Every mother of multiples has taken multi-tasking to a whole other level. We do our best to give our children undivided attention, but often it feels like striving for the impossible. The attention babies naturally crave from their mother has to be shared with their sibling, and this can be most difficult for Mom herself. Is it possible to give twins everything they need while in each other’s company or do twins need one-on-one time with Mom?
What the Experts Say:
Psychotherapist Kristi Pikiewicz on Twin Mom Guilt:
I came across an article recently from psychotherapist Kristi Pikiewicz, and it made some good points about twin mom guilt, dependence and what she calls the mother-baby-baby web:
Each participant in the web can feel guilty about the situation: the mother because she can’t give each twin her undivided attention, and each twin because they register that there is another baby whose mother is being distracted by her needs. (K Pikiewicz, The Psycology of Parenting Twins)
Kristi suggests the societal pressure to encourage independence and autonomy in children isn’t necessarily appropriate for multiples because of their naturally interdependent relationship. It is also natural for twin moms to feel ‘partially excluded’ at times because of their bond.
Psychotherapist Joan Friedman on One-on-One Time:
Author, twin and twin mom Joan insists spending time alone with each child is a must. She refers to the mother-baby-baby web as a ‘triadic connection‘ which can distract from the importance of spending time alone. In talking to a friend who tried one-on-one time following her advice, Joan says:
She admitted that in retrospect, spending alone time with each baby might have provided the most feasible and logical solution to help soothe the helplessness and guilt she experienced as she attempted to bond with both babies. (J Friedman, Twins Need Alone Time)
As an identical twin herself, she has based her twin parenting on personal experience. She deliberately separates her twins as often as possible to give them a chance to develop individuality and nurture the mother-child bond. She claims she does not subscribe to a ‘romanticized or idealized notion of the twin bond’ and suggests it is moms who enjoy the sense of success associated with looking after two babies at once rather than the children, because it acts as a counterweight to the sleep deprivation and frustration.
What About the Animal Kingdom?
There is no doubt it can be difficult caring for two children at the same development stage, but what about the animal kingdom? Do dogs grow up traumatized because they were one of six puppies and their mom was busy with the other five when they wanted a cuddle? No. So why are humans different?
In truth, we are not the same as dogs, because as pack animals dogs are nurtured by the pack once weaning has taken place around 8wks. As humans, we continue our dependence on parents much longer and require more physical and emotional support than our canine friends.
There are a number of theories as to why humans are born so helpless. A horse stands up immediately after birth for example, but human babies need an incredible amount of care during birth and afterward. It has been thought for some time this may be due to the evolution of a larger brain and head, meaning birth has become more traumatic and needs to happen earlier in development. Can you imagine giving birth to a toddler?
A newer theory suggests the complexity of the human brain requires an increasing amount of energy to grow, making the pregnancy drain much higher in humans than in other animals. In turn, we give birth earlier because we hit ‘the wall’… every twin mom knows what that feels like, I totally hit the wall at 35wks and only managed to hang on another 7 days.
I digress… but I’m searching for a quantifiable reason as to why one-on-one time is so important.
I have spent very little time alone with each of my twins, and it’s something I would like to change. Those occasional times I have been alone with one have been rather magical, even if it’s taking one of them to a doctors appointment. It reminds me what it was like to mother my first born singleton and is quite the pleasure! No constant looking around to check where the other one is, no panic at the thought of which one is in more danger, no “Are they twins?” from passers-by. The blood pressure instantly drops!
The boys’ speech delay continues, and I believe this is not helped by our lack of one-on-one time with mom. I don’t feel like I look at them in the eye and talk face-to-face enough because I’m too often running around and talking on the go. When I take a moment to sit and play or read, it is difficult to create eye contact when both twins are fighting for your attention or trying to pull the book closer.
I have a Nanny who comes to a couple of afternoons a week to give me a break, and I could be using this time to take one twin out and spend time alone. Indeed, I do this with my daughter sometimes… we went to the ballet recently, sometimes the movies. However, most of the time I like to have a moment to myself… selfish or self-care?
Ways to Increase One-on-One Time with Mom
There are ways to make one-on-one time with mom possible, and I’ve been brainstorming ideas so I myself can spend some time alone with each twin. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- If one wakes up early, get in there quick and get them out of the room before waking the other. The older my twins get, the more often this happens, especially at nap time. Arthur used to refuse to leave George sleeping but he’s started to come round and it creates an opportunity to hang out, even if it’s only 15minutes.
- Use a sitter or family to have a trip out separately. We all love to spend time as one big family but there’s no reason why you can’t take just one twin to the shops with you and leave the other at home with Dad.
- I’ve heard of parents bathing twins separately to increase one-on-one time, but I know my boys wouldn’t be happy about it. If I start running the bath they will shout for the other and go searching to make sure he comes. They love playing in the bath together and I personally wouldn’t want to change this.
- I am yet to try separate bedtime stories but it could be perfect. My daughter has always been a book enthusiast and as a toddler storytime was the sweetest time (she still a story at 7yrs). The twins are getting better with shared stories but I’ve got to say… it’s not the same as one-on-one. Maybe Dad could read to one while you read to the other in another room?
My biggest problem to overcome with one-on-one time is that my boys have never really been alone. When we walk to the car or go upstairs, one twin will call out for the other, so I suspect we will have some tears when separated. I’m sure it will be short lived and I’m certain it will be good for them, and mom too. As twin moms, we are blessed with double the love but it can be difficult to show it when there’s so much competition for your attention. More one-on-one time would certainly be a pleasure for all.
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