Dear Dr. Debbie,
I’m writing this for my wife since her hands are usually tied. We have twin boys who are 17 months old. I work full time so she’s on baby duty most of the time. We have a part-time nanny to help out a couple days a week. I try to keep the attitude of “double fun” but if you were to see the exasperation in my wife’s eyes when I come home in the evenings, you’d agree that she sees them as “double trouble.”
What resources or advice can you suggest for her/us?
Double the Dad
Don’t miss last week’s column Ending a playdate on a good note — Good Parenting
Attitude can go a long way toward positive parenting. At every stage and for most situations in parenting, the right attitude can bring satisfaction and joy — if not a great story to tell years afterward.
Find the humor
There is humor to be found in parenting twin toddlers, even through sleepless nights and upturned homes. You and your wife should record those “you won’t believe what happened today” anecdotes with photos and videos to capture the inevitable humor of life with toddlers. Whether it’s insisting on wearing boots in the house, smearing food in the hair, or an exact imitation of the dog’s whining, a toddler’s antics can be very funny. It is true that sleep deprivation can (temporarily) destroy one’s sense of humor, so be sure to rehash the stories with each other when you’re both well rested. They’ll be even funnier.
Blogger dad Dustin Rowles posted a tongue in cheek piece entitled “Practical Tips About the Horrors of Raising Twins” with much to laugh about, including a photo of the mass of bottle and pump parts drying on the kitchen counter.
Find short cuts
There are essential everyday tasks to running a household with little ones in it, but the problem is, there are little ones afoot. They need to play. They need meals and snacks all day. They create dirty laundry. Supervising them makes it difficult to do any serious cleaning. Your home will run differently when they are older, but for now, think in terms of shortcuts to the housework.
One or two bins of toys in the family room makes toy clean up easy enough for the toddlers to help. You can periodically rotate in other toys from a secret hiding place.
Cook ahead and take advantage of (nutritious) ready-to-eat foods. If you have a dog, crumbs on the couch aren’t an issue. Otherwise, limit eating to the kitchen.
Re-wear clothing to reduce laundry piles. Stage the laundry this way — basket of unwearable dirty clothes, wet clean clothes in the washer, dry clothes in the dryer, folded clothes on a bed (or in a basket), clothes in closets and dressers. Aim for completing one stage each day. (A further shortcut is to simply dress from the pile or basket of clean clothes, or right out of the dryer.)
Supervision of toddlers is easiest in toddler-proof spaces, so be sure the areas of the house that you spend most of your time in are not only safe but entertaining. Toddlers need board books, play telephones, stackable toys, pull toys, baby dolls, balls and toy vehicles. Crayons or markers should be taken out when you are ready to help the children color only on paper.
When you get the time to do real housework, focus on essential minimums. Save higher standards for when the children are older.
Find some time off
A paid nanny is a wonderful asset for a stay-at-home mother of more than one. Mommy and Nanny might work in tandem to reduce the stress of attending to two children at once. Hopefully the nanny knows a few sure-fire ways to keep the twins under control such as silly dancing to recorded music, taking a double stroller walk to see and talk about the sights in the neighborhood or just sprawling on the floor with the children among their toys without Mommy around.
You can also use grandparents and other family members if they’re available for brief periods so that Mommy (and Daddy) can nap, take a walk or get things done around the house. Having a pair of relatives come at the same time for twin sitting may be more palatable for them, and more fun for the twins.
If you belong to a religious congregation, take advantage of “nursery” care under the watchful eyes of sweet surrogate grannies and enthusiastic teens. You can use neighbors or a community website for recommendations for paid sitters. And be sure to have time each week when Daddy is on duty so that Mommy knows she has a partner in this parenting business.
Find parent peers
There are formal groups for parents of toddlers to join to share their challenges and chuckles while the children play, as well as places where they informally gather. Some operate as “meet up” groups at toddler-friendly public places, others may have a trained facilitator to guide the adults through a topic or the children through creative activities. You could start your own group of parent peers if you go the same time each week to a tot lot, the children’s museum, the children’s area at the library or the play space at the mall.
Parents of twins, triplets and more meet the entry requirements to a special club. The Annapolis Mothers of Multiples provides a support system to parents experiencing the unique issues of raising multiples. According to their website, “Many great friendships have been formed in this incredible bond and a lot of fun and laughs along the way. Raising multiples can be a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding experience.” The nonprofit group hosts monthly parent meetings, play dates, family outings, Mom’s night out, consignment sales and more. The parent meetings are held every third Monday evening of the month usually in Severna Park or Annapolis.
Use your positive attitude to bolster Mommy’s outlook by highlighting the humor, welcoming shortcuts, securing a network of caregivers and connecting her with other moms who can truly share with her the wondrous journey of parenting.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy[at]jecoannapolis.com.