The addition of a new baby to any family can turn things upside down temporarily. So you can imagine what the arrival of twins, triplets, or (gasp!) even quads can do to family life. Yes, living in a 21st Century Twindom is busy and chaotic but it doesn’t always have to be. Follow these simple tips for a more blissful life.
1.) Decide what’s important to your family and what’s not.
Families often bring on their own stress by taking on too much at once. You can’t do it all so don’t try. It’s OK to say “no” to birthday party invitations, the school carnival, the PTA meeting. You don’t have to volunteer for every committee. And, yes, it will get done without your help. Just “hanging out” as a family is a good thing. Really. Set boundaries for your family and stick to them.
2.) Get your young twins on a schedule.
When my twins were babies, I was the Sleep Nazi. Once 7 p.m. hit every night, I’d walk around the house announcing the time every five minutes. “Ten more minutes until bed! Five more minutes until bed! OK! Bed!” For me, if my kids weren’t tucked in by 7:30 p.m. every night, I couldn’t “turn off” and relax. So from the time they were infants, I worked towards getting them on a schedule. Bath time, story time, and bed time were the same every day. They had their meals and naps at approximately the same time every day, too. Sticking to a schedule helped me to better plan my day, and know that a moment’s peace was just right around the corner.
3.) Limit after-school activities.
We all know them—those parents we see rushing their kids from a basketball game to baseball practice; the moms idling in the fast-food drive-through lane with two little girls in the back seat of the car struggling to change out of their soccer uniforms and into ballet tights. (Maybe I just described you?) As more and more schools cut physical education classes and competition for college admission intensifies, it’s no wonder parents feel the pressure to have their kids step it up. But at what cost? Kids aren’t getting enough down time, not to mention homework time. And parents are pulling out their hair trying to manage an ever-increasingly busy schedule. Try an experiment—one sport or activity per season per child. Period. Guaranteed your kids will thank you.
If you think about how much time you spend taxiing your kids to and from school and after-school activities every day it’s enough to make your head spin! Find another family to split the duty and reap the rewards of extra time (plus you’ll help the environment and your wallet). Even one day off a week will mean that dinner gets on the table in time.
5.) Teach your twins to do for themselves.
When my twins hit second grade, I had an epiphany. Why was I making yet another peanut-butter and jelly sandwich? They can do it themselves! Admittedly, the first few attempts were disastrous but they kept at it (and I kept ignoring the mess), and in no time, they were making their own school lunches. Bingo. My husband (bless his heart), also sets up a “breakfast bar” every night before he goes to bed. He lays out bagels (which he has already sliced and put back in the bag), the toaster, plates and cups. In the morning, the kids are on their own which gives me ample time to write and my husband a few more minutes in the shower.
and while you’re at it…
6.) Give your twins regular chores.
As parents, we’re not doing our kids any favors if we continue to do everything for them. Our job is to teach them how to take care of themselves. So give each of your twins a separate chore (it helps them learn to work independently of one another) and amp up their responsibilities as they get older. For instance, a five-year-old can set the table (sans steak knives), a six-year-old can empty out the trash, and a seven-year-old can match socks from the dryer. Or, how about my husband’s personal favorite? He makes my 12-year-old and 15-year-old twins clean the bathrooms. Every week. What a guy. But the way we see it, it’s one less thing for us to do and they learn a valuable skill.
7.) Carve out time alone with your spouse.
It’s easy to put the marriage on the back burner as kids zap you of energy but if you do, you’ll notice that frost will begin to permeate your relationship and sometimes it just doesn’t thaw.
You don’t have to do the whole “date night” deal to reconnect with your partner. There are many other ways to keep the sparks ignited. For instance, once a week my husband and I go on a quick, morning hike in our local mountains (they’re literally right outside our door). We hold hands, talk, laugh, and get exercise! Through the years, it’s really helped us to stay in tune with one another.
And if you’re too pooped at night for some lovin’ there’s always the morning. Wave good-bye to the kids on the school bus and then phone your boss and tell her you have a dentist appointment and you’ll be a bit late. It will be the best white-lie you ever told (not to mention a heck of the way to start your day).
8.) Nurture friendships; connect with others in the multiple’s community.
Husbands are great; girlfriends are indispensable. Gather up a group of your best buds at least once a month and head out to dinner or grab a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. Then feel the love!
9.) Get off the computer and go snuggle on the couch! Your family is waiting.
Yes, using the computer does save us time. We can quickly answer an e-mail that in years past would have resulted in a twenty-minute phone conversation instead. But some of us spend way too much time checking Scrabble on Facebook or browsing the latest shoe offerings at Zappos. You’ve got to pull the plug and just vegetate on the couch with your kids.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an episode of Modern Family on Tivo that the kids and I are dying to watch.