Saturday, December 12, 2009

Time Management with Two (or More)

"I don't know how you do it with twins." You hear that over and over.

And so you try to explain. Play it off. Laugh at the humor of an impossible situation.

But then again, it turns out they're really not interested in how you do it anyway. Just looking for something to say.

"They" are never really going to get it anyway. But let me try.

I remember the advice I got from a girlfriend of mine, who had just had a baby, when I was pregnant with my first. Let's face it, as a working woman, when you are pregnant with your first you just can't believe all the free time you are going to have off from work. What a luxury. "Just don't think you're going to be able to sit at home with the baby and finally be able to organize your old photos," my friend told me. "You would not believe how much time one small baby takes." Which I did not believe and was exactly what I figured I would be doing with all my time off - finally getting all those unfinished details of my life in order, the stuff you never find time to do because you are working full-time. You know, instead of on break at home with a baby.

And I still honestly can't believe how much time that one baby took. I mean, what was I doing all day? It was one. No other kids at home. She was an easy baby. And yet I distinctly recall days in the beginning where I literally just sat on the couch with her all day, or at least felt like I had cared for her all day, without any time off, without getting anything else at all done. And I'm a really relaxed mom compared to most. Not at all panicky or worried about perfection.

Must be that parenting is a learned skill after all.

So, you remember how much time that one baby took. You could really say 100% of your time at first, but let's give it an easy estimate and say, what seventy percent of your time? You had time maybe for a cup of coffee and a shower? Maybe even slept a bit at night?

Double that. No really, do it. Double the seventy percent that the one baby takes up of your time and double it for two. One hundred and forty percent of your time. With twins. And since that isn't possible just assume that me stating that twins take up one hundred percent of your time at first is not an overexaggeration. (Please don't make me think of the poor parents of three or four or more. Please.)
When Claire, a new mother of twins, recently told me she was getting five hours of sleep at night - of course not all at once - she was justifiably proud of herself. Infant twins. Some sleep at night. Maternal love is truly miraculous. Being happy with five hours of interrupted sleep is just as miraculous. And we do it.

"Come on," you say. "Twins can't be that bad. One hundred percent of the time is such an overexaggeration." Because people without twins honestly figure you can just multi-task those two infants into one super infant. I've actually had women tell me that they always thought twins would be the way to go because (and listen to this)with two at once you could just do a LITTLE extra work and then be done with it, instead of doing two in a row. Twins are just way more efficient than two singletons.

Until you remember trying to nurse - or even just feed - your one infant. Some mothers find it really hard. Nursing is not as easy as it looks - pretty physically demanding, requiring some amount of coordination and muscle strength. You actually get sore muscles in the neck, back and arms. And then try it with two. One technique is actually called a football hold. It is not a leisure activity. It is a contact sport. It is time consuming and it is physically exhausting. Not saying it can't be done- mothers do it every day - or that it isn't rewarding. It just takes a lot of time and energy.

I remember feeding my twins - they must have been about 8 months old at the time - at a friend's house one morning. I wasn't even thinking about it. Got out the baby jars and started at it. 'Oh my God, Christine," she cried. "how are you able to do that?" Do what? Huh? I hadn't even noticed, but the speed and efficiency with which I was spooning the food into two baby's mouths was truly impressing - and I think frightening - her. You don't have time to casually do anything with twins. You don'thave time for niceties, or to worry about perfection. You just do it.

It requires double the energy at double the speed double the amount of time. At least.

Man do you turn into one super human being.

I'm not bitching. I'm not moaning. I loved every minute of it and am so proud at what I was - and still am -able to do.

BUt it doesn't help when people tell a new mother of twins that she cannot possibly do this alone, that she needs to get help she can't afford or send for family members that cannot possibly come.

Managing twins is totally impossible. I can't even imagine triplets or more - also just inhumanly possible. You just can't do it. Period.

And yet we do.

I guess it doesn't matter that noone else will ever understand.

It's an exclusive club.


  1. I use to think I wanted twins, of course that was before I had any kids. One is more then enough work! My hat goes off to women who have more then one at a time!

  2. Haha! That's me! In the picture I mean. I didn't look closely the first time, but now I see that great minds (or at least moms of twins) think alike! There are MANY ways to feed two babies at once :-)

  3. I used to think twins really weren't all that much more than two in a row. There was a German woman with twins living near us in Annemasse and all she used to do was tell me how hard it was. And I'd think - please, you just have to know what you are doing. Because I had Ryan and Andrew. I think of that poor lady all the time now - unplanned pregnancy with a French boyfriend - living in France. FOrmerly a chemist, now a pusher of a double-wide stroller. Wonder how she is? On the other hand, I feel really lucky too. It's so much fun, and so special, and just so entirely different from what most people will know. Couldn't imagine it any other way. That's life I guess!

  4. Great minds DO think alike. Either that or desperation is the mother of invention! I had some really good positions once they got a little older - but you need to be really flexible for them. Trick is to use your knees for their heads to rest on - but your leg has to bend at a yoga-like angles to do it. You get used to the pain! I'll show you the next time I see you! And then there's the feeding two in bed at once - while still trying to sleep! - I'm telling you - desperation. Nursing one, head on pillow, arm bent awkwardly around back to feed the bottle to the one behind you. (Damon was away.) It can be done-but it wasn't really comfy. As I told Amanda though, wouldn't trade it for the world! (Wait til you're carrying two toddlers up the stairs at the same time - man, do you get some muscles!) And you CAN fit three kids on ONE lap - as I am sure you are fast learning. FUn isn't it. Life is a journey. Never a dull moment.

  5. PS Claire - that post was "inspired" by you - it's still a rough draft but I wanted to see if I could somehow explain to someone WITHOUT twins what it was like WITH them at first, without sounding like I was complaining about it. I like the tone - so thanks for the help!