On the Mothers of Multiples forums a woman recently asked for coping strategies. “How do you deal with all the screaming without contributing to it?” Many, many mothers responded, and their answers broke down very easily into a few categories. Here they are:
1. Let your house go.
This seems to be everyone’s first suggestion. Stop cleaning, or get someone else to clean for you. Oh how I wish leaving the dishes in the sink made me feel better rather than worse! Being a neat-freak with two 13-month-olds in the house is about as much fun and as much work as it sounds, but I faaaar prefer it to the alternative. This only applies to me, though. Last week I found myself urging a friend of mine to let her house go and not worry about it. If you can stand it, yeah, probably giving yourself a break from housekeeping perfection takes off a lot of pressure. I think my need to have everything spic and span in the house is its own defense mechanism. I feel like if I can just keep things clean, then they haven’t completely beaten me. I’m afraid if I let the house go, I’ll be carried down the mountain in the avalanche of twinfancy, never to regain the summit of my own life.
The top drug suggestion is red wine in the evening, though for teetotalers like me, the preferred suggestion is Zoloft. Apparently having twins is a medical condition that requires treatment for at least the first two years. I saw a cartoon in which the mother is watching her sons chase each other and screaming “Slow, down! Stop that! You’ll hurt each other!” In the next frame she’s watching precisely the same scene with a glass of red wine in her hand, and saying, “So nice to see the boys playing together.” Not into red wine or Zoloft currently, so let’s move on to number 3.
3. Run away! Run away!
This category includes everything from “Go back to work as soon as possible,” to “Get a part-time job,” to “Hire a babysitter so you can go get a massage”, to “Lock them in the playroom while you take a nap.” I really believe a little absence makes the heart grow fonder. I have someone come in for a few hours a week so I can run errands sans children, and it is essential to my parenting. When I can, I like to take just one of the babies with me so we can have some low-stress one-on-one bonding time. It’s great for all parties involved. I am never a better mother than when I’ve had a little break to fill up the emotional reserves.
“They grow up so fast.” “Pull yourself together for the sake of these precious little spirits.” “It’s only a few years.” And a crock of other pious nonsense. For the record, I know precisely how precious my darlings are and what a blessing, and I’m grateful for them every day of my life. Duh!! I will not, however, be forced to pretend that they do not drive me out of my ever-loving mind on a weekly basis.
This is always the funniest category and includes such gems as “Have you tried farting? When I rip one in front of them, everyone laughs and it lightens the mood,” to “State of the art wax earplugs. I wear them all day long except for driving. Takes the edge off the screaming.” I immediately tried this–the earplugs I mean. I ordered some from Amazon. They didn’t work very well, and I found them to be more trouble than they were worth. Still it’s a comfort to me to have them in the house.
Just like college, a couple of women at the front of the class raise their hands to detail how efficiently they’ve ordered their twins’ lives to remove all stressors. Often, in addition to showing off, these women are selling you a product or service they’ve created for the twin world. I am the proud consumer of several such products and services. Some of them even help.
Even with every strategy, a big support system, and other resources, though, parenting multiple children is draining. No matter how much I give, they always want more–and not just from anybody, from me. I think when mothers post an S.O.S. on these forums as they so often do, more than anything, they are seeking the final category of responses:
“I feel your pain.” “I’m right with you.” “You can do it.” “You go, Mama.” “We’re all in this together.”
An entire legion of Mothers of Multiples marches forward pushing back the forces of chaos with their mighty twin strollers. Onward, ever onward! Forwaaaard, MARCH!