More than just stocking up on twice the baby shampoo and double the diapers, the challenges of raising multiples are markedly different than raising singleton children. In Twin Set: Moms of Multiples Share Survive & Thrive Secrets, Christina Boyle and Cathleen Stahl offer their advice and anecdotes as moms of multiples to help other parents manage two (or more!) babies with only two hands.
Stahl, the mother of four boys, had turned to popular parenting books but found the resources on raising twins lacking. “After my twins were born, I was shocked and disarmed by the difference between parenting twins and parenting one boy at a time,” she says. “Luckily, I have many friends here in Darien who had or were also having twins, so I was able to reach out to them for advice and support. I relied on them and the moms in my local Mothers of Multiples club for insight and help. My friend and co-author, Christina Boyle, whose twins are a year older than mine, suggested that we try to fill the void. Of course my first reaction was to laugh at her suggestion, but after a while, we came to the conclusion that if not us, then who?”
Although both moms are busy enough without undertaking a book project, Brody and Stahl had their work down to a science. According to Stahl, “Once we started actually writing the book, we got into a groove where Christina would get up at an ungodly hour in the morning and work before her kids woke for the day. I would generally work at night, after my kids went to bed. This schedule enabled us to pass the work between us and meet on weekends to edit and discuss as needed.”
Boyle and Stahl are not the only parents dealing with the unique struggles of raising multiples. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics, the twin birth rate is approximately 34 out of every 1,000 births in the United States. The national twin rate has risen 74 percent since 1980 and is expected to continue to rise at a rate of two percent annually for the next several years. By the year 2010, there will be approximately 1.3 million sets of young twins cruising around America, not to mention an estimated 1,218,000 parents of twins ages 10 and younger.
As parents of multiples quickly learn, the wider your support network, the better. That’s why, in addition to their personal experience, Twin Set also includes a nationwide survey of more than 300 moms of multiples collecting the best twin parenting tips. “We wanted to replicate the sharing of ideas, support and funny stories that we had personally experienced with our fellow mothers of twins in our own community,” Stahl says. There’s also a Mommy Doc and Daddy Doc onboard, two pediatricians who offer medical perspectives on various issues, in addition to special features from experts ranging from a financial planner to a dietitian — all parents of twins as well.
One of the most important messages that the authors hope to communicate is the importance of establishing a routine. Stahl explains, “The greatest chance for success in terms of molding time to suit the natural rhythms of your babies comes by establishing a consistent order to the day and to all of the relevant processes like feeding, sleeping, bathing, etc. The effects of a good routine impact so much of the parenting experience. If you have your babies on a routine, you are more likely to be able to establish sleep patterns. A routine makes it easier to work in an extra set of hands if and when available, and helps create a baseline to work toward on the days that things go nuts (and, of course, there are those days). The routine is your harbor to try swimming home to. The routine also helps give parents some control, so that there is less chaos and more time for cuddling, playing, singing and listening in on adorable twin conversations.”
But as challenging as parenting multiples can be, it is also an amazing and doubly rewarding experience. “The philosophy of our book, and the thing we hope parents will come away with, is that having twins doesn't mean you have to go into survival mode and leave your parenting ideals in the dust,” says Stahl. “Maybe it's a bit harder to thrive than you might have planned or than it would be for a parent of a singleton, but we want parents to feel confident they can at least end up somewhere in between surviving and thriving. We call it ‘the thrival zone;’ it's a moving target but it is feasible.”
Boyle and Stahl live in Fairfield County, a veritable multiples’ Mecca (the twin birth rates in Connecticut and Massachusetts are 25 percent higher than in the rest of the country) and are affiliated with Mothers of Multiples of Fairfield County, the country’s largest mothers of multiples club. You can check them and their new book out at www.twinsetmoms.com.