My mother spent her twenties giving birth. By the time she turned 30, she had three girls under the age of six—well, one was actually six years old, followed by a three-year-old and a newborn. I always appreciated the fact that she had her children young, because as I grew older we became closer as friends. Also as I grew older, I realized that it takes the energy of youth to survive parenthood. However, as my twenties started to draw to an end I was also superbly grateful that I hadn’t spent them knee-deep in diapers and wipes. While I admired the work my mother had done, I actually thought she was crazy to have had “so many” kids in such a “short” time. The joke was on me. I celebrated my 30th birthday very much pregnant with not one, but two, babies.
Obviously, people choose to have children or not have children for any number of reasons. Some spend months and years planning out every little detail of parenthood, while others come across the experience by surprise and roll with it. Sometimes planning works out perfectly. Sometimes it’s impossible to know what life will throw at you. Twins are part of the latter. My husband and I spent a long time deciding whether or not even wanted to have a family beyond just us, then we spent another very long time attempting to create that family. But never in a million years would we have thought we weren’t just growing, we were in fact, doubling in size.
Around the same time, my two best friends announced their pregnancies. It was pretty awesome getting large alongside my girls and having them to share in the ups and downs of pregnant life with. It is equally awesome seeing my twins interact with their kids and know they are going to grow up being best friends. A lot of women go through pregnancy, childbirth and, parenthood with very few family members or friends close by, so I felt super lucky that mine were right there with me. And while the experience was mostly enjoyable, I also got a front-row seat to seeing and hearing how the singleton parents survived the first year.
I don’t mean to be negative or imply that having a single baby is not hard. I know it is. I know there are sleepless nights and piles of laundry that never get smaller and it’s almost impossible for singleton parents to find the time to eat a nice meal together. I also know that having two babies is actually twice as hard, if not more so.
The fact is, it was hard to be a mother of multiples and have my friends try to compare their experiences of being singleton parents to mine. There was no malicious intent on anyone’s part, but when one friend complained that she only got four hours of sleep one night around month three, it was hard not to remind her that I hadn’t had more than two consecutive hours of sleep since the third trimester. And later, when another friend commented how impossible it was to get cleaning done with a toddler running around (to the point of hiring a maid), I had to stop myself from saying “well try it when there’s a toddler destroying the mess your trying to clean while ANOTHER has just disappeared to the next room to smear a poopy diaper on that clean pile of laundry you haven’t been able to put away for a week.
I’m pretty sure my friends who are singelton parents think that we are running an army boot camp with the way we stick to a schedule. They’ve actually made comments about how strict my husband and I are when it comes to our twins’ bedtime. Here’s the thing, singleton parents, when you need a moment without a baby in your arms, all you need to do is hand said baby over to your spouse. When a parent of multiples needs to free up their hands, their spouses’ are already full with another baby. My husband and I look forward to bedtime not because we can’t wait to not have to take care of our children or because we are running a house of hard knocks, but because it is literally the only time each of us can be 100% baby-free WITHOUT feeling like we have to burden the other one. Going to the store just to buy a gallon of milk means one of three things:
1. Team effort. The entire family gets packed up in the car and spends an hour running an errand that should take approximately 10 minutes.
2. Divide and conquer. One baby goes to the store with dad, the other stays home with mom. Mom still can’t get anything accomplished because she still has a baby to take care of, dad spends 30 minutes running a 10-minute errand.
3. Take one for the team. One superhero spouse volunteers to take both babies and stay home or go to the store. The other spouse feels guilty having the “free” time to run a fast errand or wait at home and get dinner started.
In singleton world, one parent entertains baby while the other runs the 10-minute errand. Easy. Again, I do not in any way mean to suggest that having one baby is a walk in the park. Parenting is hard enough as it is and no one should be made to feel like anything less than a superhero when they keep another human alive day in and day out. However, it is only human for people to compare themselves to others. Every once in a while us parents of multiples might get disgruntled after making one of those comparisons of singleton parents, so we need to stick together.
If you want to keep your “singleton parent” friends, I highly suggest finding a fellow twin parent or mothers of multiples group to vent your frustrations to now and again. Because while your friends might not ever fully understand what it’s like having two newborns cry at the same time and two toddlers wreak havoc on your home at the same time or two teens give you attitude at the same time, we will.
Katelyn Heindel is a communications manager-turned stay-at-home mom two 18-month-old twins. She lives in Richmond, Va with her husband, two monkeys (err, toddlers) and the world’s weirdest cat.