Help for parents of twins and multiples

21 "I bet you get lots of help!"

Well, yes and no. Yes to begin with family did really rally around to help. I can't fault them for their efforts. Their continued effort to support us as and when they can is second to none. However, both my parents still have jobs, and busy ones at that. And both sets of grandparents live 3 hours away, in opposite directions. So whilst their intention and desire to help is 100%, the reality is that it's just not practical to move my mother in. 

And yes, whilst employing a nanny and having an extra pair of hands permanently 'on hand' would help, it's not without its downsides. For a start there's the money. These things cost. End of. We don't have that kind of money spare. Secondly as it is we are already tripping over each other and having to queue for the bathroom, or at least we will once all the kids are toilet trained. Then there is the small matter of inviting a complete stranger to come and live in your house, and play a part in raising your kids. I totally get why people go for this option, I don't have a problem with it at all as a general rule, but it's not for us. 

When I was pregnant with the twins people kept telling me that there would be lots of help out there. There were promises of training childcare workers eager for work experience - this turned out not to be the case anymore due to health and safety issues they're not allowed to carry out work placements within the home. There was talk about home help, funded by charities - turns out this is only in certain post code areas. Not in mine. Sadly. 

I was offered support by my local children's centre, the midwife said she would visit me once a week with her colleague to help out for an hour. This never materialised. Because I was too busy to pursue it, and they were too busy to remember me. 

Friends were full of promises to help out. Some friends were and are amazing. Some promises were too generous to be at all sustainable. It would have been wrong of me to expect them to keep to their word. Some friends have sadly fallen away, in part because they can never comprehend what my life involves now, and partly because I just haven't had the energy required to pursue and invest in friendships that don't come easy. 

Then there's twin clubs. These really do add value. They're very much a source of comfort. The other mums are encouraging and welcoming and understanding. But you have to get out of the house and actually get there - which when you're struggling isn't as easy as saying it. 

The place I didn't expect to get support from, but definitely did, was strangers I met through social media pages; twitter, Facebook and the like. These complete strangers reached out and encouraged me during some of the more challenging times. Some of these people I now call friends. 

Financially you get (or at least did get) child benefit per child. Apart from that there isn't any further provision made for the unexpected arrival of twins. My husband didn't get any extra paternity leave. He was expected to go back when they were just 2 weeks old. And as most twins are born premature (ours 6 weeks early) many parents are still back and forth to the hospital to sit by their tiny babies' side watching machines breathe for them, watching nurses care for them - and yet daddy is expected to go back to work. 

Then there's the complication of going back to work yourself. Me. Well. After my daughter was born I was surprised that I badly wanted to go back to work, I missed my career. I'd worked hard and done well and I didn't want to give it up. So I went back part time. After childcare costs were accounted for it was just about worth it financially. 

After the boys were born it didn't and doesn't make sense for me to go back. Going back would mean paying for 3 places in a childcare setting. Or getting a nanny, which as I've said we don't have room for. So we decided as a couple that I would be a stay at home mum for the foreseeable future. 

So in order for us to survive on one income my husband had to find a new job. And he got one. And I'm so immensely proud of how well he's doing in his career. The downside, he travels. Fairly frequently. Enough to warrant joining frequent flyer clubs. And sometimes he's away for up to a week at a time. He also works longer hours, usually getting home just before I take them up the stairs to bed. Just after I've negotiated their dinner. Wrestled them out of the bath and into their pyjamas. 

So far this has all sounded somewhat like a plea for sympathy. It isn't. My point is this. When you have 'twins' the intentions are honourable and sincere, people genuinely would love to help. But the reality is that the buck stops with me. It is my job. And it is down to me to get on with it. No matter how much I look longingly at the front door in hope that some fairy godmother will ring the doorbell, she won't. 

It's a shame there isn't a more comprehensive support scheme out there. It's a shame that there isn't some allocation of home help, or nurseries could somehow make placing twins more affordable. Perhaps if there was more practical and financial (allowing families to afford the help they need) then my previous post on post natal depression wouldn't have read that statistically parents of multiples are more likely to suffer. 

I hope that those amazing people that facilitate twins clubs continue to do so. I hope that organisations like TAMBA continue to exist. But most of all I hope against all the odds that one day the government might review the social welfare support of families struggling to keep nappies on bums and milk in the fridge when raising multiples.

In the meantime, I just hope you're as blessed as I have been with friends, family and neighbours. Those that have helped, have helped massively and kept my head above water. I know they wish they could do more, heck I wish they could do more. But they can't. And what they do do can be the difference between surviving and drowning. 


11 comments:

  1. Can't speak for anyone else but I don't help out of generosity. I'm totally, 100% in it for selfish reasons. No one hugs ilke Edwin and Rufus hug.

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    1. They do like to dish out the love, those boys.

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  2. What a powerful post Laura - well articulated and I hope that Mr. Cameron reads it and weeps. You are doing a brilliant job and, ironically, I saw the link on Tamba's page whilst looking for some help for someone we know who is not coping at all.

    Keep up the good work and may you have many fairy godmothers x

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  3. Yes, yes, and YES. We live near Liverpool and grandparents are in Scotland and London. They visit every few months but, frankly, that just means more work for me! Christmas was 'special'...And I actually have a live-out nanny. Which might make it sound a doss but either I'm ironing and she's with the babies, or vice versa. And the second I hear a sob I have to stop what I'm doing anyway. Only 3 years till pre-school...Great post. Keep it (and your chin) up x

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    1. I'm about 18 months away from the golden era of pre-school (assuming 'they' haven't done away with that along with child benefit) and I'm so looking forward to that time. I'm not wishing the next 18 months away, but I do plan to reward myself for that first year, and use the newly found spare time to pursue some personal projects. Sometimes it's day dreaming about those future projects that keeps me sane. Well, that and a box of tunnock's teacakes! Xx

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    2. You are an inspiration Laura. I have so enjoyed working with you on creative projects since I moved to the Village. You are incredibly talented with a warm and kind heart to boot. Thank you for your friendship.

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  4. What a fantastic post - it says it all! twins are hard work, yes the smiles and cuddles are worth it but it is hard! I am having similar problems at work - trying to manage part time work and be a mum but it is difficult.

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  5. Laura, I came to your blog via Hattie's - and I can relate on so many levels - not twins, I have 4 children spaced quite widely, but like you I get to be a stay at home mum, courtesy of spouse-who-travels. Nowadays, when the youngest is 8, it isn't so bad, but oh my goodness, the years when I had babies in arms and toddlers at feet, and daddy nowhere to be seen, it was miserable chaos, and like you, family far away. There is a certain ambivalence about the joys of being a stay at home parent at such times. I had such wonderful fantasies of going to work with a briefcase whilst Mary Poppins wiped snotty noses and answered stupid questions. And however nice your friends are, they are rarely there at evil o'clock when the children are hungry and screaming all at the same time, and there's nothing for dinner, and no clean pyjamas.. there really is no easy road when you're being a single parent with tiny children, even when it's part of a package deal that you are grateful for..

    I have a very dear friend with two sets of twins, and two 'onesies'. She had six under six, and stayed sane by being a piano teacher and teaching from 3.30 until 6 every night and paying most of her earnings to her sister to look after the kids, which was brilliant, I thought. She also had a big, helpful family, and a husband who stayed put, and she didn't leave the house for about 4 years. The youngest are 13 now, and they have grown up like a lovely (crazy) tribe of children, a village unto themselves. I have very fond memories of visiting them when they were all little. There was a baby gate across the kitchen door, and I would pop my three over, and the nine of them would have the run of the baby-proofed house (most doors locked with bolts up high) and Ange and I could have a nice cuppa, barricaded in the kitchen away from the mob. We got really good at ignoring screams, and only got up for blood..





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  7. I can totally relate to this post! I am a mother to a 7 year old boy and identical twin girls who are 5. So I was a Mum to 3 under 3 as well. It's so good to know I'm not alone in the world because some days it does feel like that, and I have found that with everybody's good intentions, I have pretty much managed everything on my own (with my husband out at work earning our only income source). I agree that the government needs to do more to help families with multiples. Whilst I wouldn't be without my children and feel very blessed, having twins isn't something you do out of choice.

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