I had twins it would be such a blessing …”

“No, you don’t,” I say, and walk out. Other customers had heard our exchange, and so had her coworker. I wonder what she is thinking.

My husband thinks I overreacted, and perhaps I did. Perhaps it was unfortunate that it was this comment (surely not the most horrible I have ever heard) that somehow moved me enough to speak up. Back to the event in the work copy room – I had muttered a few words back which to this day I can’t remember, and walked away, feeling embarrassed. It was this exchange, in the CVS, where I finally had enough.

I do think there is a larger issue at hand – people, when speaking this way about twins, don’t realize they are being rude. The woman in CVS had not tried to intentionally hurt my feelings; I know that. To her, the idea of twins is truly horrifying. And that’s fine. But, she didn’t – and others don’t – stop and think about how their comments come across. They sting.

While I am still trying to find my best approach to hurtful comments, I would love to know how others react. Should I just have walked away? Or did I do the right thing?

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MarisaB

MarisaB is the proud mother of nine month old boy/girl twins, Jack and Mara. A recent stay at home mom, she left her job in corporate communications to raise her very active - and curious - twins. A former adjunct English professor, MarisaB and her husband, Steven, live in the Philadelphia area. When she isn't blogging about the trials and tribulations of being a new twin momma, she enjoys reading, cooking, attempting to knit, running, enjoying a nightly glass of wine, and spending time with her family at the Jersey Shore. MarisaB loves talking with other twin moms, so drop her a line at MarisaBtwins@gmail.com!

19 thoughts on “One Negative Twin Comment Too Many”

  1. I don’t think you overreacted. It sounds like you didnt’ fly off the handle, but just let her know that it was offensive, and that sounds like the perfect response. It truly is so super rude. And the funniest thing to me is that it’s always the moms of twins that I meet who are like, “having twins is the BEST!” It’s people who don’t have kids or have singletons that make the rude comments.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate that. I am glad I said something, too. :) And yes – everyone I know who has twins loves having twins – Myself included!!!!

  2. I’m proud of you for saying something. Maybe next time she’ll think before she speaks. Maybe next time, you’ll tell the rude person that they’re talking in front of your kids. How scarring would it have been to them as a child to hear a similar comment about themselves!? (I know your babies are still little, but kids understand much more than they can say.)

    Marisa, you’re not alone. I’ve heard my share of thoughtless reactions, stereotypes and cliches. I’ve found it handy to have a few canned answers at my disposal.

    “You have your hands full.” -> Better full than empty!
    “I’d die.” -> You’d probably find you’re stronger than you think! OR It’s a good thing I’m the mom of twins! OR Nope, still standing! And happier than I’ve ever been.
    “Double trouble!” -> And double joy.
    “How do you manage? I have my hands full with one!” -> I do what I need to. OR You know how, at some point early on, your lowered your standards to something manageable? I did that as soon as they were born.
    “Are they natural?” -> Well, that’s a post in its own right.
    “Can you tell them apart?” -> Yes.
    “Why don’t their names match?” -> We didn’t want matching names. We want them to know exactly who’s in trouble at any given time.
    “Who’s the smart/friendly/shy/quiet/bad/good one.” They switch.

    And on and on.

    1. your responses are amazing. And I think your point about them being able to understand when people are rude to them is the most disturbing thing for me. I never want them to think they were anything less than wonderful to us, which is the truth. I hope I am able to let them know how special it is that they are twins, not that they were a burden to us in any way.

  3. I’ve thought about this a lot and even posted something on Facebook about it. I was surprised to hear from a few (non-twin parent) friends that when they spoke similar comments they really meant it as a compliment to the twin parent. You know how some people unintentionally put themselves down in comparison to whatever you’ve accomplished, and they think they are complimenting you? Like if you were to say, “I ran a marathon this weekend!” and their response were to be, “Oh my God, I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t do that!” That’s what’s going on. And most of the time they think you are enjoying these comments, when really it just makes us feel crappy — as if twins are a curse or something. I think it’s important to inform the person that their comments sting, and I bet 99.9% of them will be totally shocked and confused because they think they just complimented you!

    1. My dad – a psychologist – always says the same thing to me. He says that people are really complimenting how I am able to handle so much with the babies – and not to take it as something so negative. I think your assumption that non- twin moms have no idea that their comments hurt sometimes is spot on.

  4. Honestly, I think I would have let the comment roll off my shoulders. I tend to try not to internalize what others say about twins. If they say “it must be so hard”, then I just figure I’m up for a greater challenge than they are. If they say “so lucky” then I wholeheartedly agree and feel (for the 100th time that day) lucky that I have them. The part of your story that struck me most is that you unpacked the twins from the car to go back inside. That is dedication and impressive!

  5. My girls are 4 1/2, and — while I am still completely taken aback at times — I have built up my stock replies to the more standard comments.

    To “Double trouble!” I reply, “Double blessings in our book.”

    To “You’ve got your hands full!” I reply, “My hands are full, but so is my heart.”

    …and the like.

    I’m not a goody-two-shoes, by far…but I try to remember that the vast majority of people don’t THINK before they open their mouths. By responding in a sing-song way, I hope that might make them take pause…and just *maybe*…THINK before their next comment.

    Please know I don’t leave this comment in judgment!!! You’d reached your limit…we’ve all been there, too. Kudos to standing up for yourself and your babies!

    Best to you!!!

    1. Thanks!! It’s funny… I was out today and heard a few annoying comments and it was one of the first times ever that I really didn’t care. Maybe I’ve turned a corner?!

  6. Rude or silly comments about my twins just roll off of me, I guess. Before I got pregnant, singleton moms kept telling me, “You don’t

  7. Rude and silly comments tend to roll off me… I’m usually too busy to respond much anyway. When I was trying to get pregnant, singleton moms would tell me, “You don’t want twins!” and I would tell them that I did, because I always wanted to have them. I was super excited that I qualified for IVF because of the increased chance of conceiving multiples, and I felt like I hit the jackpot when I got my two. So when people say rude things, I figure they just don’t get it. We may have double the tantrums around here, but also double the fun!

    1. I love your response … And your attitude! I love that you are too busy to care … And I love that you have double the tantrums, hahahah!

  8. I am proud of you for standing up for Jack & Mara! Twins are a blessing & twin moms are amazing! I believe we were blessed with twins because we are strong enough & have enough love for two babies at the same time- remember this next time you hear a negative comment.
    It was a harsh reality for me when I realized many of my friends just did not understand what it takes to raise twins. My favorite comment was “wow, I just realized you never have an extra set of hands to help you”… My twins were 9 months & she just figured this out! All I could do was laugh…

  9. Just days after reading your blog a friend’s husband said to me “Quadruplets? Wow, I mean TWINS are my worst nightmare!” I just smiled and tried to change the conversation but I was both seething and hurt. I know most people think they’re complimenting multiple mamas with comments like that, but wouldn’t it be nicer to just say “Wow, you’re doing a great job. I can’t imagine how busy you must be.” My girls are 7 now, so I’ve learned to just smile… and then later vent to my husband about how inconsiderate people can be!

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