Working as a Team

"None of this -- raising twins while maintaining a loving supportive relationship -- is easy to do."

--twins-l member

In most cases, your spouse is probably not the main source of stress in your home, even if it feels like it from time to time. If you find that you are arguing more than you are working together, a new perspective might be helpful. Below are some insights parents of multiples shared about thought patterns and other factors that were sabotaging their efforts to work together effectively. Hopefully, just by recognizing them, you can begin to make changes to avoid them.

Insights from mothers and fathers of multiples

Blaming each other for our feelings of stress 
"A lot has to do with our attitude and how we view things. I think one thing that helped me and my husband was to look at the situation (twins!) and realize that we were both stressed out to the max! When someone feels that way it is very easy to want to blame another person for those feelings of being out of control and stressed but if you put all that onto your husband you are going to ruin your marriage and relationship. My DEAR husband and I have a very strong Christian relationship so we never even let the thought of "getting out" be an option. And I believe because of that we supported each other more. Rather than blame each other for the way we were feeling we would try to recognize that we were both feeling that way. We took it more of a team approach and often would say 'Man this is really hard, I am so stressed out, I'm so glad I've got you to help me. What if we didn't have each other?'"

Identfying the source of the problem 
"Just FYI - my pediatrician who practiced in another state for many years before she moved here 4 years ago, informed me (around the time I was still not getting any sleep, but we were moving into a new home) that in her years of practice, she'd watched more parents of twins/multiples divorce in the first couple of years than any other couples. Huh, imagine that...I'm sure a lot of us can understand why. I've been married 6.25 years, but many of them have been rough, and more of them since the babies were born than before their birth. And some days I feel we may be very close to being one of those statistics. (I believe "lack" of teamwork is a major cause of divorce - and that also includes poor communication - and I don't think that is anyone's fault - it's probably just lack of communication skills - at least on my/our part)"

Competing over who works harder
"...something that my husband and I fall into -- competing over who works harder. Is it that I'm not entitled to complain about being tired, because my husband does so much during the day? Can't I just complain about how tough it is, and how exhausted I am, without him taking it as a criticism, or a competition? *You think YOU'RE tired, look at how much I DO!* Sometimes that's not the point -- sometimes it's just that one person is looking for empathy, in order to keep slogging along."

"My husband complains that he doesn't get sympathy for how hard he works. I'm unable to give much sympathy because I'm so exhausted too, my emotional energy is all zapped by the kids. I end up saying things like *well at least you get to go to the bathroom by yourself* *at least you get an hour to yourself on the train on the way home*, and he's thinking *dammit, I use that hour to finish my work, and I don't get two hours free while the kids nap*....And I get defensive: what, does he think I sit around eating bonbons while the kids nap?!? And we end up feeling like we're not on the same team -- we're not supporting each other, and we each feel unappreciated."

Taking complaints personally when the spouse just needs to vent
"Whenever my husband complains, I usually interpret his complaints as criticisms of something that I need to fix or change instead of just allowing him the freedom to feel overwhelmed by all the work involved in caring for 3 toddlers."
[When you get home from work and your wife complains that she's tired and needs a nap] "I would hope that you would feel sympathetic to the fact that your wife is exhausted too, and that her complaint is not a criticism that you don't do enough, or an invalidation of all you do!"

Forgive instead of harboring feelings.
"We are trying to learn. One thing we both know, is that we both love our daughters VERY much. We both make mistakes, and we are both human. I just hope our daughters remember the good points, not all the mistakes we make!"

"I also am reminded that he was scared of the idea of twins. He wasn't sure what to do. I didn't tell him. I was to stubborn to ask for help. If I had asked, I'm sure that he would have helped. As it turned out, I just get madder and madder at what he was doing."

"Once I remember having these same types of thoughts (I am working much harder than [my wife], etc, etc, etc) and was ready to blow when I heard something on the radio that made a difference to me (I believe the show was David Essel, a motivational guy who has a talk show on weekends). His statement was 'forget who does what, when and how much. Focus on your relationship. You made a committment to this person and need to remember that your real needs are addressed when you are happy together.'"

Beware of routines backfiring on you
"Routines can be an essential part of life for parents of multiples, but they can also be a source of great stress. They are efficient because they help us get things done without expending a lot of extra energy and concentration on the small repetitive tasks that need to be done during a day of parenting little ones. But, unless both parents know the routine and feel that it helps accomplish the day's goals, one parent may feel that he/she is carrying the majority of responsibility around the house."
"It's really important to know how each spouse handles stress and what kinds of things offer stress relief for each spouse. My husband likes to watch TV to wind down. I prefer to have a conversation and process through tension. You can only imagine how well these two techniques mesh."

Viewing Parenting as a Chore
Here are the lessons one mother has learned by examining her husband's relationship with his parents:

"One of the main things I have gotten from this list is how to communicate and *work together* with my [husband] in rearing our twins and keeping our marriage together. It is not easy, especially when [he] comes from a family [who believes that the father] isn't *supposed* to clean the house, do dishes/laundry/cooking, care for children, or anything at home.... just sit on the couch and get fed! My [mother-in-law] has been shocked and upset with us when she's called and DH is feeding/bathing/playing with the girls. "That's not *his* job!!!"

"Funny thing is, [my father-in-law] works with [my husband]. The girls and I stop by the office *every day*. [My father-in-law] sees how much [his son] loves his girls and gets love/joy/etc from them. I think he realizes just how much he missed by sitting on the couch watching TV while his [wife] did all the "work".

"The last several months have made me realize that if I "do everything" I think of my girls as "work" --- much as my [mother-in-law] thinks of cleaning, cooking, and childcare. However, rearing my children is *not* work.... It's fun. bathtime can be a joy. Riding in the car is "song time". Playing ball is time to learn colors. [My husband] doesn't mind diapering because it's time to teach body parts. If we help each other rather than "attack" one another or compare our "things I did today" lists, we can see the joy and meaning that our beautiful children have brought to our lives *and* what meaning and love we bring to each other....

"When I see [my husband] with his girls, it makes me love him more. I know that as much as my girls are benefiting from having an involved dad, [he] is benefiting by becoming attached to them. I see in my [in-laws] and their relationship with [my husband] how much is lost *on all sides* when ONE parent (male OR female) does all the work. [My husband and his father] only became close after he was 18, and they began working together. [My husband] can't recall being read a story as a child. [My mother-in-law] has no hobbies or interests outside of cleaning the house (which *I* don't consider a hobby -- it's torture)!

"I try hard not to 'count chores' with [my husband], ie. I did *this* so *you* do that. We share tasks, and - for the most part - work together in housework and childcare. [We] shake our heads and laugh now when we hear parents (especially singleon parents!) talk about "how hard it is". *Our* children are more than a long list of "things to do" or interupted nights or annoyances. They are supposed to be inconvenient. Our lives were *supposed* to change. Mostly it has been for the better, and I hardly remember what filled my time before them. I have learned to get *much more* out of my children than the "work" I put in. I know my [husband] feels the same...... and I am glad that I have learned to "give him that chance" rather than "do it all".

"When I complain or "bash" my [husband], I forget that [he] *loses* too when he is not involved in the girls' daily lives. I try to step back and look at the big picture -- my girls and our family 20 years from now. I realize that I need to stop complaining and let him enjoy (i.e.diaper/bathe/laundry/etc.) the girls too."

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Communicating Effectively

"It's all about communicating how each of you are doing (early and often)."

--twins-l member

Once you've identified some of the struggles that are placing stress on your relationship, the next step is to communicate about it.  But communication isn't always easy.  Here is some advice from mothers and fathers of multiples about communicating effectively. (Some of these have appeared in other places in this FAQ, but are worth repeating!)

Advice from mothers and fathers of multiples

Think before you speak.
"When I'm with my kids, I try to identify my feelings while they are occuring: I am mad; I am frustrated; I am feeling overwhelmed, whatever. This helps me to keep focused on what's important, helps me feel a little more in control of the situation, and prevents me from blowing up for the wrong thing or at someone who didn't deserve it. Sometimes I try it with my husband too."

"Someone... gave the advice to think twice before being critical. Ask yourself if it's really important, or if he's just doing something differently than you would. I thought that was excellent advice. I KNOW that I wouldn't take kindly to [him] criticizing the way I was handling the kids, cleaning the house, living up to his expectations. I know my response would be, 'if you think you could do it so much better... be my guest. DO IT YOURSELF!'"
Write your feelings down
"...but my advice would be to print out and show your husbands/wives your vent letters...the written word is very powerful and maybe by him/her reading your feelings that would open up a new avenue of communication. My husband and I met through email...Sometimes it is easier to write your feelings down, rather than try to have a discussion that turns into an argument because you are so tired and sleep deprived."

Pick the right time to talk about it.
"I think those of you with [problems with your husbands] should try to talk to them about it when it's not an issue. I know that with me, I will scream and yell about it if it is about something going on in the immediate. Where as if I wait til we are having a quiet moment together and can talk reasonably, I get point across better. I usually have better results too, since my [husband] tunes me out if I yell (which can happen often)."

Be careful how you say things
"So, yes, I do think communication is a key component, but so is *consideration* (and that cuts both ways)."

"I know that my [husband] tends to be very defensive, so I had to be really careful about how I phrased things."

"I've found that if I can't show too much emotion when I talk with my husband. It's like a red flag for him to stop listening. He is more of a 'thinker' than a 'feeler.' I sometimes will give examples to make my point. '(A certain situation or behavior) bothers me, but I wouldn't be bothered by (a subtitue situation or behavior.)'"
"A gentle reminder or question, 'Boy, that huge pile of clothes is blocking their cribs, could you throw a quick load in the washer?' gets the point across, and allows the person to do the task without feeling guilted into it. We have found that assuming the other person sees everything that needs to be done like you do is a big mistake. Attacking them for not seeing it is an even bigger mistake and only generates resentment and bad feelings. Gentle reminders are the way to go."

Communicate specifically about where you need help
"I think I have learned that [my husband] will do anything I want him to, but can't read my mind. So, I just have to tell him what I need and stop assuming he knows."

"If you do not ask for help, then how is someone supposed to know it's needed? Oh, yeah... That ESP-thing... It all revolves around communication. If you expect that ESP-thing to work, then the anger and resentment that's been exhibited is the only way you'll be able to express yourself."

"Asking which baby gets which 'whatever' - when someone spends so much time with the children, they are bound to establish a schedule and a set way of doing things. [The husband] sees [his wife] as the one in charge. Perhaps [she] has made off handed remarks that he was not doing it right ([My wife] did this to me for a while, til I finally said 'When you are in charge, do what you want, when I am in charge, I AM IN CHARGE.' I dressed them how I wanted to, fed them what I wanted to. If she did not like it, I told her to lay things out and label them who gets what. I got sick of her criticizing things and then being exasperated when I asked her what she wanted.)"

Support each other the right way
"At our POM club meeting Monday, we had a speaker who talked about 'keeping the love alive'. She mentioned a book called the 'Five Love Languages'. I haven't read it yet, but the main idea is this: there are 5 different 'languages' of love:

"Every person has a primary language. We all need things from all 5 languages, but one is the most effective/important. Often, our primary language and our spouse's primary language are different. For example, my primary language is quality time - my [husband] can best show me he loves me by spending 30 minutes talking w/ me and giving me his undivided attention. [His] primary language is physical affection - I can best show him I love him by holding hands, snuggling, etc. What most people (me included) tend to do is try to show our spouse love in the way that we want love shown to us, rather than they way they want to be loved. Example, I try to get [my husband] to talk and I listen attentively, but what he wants and needs most is to curl up on the couch together. And vice versa.

"Now, if we can become more aware of what language is our spouse's (or significant other's) primary language, we can concentrate on filling those needs. And express what's important to us more clearly as well. "

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"Job" vs. "Home"

Many people agree that being a stay at home parent is a full time job in itself.  Finding a balance when one parent works full time out of the house and the other is at home full time can be problematic, especially if one spouse doesn't respect the other's "job."

"[My husband] is frustrating me. I can't get him up at night for anything. I am a stay at home mom so I don't ask for help unless I need it (taking care of the kids is my job) but when I do ask I am faced with an attitude that makes me want to cry. I don't know what to do to get him more involved."

--twins-l member

Advice from mothers and fathers of multiples

Don't give up trying
"I can really sympathize with all of your worn out Mom's out there!!! It DOES get easier but frankly YOU have to make it easier on yourselves by involving [your husbands] NOW or it's just going to get harder to involve them later!!!"
"Also, it is VERY important to find SOMEWAY to communicate that they are THE PARTNER in this, you have no choice when you have multiples!! We only have so many hands!!"
Develop a new approach
"I'm also a stay at home mom (sahm), and I know how you feel about not asking for help unless you really need it since [your husband] works full time. I kind of agree with you that taking care of the kids is my job to some extent. Here's my theory:

"His job is 40 hours a week, at 8 hours per day. So, for 8 hours per day I can manage things on my own and do my best to take care of the kids and house. I try not to call him often to complain when I'm feeling frustrated, because I want to respect the time he needs to focus on his work.  (After all, he doesn't call me at home to complain about his work; he waits until he gets home.)

"Anyway, when his 8 hours are up, he comes home. When my 8 hours are up, I'm still at home with 16 more hours to go. I don't feel so bad asking for his help during those 16 hours. After all, at home we're on equal territory - what's mine is his and what's his is mine! Just because my 'night job' is the same as my 'day job' doesn't mean that I'm responsible for night duty 100%. It's his 'night job' too.

"I do try to give him time once he gets home from work to transition from being 'at the office' to 'home.' And, if the day is going really bad, or if I'm really going to need him as soon as he hits the door, I'll try to call him at the office with a warning. But, in my opinion (and he agrees too), once he's home, he's not necessarily off work."
From the husband of a stay at home mom
"I think [the mom above] nailed this one - if you are a SAHM and have problems with a [husband] who works a "real" job and either:

a) you feel guilty about asking him to help since he works, or
b) find that he feels exempt from much of the domestic work because of his job

"...then lay [her] logic on him! Using this common-sense approach, it doesn't matter if [the husband]works 8 hours or 16 hours. Since you work a commensurate number of hours alone with two babies who need your attention full-time, then it seems only fair that after [your husband] gets home you both have equal responsibility of taking care of those babies.

"And I think [she] was very thoughtful to give [her husband] some time to transition and also to phone with a warning when things have been particularly rough. To all those [husbands] out there, think about the fact that, no matter how difficult, demanding and stressful your job is, you will no doubt find time to read the paper, take several coffee breaks, run across the street for a snack, go out for lunch with associates, have a non-work related conversation here and there, and you can pick up the phone and have an uninterrupted conversation with anyone about anything, etc., etc.
"You get mental stimulation and meaningful interaction with adults. Your commute, no matter how taxing, is time alone with music, news or whatever and is actually quite relaxing compared to dealing with two babies. Or maybe you take public transportation in which case you can read a novel or a technical book or whatever. Of course, now I'll probably get flamed with 'Oh yeah? Let me tell you about MY job!' But I don't think any job is as 24x7 demanding as taking care of two newborns - especially if you also happen to have toddlers running around (God help you)."
One mother's revelation about her job as a SAHM
"I have always labored under the assumption that my job as a SAHM was a job that any chimp could do. That my job didn't require any particular talent or brains. I would get so angry at my [husband] when he would appear clueless on what to do to help me, or how to handle the kids. I would think, 'What is his problem? He has a Masters degree, can't he figure this stuff out? How hard can it be?' I'm embarrassed to say that I even said those things to him over the years. My attitude toward him slowly became one of irritation and resentment.

"I began to think of him as 'inept' and it came out in comments I would either make to him, or think in my head, like, 'Geez, what is the big deal? How hard can it be to put the diaper in the pail instead of leave it on the table?' - or - 'You know, doing the dishes right now isn't helping at all. Can't you see that there are more pressing needs than having clean dishes? You know, your kids need your have feelings, dishes don't...the dishes won't mind if you ignore them for a while.'

"ugh. it was getting pretty ugly. When it all came to a head, my husband finally blurted out, 'You know, nothing I do is ever good enough for you!' And my heart broke because I knew he was right. Here I was, blessed with an amazing man, but I couldn't appreciate him because my attitude and my heart had become so hard.
"So my revelation was that: #1 - My job as a stay at home mom IS an important job, that takes INTELLIGENCE, CREATIVITY, STAMINA, and SKILL. I have all of those qualities and I have grown in those areas tremendously since I have had children. I am uniquely qualified for what I do everyday as I raise 5 children, homeschool them, love them, and provide a loving atmosphere for my family. THIS ISN'T A JOB FOR A FOOL! And no....not everyone can do it.

"#2 - Since I am uniquely qualified for the work I do (just as my husband is uniquely qualified for the work he does in the Air Force) it is unrealistic to expect my [husband] to do my job as well as I do. He wouldn't expect me to do his job as well as he does, so why did I expect that of him?

"So, when I realized these things, I went to him and asked him to forgive me for the way I had been treating him over the years. Especially when I would broadcast the 'I think you're an idiot because you can't take care of the house and kids' attitude. I am thankful that he forgave me and it really has freed us up from unrealistic expectations.

"Now I have more respect for myself. I know I am capable, efficient and intelligent. [My husband] now comes to me and says, 'What can I do to help?' and I don't think, 'You should be able to figure that out!' I am free to give direction and be a good family manager and delegate. We are a much better team than ever before. Maybe I needed to respect myself more, so I could respect him more. I don't know...but I do know that nothing is like it used to be.

"Oh, and I want to add this, my attitude wasn't self contained I'm afraid. I know that my attitude caused my children to lose respect for their dad, and this is the thing that grieved me the most. So I guess, without sounding too preachy, I just want to say to all the ladies, be careful of your attitude toward your husbands efforts to help. It is going to take some time for our family to heal in this area, but it is very important to me that my children respect their father and see that I am grateful for all he does for us."

Another SAHM's experience
"You are very lucky to be able to realize that what you're doing for your family is important, but ... you are also extremely lucky to have a [husband] who, from what it sounds like in your post, ALSO realizes it.

"My children are all in grade school now, and I have been a SAHM since they were born. I've also been going to school part-time, been quite involved in MOTC, neighborhood organization, church, PTA, and now 2 internships related to my college degree.

"Still, whatever I do, my [husband] does not seem to appreciate my efforts because they are not 'paid work.' So it's not just me who thinks 'any chimp could do my job' it's him as well, and that's where MY frustration lies. He doesn't want to be responsible for any of it, but does not appreciate the fact that I am.

"Recently I interviewed for a full-time job that would have started immediately, throwing our family into the two-career, kids in day-care lifestyle that so many families face. Although that's what my [husband] has said he has wanted for years, I can see from our recent conversations about this possibility that he still wants it both ways. He wants the convenience of having a SAHM to coordinate the family's schedule, and relieve him from having to take on any household responsibilities, but the income of a working wife.

"I want him to realize how much effort I make to keep the family running smoothly, but I'm afraid it will only become evident when I'm not doing it any more, which I think is a real shame. I was actually relieved not to get the job, as I don't think our family is prepared yet for that change.

"For those of you whose husbands do help, or even those who don't help, but who value and appreciate how much YOU do, be sure that you realize how lucky you are.

"I was listening to the Diane Rheam (sp?) show on NPR today & heard the tail-end of a segment on a book called 'Halving it All' by Professor Francine Deutsch, which seemed to be about many of the same issues of dividing up family responsibilities that have been discussed on the list recently. Has anyone read the book? I'm thinking about picking up a copy, it sounded really interesting & many of the calls to the show could have been taken directly from posts to this list.
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