Maintaining the Marriage

"We are all in the same boat here, trying to balance our lives with our children, trying to be good parents, maintain a sane household, and maintain our own sanity."

--twins-l member

All couples face challenges to their relationship once they become parents. It's not an easy adjustment to make. When there are multiple infants involved, that adjustment is even more difficult. The workload involved in caring for more than one infant while also trying to care for older children and keep the house relatively clean can be overwhelming. It leaves little time and energy for the parents to maintain their marriage.

"I can tell you that being parents of multiples is about the hardest thing on a marriage that I know of."

--twins-l member

Statistics have shown higher levels of stress and arguing among parents of multiples as well as a higher divorce rate. Their children are more likely to suffer some form of child abuse than children who come from a home without multiples. It is vital for parents of multiples to have an outlet where they can share their frustrations with others who can relate to what they're going through.


"We've ... been married for six years, but the last three with the kids have added a depth and craziness I could have never imagined. Sometimes I see a bit too clearly how parents of multiples can get divorced, so it was nice to hear I'm not alone in struggling. "

--twins-l member

Most of the information in this FAQ came from circumstances just like that... parents sharing their frustrations while other parents offer support. It has been divided up into the following topics:

Feeling Overwhelmed
Childcare
Chores & Projects
Working as a Team
Communicating Effectively
The Job Vs. The Home

Feeling overwhelmed

"The everyday stress of taking care of [twins or more] always seems to add to any problems my [husband] and I have. Little things just seem to get blown out of proportion."

--twins-l member

Caring for multiple children 24/7 can be draining in itself. Parents may often feel overwhelmed or at least outnumbered. External stress factors can make an already overwhelming task seem extreme. Sometimes they build up gradually, and you don't even realize it. Listed below are some common examples as well as some possible solutions.


Insights from mothers and fathers of multiples


Caring for older children
"I don't think it would be as stressful if I didn't also have a four year old and a three year old... then I could nap when the twins nap."

Sleep deprivation and fatigue
"The only thing is, there are times we are both tired, and need a nap, and that's when we bicker. We both want our nap FIRST!"

"Remember too that every baby is different. I had a friend with twins who slept through the night at 6 weeks old. Mine did not both sleep through the night until about a year old. I often said that if I could just get a decent nights rest I would be fine! Lack of sleep affects me very badly, but we survived."

"He frequently gets up early on weekends but like to nap; I like to sleep late and don't usually nap, so in the early days I got to sleep 'late' (8am) and he'd get the nap. Now we take turns on the Saturday nap, but while I get about an hour, he gets as long as he needs. It also gets better with time. The boys sleep later and now that they can't come into our room on weekends till the clock says 8."

Depression
"I want to encourage those of you who are feeling that 'out of control' feeling to talk to your doctor about getting an antidepressant. I won't go into my whole story but I waited until I went back for my one year check up and ended up crying my eyes out at the doctor's office. No, I was not severly depressed to where I couldn't function, I was working part time and continuing other activities, I did not even realize it was a 'depression'. After I started the medication -wow did it make a difference! I wished I had started it sooner because then I could have enjoyed more of that first year with my boys rather than be totally stressed out."

Burn-out 
"[Another mom wrote 'My husband] and I don't have the perfect marriage, many times in the last year I have thought 'why bother'. Anyway, something that has helped me when I think that way: I *act* like I love him. I do the nice things that I used to when I *wanted* to be married to him. I keep his underwear drawer filled, I say 'please' and 'thank you', I call or visit him at the office once a day, I take him to lunch on my day off."

The need for personal time
"That's around 18 hours where I am the main caregiver in a row. (and sometime of that we are sleeping, but if the twins wake - I'm it!) That's a long time for me to be in charge without a break. That's when I nap. So, my only real break from them is when they I nap, and I really need something else to do besides be a mom, and take naps! Hubby says - well, I am working so you can't consider this time away from the babies either. I'm not having fun. I have to agree. I guess we just have to realize that we made the decision to have these girls, and we have to deal with what comes with it. No life for awhile, but when they smile at us, it is soooo worth it!"

"I've also talked to my [husband] and told him that unless he wanted me in an assylum, that I need to get out of the house by myself too. So, at least twice a month, if not more, I go out with a girlfriend, or just by myself. It is nice to have my own time, and it's needed. I love my children, but I think to be a good mother, you have to take time to be good to yourself. My [husband] likes this time too, because he spends it with the boys without me there. They have totally Daddy time."

"My in-laws usually come over about once a week so that we can go out to eat. My husband really values that time. Additionally, we both try to give each other periodic breaks to go out with a friend or shopping alone (and not grocery shopping or running errands!)"

"I just wanted to share a tip that my husband & I came up with once our babies were somewhat manageable for each of us alone ( I think we started around 6 months). Since [he] works 6 days a week, Sunday is his only day to sleep in. I had NO day to sleep in. The prospect of both of us never getting to sleep later than 6:30am for the next 18 years (LOL) was kind of scary, so now we take turns every other weekend getting up with the babies for first diaper change, breakfast and a little play time while the other spouse sleeps in. If one baby wakes up first, we'll often help get the second one up & get things situated before heading back to bed. It's working out GREAT. Gives [him] time alone with his babies, when I can't nag him about how he cares for them, and they can enjoy their daddy one-on-one (or two-on-one anyway) ... If the person who's turn it is to sleep in isn't interested in sleeping, that is still our time to do what we want - workout, read, shower, get personal chores done ALONE! The key is not abusing the time (usually by 9 or 10am, we're back "on duty") - and also, we remain flexible about switching weekends if it means a lot to the other spouse."

"All POTs [parents of twins] know that having twins is stressful and takes a great deal of work, patience, and a sense of humor. However, those around us (in-laws, friends, others) don't have a clue. [My husband] and I have argued many times about the treatment and "advice" we get about twins from his parents and sister. In addition, prior to my pregnancy we used to have 'dates' every Sunday. Now, we are *LUCKY* if we get out without the kids once a month! During our time out we are usually shopping for them! LOL! So, POT have more stress simply rearing two children so close together, not to mention the lack of understanding of the struggles, and no time together alone to build the marriage. This doesn't take into consideration the extra difficulties: sick or developmentally delayed children, sleep deprivation, post-partum depression, prior marital problems, abuse, ex-spouses, other children, etc.etc."
 
Needing new coping skills
"I never realized how much of an influence my parents' parenting skills have really had on my life. That influence hasn't always been good. Fortunately, I saw a counselor and he helped me realize this. I've been reading a lot and trying to come up with new techniques, but it's still a struggle. Especially, when I'm tired or low on eneregy."
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Childcare

While many fathers today have broken traditional stereotypes about parenting by becoming more involved in the area of childrearing, even to the point of becoming primary caregivers, there are still mothers who wish that their spouse would take on more of the childcare responsibilities.

"I'm really feeling frustrated with my husband. He loves our kids, and he tries, but he just doesn't help out as much as I need him to. He thinks he's helping because he'll change a diaper or give a bottle, but I always have to push him to do more. He's always asking me who's supposed to wear which outfit, and who needs to eat when. He should know that. I find that I'm really getting grumpy with him, and that's not helping".


Advice from mothers and fathers of multiples


Recognize that this is a learning experience for him too
"I guess my point is, that as long as both partners understand that parenting is a learned skill, not something women are born understanding, and admit it to each other, things are easier to get through."

"Tell him that he is just as capable at doing this as you are. After all, you figured it out didn't you. He can learn too."

Give him the chance to do it
"Well, I got home on Sunday (I left late Weds), and he did NOT run to his mommy the day I left. :) He did great with them and it built his confidence. Housework did not get done, but oh well. I can't have everything. Hopefully he realizes just how difficult it is to keep up with the girls and housework and everything else! :) ... He would have had an easier time [had he gone with me to the conference]"

"Basically what I am saying is give him a chance to learn, just as we all did. You learn by doing. Give him a chance to screw up without you looking over his shoulder and give him a chance to learn from his mistakes. I know too many [wives] who just take over and treat their husbands like morons. You know what? If you treat a person like they are incompetant long enough, they in turn will believe it and stop trying if all they get is critisism for their efforts."

Another mom replied to this comment: "Either that, or, what happened in our case: my hubby didnít start thinking he was incompetent, he started to really resent the way I was treating him."

Give him the freedom to do it his own way
"I also tried to think about whether what I was about to criticize him for was a serious problem (threatened the health or safety of the babies) or something that was done "not the way I would have". If it was a health/safety thing (and it rarely, if ever, was) I would bring it to his attention. If it was not the way I would have done it, I tried to remind myself that there is not just one right way to do things. Sometimes he even had a better way of doing things. And if I thought my way was easier or more efficient, I would try to gently suggest that he do it differently the next time."

"I am trying to hard NOT to give hubby the riot act so often for not being *me*. Seems that's the problem."

Even if that means he makes "mistakes"
"Think twice before criticizing or correcting. Is his way actually doing any damage, or is it just different than your way? If you criticize too often for things that are just different, he may feel like he can't win no matter what and stop trying."

"My humble advise is to LET THEM DO THINGS WRONG!!! I know when my babes were tiny I was constantly telling [my husband] HOW to do this or WHY he should do this, etc., etc. Someone on this list told me to LET THEM DO IT THEIR WAY (as long as it wasn't harmful obviously) and it is amazing how [he] started taking the initiative once I quit correcting him or showing him "the right" way to do things. It really was amazing and it was VERY hard to keep my mouth shut but I DID and HE became a PARTNER not a HELPER!!"
 
Show him that you believe in him as a father
"Sometimes [husbands] won't help as much because we may be too critical of how they handle things. I know I am guilty of this. Next time you leave him in charge of the babies, try finding something to praise him on, to help build him up. This should encourage him and gradually maybe he will feel more comfortable caring for the babies."
 
Communicate specifically about where you need help
"I think I have learned that [my husband] will do anything I want him to, but can't read my mind. So, I just have to tell him what I need and stop assuming he knows."

"If you do not ask for help, then how is someone supposed to know it's needed? Oh, yeah... That ESP-thing... It all revolves around communication. If you expect that ESP-thing to work, then the anger and resentment that's been exhibited is the only way you'll be able to express yourself."
 
"Asking which baby gets which 'whatever' - when someone spends so much time with the children, they are bound to establish a schedule and a set way of doing things. [The husband] sees [his wife] as the one in charge. Perhaps [she] has made off handed remarks that he was not doing it right ([My wife] did this to me for a while, til I finally said 'When you are in charge, do what you want, when I am in charge, I AM IN CHARGE.' I dressed them how I wanted to, fed them what I wanted to. If she did not like it, I told her to lay things out and label them who gets what. I got sick of her criticizing things and then being exasperated when I asked her what she wanted.) "
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Chores & Projects

Maintaining the home when you have multiples in the house can wear parents down. There's probably not a lot of energy left once the children's needs are tended to, and so everyday chores such as dishes, laundry and cleaning up the clutter can feel overwhelming. Let alone all those other projects around that house that just keep piling up.

"I have a wonderful husband. The children and I are his top priority most of the time. He does most of the housework, doesn't complain when I leave wet towels on the floor, or piles of stuff on his dresser, and he definitely does his fair share of the work with our 5 children (ages 8,6,2 and twins 3 months old).

"*BUT* sometimes he drives me crazy by doing things that aren't helpful at all - he just keeps busy doing stuff that needs to be done, but maybe it doesn't need to be done at that moment. For instance, he gets busy washing dishes when the babies are crying to be fed. Or he starts mopping the floors 20 minutes before we have to go somewhere and we haven't even packed the diaper bag yet (just getting out the door takes us a good 1/2 hour!) Or he decides that I would really like it if he would wash and wax my car (which takes him all afternoon) when what I really want is to take a nap and not have to watch all the kids while he is outside working! He really wants to be a helper, but sometimes his good intentions miss the mark."

--twins-l member


Advice from mothers and fathers of multiples


Note: Tips on how to maintiain the house, laundry and meals can also be found in the Maintaining the Home FAQ.

Communicate often about the little things
"Still, the divvying up of less desirable tasks (changing the diaper pail, doing dishes, bottlemaking) did not occur in our house without considerable negotiation. This was not a one-time discussion; it was an *ongoing* evaluation of how things were running and whether the distribution was fair... But these discussions helped a lot, and I think they did so because I was asking my [husband] to participate more in the household and to be considerate of my workload and needs."

"It's very easy for parents to be so busy that they're working around each other instead of working together. Prioritize projects and chores together so that you both be working from the same agenda. This doesn't have to be a formal or elaborate system. A simple, "What do we have to get done today?" will start a conversation that allows both parents to have input on the days tasks. Another way would be to leave a running "to do" list in a convenient place where you can add things that need to be done for the day. Then work from that list (not the one in your head!)"

"We are 50/50 partners in this roller coaster ride we call twins (and what a great ride it is!!!). It is a team approach. We don't necessarily do half the work each day. But overall it works out. Sometimes she is exhausted and needs a break for a while, and sometimes I do. It's all about communicating how each of you are doing (early and often)."

Be flexible whenever possible 
"Someone... gave the advice to think twice before being critical. Ask yourself if it's really important, or if he's just doing something differently than you would. I thought that was excellent advice. I KNOW that I wouldn't take kindly to [him] criticizing the way I was handling the kids, cleaning the house, living up to his expectations. I know my response would be, 'if you think you could do it so much better... be my guest. DO IT YOURSELF!'"

"Recognize that not every one places the same priority on housework; nor does everyone have the same tolerance for mess."

"Prioritizing time - Men and women do not think alike (imagine that!). Sometimes we try to squeeze in something fun and lose track of time and forget to switch to the work that needs to be done. Sometimes we evade the unpleasant stuff that we do not see as a high priority (though it seems as though [my wife] thinks that the world will come to an end if it isn't done NOW!)."

Make an attitude adjustment 
"The biggest road block [my wife] and I ever hit was the difference in 'styles' when doing chores. My mother-in-law did things differently than my mom. They weren't necessarily 'wrong' or bad, but I did find them difficult to adjust to."
 
"If you find yourself complaining about how much work you have to do and how little help you're getting, then start letting others take responsibility for things (to the point of letting them accept the consequences of things getting done wrong or not getting done at all). Or, figure out which things really can afford to fall by the wayside until a later time.  It's very easy to fall into the trap of 'If you want it done right, do it yourself.'  That attitude harms you more in the long run."

"I'm the 'clean freak' of the family - [my wife] is happy leaving everything in piles all over the house and couldn't care less about how it looks. I have always done 80-90% of the cleaning, laundry, etc. around the house but these days I hardly have the time or energy to clean up after myself, never mind 4 other people. I think once twins 'hit' a household us neat nuts have to accept that it's going to be a year or more before the place looks presentable on even a semi-regular basis. I hate having to come home to a huge mess every day but I'm slowly learning to care less and less about how it looks and just accept that it's not changing any time soon."

"No matter how much it bothers me to live like a slob right now, I just keep reminding myself that it's not forever, after a few more months we'll be back to (almost) normal."
 
Recognize that not everyone sees things the same way you do.
"My [husband] is wonderful and helps more than [my mother-in-law] and [their] culture would allow (where his family is from basically belives that as long as he brings home $ he's done MORE than his part)."

"With many household and parenting chores there is more than one way to do it and neither is necessarily right. My wife and I do things with the children differently. Some of the things she does with them annoy the heck out of me and I'm sure that she can say the same. However, we've realized that both ways work and that telling one another that they're doing it wrong doesn't."

Appreciate what he does do.
"I also have (I'm working on it) trouble noticing the things that he does do to help. He often tries to help (he works a lot and often isn't home), but I used to only notice what he was doing that wasn't helping (or helping at the time, was actually a help, just not what was needed at the time). "

"If you need him to be doing something different, recognize that what is doing is helpful, but ask him if he'd help you in this other area where you need help."
 
Take a new approach to things
Here are examples of how some parents of multiples divide up chores and projects.
"My [husband] comes home from work and gets more done than I do all day. Granted, I have the kids still at this point. I do appreciate though. I would rather not take the time away from the boys. This also gives him an opportunity to get out of *work* mode."

"He does the dishes, the vacuuming etc. I do the laundry, the dinners, grocery shopping and pay the bills. It just worked out that this was the best for us. We both feel comfortable with those chores. I do the garden in the summer, he takes care of the lawn. We BOTH take care of OUR children. Whatever needs to be done gets done by whoever has a free hand."

"I also learned from a friend an excellent way to divide chores. Both of you, write down the chores you don't mind doing and the ones you absolutely hate. Chances are there won't be too many that you both despise! Divide them up and agree to review the list periodically."

"At our house, the chores are divided up by who does them better (i.e. with less complaining, etc.). I mow the lawn and do the yardwork (my [husband] has allergies), he does all the laundry (his whites are better than mine) and the list goes on."

"I don't work on Friday, so that's my day to 'get things done' --my kids are in school and daycare 5 days a week. Sunday is my day to get the kids out of the picture so my husband can get things done."

"My husband and I often 'give' each other time to get things done (whether it be chores, computer time, hobby or time to go out with a friend). Unless the kids are asleep, or someone else is watching them, it often takes two people to get a chore or project done; one who actually does the work and the other looking after the kids. When we 'give' each other time, it keep us from feeling like we're being taken advantage of by the other spouse. Plus, it keeps the other spouse aware of the fact that our partner is sacrificing some time to let us get things done that we need/want to get done."

"Once in a while we are both guilty of leaving their dishes in the sink and not cleaning them immediately or looking past the pile of dirty baby clothes and the overflowing diaper genie. But when the other one sees this, we don't attack. That only gets the other person's defensive mechanisms up and the discussion only goes downhill from there. A gentle reminder or question, 'Boy, that huge pile of clothes is blocking their cribs, could you throw a quick load in the washer?' gets the point across, and allows the person to do the task without feeling guilted into it. We have found that assuming the other person sees everything that needs to be done like you do is a big mistake. Attacking them for not seeing it is an even bigger mistake and only generates resentment and bad feelings. Gentle reminders are the way to go."

"We leave little notes around the house...(could ya take out the trash...could ya make up tonight's bottles...with a PS. I love you at the end.) The thing is to keep the spark alive even when you feel dead. We made an effort to not let the stresses freak us out and it works for us."

Here's an approach from a single mom of multiples.
"Finally, a friend told me that my jobs during the week are my office job, exercising (important to us for physical and mental health) and parenting. Beyond that, she said I should just concentrate on rest and relaxation. So unless it's a major emergency, I don't do bills, cleaning (beyond dishes, toy cleanup), groceries, drug store, etc., etc. during the week. Usually half a day or so on the weekends ends up devoted to those items, but it keeps me from being completely exhausted during the week. Once the babies are in bed, the only thing I try to 'accomplish' is relaxing....that change in mindset has helped me a lot. Sometimes I 'do' other things, but only if I feel like doing it, not because I have to *accomplish* something."
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