One of the facts that people, for some reason, like to quote to pregnant women of twins is that the divorce rate for parents of multiples is higher. I'm not sure how true that is. I did some Google searching a found a couple articles and blog posts supporting that:
- "Parents of Twins, Triplets, Quadruplets, and More Need to Strike a Balance" in the Post-Gazette.com
- "Association Between the Birth of Twins and Parental Divorce" by NIH in the US National Library of Medicine
- "Parents of Twins Slightly More Likely to Divorce" by Genevra Pittman in Reuters
I still hear this statistic now, though not as often. Perhaps people feel much more comfortable sharing bad news when there aren't little baby faces looking at them. Regardless, parenting twins is stressful. I said before in my blog post "Comments" that parenting is hard. It is really hard to talk things out when suddenly there is a diaper explosion or a baby falls down and gets hurt. Things get taken the wrong way when they can't be discussed. Someone says something in a tone that doesn't sit well, but your attention is drawn away by the needs of your child. Hours later you bring up what happened and how it made you feel and your spouse is offended that you are still dwelling on it or that you are bringing this up now.
I'm not saying this in a way against my husband; we both do his equally. Some days I feel like he isn't thinking about how I feel or how he comes across. Some days he feels the same way about me. With twins we have an endless amount of dirty diapers, especially the first year or so. After being the only one changing diapers all day, you start snapping at your spouse to change a diaper or two, only to discover your spouse feels the same way, that he was the only one changing diapers all day. There is a huge opportunity for miscommunication or missed signals. A sweet gesture is lost as a child hurls in your lap or your hair gets pulled for the 8,000 time in the day or two toddlers get into a knock down drag out. Your tone gets short to your spouse after telling your three boys to keep their hands to themselves again (and again and again).
Communication is hard. It is even harder when conversations have to wait because we don't want to say certain things in front of little ears or because we keep getting interrupted. None of this has to do with the kids doing anything wrong or out of the ordinary. They are children, upset because they feel the tension or oblivious to their parents' disagreement-- either way, they don't really grasp that Momma and Daddy just need 10 minutes without interruption.
In most of the twin books, it says you should have a regular date night with your spouse. I don't really agree with that. Not that I don't think date night is needed, but I found that, for us, we feel more connected when we give each other the benefit of the doubt on a day to day basis instead of an obligatory date night each week or month. Don't get me wrong; I love our date nights, when we can get out without the kids, even if we just end up getting hot dogs at Costco before grocery shopping together. Those date nights aren't fun though if you are harboring hurt feelings or wishing your spouse would "do more."
I'm 100% not saying we have a bad marriage or are near divorce. In fact, nowhere near that. I love our marriage and I can't imagine my life without my husband. He is my best friend, my safe place, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my fellow adventurer on this crazy life we have chosen. We feel like we are "home" when we are together. I am head over heels for that man and he for me. What I'm saying is marriage is hard. Especially when you have children. Especially when two of those children are two-year old twins.
Sometimes when we find ourselves going down the ridiculous path of arguing-- arguing because we are frustrated-- I just want to put on the brakes, and we often do. We say, "Why are we fighting?" Often times we are fighting because we feel irritated. Irritated because there are children crying, the dog is barking, dinner is late, we are hungry, your spouse didn't put the diapers in the trash and a toddler is running away holding it, you forgot to make that phone call your spouse needed you to make that day-- the list is endless. And then there is your spouse saying, "When will dinner be ready?" or "Could you please change this diaper?" or whatever it is and suddenly there is a full-blown argument all because you had way too much stimulation, too many variables to figure out, too many needs to address at once. Worse, when it isn't an argument but hurt feelings and snappy words.
Bottom line: all we are saying is give peace a chance.
We ebb and flow. Sometimes we just know, "Man, the kids are at a crazy phase!" and we work together. Other times the phase creeps up on us and we are pulling against each other. Things that worked last week don't work this week. Our schedule is thrown off. What has happened for us lately is that our toddlers have really embraced the age two, yelling "Mine" and "No" at every opportunity. They are crawling out of their cribs, forcing us to transition to toddler beds. We've had so many changes overnight on top of summer travel plans and an upcoming move. Life happens. It can be hard to remember that this is only a season of our life when we have two two-year olds screaming because they won't nap in the new sleeping arrangement and we desperately need to make a grocery run. We forget to be a team. We forget that one day in the not-so-distant future we will look back on these days and wonder where they went.
I'm blessed with such a wonderful and understanding husband. Both of us want to enjoy this life we have together and both of us care enough to admit we are wrong, let the other person be right, cut an argument short and hug it out instead. We plan date night/movie nights after a busy week where we pop a big bowl of popcorn and pick up a Redbox. We do backyard BBQs with the family, turning on the sprinklers and pulling out the water table so the boys will play, relaxing on our patio furniture with cold beers and discussing our week. We purposefully turn off our electronics-- turn off the TV and go outside and play, leave the laptop closed and let the emails pile up, ditch the phones so we aren't texting or making phone calls. We like looking at each other while we talk and setting an example for our kids who are growing up in a digital age (read my blog post "Toddler technology"). I do a lot of multi-tasking as a mother of three and wife to a sailor, but sometimes listening is done best when you aren't multi-tasking. We also really make an effort to hear each other out, which often comes down to understanding we are different people that feel differently about different things. Live and let live.
After getting home from a week long vacation with the boys (read my blog post "Impossible") and unpacking all our luggage, my hubby and I were tense. We argued the whole time we got ready for our concert on Saturday night. Ten minutes before the baby-sitter arrived, we didn't even know if we wanted to go anymore. The toddlers were screaming due to missing nap. Our preschooler was hungry. I wasn't ready. But he urged me along and said, "Let's just go." I got ready quickly and managed to get out of the house shortly after the sitter arrived. By the time Brad Paisley came on we were holding hands and dancing together. The stress of getting things done with small children was forgotten and the petty arguments we had before leaving felt so distant. Even better, when we got home, the sitter said the kids behaved wonderfully for her. Ah, we needed that. We needed a night out just the two of us.
I don't have a good way to wrap this up. I don't think it can just be wrapped up and filed away. Marriage is a constant work in progress. Just when we get in the hang of parenting two two-year olds, I will be starting to homeschool our oldest in 5-year old preschool. Just when we get in the hang of homeschooling, my hubby will be assigned to a boat. And boat life is totally different than the life we have been living for the past three years (read my blog post, "STA-21 'officer's' program"). Plus we have at least two moves ahead of us in the next year or so and every military family knows how much fun PCSing is. At the end of the day, we are two Christian adults who have chosen to live our lives together and to love each other in a way that is uplifting to our faith and good examples to our children. We can only do that if we honestly admit our faults and faithfully submit ourselves to God and each other.
I pray Philippians 1:9-10 all the time because I love how it puts things in perspective:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-- to the glory and praise of God.Most of the time I start praying that for my husband and find that I need that prayer applied to myself more. The other verse in Philippians that really keeps me grounded is Philippians 1:27a, "Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Who can say they always live up to that one?
I know it is cliche, but these verses remind me of what love really is about. Love isn't about who changed more diapers or what you made for dinner or how many presents you bought your kids at their birthday party. No, 1 Corinthians 12:4-8a:
Love is patient, love is kind.I read those verses and think of how much more beautiful our marriage would be if I demonstrated that form of love always, not just when things are going well.
It does not envy, it does not boast.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.