Sets of multiple newborn children can add to the challenges presented to newly-minted fathers as well as veteran dads, but they can also bring unique rewards. Vaughan Granier gives some advice to help anchor members of the Multiple Birth Club.
I wrote this as a basis for a chat to some new fathers of multiples. Then I thought, you know, maybe there are some others out there who don’t have the benefit of a Multiple Birth Club to provide support and info. So I am just putting this out there for you all, wherever you are.
A HUSBAND / FATHER PERSPECTIVE ON HAVING TWINS
Hey, welcome to the most amazing ride of your life. Here are some basic ideas and thoughts that come from our journey. Maybe they can help you get this all in perspective. At times, the idea of twins can feel like a tsunami about to hit—especially if this is your first pregnancy.
I am here to tell you that you are about to be blessed beyond your wildest imaginings. It will be hard—of course it will be hard, everything that is truly worth it comes at a price—but it will also be a defining moment for your marriage and for your parenting. Knowing where it’s at and keeping things in perspective will turn this into the most amazing experience for you both.
I don’t write this, having got it all right or even pretending to have. In fact I forbid you to ask for details from my wife. 🙂 There were days when my score must have been about minus 200, and there were days when I hopefully got it right. These are simply notes from the road, so to speak.
We wish you joy and deep satisfaction on this amazing journey.
What’s it like having twins?
- Incredible, heavenly, funny, awesome, delightful, wonderful, fulfilling, satisfying, rewarding. And at times, challenging, stressful, and stretching.
- I love all my children (the twins are no’s. 3 & 4), but I have never ever had so much fun as I am having with twins.
- Every child is a beautiful, beautiful gift and although the workload is definitely different, twins are no exception!
- Singletons exist in an adult world, and we usually think of babies as being an add-on to an adult world, but twins are a ready-made unit all of their own! They arrive and they kind of make themselves at home.
- They can make each other laugh.
- They can team up (and they do).
- They are company for each other.
- Twins help us to realize that awareness arrives at a much earlier age than we might think, if our benchmark has been a singleton baby.
- Personalities and humor are not dependent on a grown up to be revealed.
- We only have fraternal twins, so we can say that their differences and individuality is a constant source of joy for us. We can’t comment on Identical twins, but hey, its’ gotta be great as well, right!
Family-centered children, not child-centered family
- You only have so much energy and resources to go around. Prioritise and take care
- Time for you is not a crime. You are not a bad parent if you look after you. In fact, that can be the difference between being an OK parent and being a GREAT parent. Always make sure your tank is full so you have something to give.
- Continue your lives as much as you can—you are already a family—your new arrivals are joining an existing family. We believe its better if the new kid fits in with the flow.
- Fit the kids into your world and your routines. Don’t change your world completely.
- The kids can be inconvenienced—it won’t kill them. In fact it will help them have a context and feel safe if there is a routine and a set of things that they have to plug into.
Is it double the work?
- Actually, it’s double the fun, and the “work” comes pretty easy when you realize that.
- Some things take longer and need better planning—preparing to leave the house, loading the car up, nappy bags, snacks, etc.
- Getting up earlier can be really helpful, to get stuff done while they are still sleeping.
What can the guy do?
- For a while, your wife is going to be mostly tired, sore, and a busy new mommy. All her energy will be there. Affirm that and be her strength. Take on board the responsibility that supporting her and making her world manageable and functional, is YOUR responsibility. Make it your personal mission to exceed her hopes and expectations. At least for a while.
- Let your wife decide the priorities. Listen to her and hear what she needs. You get extra points for having ESP, and even more points for not forgetting what she just told you. But seriously, be quick to take on board her priorities and get her stuff done. The Mr Fix-It mentality is less important than just being truly supportive.
- Both of you will be learning everything from scratch. Please don’t assume just because she’s female, she knows stuff. Sometimes yes, but usually she is also feeling her way through it as well. If you expect her to know stuff, she may struggle to share with you when she doesn’t. That’s a recipe for stress and hurt. Be the kind of guy she can bring her weaknesses to.
- Mistakes can happen, and it is both parents responsibility to be finding out stuff. The Multiple Birth Clubs are good for that—networking and learning from others. Guys do it as well. Google is your friend.
- Minimize your own mess and admin so that mommy can be freed up to do mommy stuff. Pick up after yourself, pick up after mommy as well! Cleanliness becomes more of a priority for the house, so pick up cleaning stuff quickly and look for potential health issues.
- Pull your weight. Do stuff without being asked. Write yourself a list, even.
- Twins are heavy and their equipment can be heavy. Carry stuff.
- Change nappies. Don’t wait for the neighbour to call with complaints about the smell.
- Dress babies. If you are clueless about what to dress them in, ask wife to prepare bundles of clothes. Laugh about the mess-ups.
- If you are bottle feeding, take the opportunity to give mommy time off and do it yourself.
- Get off your smart-phone and pay attention!
- Carry laundry.
- How are your cooking skills?
- Agree with each other what the priorities are—
- Who’s the working parent?
- Who’s got flexible start times in the morning?
- Who’s taking the early or late shift?
- Who’s feeling stronger at the moment?
- Support each other.
- Get sleep if you can, when you can. Your body quickly adjusts to getting sleep in instalments rather than in bulk!
- Share the feeding sessions, if you are bottle feeding. Let the other one sleep.
- If mommy is breast-feeding, guys, try choose a feed where you really put the effort in—fetch bubs, change nappies, stay awake and take bubs back to bed. It’s an incredible blessing for your wife to stay resting and know that the getting up and lugging around in the dark, is not always hers to do …
- Bad nights happen and you wake up tired. Find grace for the day after—be thick-skinned and not easily offended.
Are twins expensive?
- Don’t really know yet. Can imagine school might get hectic …
- I would say only slightly, maybe even not at all.
- Yes if you buy disposable nappies.
- Yes if you buy everything new.
- If you absolutely ***CAN’T*** have bubs wear second-hand stuff, look for the sales …
- For the rest of us,
- Trade Me/eBay, etc., are amazing.
- Op Shops are great.
- Clothing swaps (Multiple Birth Club)—awesome.
- Don’t leave safety, and paying attention only up to your wife.
- Twins are FAST.
- They can go opposite directions.
- It’s very important to baby-proof because you can’t be everywhere and be looking in all directions. Over-confidence just gets kids hurt.
- Get a play-pen. You will thank me.
- Baby gates if possible.
- Car Seats—
- Get narrow ones (we use the Safe & Sound make—completely trustworthy).
- You gain an entire seat back! In a small car this is precious space.
- Facing backwards as long as possible, please. Don’t turn them around early! Little heads are heavy and necks can be damaged just by heavy braking.
- be careful of the double prams that don’t actually fit through a door!
- Sleeping in a pram is OK (not the dads!).
- Sharp stuff—
- Keep sharp stuff away from the edges of benches and tables—get in the habit early!
- Look for broken toys and small things, be a constant vacuum cleaner for unfriendly things. (Remember it might be too big to eat, but it can also be used as a great weapon against the twin.)
- Be on the look-out for things in mouths, and learn how to safely get stuff out without pushing it down their throat. There is a way!
- Babies love stairs. Be around them whenever there are stairs.
Sharing time between them and with others to prevent a sense of isolation or jealousy
- Older kids—
- Cuddle time.
- Reading time.
- Making them feel special and important.
- Trips to the park.
- Solo dates.
- Twins can easily steal the limelight with the cute factor, and the need for immediate care and attention. Be careful to come back to the bigger ones after the distraction.
- The twins—
- Play together with them, and apart.
- Shave well so that there are no sudden rashes to scare mommy and irritate skin.
- Shower and bath with them—it makes a chore into a fun time.
- Get a comfy chair so you can fall asleep together in a cuddle. It’s the best.
- Find grace. This is going to be tiring at times.
- Do the journey together.
- Don’t ruin intimacy and a chance to connect by letting tiredness and emotions overcome you.
- Choose your emotions, and rule them. Don’t let them rule you and your marriage.
- Be disciplined about getting time together.
- As soon as you are comfortable getting a babysitter, go on a date. You both deserve it.