Parental Worries and Challenges
Am I doing the right things for my children? Am I doing enough? I feel so TORN and inadequate.
The early weeks and months with twins are rewarding, but they can also be exhausting. Along with the endless days and conflicting demands of our children, come parental worry and guilt.
For parents whose newborns spend their first days/weeks in NICU, we are torn between hospital and home. Though it is impossible to be two places at once, trying to divide our time amongst our children can leave us feeling guilty. One mother trying to be there for her two older children, while her infant twins in were in NICU put her worries into words.
"[My twins] are finally well enough for me to devote a little of my worrying energy to my other kids. They'll be 5 weeks old tomorrow and are probably going to come home in a week or so. I am visiting the hospital 3 times a day to do their feeds and stuff and play with them. As they get older and stronger they are needing more stimulation/company/ cuddles and I find it hard to walk out and leave them there.
"Meanwhile my other kids (especially [my daughter] who is only 1) hardly see me at all. They are well looked after (I have an excellent nanny/mother's help who loves them dearly) and seem pretty happy but I cannot stop beating myself up about handing so much of their care over to others. In my mind it is 25 years hence and my daughter is sitting in her therapists office saying ‘and when I was just 1 my mother had TWINS and more or less vanished for two months’. And the therapist is saying ‘well no wonder you cannot form meaningful relationships/have a drug problem/work as a stripper/ chronically underachieve (tick all that apply).
"I feel like I am leading a double life - both badly. I know that this sounds insane and that everybody is probably going to do just fine, I just wish I could relax a little about it." – Twins-l Member
Even those of us whose little ones don't spend time in NICU must figure out how to balance our time with our children. The demand on our time is constant. Our older children find themselves waiting to have their needs met. There are fewer opportunties for focusing our attention on each of our children individually. Sleep is elusive, leaving us tired. All of things can leave us feeling that our 'best' somehow isn't enough.
Some thoughts on keeping things in perspective
Our firstborns had something that their younger siblings didn't. "I do take comfort in the fact that [my singleton son] was "king of the castle" for four years before [our twins] were born. He had both of our undivided (usually) attention. This is certainly not the case for [his younger brother and sister]!" - Twins-l Member
Our twins have enriched each others lives as well as the life of their older sister in a way that we, as her parents, could not have. All of the struggles have been more than worth it. "It was very challenging in those early months to feel like I wasn't cheating everybody. [Our 2-yr old singleton daughter] no longer had all of my attention. I couldn't spend as much time with [each of my twin daughters] as I had been able to when I had only one infant. One of them crying while I comforted the other was so difficult at times. But having come out the more rested side of all of that... I can tell you that there are truly incredible joys with having twins and a singleton. My twins are identical, yet have incredibly unique personalities. Their ways of exploring, approaching challenges, and experiencing life are so very different. I watch them in awe. [My oldest daughter] takes such delight in teaching them and pride in their successes. Of course, they have their battles, but there is a very strong bond between them, and THAT is a gift." – Twins-l Member
It won't always be as hard as it is during those early months. "Now that [our twins] are two years old it's much better. It didn't take two years to improve, more like six months. Things will never be the same as before the babies are born, but that's not always a bad thing. - Twins-l Member
Handling conflicting feelings and demands
Some of us find ourselves missing the special times we used to have with our older children before our lives became more complicated, even with the love we feel for our newborns.
"Do any of you who have singletons and twins ever miss that one on one time with your singleton? My 2.5 yr old son is at such a wonderful age now and is such a joy to be around. It just seems to work out that [my husband] spends time after work with [our 2-yr old singleton] and I focus on the girls. I think we do a great job (if I do say so myself) making him know how special and loved he is but he certainly doesn't get the time with mom that he used to.
"I love being a [mother of twins] but sometimes I am envious of my friends with singletons who can do things like movies with their kids without giving it a second thought." - Twins-l Member
Thoughts and suggestions:
"Definately! I've also been trying really hard to spend some extra time with my 3.5 yr. old daughter. She's had a tough time, on and off, adjusting to not just one but two little brothers. I think of late she's been feeling better about being the big sister; she's helping more and is kinder to them. We spend some special ime together after the boys go to bed at night, and we've been making sure to do some special things she enjoys as a family (like going to the pool or McDonald's Playland)." – Twins-l Member
"I work full-time and my husband gets home pretty late, so it is hard to "schedule" 1 on 1 time for the kids. I don't want that to be an excuse. Luckily, this is my last week teaching summer school and I'll be off for a few weeks. I'm keeping my wonderful babysitter on 2 days a week, so that will give me the opportunity to spend time with each of my kids." – Twins-l Member
"My oldest is now 4yrs and my twins are 2yrs. I felt that way more when my little ones were still tiny and consuming so much of my energy and attention, but still have my moments now. The good news is that, though I have battled those feelings from time to time [my singleton daughter] has weathered it all VERY well. She adores her sisters (well... when they aren't stealing her toys, throwing something at her, pulling her hair... but I digress!) and will often insist that she wants them along even when we have an opportunity to spend some time alone together.
"That one-on-one time is harder to come by than it is in a family with one child. But don't forget that they have something special in each other. Not only do they have a mommy and daddy that love them with all their heart and soul, they have each other too. Yes, as they get older there are obviously battles with each other, but my heart delights at the games they play together, the giggles they share, the moments of tenderness that pass between them, and the pride that [she] takes in the accomplishments of her younger sisters (who she still calls *her* babies).
"So though it is true that I can't focus all of my attention on each one of them as easily as I could if they were my one and only, I know that they have something equally special in the relationship that they have with each other." – Twins-l Member
When faced with the everyday reality of balancing the conflicting activities and needs or our children, it can be challenging to find the answers.
"How do I get my son to bed when I am alone with all 3 kids? Our usual ritual is that I get in bed with him and read him 3 stories of his choice at 9:15 PM. He then falls alseep and I leave him in his bed. I really look forward to this time with my son but it happens that the twins are colicky during this time and I've been forced to eliminate his story time and/or put him to bed later. Should I just let the girls cry? Any other tips? He really has a hard time going to sleep earlier. He has had to give up a lot since the twins arrived and I don't want him to give up his one on one with mom night time ritual." - Twins-l Member
Thoughts and suggestions:
"I have four kids under the age of five, am a single mom and have just returned to work full time...I wish I had some magic advice to give you. My twins are three months, two weeks and still have this colicky (fussy) time at night from about 6 until 10. I have no choice but to let the babies cry while I'm doing my thing with [my older children]. As long as they are fed and dry, it won't hurt them to cry for a bit. It's important not to give up your time with your two year old, resentment can set in fairly easily." - Twins-l Member
"I say to put the girls in a swing to accomplish this. Let them cry for the couple of minutes this takes to get him into bed. " - Twins-l Member
"It's important that [your son] still have that special time with you. I handled this a couple of different ways over the early months. One option is to make sure their needs have been met as much as you can and put them in a bouncy chair or swing, and focus on [your son]. Another thing that you can try now or in time, is including [your twins] in the routine. They are too young to get much out of it, but I was actually quite surprised to realize that [my singleton] actually liked having her sisters in the room (fussy or not). I'd sit them in vibrator chairs on the floor of [her] room and do my best to read to [her] above the noise. I actually found that after a time or two they rather liked the change of scenery and were far quieter during this time." Twins-l Member
[Singleton 8yrs, Twins 2 mos] "I feel like I am missing out on part of [my 8-yr old singleton daughter’s] life since the twins arrival. She plays softball and they have practice 6 days a week and a game 2 sometime 3 days a week. They started playing at the end of March and I have only been to 3 games. The twins got a cold so I couldn't take them out, then it's been still too chilly most other nights to take them and risk them getting sick again. There just always seems to be a reason for us to have to stay home. [My husband] has offered to stay home with the twins so I can go but I won't let him because I feel like it's more important for him to go. He enjoys it so much. Plus it's special time she gets to spend good bonding time with daddy I just feel like the odd person out sometimes.
"I don't get to do as much with her since the twins arrived as I used to and it bothers me some. I don't think it bothers her half as much as it does me though, which I'm glad of. Anybody else go through this after the arrival of their twins?" – Twins-l Member
Thoughts and suggestions:
"My singleton wasn't as old as yours, so 'activities' were different. But I did have those feelings. I wasn't able to spend the same amount of time with her. First, it won't always be as hard to get out with them as it is right now. Second, I really think you should consider taking your husband up on his offer once in a while. It IS special bonding time for them, but YOU'RE missing out on that time with her. You wouldn't be taking away their bonding time by taking his place now and then. Take those opportunities when you can get them. I'll bet it would mean a lot to her too." – Twins-l Member
"I do not have any children other than my twins but I wanted to respond. I agree you should take your husband up on his offer. While going with your daughter is special bonding time for him and her. If you go with your daughter, then your husband will have special bonding time with your twins. This way you both get special time with your children." - Twins-l Member
We understand that the lives of our singleton(s) have been turned upside down, and it can leave us unsure of how to deal with the behavioral issues that we're encountering.
Though it is important to be understanding of the adjustments that our children are going through, it is also important to maintain normal boundaries.
"Any advice for coping with a big brother who just turned 4 and for his birthday present, his twin brother and sister arrived!!! [He] is struggling with acting out, putting himself in the corner, yelling and just getting mad! He was the EASIEST going, fun child before he was DETHRONED!!! I NEED HELPFUL HINTS on making it thru this difficult period. We have bought big brother gifts, set up individual play dates for him, Grandma and Grandpa have taken him to do special things...but then he gets home and he totally regresses to this behaviour that is SO unlike him, but what I hear is very normal!! I find my patience running THIN!!!!!! And it breaks my heart to watch him get so upset...Lots of hugs and loves are being given too!!!!" - Twins-l Member
"I have a 2 year old and almost 5-year-old child in addition to the new arrivals. My oldest, a boy, has been high maintenance since he came home from the hospital at birth. He didn't react well to his sister's birth 2 years ago and now, with my attention split 4 ways, he has been a royal pain. How did anyone else cope with the NEGative behavior of an older child? Some days I hate to admit it... I love him but I can't stand how he is acting and I just want him to go away. (Temporarily, of course.)" – Twins-l Member
Thoughts and Suggestions:
"His life has been turned upside down by the arrival of these little ones. He's undoubtedly struggling with a lot of emotions. Keep that in mind, but don't keep that knowledge from drawing boundaries and disciplining when necessary. At times when I was pushed to my limits, that sympathy for what she was dealing with did help me keep my cool." - Twins-l Member
"As far as how to respond to the negative behavior, I believe that you need to be consistent with the behavior you expect from him just as you would have been before the twins. He is going through an adjustment to their arrival, as you all are. Make sure that he knows he is loved, and is an important part of your lives. But, even if it means setting down a baby in the middle of nursing to put him in his room... do it. Don't reward his negative behavior with attention, but also don't allow him to get away with the negative behavior because you're too busy. ([My singleton] always had her worse behavioral moments when I was nursing.)" - Twins-l Member
"If he would view time away with relatives (like grandparents) or friends that are near as something special, make plans for him to take an outing with them alone. This could also have the reverse effect of making him feel like he's being pushed aside. You know him better than anyone, and can probably judge his reaction." – Twins-l Member
"Play up the benefits of being the "big" kid of the family. There are probably things that he gets to do that his younger siblings don't – even things as simple as walking to the mailbox with mom or dad, running the grocery store with you for a gallon of milk, etc. There are probably toys he gets to play with that his younger sister and the babies aren't allowed to play with. Make him feel important." – Twins-l Member
"Involve him (if he's willing) in their care. He's old enough to retrieve burp cloths, diapers, etc. Try to do what you can to set him up with activities before preparing to nurse (for example). There are games that he could play where you could nurse and still be involved. For instance, my 4 yr old loves to play games on the computer. If he enjoys this, you could set up a chair and nurse those little ones while still being involved in his game." - Twins-l Member
"I have a four year too, who's quite the green eyed monster right now! LOL We are doing the best we can, but it seems he's taking the birth of the twins pretty hard, especially since his real mom - I"m his stepmom - gave birth two months before I did, and he has new babies in both homes. All you can do is make sure you make special time for him. Have either dad, or relatives babysit while you go to the mall or park with him. Make some special time every day for him. Incorporate his help with the babies, like getting diapers for you. I know this is very hard, believe me I know. My [stepson] is four. My other son is eight. We have tried to make sure they are all getting attention, but we can only do so much. We have enlisted the help of family, so we can spend time with all kids. Good luck." - Twins-l Member
'Rough' BIG brother/sister affection
"[My singleton son] loves his babies sooooooooo much that he wants to HUG them to death-SMUSHES them and tries to get them out of the bouncy seat or swing...SCARY!!! Any suggestions there!!!! We let him hold them but have told him over and over not even big sissy gets them out of the swing or seat!!! Doesn't faze him!!!" - Twins-l Member
Thoughts and Suggestions:
Some babies enjoy the roudy behavior of their older siblings. "When [our older singleton] comes home or into a room he gets right in their faces and starts making funny noises - they howl with laughter. If [he] is in the room the babies are watching him - sometimes they have their heads turned completely around like owls.- Twins-l Member
"I also allowed my older child to touch, hold (with help) and love on her baby sisters. I worried that trying to keep my older child to keep their hands off the babies can lead to resentment, so I just kept my distance and watched to make sure she wasn't rough. If she got rough, they'd let her know. They actually thoroughly enjoyed the attention and silliness of their older sister." – Twins-l Member
"I REALLY tried not to step in unless I was concerned she was going to hurt one of them. I could tell that her affection was sincere and didn't want to discourage her feelings toward them. Do the little ones yell when he smushes them? That could be an indication of whether they are uncomfortable with his big brother style of love. If they didn't seem bothered by it, I would keep a watchful eye but not do a lot to step in. I would reserve the stepping in for the other situation... the picking them up. I think some kids are more prone to this than others. That definitely has the potential for injury. I don't know what you've done to try to discourage this, but a couple of ideas are:
- Give him a thorough explanation of how babies can't support their heads and it takes two BIG hands to make sure that their necks are properly supported.
- Tell him that anytime he wants to hold/love one of those babies to let you or dad and you'll help get them set up in a safe way. As a rule, I ALWAYS accommodated [my 2-yr old daughter's] desire to hold one of the girls when they were this little and she was still adjusting to life with them (if possible)... even if it was inconvenient.
- Keep your eye on him! I have a friend whose nephew (who was more like 2.5) picked up his newborn brother by the feet and carried him over to mom (who was on the phone). Not cute! He was ok, but I would have died!!! – Twins-l Member
One thing you can surely count on is that multiple infants draw attention. They draw attention from friends and family. And, they draw attention from passers' by when out in public.
While we are doing everything that we can to reassure our singletons of their importance in our lives, the attention that is naturally drawn to multiple infants can send a different message.
Some children will respond by doing something collect some of that attention for themselves.
"[My 3 year old] stands right next to the stroller when people admire the babies. If someone does not notice him, he automatically starts hugging on one of them." - Twins-l Member
"I too have an older daughter, she is 5 1/2. The twins are 11 weeks old today. She is very funny. In public though if you show the girls attention she always does something to draw attention to herself, so lately going to the mall is a real challenge." -Twins-l Member
But, many children will simply observe. If you find that you are concerned with the balance of attention, consider ways that you can respond.
"When we are out, we always have strangers stop to admire the twins. My beautiful 9 year old stands next to the stroller but it's like she's invisible to them. I always add to comments, "yes, and they do have a most wonderful big sister, too." I didn't realize how much it meant to my daughter until she specifically mentioned to me how appreciative she was that I didn't let her get left out. It's just one little area that might help to spare your little girls feelings!" - Twins-l Member
"Make sure you bring attention to your older child when people are admiring the twins. Some people do make a conscious effort to acknowledge the singleton but most do not." - Twins-l Member
"My son was eight when the twins were born. Friends and strangers (you know how that is) were always very good about asking him questions to make him feel included. I commented to him one time about how he was getting a lot more attention now too, since the twins were born and he pointed out to me something I had not noticed. People always included him in on the conversation but they always asked things like; How does it feel to have twins? Are you a big helper now that the twins are here?, etc. He said people always asked him about the twins and never just about him. Then I realized that whenever he was asked anything the twins were always thrown in there with the question. This might not be something younger kids are able to verbalize but que people in on this and have them exclude starting everything with the twins. See if it makes your first shine a little brighter when being asked questions." - Twins-l Member
"I think that as a parent I have had to work doubly hard to attract attention for my singletons at times when the 'cute little identical twins' got attention just for existing. Yes, twinning is special but being a singleton is just as special in other ways! I always casually point out [my singleton son]. Even if they don't seem to care, he appreciates that I include him." - Twins-l Member
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