Taking multiple young kids out in public is a stressful business. Twin moms are more prone to anxiety yet I’m determined to find a sense of calm. I hope to enjoy public activities with the kids again because recently I come home exhausted and overwhelmed by the anxiety of twins. But is it them or is it actually me?
I was always the chilled Mom with my firstborn singleton and now I find myself being watched by strangers everytime I’m out in public. I always seem to be the one flapping my arms and wailing at a toddler ready to chuck himself over the edge. It’s isolating, embarrassing and sometimes humiliating; and I wonder whether it is little to do with the Twins behavior (and the ‘watchers’) and more about my personal issues with anxiety.
Back in September last year, I wrote a post about keeping twin toddlers safe in open spaces. The Twins weren’t quite two and were new to exploring on their feet. I was proactive in my efforts for leaving the house with them, it was tiring but we had fun. I presumed it wouldn’t take long before they could follow instructions more reliably and the stress of public outings would be a short-lived problem.
Eight months later and they do indeed listen to instructions. They will nearly always stand next to me, hold my hand and “Stop!” when I ask/shout. I can explain basic rules like “You can go over there but you can’t go there,” and most of the time they listen and behave well. So why am I so stressed about danger?
The Swim Meet Panic
I ambitiously signed my daughter up for rec swim team this summer. She practices four times a week and has at least one ‘meet’ per week. The swim meets are at a different location every time so I have no idea what to expect. The first few weeks I wussed out and arranged childcare for her twin brothers, but while I sat watching I noticed how many little brothers and sisters there were happily running about. I also saw how many parents had a minivan busting with kids. If they can do it, I can, right?
This week I decided I was going to take the Twins. I looked up the venue and they had a splash pad so that would keep them busy and I wouldn’t have to worry about them throwing themselves into the main pool from opposite ends.
But the night before I had the most awful nightmare that I left them in the bathtub in a Hotel. When I returned they were both floating face down. I can not erase the image from my head.
I never leave the Twins in the bathtub alone but the drowning dream was obviously connected to my swim meet anxiety. The swim meet itself was extremely stressful, but only for me. The kids had an amazing time, they loved splashing around and running about outside. But I arrived late which led to the flapping arms and acting like the World was about to end. There was a 4ft deep pool next to the splashpad which I was sure the Twins were going to end up in… was is the dream was a sign… I shouldn’t have come… the anxiety of twins totally had the better of me.
Recognizing & Dealing with The Anxiety of Twins
Last time I shared about my anxiety I had not yet seen a doctor. I advised all of you feeling the same to go see someone so I figured it was time I took my own advice. I asked the doctor about the fatigue I had been experiencing and he asked me a number of test questions of which 90% I answered yes to. He diagnosed me with Anxiety Disorder (why do they add the disorder bit? I now feel faulty).
As suspected he suggested medication, the treatment for anxiety is the same as depression. I thought about it but decided to leave it for now. I have no doubt that the drugs would help my anxiety but I just feel uncomfortable taking medications… what can I say, I’m stubborn. I am aware, however, that therapy and medications are there when and if I feel the need for them.
In diagnosis came acceptance. I am a little faulty right now and that’s OK. What makes me deal with stressful situations better? What trips went well and why? Instead of focusing on the public disasters, I’ve been trying to keep track of the wins… more of those, please.
How I Reduce the Anxiety of Twins in Public
- Allow more time. Running late is my anxiety trigger, every time. You’d think I was late for the Queen the way I panic over being a few minutes late for an event or even school. Ridiculous, I have three kids, I’m always going to be late. But… if I’m organized, plan well and allow extra time I’m less stressed and the anxiety is kept at bay.
- Put a cap on my danger list. I’m not going to be able to stop freaking out about the dangers the Twins face anytime soon. But anxiety gets overwhelming when the mental list on replay is long. So recognize sensible dangers, take them seriously and allow yourself the concern. Stop trying to stuff them to the back of mind and write them off as being ‘silly’ (I can’t be the only one that does that?!). You are worried about the safety of your kids and that’s OK. Just keep the worries sensible.
- Get involved in the fun. Anxiety is so much worse when you’re just watching. All I can think about is “Where are they going to go next?” or “Is he too close to the edge?“. I realized recently that when I used to take my daughter to the park as a toddler I was more involved in her play. I didn’t just watch, ready to catch if she fell. Jump about, climb, swing, laugh… it’s as good for you as it is for them.
I am more aware of my anxiety now than I have ever been, which feels weirdly good. I know it’s worse when I’m pre-menstrual and I recognize the physical signs of it. I will continue to work on the anxiety of twins in public because it’s really not their fault. They are good boys and I can do this.
November 1, 2020 at 9:12 pm
We moved to a new area and our local moms group is not close. I am relieved to find your article. We are taking a vacation with our three year old twins and it is causing tons of anxiety. I was wondering if I was alone. My mother insist we stay in a 3 story condo with balconies and keeps repeating how disappointed they will be if we don’t stay with them. They can’t understand our worry and it’s driving a wedge between us. We are being ostracized for worrying. We bought lots of safety devices to plan for this trip but we still feel uneasy. I had my twins late in life and our parents are late 70’s and 80’s and I feel so guilted into this trip. Neither me or my husband want to go and he is dreading the drive. We don’t feel safe enough to fly with Covid. The trip will take 16 hours and dreading the public restrooms. The fear and anxiety is crippling the fun. They are all so excited saying their dying to see us and we feel bad because we feel so anxious. Maybe we do need to speak to a Dr. We just feel very limited as to what we feel we can do with the twins and what feels safe. That is ok with us bc we took on this responsibility. We will go bc we committed but I almost feel we need medicine to deal with this but we don’t want to take meds and not be on alert for the twins.. I really related to your article. Thank you for writing!!! It did help to feel not so alone in the way that we are feeling.
November 1, 2020 at 9:40 pm
I’m so glad you commented Kristie, you’re certainly not alone. Balconies… geez, those things give me the heebie geebies. It’s difficult to know when to seek medical help and when it’s something you have to suck up and see through, but it certainly doesn’t do any harm to enquire or speak to a counsellor. I have a friend who went to a group therapy for post natal anxiety and they found it a great help. There are options mama!
On another note, my boys are about to turn 5yrs and it is so much easier! 1-3yrs are extremely rough in the anxiety department but you will get to the point where they start to listen more and they become more aware of dangers themselves. I really hope you can enjoy our trip, despite the worry. When it comes to the drive, just plan around meals because they’ll likely nap after eating in a moving vehicle! Naps are everything for long journeys! Good luck and hang in there! ❤️