Here's a list of ideas for moms of twins (or big families!). This is what I've learned and what I'm still learning. Enjoy! And feel free to add your own tips....
1. Making My Faith Practical.
I placed verses and little prayers throughout my house: the bathroom, the kitchen, the laundry room. As I walked through my day, I would see these words and pray them, clap them, sing them. I wasn't afraid to let my children see me cry. Sometimes we cried together. We would drop down right in the middle of a task and just pray. Having many children is not easy, but I can honestly say I am learning how to find my strength in Christ ALONE. This was especially important since we were unable to attend church regularly for the first few months of the twins' lives.
2. Getting Help.
I didn't get help until after bringing my twins home from the NICU. I thought I could do it all by myself. Then Matt went back to work and I was alone, managing 3 older children + preemie twins. At 10:04am on the morning of the first day, I had a full-blown panic attack. I literally had to sit down on and hang onto the couch for dear life. When the wave of panic passed, I called Matt: "I need help. Now."
That afternoon we hired a part-time nanny. If I had to do it all over again I would have: a. gotten help BEFORE twins were born, and b. stopped feeling guilty about it BEFORE twins were born.
3. Getting Help.
Yep! I'm repeating myself--a sure sign of twinsanity! Since we couldn't afford a full-time nanny, we recruited family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances from church to help fill in the gaps. I finally realized the question wasn't: why should I get help? The question was: why wouldn't I get help? When I reached out, I was amazed at how many people were simply waiting to be asked.
Even with part-time help, we had to simplify our schedule. Our family eliminated organized sports. The back-and-forth was just killing me. I bowed out of crop nights, bunco, volunteering. I kept one thing: MOPS. This was my lifeline. The kids kept one thing: choir. Also, Jewel kept dance (the studio was literally within sight of our home).
5. Planning Ahead.
On Monday mornings when my nanny arrived, I was ready. Having help didn't mean a spa run, it meant a grocery run! I planned a weekly menu, inventoried household needs and made precise lists. I drew up my grocery lists according to store-layout which saved time. I did all my errands on one day.
I made lots of casseroles because they can be made in the morning. I would chop a week's worth of veggies and fruits so side-dishes were easily put together just before dinner. I doubled the recipes and froze half for another night.
6. Taking A Daily Nap.
Schedules are made to be broken. I make a flexible schedule that allows wiggle room for real-life problems, ie. a sick child, an important errand, extra homework. Having a general schedule gives everyone a sense of purpose and security. I tighten or ease the schedule based on daily needs.
The one unbreakable rule is: a daily nap for the kids AND MYSELF. Even the older kids have an hour of quiet time.
7. Using Email Not Voicemail.
I can't tell you how many times the phone rang just when I was drifting off to sleep, or nursing a twin, or, or, or..... I finally turned off the ringer and checked my messages at the end of the day. Email was more convenient for me. If I had to make calls, I tried to group them all together to save time.
8. Dating My Husband.
Having twins burned me out. And fast. Matt & I made a commitment to refresh and renew ourselves by spending time alone with each other. We think it's important to have fun together; not separately (ie. Dad's poker night with the guys, Mom's night out with the girls).
We did this cheaply. Once a week we would meet for coffee and once a month we had dinner out. Running a big family is like running a small business and "business meetings" were vital: we synched schedules, chatted about each child's particular issues, made plans. These were more than just business meetings, these were special times of re-connecting.
When the twins were first born, my mom took the three older kids every Friday night for a sleepover at Grandma's. We stayed home with the twins and watched a movie--it was a welcome bit of relief! Thanks, Mom!
9. Prioritized Bonding.
My older kids needed to bond with the babies. This meant after school was family time, not play-date time. By eliminating sports and play-dates, we had time to be together, to bond, to adjust to our new family structure. When Matt got home from work, we ate dinner together every night. We talked, shared, cried. The gift of time together was priceless for soothing hurt feelings, sorting problems, re-connecting.
10. Turning Off the TV & Going To Bed Early.
As tempting as it was to stay up late and "just get a few things done" or watch a show, a good night's sleep was vital. In the early months of the twins' lives, Matt & I were asleep by 8 or 8:30pm. It wasn't hard to do this because we were exhausted. And of course, we would be getting up in a few hours for a feeding.
In the first days of my twins' lives, I told Matt I wasn't sure I could make it through 8 weeks of nursing! I nursed them (with supplements) until 6 months! Our big family survived bedrest, selling our home, and MOVING. I am amazed and grateful. God is good. My twins are 8 months old now and doing great!
[Next in the series: What Not To Buy (For Your Twins)---my list of essentials and non-essentials]