7 Things I Learned as a Stay-at-Home Mom of Twins

Two weeks ago, I returned to a full-time job outside the home for the first time since my twins were four months old. With my fraternal twin sons busy partying studying at college and my singleton occupied with high school, the timing of my position as an elementary school librarian couldn’t be better! A steady paycheck to help offset the staggering cost of sending both twins to college is a true Godsend. Although I loved being home all these years (it gave me the opportunity to build a freelance writing career), it certainly was a sacrifice both emotionally as well as financially (few freelance writers can actually support themselves). So if you’re thinking about staying home full-time with kids, go in with your eyes wide open.

In hindsight, here’s what I learned.

1. You are in the minority.

In 2013, nearly 70% of women with children under the age of 18 worked outside the home. By contrast, only 47% of moms worked outside the home back in 1975. The difference between “then” and “now” will have an impact on you. If you choose to stay home with your twins, you’ll clearly be in the minority as I was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but consider this: the days of neighborhoods teaming with at-home moms and preschool kids are over. More than likely, your girlfriends will be working; your neighbors will be working. And from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, your neighborhood may resemble a ghost town. (I know mine did and it was a bit disconcerting like the time I lost power in my home and headed outside to see if anyone else had lost theirs except no one was home to ask! It was a true Twilight Zone moment.)

2. You need to actively seek out a posse.Mother holding infant twins

Although 70% of moms are working, 30% are home with the kids just like you. The trick is finding them. For moms who are “joiners,” establishing a posse will take just a few weeks. For others, however, finding the right people will take time. But make no mistake—you will need support! You need to surround yourself with other moms (and dads) who have chosen the same path in life as you. Although your friends who work full time can be very supportive and sympathetic, few truly understand the challenges that the stay-at-home mom of twins faces every day.

So join a play group or Mothers of Twins group, attend library story time, get a membership to an indoor playground or kids museum. For it’s at these types of venues where you’ll meet and connect socially with other stay-at-home parents just like yourself.

Infant twins crying3. Even though there’s lots of noise, staying home with the twins can still be isolating and lonely.

There will be days—cold rainy days, everybody-in-the-house-is-sick days, waiting-for-the-repair-guy-all-day days—when it’s just impossible to go out. And after about eight to ten hours stuck at home alone with the kids, you’ll be ready for a stiff drink or a straight jacket. Some of us don’t mind getting down on the floor and playing Barbies for four hours straight. But others (me!) can’t handle play time for more than 30 minutes at a stretch and crave adult interaction, some adult conversation.

Now, reread #2.

4. A little TV never hurt anyone.

Before you have kids, you think, “I’ll never let my kids sit in front of the TV all day!” And then you have kids, and think, “I used to watch TV as a kid and it didn’t hurt me, so what’s the harm?”

Hey, if you can truly live without TV (or XBox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS), then more power to you! I am truly in awe of those families but we were never one of them. Although we were an active family with lots of indoor and outdoor imaginary play, when I had had enough, I would turn on PBS or a video and in a matter of minutes, a sense of calm once again reigned over my domain. As my kids zoned out to Big Bird, I had time to regroup, or at the very least, make lunch in peace.

But as most things in life, everything in moderation.

5. Don’t let twins stop you from venturing out.

Many new moms of twins are simply too overwhelmed at thought of packing up two infants and heading out for the day. So they stay home for that first year wishing for the days when they will be mobile again.

Don’t be one of those moms.

Not only are you wishing away the most precious time in your twin’s lives but your fear is a bit overblown. Sure, it’s tough for one mom to maneuver two infants. But you can do it! And the payoff is significant.

Every time I headed out for the day, I came home refreshed and rejuvenated. I returned believing that there was nothing I couldn’t do. I was an independent stay-at-home mom!

So start small. One mom told me that when her twins were infants, she used to head to the drive-through coffee kiosk. Once she had her hot cup of joe, she’d park and read a book while her twins peacefully snoozed in their car seats. You can do that, can’t you? Once you feel confident, graduate to the mall or even the beach! Heck, I even took my toddlers to see the Space Shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base. (It was a crazy day that we still laugh about.)

6. You need a schedule.

For me, the monotony of the everyday minutia got to me from time to time. But once I got my twins and myself on a schedule, things changed significantly. For instance, knowing that my twins would nap from 9 to 11 every morning and then again from 2 to 4 every afternoon, helped me to hang on to my sanity. I could plan my day accordingly—I knew when I could shower, or eat, or even write. Having my twins on a schedule made me feel “normal.”

7. Don’t forget your exit plan.

Hard to believe but your twins will grow up. Even harder to believe is that very soon, they won’t need you on a minute-to-minute basis. And then what? What will you do? Many moms would like to head back to the workforce but quickly learn that it isn’t easy finding a job that matched the career they gave up all those years ago to stay home.

In addition to keeping up with the kids, you’ll need to keep up with your skills. At the very least, subscribe to journals within your chosen field so that you can stay current with market trends. Or, take a night class or class online to learn a new skill. And all those volunteer hours that you put in at your twins’ preschool? Document those too as they are valuable skills that future employers look for. (i.e. Organizing the school book fair, taking on the task of PTA treasurer.) Stay in contact with former colleagues, too, by meeting for lunch every few months.

Staying home is a noble profession. Time with your children is so important as they truly grow up very quickly. Make it enjoyable. Make it count.

My College-Age Twin: “Can You Overdraft Yourself?”

I can hardly believe that my twins’ first semester in college is nearly over. As you may remember a few months back, I was having a difficult time adjusting to my new life sans my sons (my babies!), but just like the first 18+ years of their lives, these past few months have flown by, too. And so here we are just about a week before Christmas, and my boys are (hopefully) studying diligently for their finals and packing up their dirty laundry to haul home this Friday for the winter holiday!

With the exception of the Thanksgiving break, my boys never come home for a visit nor are they very good at calling, but they will iMessage me. Although there’s nothing sweeter than the “ping” of my iPad alerting me to a potential message from my beloved offspring, sadly they only contact me when there’s some sort of crisis, such as this exchange I had with one twin about a visit to the laundry room that went awry:

iMessage on laundryBut he had already overloaded the washer even though he tried to convince me otherwise.

iMessage doing laundry in college

Yes, I gave the boy a tutorial on doing laundry before he left home but apparently he wasn’t listening.

Not long after, that same son caught a bad cold, and was under the misconception that the local pharmacist would dole out topical ointments—free of charge—to help him out. WTF? Have I taught him nothing?

iMessage cold sore

But his cotwin has had a few problems of his own. Although I thought I versed him well on fiscal responsibility, mainly on how to balance a checkbook, apparently he wasn’t listening either! And neither was his cotwin as evident by this group message among the three of us.

iMessage Can you overdraft yourself?

Although these messages prove that even though they are in college, they don’t know it all (even though they are convinced they do) and still require lots of tender guidance. But every once and awhile I get a loving message from one or the other that portends the incredible men that they are slowly becoming.

iMessage Just to talk

And this one from his cotwin, the one who last year would roll his eyes at me every time I tried to offer advice. This one means the most.

iMessage I'm not gonna lie

Yes, my babies are coming home and I can’t wait to see them! So Mama Ting is signing off!

A very Merry Christmas to all and a healthy and peaceful New Year!

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When It Sucks to Be a Female Twin

Have you heard the news? Monaco’s Princess Charlene and husband Prince Albert II, welcomed newborn twins, Gabriella Therese Marie and Jacques Honore Rainier, into the world this past Wednesday. Now normally I don’t pay much attention to “royal news,” but this one caught my eye for it’s odd circumstances. Namely that Gabriella, who was born first, will take a backseat to her twin brother. It is Jacques, and not Gabriella, who is now the royal heir, the future ruler to the centuries-old Grimaldi dynasty.

Why? Because Prince Jacques is a male, and Princess Gabriella is not.

Here’s the explanation:

“Prince Jacques Honore, Rainier, has the quality of Hereditary Prince. According to historical use established by the Treaty of Peronne (1641), he received the title of Marquis of Baux (in Provence),” the Palais explained. “Princess Gabriella, Therese, Marie, the second child in the line of succession, received the title of Countess of Carladès (Auvergne).”

Oh, those crazy royals. Such sticklers for rules. And talk about setting up a twin rivalry. Just wait until Princess Gabriella grows up and realizes she was majorly shafted simply because of her sex.

But not every royal family follows this archaic rule of succession. In 2011, for instance, the crown prince and princess of Denmark also gave birth to boy-girl twins. Prince Vincent is fourth in line to assume the throne but only because he emerged from the womb ahead of twin sister, Princess Josephine.

Now that’s more like it.

Furthermore, that same year just before Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, announced her first pregnancy (Prince George), the British monarchy quietly changed their succession laws. Now, gender no longer matters—whoever is born first will assume the throne in the United Kingdom.

For those parents of twins who go through great lengths to keep their twins’ birth order a secret in order to avoid a rivalry between their twins, Monaco’s succession laws must seem completely outdated.

What do you think?

Have a Question About Twins? Ask a Parent of Multiples

It’s true. If you want to know the real truth about raising multiples, then ask a parent with twins, triplets or quads. I have always known this but recently while trying to figure out what to write for this blog post, I had an “ah-ha” moment: “Why not let the parents speak?” Since starting this blog more than four years ago, I’ve had hundreds of parents leave thoughtful comments (for the most part) on the posts I’ve written. So I’ve decided for this week’s post, I’ll turn it over to them and provide you with the best of the best on a variety of parenting twin topics. Read on for their insight. (Please note: I’ve edited some comments for grammar and brevity.)

From 10 Things You Should Know About Your Twin Pregnancy:

Your advice is exactly what pregnant twin mamas need to know. I especially agree with asking for help from friends and family. I am grateful for the meals delivered by my best friend and sister, and the laundry done by grandma, and the gardening done by my sister, and the walks grandpa took with the boys in the stroller. My obstetrician told me that anyone who enters your house is either doing dishes, laundry, or cooking. He was so right.blonde twins behind a tree

From 8 Tips to Parenting Older Siblings to Twins:

I have a son and twin girls. Time and time again, when we would be out, everyone would pay attention to the twins and not “Big Brother.” When strangers would ask the twins’ names, I would always respond with, “Hailey, Madison and this it their Big Brother Mason.” I would always in some way include him in the conversation. I agree, they can just get lost in the shuffle.


My singleton is just 18 months older than my twins (all boys!) and now at ages five and three, respectively, it is interesting to see the different relationships develop and change. My twins have always been very close but one twin has developed a strong relationship with his older brother, too. I agree with your advice to mix it up often—getting them out separately is important. And, we often have sleepovers for each twin in his big brother’s bedroom or one twin get to take a bath with big brother, etc.

From The Younger Singleton to Twins—Rough Road Ahead:

I am (now grown-up) younger sibling to twins. We are all girls. Growing up I knew no different—it’s my ‘norm’. My sisters and I were always fairly close, and the age gap seemed unimportant as we grew older (and still even less relevant today). Naturally my sisters always had each other to share new experiences, they always had a partner to play/gossip/fight with. I can remember times when I was overlooked, couldn’t be involved or simply wasn’t needed. But every sibling experiences this at some stage. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I, with the help of a counselor, started to understand the implications of my unique sibling relationship, that it HAD impacted my personality (for good and bad) and self-esteem. Of course, environmental factors and other family dynamics all play a part. But I wanted to share my experience so that mothers of twins with (especially younger) siblings can be alert and aware. I’m not sure it’s something my mother ever considered or thought about. The upside to the age gap with my sisters is that I had my mum to myself during the day for five years while my sisters were at school. Thinking back, I’m sure this was crucial in helping my feel special without needing the validation of specialness that comes with being a twin.

From Why Do So Many Identical Twins Think They Are Fraternal?:

Our first big clue that my di/di boys were MZ (identical) was that their blood type is the same. At their four month checkup, their pediatrician said that she thought they were starting to look alike and recommended that we do the DNA test if we were curious. I’m glad we did the test. There are practical reasons for knowing if they are identical—we’ll be able to tell if one of them falls behind developmentally, we know they are cool with being on the same schedule (naps, feeding, etc), and tend to like the same things. It’s amazing how their teeth came in the same order, they started crawling within days of each other, and even started walking within an forty-five minutes of each other.

From Are They Twins? (Does That Question Bug You?):

I don’t mind the “Are they twins?” question. General twin questions are fine. But it’s the subsequent PERSONAL questions and comments that drive me crazy. I have boy-girl twins, with my son growing significantly slower than my daughter. Almost without fail, the “Are they twins?” question is followed by, “Really? But she is bigger than him.” The response I WANT to say is, “You got me, they are not twins, I was just tricking,” or maybe “Wow, I hadn’t noticed that.” Or the truth, “You’re right. We are not sure why he is growing at a slower rate but it worries us a lot. We are following numerous medical avenues and only hope that it is not something serious.” Instead, I grit my teeth and answer, “Yes, she is.” I have found this short, simple answer stops further questions. I don’t think you should stop talking to twin moms. But I have stopped asking “Are they twins?” and instead I say something like, “Aren’t twins great? How are YOU coping with having two babies?”

From Is It OK to Invite Only One Twin?:

Why should a twin get a “benefit” a non-simultaneously born sibling wouldn’t? Creating an environment wherein twins feel “entitled” to special treatment is a dangerous thing indeed. While it hasn’t been my favorite parenting task to explain to my twins that you cannot always do everything your brother/sister does, it’s been an invaluable life lesson in learning, “You can’t always get what you want!” Coping is a great skill to learn early; delaying it due to “twindom” or sheer inconvenience is a parenting cop-out, in my opinion, making it much harder later in life.

From Twins and Sports—Another Case of Twin Discrimination?:

My girls were very close in ability and when they tried out for volleyball their freshman year, they both made JV, but one was chosen to “swing” to Varsity. My twin that didn’t get chosen was disappointed. I told her I understood, but wasn’t she happy for her sister? I thought her reply was priceless, “Not right now, but I will be.” And true to her word, she was her sister’s biggest fan and supporter. They went on to play all four years together in volleyball—one as a setter, and one as a middle. It’s a tough lesson, but one that children do survive and grow from!


I just experienced this exact situation last night. Both my daughters tried out for select soccer, and I knew there was a possibility that only one would make the team. Sure enough, I received a call from the coach who was concerned about choosing only one twin. I was very appreciative of the phone call, but I felt that it wouldn’t be fair to hold one twin back simply because her sister didn’t make the team. My daughter that made the team really wanted to play and I explained to my other daughter that she could continue to play recreational soccer and try out again next year. She was fine with it because I made it okay for both of them. Although I felt good about my decision, my husband did not agree with it and I started to second guess myself until reading your article. Thank you, thank you! I would like to forward to our coach too. Maybe it would make him feel better about having to make these tough calls!

From Stay-At-Home Moms of Twins Need Support…Or a Job:

While I always planned to stay home with my children, until the day my twin girls were born, I worked full-time. I had been extremely career-oriented for eight years, and I quickly realized, I really didn’t know anyone locally outside of the business world. Couple that with the demands of multiple infants—when even going to the post office takes major planning, or orders from the doctor to keep premature babies out of public for X weeks or months—a new MoM (mother of multiples) can easily feel isolated. Therefore, I’m so thankful to have found a group of other moms—all mothers of multiples—many of whom I now consider amazing friends. It’s important for me to get out and about, and it’s important for my twin girls, too. I also underscore the importance of a double stroller! Once I got the green light from the pediatrician to leave the house, and got a little more comfortable with the logistics, even a trip to the post office could do a mama good.

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How Do I Take My Twins to the Park Without Losing Them?

Question of the Week: I’m a stay-at-home mom with 18-month-old fraternal twin boys. They are very active! I would love to take them to the park by myself so they can run around but I’m so afraid that they will run off in opposite directions and that I’ll lose them! I know that sounds a bit paranoid on my part but it’s a real fear. Any suggestions before I go crazy inside this winter?

Answer: We’ve all been in your shoes—home alone with the twins about to go stir-crazy but nearly paralyzed with fear to venture out, thinking that something sinister or bad will happen. After all, how can we keep up when it’s two-against-one?  But it’s not only possible but an empowering experience to head out alone to your neighborhood park with your twins! Below are just a few tips to help make the day a success.

Nothing bad is going to happen.

Seriously. It’s going to be just fine. Yes, there will be tense moments. Yes, they may whine and cry. Yes, there may even be a time when you lose sight of one twin (or, God forbid, both) but nothing bad is going to happen. You are a competent mom, able to handle an emergency if one arises, so relax and breathe deeply.

Choose your destination wisely.

Choose a small park in a nice neighborhood, away from heavily traveled streets. (Or ask other new moms for their recommendations.) Some parks even offer gated areas for the younger set—a life saver! Choose a destination with age-appropriate play structures, too, ones specifically geared towards toddlers and preschoolers, avoiding parks with play structures meant for the older kids (think rope swings and the like).

Be prepared.Blonde twin boys with serious faces.

Pack plenty of sand toys, soccer balls, riding toys, snacks and cold drinks. Why so much stuff? When one or both toddlers get antsy, you can quickly switch gears and focus their attention on something else. If they begin to squabble over who gets to ride the red trike, for instance, divert them with a favorite snack or treasured sand toy. Crisis averted! Yes, it’s a lot of gear for one mom to haul, to be sure, but better to have too much than not enough. That’s when a wagoncomes in very handy, especially if you add the tag-along trailer, perfect for stowing all your twins’ paraphernalia.

Review the rules with your twins before you venture out.

Although your twins are only two years old, it’s never too early to talk about good behavior and what you expect of them when you go to the park. Review the day with your boys, explaining how important it is for them to listen to you. Obviously, they will push the boundaries more than once on your outing so give them a stern warning or two. But if they continue to misbehave and run off, pack up and go home. Yes, they will scream. Yes, it will cause a scene. (Yes, you will break a sweat.) But if you follow through, they will quickly learn that you mean business and future visits to the park will be much more pleasant.

Wear a whistle (and don’t be afraid to use it).

Sounds a bit crazy but it works. Wear a whistle around your neck and explain to your boys that it’s your “emergency whistle.” When they hear you blow it, it means come quickly! At the very least, having a whistle can alert everyone around you just in case one of both of your twins does happen to slip out of sight for an extended period of time.

Dress your twins alike in bright colors.

This is the one time I believe it’s perfectly fine to dress your twins alike. Not only does dressing them alike in bright colors make it easier to spot both boys, it helps others to spot them, too, if your boys manage to wander off and you need help in locating them.

Take along a friend.

Strength in numbers, girlfriend! Maybe another stay-at-home mom would like to join you? Even though she needs to watch her own child, just having an extra pair of hands to help out in a pinch can be a life-saver to a mom with twins.

Know when it’s time to go home.

You may have just left home a mere hour ago but if your sons are not cooperating with you, be the “Mean Mommy,” pack up, and go home. Similarly, if it’s getting close to dinner time or even nap time, don’t press your luck by staying. The situation can turn from idyllic to hellish in just a matter of minutes.

Don’t get discouraged if you have a less-than-perfect afternoon.

There’s no such thing as a perfect outing with young twins! But with practice, you can get pretty darn close. So don’t give up!

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

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What’s It Like Having a Singleton After Twins?

As the mother of three boys (18-year-old fraternal twins and a 16-year-old singleton), I’m often approached by new moms of twins who inevitably ask the same questions. “Are they close?” or “When does it get easier?” Pretty standard stuff. But when these moms spot my youngest son—the singleton—they lean in close, eyes widening and ask, “What’s it like having a singleton after twins?”

Good question.

My youngest son is exactly two-and-a-half years younger than his fraternal twin brothers. If truth be told, he was a surprise as we were not actively trying to increase the size of our family at the time. All during my pregnancy, I worried about the impact of having three kids—boys, no less—all under the age of three. I thought it was hard enough and now another one? I even cried the day I went into labor knowing that when I returned home from the hospital, life as I had so carefully controlled and had scheduled down to the minute, would be no longer. We would have to start all over. How would I ever handle it?

And then my son was born, and I fell in love. Instantly. Completely. I cried again but this time with tears of joy. Suddenly every fear I had had about bringing another child into an already busy household vanished.

Was there a period of adjustment? Absolutely. Were there challenges? Of course. But having another baby was not nearly as terrifying as I had initially thought. So if you, too, are thinking of trying for another baby after having twins, go for it!  And here’s why.

My singleton pregnancy was easier than my twin pregnancy.

During my twin pregnancy, I gained 60 pounds. By my fifth month, I couldn’t sleep comfortably. A short walk to the car left me breathless. I developed PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), a condition characterized by annoying rash that sometimes affects pregnant women, especially those carrying twins. But with my singleton? I gained a mere 30 pounds. No panting and puffing when I walked. My feet didn’t swell; my back didn’t constantly ache. Sleeping was easier, too.

Nursing was easier.

The whole breast-feeding process fell into place from DAY ONE. I was calmer and more peaceful. After all, I had nursed my twins so now I was an experienced nursing mom!

Bonding was different…in a good way.

Yes, I bonded with my twins quickly. But there were two of them, and it was rare when either baby ever had my full, undivided attention. But since they were my first children, I had nothing to compare it too, so bonding with two at once was my “normal.” However, when my singleton was born, I had a huge “ah-ha” moment. “Oh, so this is what it’s like!” I thought. Bonding with my singleton felt different. It felt more intense, like falling in love. And if I’m honest, I liked it. I truly enjoyed the whole getting-to-know you process with him. I felt so lucky to have the chance to nurture just one baby at a time.

I didn’t worry as much.

I didn’t sweat every cough or sneeze because I had done it all before. It wasn’t my first rodeo, as they say.

Caring for a singleton after twins was a piece of cake.

Really. Easy. One diaper to change. One baby to nurse. Getting out the door for the day was a snap, especially with preschool twins who could run and fetch things like the diaper bag.

Sibling jealousy was low.

We’ve all heard stories about older siblings who sometimes use attention-getting behavior (bed wetting, reverting to baby-talk) once a younger sibling is brought into the household. After all, a first-born child is not used to sharing the spotlight with a newborn sibling. Yet when twins are the eldest, much of that behavior doesn’t exist. Why? Because the twins have each other. There has always been another sibling in the house so neither one was ever top-dog, or mom and dad’s sole focus.

When my singleton was born, the transition from a family of four to a family of five was much easier than I anticipated. When my twins came to visit me in the hospital, for instance, they seemed completely uninterested in both me and their new brother (they were more interested in all the monitoring gadgets in the room). I didn’t take it personally. Actually, I was relieved. When their younger sibling came home, they just went about their business, slowly integrating him into their day-to-day lives.

So were there any challenges to adding a singleton after our twins? Yes, but just a few.

My husband and I were outnumbered.

It was now three-against-two. Translation? More household chaos.

My singleton sometimes feels left out.

I’ve talked a lot about the plight of the singleton sibling to twins here on this blog. It can be tough for some single-born children in a family with twins as they sometimes feel left out—mom and dad have each other; the twins have each other. But who does the singleton have? Furthermore, if the twins are identical and/or closely bonded, the problem can be exasperated. Solution? You need to work hard at building strong relationship among all siblings, and focus on the family as a whole, not just the uniqueness of twins.

And by the way, if you’re worried that you’ll have another set of twins, relax. Although lightning can strike twice, the odds are pretty slim that you’ll conceive twins again.

So what do you think? Are you ready for another baby?

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Younger Sibling to Twins: What Happens After the Twins Leave?

It’s been a few weeks since my twins left for college and after that rough first week of missing them, the three of us—my youngest son, my husband, and myself—are slowly getting used to a “new normal.” Without my twins underfoot, the house is much quieter which is hard to take at times but it’s also much cleaner! Time has seemed to slow down, too, since I’m no longer running around accommodating the schedules of three busy boys. That part is a refreshing change. But grocery shopping is still a challenge—it’s hard to gauge how much milk and bread to buy, for instance—and so are washing the dishes and our clothes as it takes forever to accumulate a full load.

But I’m confident that it will all fall into place soon. The bigger issue at hand, however, is our family dynamics, and namely, how all our relationships are changing, evolving.

After my twins left, I quickly realized just how much of my time and energy was devoted to my kids, sometimes at the expense of my own well being and that of my marriage. So it’s been my mission of late to concentrate on taking care of myself (I’m hanging out with girlfriends more and getting more exercise) and nurturing my relationship with my husband. We have been spending more leisure time together having friends over and heading out to dinner by ourselves. And just last week, we hit a few estate sales, something we used to do frequently before we had kids. Yes, my marriage needs to be lovingly tended to, and I’m so happy to have my husband as a close companion, as it should be. Even my twins have each other for support as they transition to their new lives as college co-eds, but who does my youngest have? Who is his wing-man?

And that’s the worry question of the week for me.

As tough as it’s been for my husband and me to adjust to our new semi-empty nest, it’s been equally difficult for our youngest. With only two years between them, my three sons have been very close, often socializing with each other on weekends. But I sense that my youngest is having a difficult time adjusting to this new family life without his brothers. Two of his buddies are gone. And being a boy—and a teenage boy at that—he’s not exactly forthcoming with his feelings.Even my twins have each other for support

I’m treading new parenting waters—I want to be sensitive to my youngest and his situation. I want to be there for him emotionally but at the same time I want to be careful not to treat him like a victim because he’s not. This is his life. He was born the youngest to twin brothers. Period. That position in the family has its advantages as well as its challenges. And right now, it’s a challenge! But I’m trying to be responsive to his needs. To that end, I’m trying a few new techniques to build better communication and ultimately a stronger family unit.

We are creating our own special traditions.

One of the benefits of having two kids fly the coop is there’s a bit more time and money to spend on the child that’s left at home. For instance, after church on Sunday evenings, we head to Blaze Pizza—his favorite—for an inexpensive dinner. It’s not my choice necessarily but it is his, and that’s what we are focusing on now.

I’m encouraging my twins to keep in touch…with their younger brother.

Although I’m trying to let my twins set the boundaries when it comes to communicating with us, their parents, I am encouraging them to keep in touch with their younger brother more often through social media. They have been great about sending regular Snapchats and texts to their brother. All three play Minecraft together online on weekends, too. I believe all this helps.

A mom I know who has the same family structure (older twin boys; younger singleton son) says that her twins even asked their friends who stayed at home to study at local community colleges to look in on their younger brother. “He loves it,” she told me. “The friends call or take my son out occasionally for ice cream or a movie.”

I check in with my single-born child regularly.

I love picking my son up after school. Our 20-minute car ride home is a chance for us to catch up on the day and “check in” with each other. He seems to be the most talkative right after school, too (it’s certainly not when he gets up in the morning), so I save my questions and concerns for the ride home.

We encourage him to go out on weekends with his friends.

We’ve talked with my youngest about making an effort to be more social and it’s working! (In the past, he would get a bit lazy as he always had his brothers to entertain him.) So when he wants me to drive him to the football game, I say, “no problem,” no matter how tired I am. If he wants his buddies to sleep over (again!) on Saturday night, I say, “sure!”

Building a strong social network is important for every child’s emotional well-being, whether you are a sibling to twins or not!

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I Need Help With My Aggressive Toddler Twin!

Question of the Week:
I have fraternal twin boys who are 16 months old. Recently one of the boys has become super aggressive. He steals his brother’s toys, hits, bites, throws food and bangs his head on the wall or the floor. It seems like nothing I can do will make him happy or calm him down. Any advice you can give me would be great.

Answer: Toddler anger and aggression is caused by frustration and in many cases is not only normal but healthy. Biting, hitting, throwing food, and yes, even head banging, are all common ways for a frustrated toddler to behave. Although I’m sure that’s comforting news, it certainly doesn’t help your level of frustration at this point in time! But in order to help your son deal with his aggressiveness, you’ll need to try to understand it first.

Many factors contribute to a toddler’s feeling of frustration. For instance, your son may grow increasingly irritated at the beginning of a new developmental stage such as mastering his fine motor skills. If he’s struggling with his shirt buttons and then collapses onto the floor in a pool of tears, don’t react negatively but rather show patience and understanding. Practice the new skill together when your son is calm and open to learning. Or perhaps he’s not quite developmentally ready to take on sharing toys with his co-twin. As parents of multiples, we all know that young twins must learn to share their toys a bit more often and a bit sooner than singleton children do. Yet sharing is not innate but a learned skill. Help your son master the art of sharing by congratulating him when he does (and ignoring the times when he can’t). You can even try incorporating “trading” in your twins’ play day. (“Hey, why don’t you trade toys with your brother? You give him your truck and he gives you his ball!”) You can award pretzel sticks or stickers each time your son politely shares or trades a toy. And don’t forget to teach by example as children watch their parents’ every move. (“Look! Daddy is sharing the newspaper with Mommy. Thanks Daddy!”)

Biological factors may also be a contributing factor to his negative behavior. He could naturally be more inflexible than his co-twin. A speech or auditory disorder may be at play as well. At 16 months old, your twin son may be frustrated in trying to verbally communicate his needs and wants to both you and his co-twin. Some studies have shown that speech delay and aggression in children may be related. In fact, a study published in 2003 in Developmental Psychology, found a link between physical aggression and lack of expressive vocabulary in 19-month-old twins. Have your son’s speech evaluated for no charge through your local school district.

And finally, think about your home and/or daycare environment. Overcrowding, not enough toys or even a lack of adult attention may cause some of his negative behavior. Take some time to simply observe your child in his environment and watch for his trigger points—is he tired? Is he hungry? Is he lonely? Make accommodations where you deem change is needed.

It’s important to remember too that your goal is not to repress your twin’s anger—he’s allowed his feelings—but rather to help him channel his frustration in a more constructive way. However, if he continually hurts himself or his co-twin, or you feel his behavior is out of control, he may need to be evaluated by a professional as it could signal an emotional problem.

More Tips to Calm an Aggressive Twin:

  • Carve out alone time with each twin separately every day. All children crave one-on-one time with their parents, especially twins who often don’t get enough. Positive parental attention and affection often curtails negative behavior.
  • As long as he’s not hurting himself or others, try to ignore the negative behavior but not the child. Catch him when he does act in a kind, caring or cooperative way and praise him enthusiastically. (“Wow! I like how you gave your brother that cookie. That was so thoughtful!”)
  • When a child hits or bites his co-twin, respond immediately and firmly tell him that the behavior is unacceptable. Be specific. (“No. You may not bite. Biting hurts.”) Then turn all your attention to comforting the victim.
  • Help your child express himself and his frustrations verbally. (“You seem angry that your brother is riding the tricycle. Do you want a turn? Let’s ask him nicely for a turn.”) And if you suspect that your twins’ speech is not on target, get him evaluated by a professional.
  • Offer ample opportunity for some physical exercise. Engaging in large muscle activity—running, skipping, bike riding—releases tension and negative emotions.
  • Keep your cool. Diffuse tense situations with humor or try distracting your son with a book or toy. Offer lots of affection in the way of hugs and verbal praise.

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

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My Twins Are Heading to College: Insert Sad Face

In a few days, my twins will be heading off to college. While they are excited and more than ready to fly the coop, I’m barely holding it together. It’s actually a cruel twist of fate—for many years of my twins’ lives, I wished they’d “hurry up and grow up,” thinking that the next stage of their lives would be easier than the stage that they were in! I’ve made no secret on this blog that I found the toddler years to be especially difficult. With two little boys running in two different directions, I was often exhausted, totally spent by the end of the day. Well, my little boys have grown in the blink of an eye (POOF!) and now they are heading out the door.

My heart is breaking. Twice.

sheets, towels

We are still color-coding! Even as they pack for college, it’s red for “Twin A,” and blue for “Twin B.”

It’s tough to say whether this is hitting me harder because two are leaving at the exact same time. Would I feel the same level of sadness if just one child were leaving for college? As my twins are the oldest, I have nothing to compare it to. But this I do know: my twins constitute a large percentage of my brood! It’s a big chunk of energy, laughter, and just plain chaos that won’t be around from day-to-day. And as much as I have complained (both here and to my husband and friends), I loved the energy. I relished the laughter. I will miss the chaos.

But mostly my twins leaving symbolizes an end of an era. For the past 18 years, my life has revolved around my kids. Although I have many interests outside of the family, at the moment, I can’t remember what they are! I had an interesting life before my kids but I’m clearly at a loss as to what that was. It’s going to take some time to reinvent myself, to get back in touch with the former Christina. But I need to find her.

So as I end this post, I’d like to give a bit of advice to those Moms (and Dads) out there with young twins:

  • Embrace the chaos! 18 years will go by in the blink of an eye. I swear. I used to hate it when strangers would approach me in the store when my kids were acting up, saying, “Enjoy it now because before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone.” It’s hard to enjoy tantrums, picky eaters, finger paint all over the living room carpet, and little boys who won’t take their naps, so instead embrace it! Learn to laugh at the craziness in your life. Takes lots of photos. Shoot lots of videos. At the very least, it will give you something to do instead of pulling out your hair.
  • Nurture your marriage. Yes, the kids are important. Yes, they need your attention and love but so does your spouse. One day very soon the house will be quiet again and you’ll be alone with the one you married. If that relationship had been put on the back burner while the kids were young, it’s going to be a lonely second half of life. Remember why you two fell in love in the first place? Focus on that every day.
  • Save your money! Sending two kids to college at once is enormously expensive! Open those 529 college savings accounts today. And save as much as you can while the kids are young and the money has a chance to compound and grow. It’s a much better strategy than saving just a bit while they are young and then amping it up when they are older.
  • Finally, be selfish. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


Boy-Girl Twins: Should They Have Their Own Bedrooms?

Question of the Week:
My daughter and husband have fraternal twins, a boy and girl who are now 5 years old. They are sleeping in the same bedroom and have been since birth. At what age should they have their own rooms?
—D. F.

Answer: Your question is one that inevitably pops up in all families with more than one child but in the case of twins, and in your particular case, boy-girl twins, there are many more issues at play.

When twins are young, there’s no doubt that sharing a bedroom offers comfort and companionship. After all, nighttime doesn’t seem so lonely or scary to a child when a sibling is nearby. In fact, many parents report (I include myself in that group) that sharing a bedroom actually promotes quality sleep with less waking in the middle of the night. But for some toddler twins, sharing a room may actually disrupt the other’s sleep especially at nap time when one twin decides he’d rather play than rest. If this is a concern, many parents have found that when they set up a pack n’ play or port-a-crib in another location such as a home office or den, both twins can get their afternoon shut-eye without much disruption.toddler boy-girl twins

On the other hand, twins have always been expected to share more than singletons simply because they were born as “a pair.” Many parents of twins place the duo together in a single bedroom even if another is available simply believing that twins should be together to promote their special bond. Yet because of this forced sharing, some twins have a harder time individuating or developing a sense of autonomy. Or, some twin roommates end up squabbling over territory. Many twin experts, therefore, believe that parents should strongly advocate for their twins’ own personal space and that means offering each child his or her own room. No need to worry that the twin bond will suffer by this new arrangement. By allowing each child a bit of privacy to discover his own distinct personality, their bond will actually strengthen.

Your question has one more component, perhaps the most important: should brothers and sisters share the same bedroom? At some point, most twins ask for individual rooms especially boy-girl twins where issues of personal privacy and modesty come into play. As opposite-sex twins reach puberty, they may begin to feel more self-conscious about their bodies and uncomfortable in sharing the same space but not know how to broach the subject with their parents. Mom and Dad should therefore begin the discussion of personal privacy and appropriate boundaries early in their twins’ lives, and when they reach the school years, offer each twin a space of his or her own.

But what happens if space simply doesn’t permit for each child to have his or her own bedroom? What are your options? Thankfully the Internet is full of clever designs for dividing a single bedroom into two, separate spaces. A simple Google search turns up a vast array of suggestions from using a wide bookcase to hanging a curtain down the center of the room. I even saw an ingenious design using old, wooden construction pallets!

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

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