Living with newborn twins can sometimes feel a bit like a prison. We are slaves to their schedules and it feels impossible to get out of the house. When I moved to Scotland with my husband and our two-month-old twins, it was the dead of winter, the sun went down at 3 pm, and I knew nobody in my new country.
Settling in was hard, but as the days started getting longer, the twins stared waking up more and I met other moms and felt more comfortable getting out on my own. I began to take them to restaurants hoping I would feel a little more like a human being again! These days, at 2 years old, I enjoy eating out with them a couple of times a week. It’s not always a relaxing meal, but I do enjoy it and it helps that I don’t have to cook or clean the kitchen.
Here are a few tips to help you dine out with your multiples on your own:
Be familiar with the restaurant set-up
This is very important, perhaps the most important factor. I hardly ever take the twins to a new place if I am alone with them—there are just too many unknowns! Consider parking spaces, how busy the restaurant is, high chair availability, and whether you prefer a booth or table (two highchairs seem to work better with tables, but I’ve also seen booths where the setup works—it depends on the place!)
Paying upfront is a plus
Another quality that I love in a restaurant is paying up front, before we sit down and get our meal. This way, if the kids are acting out I know I can leave in a hurry and not have to wait on the server to bring the check. If a restaurant isn’t set up that way, I will ask for the check as soon as the food arrives. Trust me, we learned this the hard way! It was 1 o’clock and the babies were late for their nap and our waiter was nowhere in sight. I was literally waiting at the doorway with the twins strapped in their stroller, and the check and my credit card in hand.
It’s all in the timing
I like to go in as soon as a restaurant opens. It’s early, not as busy, and servers are generally in a better mood! When we eat out, I try to make the meal a little earlier than we would eat at home so I can make sure we get back in time for nap. You better believe I protect nap time! So take your twins’ sleep schedule into consideration as well.
Pacing the meal according to age
Some restaurants will deliver the kids’ meals as soon as they are ready, before the adult meals. When my twins were younger and would reliably fall back asleep in their stroller after eating, this worked for us. As they’ve gotten older, however, I prefer for all the food to come out at once—otherwise, they will get too antsy just when I’m ready to eat! So I bring some crackers or fruit or order an appetizer for everyone until the meal gets there. You’ll figure out what works best for your family!
We practiced baby lead weaning, so I never gave the twins purees. This was helpful because I didn’t have to use my hands to spoon feed them! Instead, I ordered simple foods like steamed vegetables and let them feed themselves. Now they’re older and learning to use silverware, which is a little messy, but they are also awesome at feeding themselves finger food.
My kids tend to make a mess when they eat. I don’t stress about it since it’s pretty unavoidable. Before we leave the restaurant, I make sure to wipe down the highchairs, pick up stray peas or chunks of chicken off the floor, and just tidy up. I do this so the servers don’t dread seeing me the next time I come in! If you just have to get out of there and have no time to clean up after yourselves, I suggest you tip generously!
Engage with the kids
As much as I would love to pick up a trashy mag or scan through my phone while I relax and enjoy a luxurious lunch, it just doesn’t happen when I’m with my little ones. (Or ever, really!) The more I engage with my little ones, the smoother the meal tends to go. You might think that having another person with you would be of help, but I find that things go better when I’m alone with my twins! That way my attention is on them and not another adult, and they are grateful. In fact, mealtimes with mommy are generally much less stressful than mealtimes as a family, when my husband and I try to have an actual conversation! So I talk to my kids, sing some songs, or do some simple finger plays while we wait for our food. Of course, if your kids don’t eat crayons, then by all means let them have at it with the kids’ menu! But if yours are like mine, you might want to bring some small toys and books as well. Small animal figurines work well for us.
These are some of the things that have made dining out with my twins easier. It can be intimidating at first, but as with everything, the more you try it, the better you get. Bon appétit!
Mercedes Donis is a blogger and the author of the e-book Twin Manibreasto: A Success Story of Milk & Multiples. She lives with her husband and twenty-month-old twins in Aberdeen, Scotland. Check out her blog, Project Procrastinot, or follow her on Pinterest and Twitter.