“I just don’t know how you do it!” As a new mom to nearly one-year-old twins, I get that a lot. Frankly, it’s a reasonable thing to say, coming from parents managing one single baby at a time. Of course, all parenting has its many challenges (and rewards!), but managing life with two babies at the same time is a niche that requires a lot of finesse. And if your situation is three-on-one, four-on-one, or more for all you higher-order multiples moms and dads out there, well, I know you look at us twin parents like we’re silly amateurs. (And we’re in awe of you!)
With that in mind, I have compiled some of the key differences, based on my own experiences and the feedback of other moms in my local multiples club. Here are some things that singleton parents do that we multiples parents watch from the sidelines with equal parts amazement, jealousy…and maybe a little smugness, too!
1. Relieving the other parent
Newsflash: Being a new parent is intense and exhausting. And it’s even more overwhelming when you’re not able to look to another adult for a bit of relief in certain situations. In families with multiples, every adult in the house (or at the table at the restaurant, for instance) already has his or her hands full. (Extra hat tip to any superhero single parents of multiples who are outnumbered no matter what!) So when singleton moms or dads talk about “how complicated going out to eat has become now that we have to pass the baby back and forth,” well, that sounds plenty relaxing to us!
2. Sleeping when the baby sleeps
Ah, that age-old adage that’s so liberally tossed around, but so hard to implement in real life! In the very early stages of multiples parenting, moments when all babies in the house are asleep at one time are magical and rare like a unicorn. Safe to say, you can’t bank your own rest on it. Before my babes were sleeping through the night and napping on schedule, I likened the experience to playing Whac-a-Mole—although I regretted how violent (if apt!) that analogy sounded.
3. Just “popping” over to the store for diapers
Multiples moms and dads find jaunty action verbs like that perfectly quaint. I can assure you there’s no just “popping over” or “hopping into” anything with two babies or more. But let me use a more specific personal anecdote: When my babies were a few months old, I attempted my first trip to Target without another adult. I put one car seat in the base of the cart and wore the other baby. (You can’t push a cart and a double stroller at the same time.) Well, then where would the items go? I could try to put heavy items on the cart’s bottom platform, but how would I safely maneuver down there while also wearing a baby? The fact that I got home with both my babies as well as my purse (which got in the way of the baby carrier and so it sat in the cart) felt like a massive accomplishment. I was like: I am super mom!
4. Casually browsing retail
At least big-box stores, like Target, have wide aisles. But what about typical shops? I’m fortunate to live walking distance from one of the nation’s destination shopping centers, the Grove in Los Angeles, which has lots of stimulation for babies and kids, including a train. But every time I try to casually drop into a store there, I am reminded that its aisles are not built for double-wide strollers. It feels like navigating a cargo ship in a bath tub.
5. Simple babywearing
While I was pregnant, I watched some videos that showed people wearing back-to-back Ergo baby carriers. It seemed possible and even fun. Now it seems hilarious. I realize people do it—and even wrap up their multiples in intricate ways to wear them—but that’s advanced-level stuff. Whereas singleton moms or dads can just hitch on their babies for some hands-free bonding, not so much for the typical multiples parent.
6. Breastfeeding anywhere
Getting the hang of breastfeeding is a spectrum of difficulty and complexity for moms. But for those people who suggest that breastfeeding is actually easy because you can just “feed the baby anywhere?” Well, yeah, not so much. Breastfeeding multiples a nuanced proposition. So I didn’t spend all day every day nursing, I breastfed my twins in tandem at the beginning. This required that special double-wide nursing pillow, and it required my husband. I got situated in the chair, stuffed the pillow in all around me, and he brought me each baby, one by one. Then, he took away each baby, one at a time. Try something like that while out and about. Easy breezy! (Not.)
7. Driving a compact car
I was already a zillion weeks pregnant with the twins by the time we experimented with putting my tall husband in the front seat of my compact hatchback with the car seats installed behind each of our seats. It was a no go. We had already returned one double stroller baby shower gift in favor of one billed as “mini,” but even that one didn’t fit in the trunk. I lived in denial (just a river in Egypt, right?) late into my third trimester before realizing that I could not make these things fit by sheer force of will. Finally, copping to reality with only days to go, we sold that car and up-sized to an SUV.
8. Loading or unloading the car without a frantic dash
Speaking of cars, what happens when one parent tries to unload two babies out of the car and into the house without another adult to help? Well, speaking for myself, it involves a lot of running back and forth as fast as my legs will carry me, and if I’m being honest, some measure of finger crossing.
9. Sitting in the same row on an airplane
With so much family support in town, my husband and I have traveled both for work and leisure multiple times since our kids were born—but without them. We haven’t yet flown anywhere by airplane with them, but the other members of my multiples group point out: If you have two parents and a set of multiples old enough to sit in their own seats, you’ve already outgrown a typical airplane row of three. And if they’re lap children, you still can’t share the same row—because there aren’t enough oxygen masks. Womp womp.
10. Doing a one-on-one activity
I always loved the idea of stuff like mommy-and-me yoga. But unfortunately, such one-on-one classes shall have to remain in the realm of fantasy for me because…well…because two-on-one doesn’t exactly allow for the same possibilities!
This story originally appeared on Parenting.com.