When Jana Werksman arrived at her first South Palm Beach Parents of Multiples meeting, she realized that they were in the middle of their annual clothing exchange. In spite of all the excitement and jubilation surrounding the sale, a club member was there to greet the pregnant mom to boy-girl twins. “She handed me a large shopping bag and guided me around the room,” Werksman remembers. “At each table someone gave me something whether it was baby clothes or gear, or even a hug. They were so welcoming.” They also assigned Werksman a Mommy Mentor, a veteran member of the club who had four-year-old twins. “She was amazing,” Werksman says. “She called me weekly and even came to the hospital when I had my twins to teach me how to breast-feed. She never said anything negative and built my confidence as a new mother.”
The Power That Comes From Joining a Twins Group
Each year, thousands of moms join a local mothers of multiples club to link up with other women expecting twins or more. Being an active member of a twins group not only eliminates the anxiety that often accompanies a multiple pregnancy and the crazy months to follow but the friendships members make often last a lifetime. “Without the support of this club, and more importantly, the connection to these parents, I truly do not think I would be the parent I am today,” says Susan Bauer, president of Saddleback Mothers of Multiples Club located in South Orange County, California. This mom to four girls including identical twins believes that other moms of multiples just get it—they understand the unique challenges that come with raising multiples. But for Bauer, the benefits of joining her local group went beyond just affirming that she’s more than capable for the job ahead. “The group taught me the importance of giving back to our community through our philanthropic endeavors, as well as passing on what I’ve learned to new moms just beginning their journey into the world of parenting multiples.”
Although there are hundreds of clubs throughout the United States—307 according to the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs—many moms can’t find a group in their area. For instance, there’s no formal group in the state of Mississippi, a sad reality for Barbie Whitehead, a mother to three daughters including fraternal twins. Although she’s connected with other twin moms through her blog, The Ssippi Scoop, it’s just not the same as one-on-one interaction, leaving this magnolia-state native feeling a bit left out. “I can’t help but feel jealous when I see other twin moms getting together in their area,” she says.
[May 2013 update: There's now a group. Check out Mississippi Moms of Multiples on the web.]
Starting Your Own Mothers of Multiples Club
So is Whitehead and other women just like her destined to be club-less forever? Not necessarily. In fact, starting a group is not as hard as you might think.
Just ask Kelly Carter. When she was a new mother to fraternal twin girls, she quickly grew frustrated with her local twins group as they weren’t fulfilling her needs as a new parent. “Most of the moms at the meeting were also grandmothers interested in knitting, crocheting, cross stitching and following Roberts Rules of Order when it came to running their meetings,” remembers Carter. So she took matters into her own hands and started Multiple Moms Mingle, a club for new and expectant mothers of multiples. Now seven years later, this Syracuse, New York gang is still going strong with more than 150 members. “Our group is full of fun, supportive, and encouraging moms,” she adds. “Many of the moms in this group have become my closest friends.”
Jennifer Strickland found herself in a similar situation. When this North Carolina mother to four was pregnant with twins, she drove more than an hour to check out the closest twins club meeting. But the long commute proved to be too much. (Who could blame her?) “I attended one meeting,” she says. “Then I vowed to help other twin moms in the future so they wouldn’t feel so lost.” So just seven months after her identical twin sons were born, Strickland started the Goldsboro Parents of Multiples Club. Although the organization was small, they were mighty helping many new moms of twins feel confident in their ability to care for two or more babies at a time. “Although we no longer meet regularly, we are all still very good friends and talk often,” Strickland says adding that there’s been renewed interest in restarting it. (Maybe this article will be the catalyst!)
These moms weren’t marketing geniuses or social media gurus; they just saw a need in their lives and communities, and decided to fill it. And you can, too.
If you’re thinking of forming a group, your first stop should be the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, the only national support group for parents of twins and higher-order multiples. Their free publication, How to Organize a Parents of Multiples Club, takes you step-by-step in the set-up process from how to run your first meeting to the job descriptions of committee chairs. Furthermore, NOMOTC will contact you shortly after sending out the booklet to see if you have any questions.
“The amount of work in the short term will be worth it in the long term,” explains Tiff Wimberly, Membership Vice President of the organization. The benefits to being a part of NOMOTC, she says, are numerous from group exemption with their non-profit tax status and access to a Parliamentarian who can help you in writing your club’s bylaws to discounts on publications and convention registration. “But to me personally, it’s the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just your local club,” she adds. “Just as members rely on each other for support, our member clubs rely on us for support.”
Jennifer Strickland contacted NOMOTC before starting her multiples group. “I read all of their information on forming a club,” she says. The booklet inspired her to find other moms to join up. She put up flyers around town and contacted her local newspaper for a free news brief in the Sunday edition. Kelly Carter created postcards and mailed them to families after reading about the birth of their twins announced in the paper. You can also post a flyer at your local hospital or doctor’s office, too.
“As you find potential members in your community that are interested in participating in the club, delegate a task to them,” suggests Wimberly. “If everyone does a little then no one person has to do a lot.”
Next, decide where you’ll meet. In the beginning it can be at your own home, or you can secure a conference room at your local library, hospital, community center or church basement. “Start small and start social and build from there,” says Wimberly.
Keeping the Love Alive
All clubs experience growing pains at some point. As members’ children age and begin to matriculate into school, for instance, priorities change for many. When this happens, it can be tough to keep some members’ interest in the club alive. Suddenly, soccer practice and ballet lessons, piano recitals and book reports take precedence over Wednesday night’s club meeting. The result? Many moms with older twins drop out or simply fade away.
So how do you keep members with older children engaged and active in the club? “Recognize that there are all sorts of parents and a group should be open and supportive to everyone,” suggests Lauren Favetti, mom to three children including fraternal twin girls and the former co-president of Moms of Multiples in Essex, an active group of 70 members in Northern New Jersey. “As we get new people coming in, we try to tap into their strengths and keep them involved with a fun atmosphere.” Furthermore, this twins group is flexible in not only when and where they meet—they alternate their monthly gatherings between evening and day, and switch locations from local hospitals to lively restaurants—but they also allow members to participate either online through their Yahoo Groups, in person, or both.
“The biggest fiasco for any group is lack of communication and dialogue between members,” explains Kristin Larsen, former co-president of Mothers of Twins Club of Rockland County, a group of 40 strong in suburban New York. Committee chairs need to be in touch with the concerns of all their members. “We encourage our members to share their thoughts, express their feelings, and vote on various activities such as fundraisers and the like.” This philosophy has helped the group stay together for more than 40 years. “We listen. We share. We learn. And we have fun,” says Larsen, a mom to fraternal twin boys.
Making all members feel valued is paramount. Lisa Hatch, president and founder of North Metro Mothers of Multiples Club near Atlanta Georgia says her group is made up of mostly new moms but they still rely on their “veteran” moms to offer advice. “I leave the breast-feeding questions or which stroller to buy to the newer moms,” explains the mother to three boys including fraternal twins. “But I can totally step in and talk about how we deal with too many birthday presents, separate classrooms or any other older-kid concerns.”
Are There Alternatives to an Organized Twin Group?
Although having a large, supportive group right there in your own town is optimal, it isn’t necessarily the only way to get the support that all new moms to multiples need. Take Alyssa Nelson of Oklee, Minnesota, for instance. With no formal group in her area, this mother to two-and-a-half-year-old boy-girl twins started a Facebook group for other moms of twins in Northern Minnesota. They may live far apart from one another but they still manage to rendezvous twice a year for a “Twinfest,” a raucous weekend of family fun. “We get together at someone’s lake house with all the kids,” she explains. “It’s a blast! And every year at least two more sets of twins from people we meet throughout the year join us.”
With her annual get-away growing each year, maybe there is a formal group in the making after all. How does Northern Minnesota Mothers of Multiples sound? I think it has a nice ring to it, don’t you?