Marcy is a 30 year-old first-time mom to fraternal twin girls, Amelia and Ella, born in September of 2007. After taking a one-year maternity leave, she returned (kicking and screaming!) to her job as a state worker. As it so happens, raising twin toddlers and working (albeit part-time) is not all it’s cracked up to be. So, she has decided to pursue a different career, and thus begins her new adventure as a stay-at-home mama at the end of June. She is anxiously awaiting what her two new bosses have in store…
All in the Family, by: Marcy
When we broke the news that I was pregnant with our dynamic duo, I got my first glimpse at twin celebrity. People were amazed that two babies were growing inside my belly. Truth be told, so was I! And, it didn’t take long before the comments started flowing. Oh, you know the ones… “Twins? Good luck!” or “Better you than me!” And, my personal favorite: “What are you going to do with two babies?!” I remember my usual response like it was yesterday. “Oh, don’t worry about us,” I would say. We’ll have lots of help. My in-laws live right upstairs.” Famous last words.
Prior to the girls’ arrival, I had a great relationship with my in-laws( ILs). My husband and I moved into the IL’s second floor apartment days after we were married. Five years later, when we announced my pregnancy, my ILs graciously gave up their larger first floor pad to make room for babies. Nice, huh? By the time Amelia and Ella were born, my mother-in-law (MIL) had retired and was available to us any time, day or night. I know what you’re all thinking… “This is a bad thing because…??” Because it was. It turned out to be an awful thing for our family, and one that I did not see coming.
We hadn’t even made it out of the hospital when I suspected there might be a slight problem. As if it’s not mortifying enough to have countless sets of strange hands on your boobs (I refer here, of course, to the lactation consultants and nurses), it was somewhere in the realm of the insane to have my MIL “show” me the correct way to breastfeed my babies. In case you haven’t experienced this before (and I pray you haven’t!), this is truly an out-of-body experience. I remember thinking, “Um, you breastfed ONE baby 33 frickin’ years ago, and that makes you an expert? Get your hands off my boobs, woman!” Still, who had time to focus on MIL’s grabby hands when I had two poorly-latching babies? And, it was this attitude (born out of pure necessity), that got me into trouble in those early weeks and months.
Between the continued breastfeeding struggles and twin sleep deprivation, I let a lot of stuff go. I was in survival mode. I didn’t care if my husband trained a chimp to relieve me of a late night feeding; I just needed some sleep. MIL doesn’t like the Baby Bjorn because she fears it hurts the babies’ legs? Who cares? Who cares, if, on the day I decide to give it a go with exclusive breastfeeding, MIL is in the other room screaming that I am starving the babies? Not me! But, somewhere around week 8, I started coming out of my haze, albeit slowly. While I had been adamant from the beginning about the girls’ 3-4 hour feeding schedule, I started to figure out some other things, too. It’s right around this time when I noticed that MIL had long ceased knocking at the front door before entering. It had become a free-for-all. I actually felt so much like a prisoner in my own home (ahem, their apartment) that I would pack up two newborns and make a mad dash for the car whenever my anxiety became too overwhelming. I would go out of my way to hit up a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru two towns over just to get some alone time with my babies.
The worst part about the whole ordeal (yes, worse than the aforementioned touching of the boobage!) was that I had no idea how to safely broach the subject with my husband. I mean, how do you tell the man you love that you have visions of strangling the woman who gave birth to him? Very delicately. I decided to make it more about me. I focused on how my MIL’s behavior was negatively affecting me, causing undue stress and anxiety that was not good for our girls. And, I must say that my husband was extremely supportive. He has had my back since Day One. Incidentally, thanks honey! That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair share of squabbles over the issue. Many a tiff were born out of my perception that he was not appropriately outraged at MIL’s latest escapade. And, as angry as I would get at my husband, I also felt bad for him, too. It is his mom we’re talking about here. You know… the woman who raised him.
I have laid awake many a night wondering why it all went so wrong. What could have been an ideal situation for new parents of twins turned into my own daily episode of Dr. Phil. I think our many battles can be summed up with just one word: control. My MIL has a super controlling personality. And, me? Do I consider myself a control freak? Pre-twins, no. Post-twins, heck yeah! Awake by 7 A.M., fed by 8, nap at 9. Rinse, wash, repeat. Organized chaos — essential for any new mom of twins who desires a semblance of normalcy in her life. And, God help the person who dares interfere with said chaos.
Here’s my best advice for anyone currently struggling with similar issues: Decide as a couple how you want to raise your children. Then, make your wishes known to family and friends and ask for their support. For instance, let your parents and in-laws know that your kids are not allowed to drink juice (no judging here, just an example), and ask that no juice pass your kids’ lips while in their care. If your wishes are not respected, make it clear that you are disappointed and discuss expectations for future visits. Do not be afraid to stick up for your family and your choices, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel in the moment. This has been one of the most difficult lessons for me as a new mom, but one of the most valuable to date. There is part of me that is almost grateful to my MIL for her overbearing ways. She has pushed me to find my own voice as a mother.
Have any of you faced a similar situation with the in-laws, or even your own parents? How did you deal with them?
My name is Jennifer. I am 34 years old, married to Paul, a wonderful husband and father, since 2007. We were both previously married and we each have a child from that marriage. I have a seven year old daughter named Juliana. Paul has an eighteen year old son named Paulie. We were thrilled to welcome our twin boys, Louis and Anthony, into our family last July. They are now ten months old and a lot of fun. In February, we learned that we were expecting another baby. What a surprise this was! My c-section is set for September 22, 2009. We are expecting another boy.
I have my Master’s Degree in Counseling with an advanced certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. Prior to the birth of our twins, I was a social worker for a foster care agency here in NYC. I am now a stay at home mom to our children, and although it is the most challenging job I have ever had, it is also the most rewarding. I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Family Circus by Jennifer N.
I thought raising a little girl was difficult. I mean for a seven year old girl, she has the mouth and attitude of a 17 year old! And the outfits, hairdos and the girly melodrama issues are really starting to turn my hair gray!
So finding out I was having twin boys really made me very excited! I wouldn’t have to deal with whining girls, I wouldn’t have to deal with the dramatics, I wouldn’t have to deal with the dressing up and competition with girlfriends… But I guess I was not prepared for the boys!
My twins are only 10 months old. They are a pleasure to have around. I am amazed that I have been blessed with good sleepers, sleeping through the night since they were seven weeks old. They have never given me any problems with eating, although Louia has acid reflux, and once we put him on Zantac and changed his formula, he became a new baby. We go out and they don’t scream and cry. We go to restaurants and they sit like big kids. They smile at everyone and are always pleasant. They really are great kids!
But boy are they bruisers! I didn’t think I would have to worry about wrestling for years! How can two ten month old boys lie on each other and roll around on top of each other without getting hurt? I guess since they have always known life together, scrunched up inside the womb all those months, they are used to it, but wow! And I would have thought it was way too soon to see them yank back and forth at a toy they both want! I rarely hear them cry over any of this, but I am still amazed that this has begun at only ten months old!
Yesterday, Anthony took off his shoes and socks in the play corral. He was standing up holding on. All of a sudden, I see the tiny toes of one foot creep into the x shaped slats in the corral… then the second set of tiny toes crept in as well… and Anthony was halfway up the corral wall trying to get out! And where was Louis? Right behind him! In a split second after that, I saw a third set of tiny toes creep in there as well. I jumped up and got them both off the corral, but not without more gray hairs!!! I am afraid my little monkeys will be out of the crib, corral and Pack and Plays sooner than I thought!
Shortly after the toes in the corral experience, I was cooking dinner and was peeking at them from the kitchen. Luckily I can see everything from the kitchen. I saw Anthony push Louis down on the ground and he stepped right on top of him to gain more leverage to the top of the corral wall! And Louis wasn’t even complaining! Am I in trouble! Especially since I am pregnant again…. with another boy! Boy oh boy… oh boy!
I was hoping maybe I would have another famous family of male actors like the Baldwin family or a famous family of boy singers like the Jonas brothers, the Jacksons or the Osmonds… It would have even been nice to have another famous family of boy athletes like the Mannings of football or the Bodines of Nascar driving! Instead, I may just be looking at the next Ringling Brothers! Well, how fitting, sometimes this house is just that… a circus!
Christina is mom to 21-month-old fraternal twin girls, Elena and Clara. She and her husband adopted the girls at birth, and have been on a whirlwind adventure ever since being given the three-day-notice that they were chosen to be parents to twins! In her life-before-babies, Christina was a full-time professor and researcher of family communication. Having moved from theory into the reality of family communication, she now keeps her work life at half-time, and revels in the adventures and excitement of life with two almost-two-year-olds. She chronicles the girls’ adventures at darnhappy.blogspot.com
Research and Reality, by: Christina
The research is clear. There are two things that happen to almost everyone when they have children: their workload goes up, up, up, and their martial satisfaction goes down, down, down. As a brand new mom, I was determined that this wouldn’t happen in my own family (and that it definitely wouldn’t happen TIMES TWO just because we have twin girls). But, as I find often, there is a gap between what I WANT to happen and what DOES happen. Sure, things have gotten easier now that are girls are 21 months old instead of 2 months old, and my husband and I have some time to sit, breathe, and talk to one another again. But still, even though I am a professor of family communication and I know what I SHOULD be doing, that doesn’t mean I’m always doing it! And so, in an effort to keep our family life as good as we can get it, here are a few reflections on the SHOULDS I am working on that may help some other moms of HDYDI:
1. I SHOULD be careful about messages I send my children about the role they have in our family. I try to avoid falling into the common twin-trap of answering passerby asking “Which is the outgoing one?” “Which is the happy one?” People want to pigeonhole our twins, assign them rigid roles, when they are each outgoing at some times, they are each happy (and unhappy) at others. Children will naturally take on their own roles in a family, they don’t need to be pegged into them (especially by people outside our family!). Yet just this week I’ve caught myself telling my daughter Clara: “Look at how nicely your sister is sitting – can’t you sit nicely like her?” What am I teaching her about her role in our family when I put her in opposition to her sister like that? That Clara is the “not-good” one who has to try to be “good” like her sister? Or when I say to Elena: “I’m disappointed you didn’t share with your sister. It makes me sad when you don’t share” I’m telling her she’s not fulfilling her role as a sister/daughter very well, yet it’s not developmentally appropriate yet for not-quite-two-year-olds to fully grasp the idea of sharing! Even though we never say to the girls “You’re good” or “You’re bad” (and instead try to focus on telling them when they’ve made good or bad choices) I’m still sending them role messages, and I need to be careful about what I’m telling them.
2. I SHOULD reach out for resources when I’m stressed out. Stress happening to one person is happening to the whole family, and so when I’m feeling overwhelmed about meeting the needs of two very demanding little toddlers at once, it’s not just me who feels that. It rubs off on my interactions with the girls and my husband, too. But when we feel pressure, the stress that results is moderated by all kinds of things, and one thing that can help reduce the overall stress on the family is the use of resources. I should call some friends to come play with us, take the girls out on a beautiful day to get us all out of the house, grab a snack to make me (and them!) less cranky, go to one of the free kid-friendly places in town for a diversion, call a fellow mom of multiples to hear that “this is normal” or schedule in some time just for me after the girls go to bed. I have a tendency to wrap myself up in my stress, to reflect on it and let it grow and multiply. Instead of that focus inward, I need to focus outward and grab on to all of the resources that are available to me.
3. I SHOULD keep a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments with myself, the girls, and my husband. A researcher named John Gottman found that we have a nifty trick called “positive sentiment override” that happens in relationships. When we have positivity overall in our relationships, we stay focused on the positive things that happen and overlook the negative. The reverse also can happen – if you are dissatisfied in your relationship (with your child, your partner, etc.) then you focus more on the negative, and don’t notice the positives that occur. To keep satisfied relationships, we want to say/do about FIVE positive things for every one negative thing. Probably best not to do this all in a row (telling my daughters “You’re smart, you’re strong, you’re pretty, I love you, you delight me, STOP JUMPING ON THE COUCH!!!” might be a bit much!) but trying to keep in mind an overall focus on saying/doing many positive things in a day means we don’t have to beat ourselves up over saying one snarky thing or not having patience at one particular moment. The positive sentiment override will kick in and my family should still be happy with me overall, even if I can’t be perfect! And I’ll continue to focus on the positives with THEM, which is even more important to me.
So let’s hear it, other HDYDI moms – what SHOULDS are you missing at the moment, but still aspiring to? Anyone else interested in comparing research with our reality?