Let’s talk parent guilt for a moment. We all feel it from time to time… or, you know, every day! As loving parents, it seems natural that we would worry that we’re doing everything wrong.
Am I working too much? Should I have allowed my kid to watch Sesame Street while I showered? Oops! I’m so, so sorry I accidentally bonked your head! Am I cherishing every day to the fullest? Guilt. Guilt. Even more guilt.
We all know that as parents of multiples, we face unique challenges day-to-day. Certain situations that present themselves while raising twins, triplets, or more are rife with opportunities for mommy and daddy guilt.
So let’s put our cards on the table for a moment. What do you feel guilty about as a parent of multiples? I posed this question to parents of twins and triplets (though I myself could write a book on the subject!)
Time, Time, Time
No doubt about it. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the Pinterest-worthy things that you would like to do for your kids. Really, who has time for that? I feel like Super Mom if the dishes are washed by the end of the night! Bonus points for whipping-up something halfway healthy for dinner.
I have begrudgingly come to accept that I will never, ever get around to making baby books for my boys. SIGH. Bad Mom Award. Oh, and those cute little clay hand print ornaments? I made one for *GASP* one of my babies. Never got around to the other. I was busy, you know, keeping them alive that whole first year. How horrible of me! I’m sure the other will explain this to a therapist one day. My mom never made a stupid keepsake ornament of my precious little hands! I’m scarred for life!
While this is likely true of all parents, there is little doubt that the more children you have, the less time there is. Masha, a mother of 11 month old twins says, “It’s a double edged sword. Guilt over not spending time with each, or guilt over wanting some time to yourself.” So very, very true. Can’t we all relate to this one?
“The guilt is pretty much always the same,” says Bethany, “spreading myself too thin. I’m not paying enough attention to the twins, or my three year old or my husband or myself. I don’t read enough to them or play enough with them or snuggle enough. There could be ten extra hours in the day and it still wouldn’t feel like enough time to give everyone the attention he or she deserves. If that’s not guilt, I don’t know what is.”
Casey (a mother to two sets of twins, ages 1 and 10), said, “As my older children have gone through elementary school, I have found it hard at times to be happy for one and comfort the other when one does very well at something while the other struggles.” She goes on to discuss the difficulty of being, “supportive and excited for one and supportive and encouraging for the other.” How exactly does one go about dealing with this kind of guilt? Is it possible to help the one who faltered to build herself back up while acknowledging the accomplishment of the other?
Different Kids, Different Needs
As parents of multiples, we know just how different a set of twins (or more) can be from one another. My boys couldn’t possibly be more different. That is a wonderful thing, but it also presents challenges.
“My [Baby A] is much higher maintenance than his brother is. When they both cry, I tend to go to him first in order to prevent a double meltdown,” says a twin mom who wishes to remain anonymous. “Sometimes, I wonder if this will eventually be seen as favoritism. I feel so guilty that they don’t get my attention equally.”
Sarah (the mother of 18 month old twins) spoke poignantly of having one twin with complex medical issues, and one without. Having to put one in day care while the other endured multiple surgeries, understandably, made for the perfect storm of mommy guilt. It’s simply not possible to be in two places at once. Even such a strong, dedicated mommy is only one person.
Multiples + Singletons
In speaking to parents of multiples, one theme that kept cropping-up was guilt over having multiples AND a singleton (or more). One mother described the addition of twin babies to the family as having, “ruined [her] daughter’s life.” She went on to list all of the little traditions that had fallen by the wayside after bringing home two new babies. Mommy guilt galore!
Triplets (or more)
What’s a mommy to do when she has more than two at a time? The logistics are mind-boggling. “Three little ones means they can’t all hold my hand. It means I can’t pick them all up at once. It means I can’t have them all sit next to me during a movie,” says Wendy (the mother of 2 year old triplets and a 10 year old singleton). “It means I can’t pay full attention to one if there is another who is screaming or hurt. It means they are constantly fighting and I’m constantly stressed and yelling, which I wasn’t ever doing with my singleton. I was always calm and mellow and now I’m always stressed, frustrated, tired, angry.”
What about Dad?
Let’s not forget those daddies out there who are elbow-deep in dirty diapers, or breaking up the fights of their older multiples. Surely, they must feel guilt, too.
Matt spoke of guilt over spreading himself too thin. “I got to spend a lot of time one-on-one with [my singleton], but not so much with either of the twins individually.” He spoke of guilt over having to leave his wife at home alone with 3 small children. He described his job as “mentally exhausting,” and his stay at home wife’s as every kind of exhausting! His days, Matt said, at least are broken up a bit between the responsibilities of home and work. Being a full-time caretaker to 3 small children, he says, “is like Chinese water torture. Very repetitive.” Daddy guilt.
Another daddy of infant twins admitted to feelings of favoritism. He described one as “just like me in every way. I just feel a little more bonded with him.” Leave it to a daddy to have the cajones to admit to that kind of daddy guilt!
The Good News?
Somebody very wise once told me that good moms don’t worry that they’re bad moms. “Bad moms think that they’re doing everything right,” she sagely advised me. You know what? It was exactly what I needed to hear. So, if you’re experiencing mom or dad guilt, chances are that you’re an excellent parent!
Stephanie Turner is a first time mommy to twin baby boys. Prior to this, she worked for many years in the mental health field. In the spare time that she likes to pretend she has, Stephanie enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, and starting projects that she’ll never finish. Her current hobbies include breaking up baby fights, wandering aimlessly around Target, and attempting to write while a baby (or two) uses her as a sofa. She lives in New England with her overworked husband, adorable sons, and attention seeking cat. She aspires to one day take a nap. Follow her on Facebook at Behind the Binkies.
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Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.