Every parent of twins will tell you that the most important sanity saver is letting friends and family pitch in. "You desperately want to meet your child's every need. But it's impossible even with one baby and out of the question with two," explains psychotherapist Eileen M. Pearlman, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising Twins: What Parents Want to Know (and What Twins Want to Tell Them) (Harper Resource) and director of Twinsight, which provides counseling and workshops to multiples and their families. "Parents need to be realistic about what they can expect of themselves."
It can be hard to ask for assistance, particularly if you pride yourself on being independent or your twins are the result of fertility treatments. "People have said to me, 'Hey, you asked for it! You knew when you took fertility drugs that you might have more than one baby,' " says Debra LaPadula, an Eastchester, New York, mother of triplets. "No matter how much you wanted your babies and how hard it may have been to conceive them, it's okay to acknowledge that raising twins is hard work," Dr. Pearlman stresses. "Don't feel guilty about getting help. You're not lazy; you're smart."
Because nights are especially demanding, consider hiring a round-the-clock baby nurse or an overnight nanny, if financially feasible, even for a short time. Or invite a relative to stay for a few weeks. "I was dead-tired and sore from giving birth. Yet the first night home, it seemed that every five minutes my husband would walk into the room with another crying baby -- or our crying toddler. If my mother hadn't been there to help, I would've gone crazy," recalls Amy McClanahan, of Fowlerville, Michigan.
Of course, you can also use backup support during the day. "I called local churches and synagogues to find a mother's helper," LaPadula says. "It doesn't cost much to have a 12-year-old come by after school." Though a preteen shouldn't be left alone at home with infants, she can help with feeding and diapering or at least entertain the babies while you shower.
When your friends ask, "Is there anything I can do?" force yourself to say yes. They can:
- Accompany you to the pediatrician
- Wash clothes or dishes
- Dress one baby while you bathe the other
- Buy groceries and diapers
- Take the babies for a walk while you nap
- Drive your older child to preschool
- E-mail friends to coordinate delivery of ready-to-eat dinners