Multitasking with multiples: Sometimes I wish I had magical abilities and/or an extra hand (or two).

Being a parent is hard work. Your life changes in ways you never anticipated; no matter how prepared you think you are, and you grow in ways that you never thought possible. Your whole focus changes, and non-child related things that used to be a big deal don't seem that big a deal anymore because your child (or children) matter more to you than anything. They matter so much more than the angst of having to trade in your sporty, zippy car for a safe, trundling minivan (complete with an integrated DVD system to keep the little one/s amused), or the fact that you were sleep deprived for so long that you were observed hallucinating at times.

Parenting is a challenging—and rewarding—experience. But are there specific challenges and joys to being a parent of multiples (twins or higher order multiples)? Or are the issues for parents of multiples simply double, or triple—or exponential—to the issues faced by parents of singletons or singletons born at different times? What about parents who have more than one set of multiples, or a mixture of singletons and multiples? There is very little research on this topic, and we would like to find out more. So, we have created a small survey targeted to all parents of multiples to start digging into many issues, from financial, to interpersonal, to health-related. The link for the survey can be found here: [insert link]

Some people say that ‘research’ is ‘me-search’ and sometimes that can be true. For me, with this project, it is certainly true. As a parent of multiples (fraternal twins), I was surprised at (and honestly, sometimes freaked out by) some of the situations I encountered from the second I would say the word ‘twins’ to people. Most of my surprise is aimed at what people will say to parents of multiples. And I get it: all parents receive unsolicited advice, are judged by others as ineffective no matter how we handle a screaming child at Wal-Mart, and are asked all sorts of inappropriate questions. Sure, I experienced all of that, but then I also received twin-specific questions/comments like these:

“Twins, huh? How did that happen? Did you have fertility treatment or did you make them the old-fashioned way?” (From numerous strangers on countless occasions. I would say: I have no idea how this happened!)

“You don’t look like a mother of twins.” (What?? Were the bags under my eyes and my incoherent sentences not enough?? Am I supposed to wear a cape or something??)

“Which one do you like best?” or “Which one is the better baby?” (I’m not kidding.)

“I can tell your babies were born early because of the shapes of their heads.” (Yes, someone said this to me.)

When my kids were 2 years old: “Are you having more kids? Because 3 is the new 2 now, you know, and now is the perfect time for you to have one more.” (Wow, well, since you say so… What’s your name again?)

“Are you sure they are yours?” (Good question. My best answer to that is: That’s what they told me at the hospital.)

“I had my two children a year apart, and that’s the same as having twins.” (Um…. No. Being a parent is hard no matter what, and I’m not interested in competing with you, but it is technically not the same thing.)

“Double trouble, eh? You must have your hands full with those kids!” (I’m pretty sure all parents have their hands full with their kid, or kids. When my kids were infants and I was solo parenting, I was literally immobilized at times with sleeping babies in my arms/on my body/in the wrap, wishing I had some of that Harry Potter magic/an extendable appendage [or two] to move the crackers (or whatever item I needed) closer to me. But I never complained about the cuddles!!)

It was only last year when I finally realized that most of the comments I received about twins from strangers were somewhat negative. My realization came when a parent at the school that my kids go to said to me: “Are they twins?” And I said “Yes!” And she said: “You are so lucky. I always wanted to have twins. How blessed you are!” And that just made my day. Because she is absolutely right.

If you are a parent with multiples, help us gather more information about the joys and challenges of raising multiples by taking our survey.

Caroline Pukall Ph.D., C.Psych.