Twins! This is a topic we haven’t yet covered at Mindful Return, so this post is long overdue. Today, I welcome as a guest to the blog Susanne Seitinger, PhD, a working mama to twins (a boy and girl) who are almost 2 years old. Susanne is a dear friend I’ve known for over 20 years, and I am thrilled to be able to share her insights with you here. ***************************************************************************
Now that our twins are almost two years old, I’m finally finding the time to reflect on the whirlwind that has been the last 20 months. Mindful Return has been a welcome reality check throughout that time period, and it’s my turn to give back to this extraordinary community of working mamas (and papas!). I thought I might be most helpful by debunking a number of myths about the first year of life with twins.
While I’ve come to these conclusions as part of our unique experience with twins, I think there might be some nuggets on my list of myth busters that apply to any new parent.
10 Twin Myths Busted
- Only mom is important in the first few weeks. Wrong! While for readers of Mindful Return this fact might be obvious, I remember being shocked to hear how my husband’s male colleagues didn’t contribute much at home in the early weeks and months. “I’ll hang out with my kid when she turns 3,” they would quip. With any new baby – and with twins especially – it’s essential to work as a team to keep everyone alive and sane.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps! I’m sure you’ve all heard this one. And let me tell you, it’s hard to apply with twins. The moment you’ve finished nursing and changing one, the other one is pretty much ready for another snack. I’ve adapted this one to just “sleep whenever you can.” Don’t wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the floor, send an email, worry about the baby announcement – just sleep as soon as it’s quiet in the house!
- You should be able to handle this twin baby thing on your own. Get as much help as you can. Whether you’re leveraging the gig-economy with services like Instacart or just calling your friends to grab dinner, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you feel like it should be easier than it feels, just sit with that feeling and know IT REALLY IS HARD. You can be proud of getting through every day. Other ideas for getting help include saving for a night nurse here and there, getting food deliveries, and having folks come over ONLY if they agree to help out…
- As soon as someone’s unhappy you have to take immediate action. With twins, this one becomes especially tricky, because inevitably one baby is crying and then the other one starts. When both babies are crying, take a break, breathe, and assess the situation. Get comfortable with the discomfort. And don’t feel pressured to make everything better right away. Sometimes you just have to be there, and that’s enough.
- You’ll need two of everything. While it’s true that you need two sets of bedding, clothes, many more diapers, etc. you definitely don’t need two identical toys in every category. You can teach your multiples early on about sharing. Plus, you’d be surprised how different their preferences turn out to be even at the earliest age.
- You can’t nurse multiples. Nurse as much as you can, but don’t feel pressured to exclusively nurse them. It’s rewarding and wonderful. But if challenges arise don’t worry about whether your multiples will be at a disadvantage.
- Everyone eats bananas. Ok, that’s mostly true. But I was surprised to see how my twins’ individual preferences for foods emerged early on. One likes cheese. The other hates it. One likes dry toast. The other eats it with heaps of butter. In the end, don’t worry about it. As long as you keep offering them diverse foods it’ll be ok over time.
- Going out for dinner with an infant is easy. I remember hearing folks say how easy it was to go out to dinner with their infant, because he or she would just sleep. I felt like such a loser trying to get out the door with both infants and breaking down halfway because I’d forgotten to pack the extra milk or whatever. Two is more than one. And I don’t even know what parents of more multiples do. Don’t worry if you’re not going out as much as your friends with only one infant. (Just wait until they have their second!) There will be plenty of time to go out again once they reach an age where you can leave them at home with a trusted babysitter or family member.
- Nursing makes you lose weight instantly. Giving birth has a massive impact on your body – and two can be even more grueling. I experienced a double-whammy: my daughter was first in line and was born naturally; my son had to have an emergency C-section. The next day, I felt like I was never going to walk again. I recovered quickly – more quickly than I expected – and was grateful for all the physiotherapy and prep I’d done before (see some references here in Mindful Return on pelvic health – so important!), and I had to go easy on myself. Now, about two years later my clothes pretty much fit me again. And I’m not really worried about what I look like in a bikini. I feel strong and healthy, which is what you need to chase after two toddlers. Focus on your well-being and not on your external appearance.
- Make sure you treat everyone the same. Not so! One of my good friends and mama-mentors said to me early on as I was rocking one twin almost twice as much as the other one, “everyone gets what they need.” You don’t have to worry about treating each multiple exactly the same way. Or spending exactly the same amount of time with them. You need to give them what they need when they need it. Sometimes that’s more time, more attention, or whatever. In the end, be attentive to their needs and react accordingly.
I’m so proud of how far our two kids, my husband, and I have come. Their identical twin cousins were born only 6 weeks ago. While I miss rocking little babies I also appreciate how hard my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are working right now. Enjoy those long days!
Susanne Seitinger, PhD, recently joined Verizon, where she leads a cross-functional marketing team with many awesome working mamas and papas. Together they deliver solutions and services for public sector leaders trying to make a difference in their citizens’ lives. Prior to joining Verizon, Susanne led Public Sector Marketing in the United States for Signify (formerly known as Philips Lighting). She developed much of the company’s smart cities messaging in the fastest growing Internet-of-Things business segment.
She holds a BA in architecture from Princeton University (2001). During her time there, she had the good fortune of meeting Lori, with whom she shared the supposedly smallest double on campus. She went on to receive a PhD from the MIT Media Lab (2010) and a Masters in City Planning from the MIT Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning (2004). She continues to stay connected to the MIT Media Lab and also serves on the board of the Illuminating Engineering Society.
Susanne grew up in Austria, the United States, and Australia and has traveled and worked around the world. Learning about other cultures and exploring new cities is one of her passions. When she is not talking about smart cities or urbanism, she likes to do yoga, cook, and spend time with her husband Peter and their twins Klara and Max. They live in Brookline, MA.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave