What It's Really Like To Raise Twins
George and Amal Clooney just welcomed their twins—Ella and Alexander—into the world but the Clooneys aren’t the only celebrities raising a set. Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Neil Patrick Harris, and Celine Dion all have twins, while Beyonce is about to give birth to her pair any minute. In fact, the occurrence of twin births in the United States rose 76% from 1980 to 2009, according to the CDC.
But what’s it actually like? Should parents expect double trouble, or is it a more-the-merrier situation? We talked to several experts to find out what the Clooneys—and anyone about to give birth to twins—can expect.
YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL THE THINGS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL
“Having twins is not twice as hard—it’s exponentially more difficult,” says Natalie Diaz, author of What To Do When You’re Having Two and CEO of Twiniversity, a global support network for parents of twins.
Diaz would know. She gave birth to fraternal twins after five years of fertility struggles. But when she looked for advice on how to raise them, everything she found online was medically heavy and negatively slanted towards the whole “double-trouble thing,” she says. After struggling to find good advice, she created her “own little twin universe” at Twiniversity, where she taps doctors and child experts for advice to share with other parents of multiples.
Her main tip if you just found out if you’re having twins? Remind yourself that you can only control the things within your control—and don’t freak out just yet. Here’s what you can do: Since twins are often born early, you’ll want to make sure your nursery is ready for your babies by the time you’re 32 weeks pregnant. Beyond that, there’s only so much you can control when you’re expecting.
Beyonce at the 2017 Grammys, shortly after announcing her pregnancy.
Most importantly, remember to take extra good care of yourself while pregnant. Be sure to drink your water. Remember to rest. Listen to your body. It may sound like basic advice, but with twin pregnancies, there are many more risks, Diaz says. Since bed rest is common for women pregnant with twins after 30 weeks—or 7.5 months—be prepared to go on maternity leave earlier than you’d think, just in case.
Having twins is not twice as hard—it’s exponentially more difficult.
PREPARE FOR LESS SLEEP, MORE STRESS
While this is also true for parents expecting just one baby, “two is always more taxing than one,” says Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. “The most important thing is recognizing that the fatigue factor will be an issue—especially for mom.”
YES, YOU’LL HAVE TO BUY TWO OF EVERYTHING
This part is very real. While parents of singles can buy one crib and then save it for their next if they plan on having a second, parents of multiples have to buy two of everything because they’ll need it at the same exact time. However, this isn’t all bad. When your kids grow up, it’ll actually come in handy. Did one twin forget their math book at school? No problem—just share the other twin’s book.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER HIRING A NANNY
“Having a nanny is always a personal decision,” Borba says. Just because there’s two babies instead of one doesn’t mean you have to hire a professional to help raise them. But if you and your partner both intend on working full time and you don’t have family nearby you can rely on for childcare, you’ll probably want to consider hiring a nanny, Diaz says, since you’re “basically raising a nursery school.”
Amal Clooney in March 2017, two months before her twins were born.
Also, keep in mind that daycare might not be the best option for twins. In some cases, a nanny will charge the same rate for two babies, while most daycares will charge more for two. It’s also easier to control the environment at home. “If baby A gets sick on Monday, baby B will get sick on Tuesday without a doubt,” Diaz says.
According to E! News, the Clooneys aren’t hiring a live-in or full-time nanny, but rather will have a night nurse who will help at the beginning with the babies' sleep schedule. While most babies won’t get on a sleep schedule until they’re about 10 weeks old, hiring a night nurse can help get twins on a feeding schedule from the start.
If you do end up hiring any form of childcare to help out, be sure to use them as a tool, not a crutch, since they’re there to navigate for you, not be the parent for you, Diaz says. And with any hired childcare, it’s important for the parents to “be in control,” Borba says, so that the nanny can be more effective in understanding their parenting strategies and philosophy.
TWINS WILL BE IN SYNC WITH EACH OTHER
While the only thing in common between fraternal twins is their birthday, you should expect all twins to have an intense bond as children. In fact, Borba says you should be prepared for them to be “emotionally in sync,” which means that when one cries, the other probably will, too. But it works the same way when they’re happy or tired as well. “You’ll see the other pick up on the same behavior,” Borba says. “It’s the wonder of twins.”
EXPECT THEM TO ACKNOWLEDGE EACH OTHER’S SHORTCOMINGS
Since they only know life with someone else, “they have this uncanny sense of empathy you could never teach a human,” Diaz says.
While there are some twins that have their own language with each other—called “twinspeak”—most twins don’t. But since children develop at different rates, one twin might start speaking first. In that case, it’s likely that one twin will be able to translate the other’s needs before they can speak properly. Is one shorter? The taller one will always be there to get things out of reach for the other.
YES, YOU CAN TELL THEM WHICH ONE IS OLDER
While many parents of twins wait to tell them who is older in order to prevent competition between them, Diaz says it doesn’t really matter if your twins know which one came out a minute or two earlier. In fact, her twins find it “supremely comical,” since her daughter—who is much smaller than her twin brother—is the older twin, and nobody can guess correctly.
Sarah Jessica Parker with Marion and Tabitha
EXPECT THEM TO GANG UP ON YOU
“They totally gang up on me all the time,” Diaz says. “They also gang up on their teachers and their fellow students—they’re their own little pack.” While this may present some tricky disciplinary situations when they’re older, expect twins to always put each other first before their other family members and friends.
“If the boat was sinking they’d save each other before me and I’m fine with that,” Diaz says about her twins. “They are each other’s constants. I never realized anyone could have a relationship that strong.”
SCHEDULE ONE-ON-ONE TIME WITH EACH TWIN
It’s important for any child with siblings to feel special and important, and parents of twins might have to work a little bit harder to make their kids feel like individuals. If you only spend time with your twins together, you might not find out what their own special strengths are. Does one excel at painting? Does one love trains? Diaz recommends finding out each of your children’s strengths and plan date nights around that.
“It’s important to get to know your kids on their own,” she says.
REMEMBER TO PUT YOUR PARTNER FIRST
It’s no surprise that parents of twins have a higher rate of divorce than the national average. “Everything’s hitting at once,” Diaz says. Whether it’s emotional stress or financial stress, expect double what parents of singles have to deal with. So while most parents are told to put their kids first, Diaz actually recommends putting your partner first, since one of the most important things to show your kids is what a good relationship looks like. When they grow up, they won’t remember what brand of stroller they had as a baby, but they will remember how their parents treated each other.
You won’t have any in-depth conversations for the first year.
“Twins wreck your house and body,” Diaz says. “The calm in the eye of the storm should be your partner.” She also recommends having any hard conversations with your partner—whether it’s about your sex life, where you want to live eventually, or where you will celebrate the holidays—before the twins are born. “You won’t have any in-depth conversations for the first year,” Diaz says.
STRANGERS WILL HAVE ZERO FILTER AROUND YOUR TWINS
Having twins means strangers will approach you way more often than if you just had one cute baby—and they’ll have no filter. Diaz says the questions (“Are you breastfeeding? Did you have IVF? Are they identical?" etc.) were relentless when she was out with her twins when they were babies. “If I had a nickel every time someone asked me if they were identical, I could have retired by the time they’re two,” Diaz says.
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka with twins Harper and Gideon
YES, YOU CAN BREASTFEED TWINS AT THE SAME TIME
Tandem breastfeeding is not only possible, but ideal. However, it’s not something you should start out with, since you’ll want to get to know your babies’ eating habits individually at first. It’s also critical to alternate babies and boobs, Diaz says. Since your body has a supply and demand system, you’ll want to switch it up so that one baby doesn’t get more milk than the other all the time. It’s also possible that your boobs could change size if you don’t mix it up now and then (yes, really).
YOUR WORK-LIFE BALANCE WILL CHANGE
Even high-profile lawyers like Amal Clooney will change their schedules after giving birth to twins. Clooney, for example, will return to her job as a human rights lawyer after six months of maternity leave, but with an altered schedule where she’ll spend a lot of time working from her home office, E! News reports.
“It takes creativity, because twins do take more time,” Borba says. “But the creative parent who loves her children—and enjoys the career—can always find a way."
But Diaz says, “People should not expect to jump right in. They underestimate what it’s like to go back to work.”
While it is tough to navigate, having a plan in order before the twins arrive can help. Diaz recommends considering an extended maternity leave and hiring a nanny to start before your maternity leave ends so your family can adjust to the new schedule.
Angelina Jolie with twins Vivienne and Knox
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.