There are few things that can put more stress on a marriage than introducing a baby to the mix. The entire dynamic changes – suddenly everyone is sleep-deprived, cranky, has a ton of new responsibilities, and your lives revolve around keeping a tiny, unreasonable, screaming person alive. You’ve got a whole new crop of things you can argue about. Parenting style, discipline, bedtime – things can start to unravel fast. And with twins, you get double the stress. In fact, a study done back in 2011 revealed that parents of twins are more likely to divorce.
James and I definitely aren’t perfect, but I think we make a pretty good team when it comes to taking care of Alex and Nathan. Our babies are still alive and well, and our marriage is still full of love, laughter, and fun. Through all the exhaustion and stress, we still get along and work together to make sure we’re doing our very best with our little ones. In some ways, I think we’ve become even closer since becoming parents.
Here are the things we do – very intentionally – to make sure we make it through being new twin parents without hating each other.
- We give each other space to live our own lives.
Sometimes, we both just need a break away from the babies and away from each other. We give each other the freedom to take time for ourselves, whether that looks like me going for a solo gym session or him going to a friend’s house to have guy time. It gives us each a chance to relax, recharge and keep from going nuts.
- We’re mindful of each other’s non-baby-related responsibilities.
We’re both in school; me for my MEd and James for his PhD. He also teaches college English. So we understand that sometimes we both need a moment to focus on other tasks we need to accomplish. He’ll entertain them both while I do homework or I’ll put them both to bed while he grades papers. We keep in mind that we even though the twins are our number one priority, we have other things on our plates too.
- We communicate openly and discuss every parenting decision.
Any time one of us has a question, comment, or concern about the babies’ care, we put it out in the open and talk it through. We decided together that we weren’t going to sleep train and when we wanted to start solid food or stop co-sleeping. We value each other’s thoughts and opinions on how to raise these kiddos, and we listen.
- We share all of the joyful moments.
Every new, cute, or funny thing they do, we show or tell each other. It’s not uncommon for me to hear “KAYLA! COME QUICK!” only to run to them just so James can show me that Alex interlaced his fingers on the first try or Nathan has wriggled all the way across the room. This way, parenting together isn’t just about solving problems. It’s also about sharing the good stuff.
- We split responsibilities and delegate when needed.
Two babies, two parents means a lot of things are evenly split. We each are responsible for putting one baby to bed. When getting ready to go somewhere, we each change and dress one. We take turns sleeping with them or tending to them at night, and we plan in advance so there’s no “but I did it last time” argument. Sometimes, I have to directly delegate responsibilities to James and describe in great specificity what I need him to do to help, and that’s okay. Sometimes we might have to give each other specific tasks to get everything done, I.e. “While I give them a bath, you wash and sanitize all the bottles.” We have to work as a unit or nothing gets done.
- We pay attention to each other’s frustration levels.
We can tell by each other’s tones when we’ve had all we can take and know exactly when to swoop in and take over with the crying, inconsolable baby or when to take one away when one parent caring for both babies becomes too much. When we get overly frustrated, we are no longer productive, so that’s when we have to lean on each other the most.
- We talk about things other than our children.
Make no mistake, we talk about our children all the time, but we talk about other stuff too. Current events, TV shows, our friends, funny memes, whatever – everything we talked about before we had kids. It makes it feel like even though things have changed, the core of our relationship hasn’t. We’re still best friends with the same sense of humor who have great conversations.
- We find the humor in everything.
We laugh at pretty much everything our children do, down to diaper blowouts and shirt-ruining spit-ups. Since we became parents, we have a whole new batch of inside jokes based solely on stuff our babies have done. We make mundane things silly, like when I told James “strip the baby” before bath time and he played “Pony” by Ginuwine and made Alex dance while he took his clothes off. It keeps things from getting too serious and makes things lighthearted and fun instead of boring and daunting.
- We remember that we are people first, parents second.
James and I have been together for seven years. Before he was my kids’ dad, he was my friend, then my boyfriend, then my fiancé, then my husband. So even though he’s a father, he’s a lot more than that to me, and I have to remember all of the things that make him tick, and all of the things he needs and wants to be happy. I’d like to think he feels the same way about me – I’m a mom, but I also have thoughts, feelings, likes, and dislikes independent of my children’s needs. As a couple, we have to love and nurture the whole person – not just the part that’s a parent.
- We remember that we’re both novices.
At the end of the day, we’ve only been parents for six months. When you factor in the twins’ NICU stay, we’ve only been directly responsible for their well-being for four months. We are still figuring out what we’re doing and how to meet all of a little human’s needs. So we cut each other a lot of slack, because we both have a lot of learning to do – and we’re going to do it together.