Parenting triplets: The hindsight 10
As parents of triplets, we want to feel like parents of singletons. We want our kids to have the same attention, advantages and fun experiences as any other child. Yet triplets are not like singletons; they’re not even like having multiple singletons. Their interpersonal relationships are complicated, inextricibly intertwined, and often fraught with jealously or “egging each other on.” As parents of triplets, it’s nothing like we expected, and we often struggle trying to understand the way multiples work together. The joys and troubles we experience often surprise and boggle us.
Most parents wish they had done something differently. We wonder if something we did along the way made a lifelong or nil impact on our children at such a tender age. After 2.5 years with triplets, I put together a list of the more prevalent things we decided were important, in hindsight:
1. You may end up formula feeding after all, but keep trying to breast feed if it is really important to you. Many MOMs can not bf, mostly because of mom’s health after having the babies. For me, I ended up formula feeding because I couldn’t produce after 3 weeks, and I didn’t have the wherewithal to keep trying. I pumped and pumped, but nothing came out so I gave up. I was frustrated, confused, and extremely sleep-deprived. I had never been around babies or children before, and I was overwhelmed with triplets. I regret giving up because I’m certain I could have gotten there eventually. If I could go back, I would have prepared more, and tried harder to bf. (If you are expecting triplets and looking for triplet moms who have successfully breastfed, I can put you in contact with at least 2 or 3 women.)
2. You will not be able to keep up with everything, so get over it. Many MOMs feel a tremendous amount of guilt for being less than “supermom.” All triplet moms have different strengths – some are extremely organized and run a very smooth household; some are very nurturing and stay physically close to their babies, forgoing other concerns like eating, cooking and cleaning; some get very involved in the community, forming relationships with other children and families, taking their children on multiple outings per week; and some are career moms who work in hopes of modeling a strong work ethic for their kids while contributing to their college funds. Although it would be ideal, you simply cannot wear all these hats and survive. For me, I have always been busy working from home, cooking, cleaning, and moving too fast to sit and just be with the babies. I remember some devastating days where I cried right alongside of them, completely overwhelmed by it all. I was deeply sleep-deprived, unable to meet all their cries at once, and unable to finish my work at all. If I could go back, I would have spent less time multi-tasking (i.e., working while watching the babies), and cooking and cleaning. I was in denial of the fact that every aspect my life had changed forever.
3. “The Schedule” does not make it comparable to having a singleton, and may not lead to the best outcomes. For triplet moms, The Schedule ensures triplets nap and eat at the same time so mom can eat and go to the bathroom (shower not included). A singleton will naturally follow a “schedule.” For many moms of triplets, the schedule is the hardest thing to implement, as involves A LOT of heart breaking crying (Mom cries too). No one wants to let their babies CIO. This is done out of necessity, desperation, confusion and sheer emotional and physical exhaustion. If I could go back, I’m not sure I would have let them cry as much as I did. Now, at over 2.5, they are still waking every night, some times multiple times. They also scream, whine and cry constantly all day; in fact, when I watch the children alone, I find that when one stops, another will start. After more than 2.5 years, crying-it-out did not lead to our children crying less or stop them from waking at night.
4. Unlike singletons (or even twins), most triplets have developmental delays, so be ready to work with the triplets often. Sometimes, no matter how many teachers come in to the home, many triplets remain delayed, on the autism spectrum, or have neurological problems that continue into adulthood. All 3 of our kids were labeled as “developmentally delayed” by age 18 months, and each was assigned a teacher who came into the home once a week. Mom supervised, and was taught the proper child raising techniques. Currently, we are all trying to spend more time with the triplets to help them “catch up.”
5. The triplets will likely share a bedroom, and this will interrupt their sleeping. Separate them if you can. One of our boys started crawling out of his crib before age 2. We decided to take the plunge and gut an entire room for all 3. We attached the toddler beds to the wall because they would flip them around the room. Now, at just over 2.5, they rarely take naps, and I suspect it’s because of the all the fun they have in the room together. :) If they were separated, we would probably have more luck with naps at this age. If you have the room to separate them, I would at least try. Even more unexpected, our identical twins would have been better off separated then the fraternal twins, but this may be a sex difference rather than a twinning-type difference; the boys tend to feed off each other more.
6. You will feel like you can’t go anywhere, but don’t become a homebound-only family. You’re outnumbered, plain and simple. I mean, you can get out – and we do – but it’s not much fun. Mom and dad are all, “Help! He/she is running into the road!” and, “I’m trying to hold back the other two!” and “OMG, while you were chasing that one, and I was chasing the other one, this one fell off the swing!” and the constant, “Where’s ____?!?!?” A simple trip to the park may leave Mom and dad frazzled and exhausted by the time they get everyone strapped safely back in to the carseats (never mind either doing it alone). Let’s just drive around for a while, ok? :) It’s easy to give up and become a family of hermits. Especially when you see TV shows about the latest MOM “apparently” taking her 5 2-year-olds to the park by herself (yeah, right). We go through stages of staying home and venturing out, but when we do take them out by ourselves, we never regret it. No matter how difficult, it’s the outings that we remember, rather than the run-on days that all look and feel the same.
7. They may not listen to you, so be prepared to train the triplets to stay with you in public, and put your foot down when necessary. Most days, just getting all the triplets dressed and in to the vehicle can be such an ordeal that by the time everyone’s ready, you no longer want to go. Again, you are outnumbered, and somehow, the kids know it. This is something especially pronounced among multiples. They are exponentially (not additively) more disobedient when the other two are involved in the mischief. One will listen to you if alone, but 3 working together will not. All you have left at this point is your ability to brace yourself for the screaming fits, and restrain yourself from reacting in an overly emotional way (this is easier said than done). To avoid the tantrums and scenes, you may opt to stay home. But I want to stress that this has a lot to do with the temperament of the children – some kids more more rambunctious than others, no doubt. Still, at some point all triplet families get stir-crazy and venture out in public yet again. As parents, we exhaust ourselves attempting to make everything seem controlled and well-functioning – you know, like singletons are. “Totally normal. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.” You have 2 choices: wagons or leashes, but it all involves restraints. You’ll be criticized for using leashes, period. Hauling around screaming children trying to claw out of a wagon is much more socially acceptable, so do that. Don’t forget that if you pick up the super screamer (like you would with a singleton), the other two may launch into a full-force screaming attack. You’re better off leaving them all be, and dealing with the stares of annoyance. Meanwhile, it can be difficult and disheartening to watch singletons the same age run free. Persevere here.
8. Potty training is not as easy as 1-2-3. Don’t feel like you have to potty train as early as singletons. We are barely starting, and one child shows no interest at all. Most triplets are not fully day-trained until at least 3 years of age.
9. If you have a career, the slack you’ll be cut is short-lived, so be prepared to pace yourself and find balance. You can only use your triplets as an excuse for so long. People will give you “pass” on certain things for a short while, but it will never make up for what you’ve sacrificed at home. This is the reality of 2 full-time working or student/working parents with minimal help; you must figure out how to balance as soon as possible. By the time your kids are in the terrible twos – a stage which rivals the earliest months in difficulty – few people will realize and remember what you deal with every day at home. I think it’s very difficult to re-enter the working world if you depart for too long. It may be better to learn balance early on, and to try and stay on your work schedule while carefully separating it from family time.
10. You will wish you held them more as babies, but this is common for ALL mothers. Don’t beat yourself up. While it’s true I wish I had held the triplets more, I would not have been capable of changing much unless I had dropped out of the PhD program (now I’m in my 5th – and hopefully, final – year). Frankly, I was unable to focus all my energy on the triplets, and there’s not a lot I could change about the way I did things. I often worked when they all slept around me on the boppies, and when they were up, too. Although I get a salary for teaching, it only affords me help 20-25 hours a week of help, so I must work while also watching the triplets and managing the house. Certainly, it would have been much easier to leave the program, and sometimes I really wish I would have. But I’m hoping this will pay off, and I’ll be able to help my kids in other ways, especially for the long term. I hope to help support my family financially, yes, but I also want my kids to see me as an example of persevering during the hardest of times. My greatest hope is that I did not do it all in vain. But I still wish I had held them more, no matter what else I “had” to do…This regret is why I stopped blogging for over a year.
One final piece of advice I can give the 2,000+ unique visitors per month to this site: Line up as much help as you possibly can, especially if both parents work. This can be very difficult because you must allow other people in to your private, personal, new-family world, and not all helpers are not going to follow your requests. If/when you get frustrated with nannies/helpers, step back and see the bigger picture, and allow those who want to help, help. They may see things differently, but they may be right when you are wrong, too! Remember, your kids are getting more attention, hopefully from people who love them!
Things fall to the wayside slowly, and build over time. Staying on top of the important things will allow for a sense of control, and a fragment of sanity. Prioritize daily. My opinion? I think you will feel the most successful if you can go to bed every night knowing you did the best you could with the kids, not your work (if possible). The days I give it all to my kids, I feel much better. I can then tackle work without feeling resentful and producing sub-par results. Just give time to your kids. They need it more than anything else you can offer them. And if you can’t, make sure someone else is. I don’t expect everyone to share my experiences, but the echo of “I need more help” is pretty universal for parents of triplets.