One mom of multiples guide to coping with the trials and tribulations of school time.
Twins and then some
As all twin parents know, this isn’t a walk in the park. This twin parenting stuff requires prowess, strength, resilience and a good sense of humour. For some of us though, there’s an additional spike in the daily workload and pressure of life. Bringing twins into a house with other kids is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a phenomenally challenging job, one that requires planning, compromise and on many days, a simple smile and graceful acceptance of defeat.
I hope this provides some practical, achievable tips for coping with the extra pressure the school year brings.
New term, new promises, new realities
As the leaves turn golden and the nights grow cooler, the new school year offers the annual promise of new beginnings and hope to parents. This is the year we won’t miss a beat, we’ll make school on time every day, we’ll never forget a pack up, a trip or a test. They’ll be tumble free, drama free, without angst or fear. We will greet our happy, confident, curious kids every day and hear their bright and brilliant stories of the adventures school brings. And most importantly, we will meet all their needs. They won’t be compromised by the addition of twins. They won’t resent the time the twins take up but instead see the joy in every step of this journey.
Yeah. Good luck with that. As Halloween approaches, for many of us moms of multiples, the wheels are already falling off of that rosy outlook. Last night it took all my strength to smile as I was trying to help my 9-year-old with his mental arithmetic homework. Dusting off my rusty old brain cells was a sizeable enough task. Throw in bouncing a baby on one knee, using the other leg to keep another from eating the biscuits in the dog bowl and trying to show appropriate praise for my 5-year-old daughters homespun (and incredibly loud) production of The Greatest Showman… well, come on. Seriously. Is this for real?
Somehow as ever, we all survived. Despite some slight friction and debate, in the end, each child got from their A to their B. Everyone was fed, washed and snuggled up in bed. Albeit some more compromised than others.
So today we regroup. We revisit some of the self-taught mantras that help in times of stress. We accept that we must have rough with the smooth. We remember that we are warriors. We were given this job because we can champion it. We remember that with a little planning and thought, we can show them all our affection. Most of all we remember that love will out.
If you wake some days with a faint fear of what lies ahead, try some of these simple coping techniques.
Here are 7 tips for coping with school and twins
1. Schedule a 30-minute end of day prep time
Make sure you have their timetables and homework schedules on the fridge. Check what kit, homework and ‘stuff’ you’re meant to have lined up by the front door.
Make any packed lunches before bed.
Get your own clothes out for the next day. You can calmly control your decisions when everyone has gone to bed. Getting your head around a simple thing like what to wear can make a huge difference in your confidence and starting attitude for the day.
Lay their clothes by their doors and get each child their own hook in the hallway, making sure their hats, shoes, bags are ready to scoop up as you leave.
Check and reload your baby bag. Get baby clothes, nappies, any baby equipment ready to go with the older children’s gear.
Don’t take more than 30 minutes over this. You can do it. Tidy, organise, prepare and then stop.
2. Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to take some smart shortcuts. You will be forgiven for cheating on the home-made bread, cakes and flapjacks for a while. You can punch in name labels rather than sew. You can skip sending your donations to the cake bake this term. You can lean on friends for a lift to school.
Give yourself permission to be less than perfect for a while, to take a helping hand and to opt out from things from time to time.
3. Spot gaps and make changes
If you step back and take a practical, dispassionate look at the separate processes in your day, it’ll be easier to see those that are working and those that need improvement. Remove the emotion from the equation and work out all the processes involved in getting from the start of the day to the end. This may include the school run, feeding the babies, taking the dog out, running the grocery errands, picking up from school, running to clubs etc. We all have our ways of getting things done, some of which will be working well, some which are barely functioning and some which just go to pot every day.
Take a solution-based approach and work out how to plug the gaps. Nothing needs to be permanent because let’s face it, once you’ve got it nailed, a logistic will change, a club will be added to the list or a child will U-turn on you for no expected reason. However, think about the here and now and what you need to do to make each process function best.
Do you have friends with teenage children who could help you with a homework buddy system for an hour a day, or mind one child while you run another to a club? Can you throw your dog on a neighbour’s dog walk for a little while or take the stroller with you for the dog walks? Can you get a friend to do pick up on allotted days? Can you swap dinner times with a friend so that you both gain from a child-free window when your schedule needs it?
Try it, make a few tweaks so that you can even out the load and operate more efficiently.
4. Create daily 1 on 1 time
It’s a fact you are acutely aware of, but every child in the mix needs you, and they need you in different ways. It’s easy to focus on those who shout the loudest, taking the path of least resistance and getting by in whatever way you can. But if you make a promise to give each of the big ones just 10 or 15 minutes before bed, you can rest easy that you’re giving them real quality you time.
Ask them what the best part of the day was. Ask them what tomorrow is going to bring and what they look forward to. Allow them to release the harder parts of every day before bed and recap on what makes life interesting and inspiring.
They won’t clock the time you spend but they’ll find comfort in the consistency of you always saving a little bit of energy and space for them.
5. Don’t throw money (or sugar) at it
It’s easy to feel sorry for the big ones, to get a sense that you are not playing enough, not listening enough, not interesting or even awake enough. But don’t let the guilt lead you to an unhealthy place where you take shortcuts to show you care. You are a good parent; you can make time and you do care. Don’t feel the need to throw more toys or sugary treats to maintain the love, affection and favour of your children.
Kids are resilient. Be consistent and keep good strong values or you’ll spoil them and need to honour this exchange and materialism for a (very) long time.
6. Don’t compare yourselves to others
Everyone else’s lives seem simpler right now. Do not make comparisons, it’ll crush you! You need to get focused on your own shizzle and leave the other parents to it.
I’ve often made the mistake of reading the banter on the school mom group chat and feeling bad about myself. Parents with fewer children have more time to review and debate the issues surrounding their children. They can chit-chat (seemingly endlessly!) about what to put in the school snacks, what to wear on the trips and compare notes on reading levels.
Don’t get sucked into the detail or you’ll end up resenting their space and forcing yourself into a low ebb. Parenting twins is what it is. It’s busy, it’s hard, but it’s also brilliant and rewarding. Just keep afloat and don’t listen to any external chat that can take you off you’re A-game.
7. Pause, smile and reflect
Above all else, take a moment every day to smile about your beautiful brood. Think about the funny things they said and the little quirks they have that make them special. Most people haven’t got a clue about how tough a gig this is. But don’t forget that soon, these bonkers, crazy, muddled up, messed up days will become the ‘the good old days – the moments you struggle to recall a bunch of years from now. One day our hearts will ache to be this important, this busy and this loved.
Remember to reflect and save a little praise for yourself. You are doing a great job. You are a champion. Keep at it tiger, tomorrow is and always will be another fresh day.
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