If you are looking to chat with a lot of random strangers, go some place with twin babies. When they notice my giant double stroller, they can’t help themselves. Since most people don’t have experience with twins, they have lots of questions. Last week I answered some of the logistical questions I get about my infant twins. You can read more about that here.
This week I am answering some of the deeper questions. Keep in mind that a) my twins are very new, so I am not an expert at all and b) this is only my opinion and should not be taken to represent all twin parents.
As a second time mom, how does having twins compare to having a singleton?
Having twins after another child (or children!) can be terrifying, but is also kind of a surprise advantage. For example, I already knew how to change diapers, how to breastfeed and a bunch of tricks for settling them. I didn’t worry so much about every tiny cry and I knew when to take them to the doctor and when to wait and monitor. In a lot of ways, the experience is the same. It is overwhelming, but I had done this before and I knew that I could get through it.
The biggest difference? There are just more of them. Everything takes longer. You have to rely more on help from others than with one baby. There is more laundry. A lot more crying and lifting. I can’t keep up with the volume of household chores because I am nearly always holding a baby. With one baby, you can settle them and sometimes put them down. With two, if you get one settled, the other will decide that this is the perfect time to wake up for their individual attention.
It is also hard to never be able to have enough hands to hold or help all the kids at once. You can’t change both diapers at once or burp both at once, so someone always has to wait. As a more experienced parent, you know that they will be fine, even if they have to wait for a couple minutes to have their needs met. If I were faced with twins as my first babies, I would have been freaking out all the time.
Do they seem to remember each other or get along with each other?
Sort of? At nearly 3 months old, they seem to see each other, but basically have almost no interaction. They exist in parallel. Sometimes they try to hold hands or get close for a snuggle and other times they couldn’t care less about the other baby. They actually seem much more interested in other babies than in each other.
You know how they say that babies perceive their mom to be just a part of themselves, rather than another human being? In my case, the babies seem to think we are all one big person. They seem confused when the other cries, like they can’t figure out who is crying and will often join in. “Am I upset? I must be. Who else would be crying? Must be me.”
Is everything doubly challenging or is it just a little more challenging?
Depends on the things you are doing. Sometimes, just getting through daily tasks can seem monumental because there is so much of it to do. If you have 3 children of different ages, you can probably get the older ones to do some of their own tasks. (For example, putting on their shoes.) However, when 2 of your children are the same age, you have to do everything for them both. So, getting through a feed, burp, change and change of outfits is doubly challenging when you are trying to get somewhere on time. Physically, it is doubly challenging. Producing milk for two makes me thirstier than I have ever been. Lifting and holding two babies makes my muscles ache. Bending for diaper changes creates back pain. Physically it is twice as hard.
If you can battle through that however, some things are only a bit more challenging than having one. Taking them out in the stroller is only a little more challenging because the stroller is bigger. Pushing one or two babies is pretty similar. Taking them to a baby activity or group is a little more challenging because you feel like you don’t have enough hands. Luckily there is something about having twins which draws helpful people out of the woodwork. I always get people to help carry, hold the babies or hold doors open. Everything you do with one baby requires a lot more logistical planning with two babies. That part is more challenging, but since we are used to the planning involved with taking out small children, I wouldn’t call it doubly challenging.
Do you feel any desire or pressure to dress them alike?
Honestly? No. I have no desire to dress my babies the same. I just don’t get the appeal. First, they don’t look alike, so the effect isn’t the same as with identical twins. Secondly, I think I have a bit of a unique perspective on this issue. My mom is an identical twin, whose mother dressed her and her sister alike for a long time. My mom hated it, and always felt that they wore what her sister wanted. She also felt it increased the attention they had when they went out and it made her uncomfortable.
Also, dressing babies in the same outfits takes a lot of organization! Like, both outfits have to be and stay clean at the same time? Nope. So, while I sometimes coordinate their outfits to be similar, I don’t dress them in the same things and don’t think I will unless they ask.
How do you plan to help them be individuals as they grow up?
My mom’s experience as a twin influences me on this issue. She grew up in a small town and even then, people often didn’t bother trying to figure out who was who. Instead they would call her “twin”. I think it is important to call my twins by their names when I refer to them, rather than always using “the twins” or “the girls”. Dressing them in different clothing helps too.
People feel compelled to compare twins, in a way that they don’t with singleton siblings. I have been asked, “Who is the fussy one?” or “Which is the easier baby?” My answer: It depends on the moment. No person is consistently one thing. Trying to avoid comparison is hard but important for twins.
So, how to make sure others see them as separate? I am not sure. I think it will be important to give each girl places to be on their own without their sister. I think it will be easier if they look different from each other. I plan to allow them to pursue individual interests, as much as possible. Will this work? Who knows!
Do you have twins? What do you think about these questions? What other questions do you have?
If you want to read more about twins, read this one about how I found out about the twins.