Toddler twins: Double the trouble?

My 13-month-old twins are getting into everything now that they both can walk. I am exhausted, my house is a mess and I never even get to talk with my husband anymore. Any ideas on how to tame my toddler twins?

Question:

Tame might be too much to ask here, but there are several things you can do to deal with their amazing energy times two. You probably have several strategies already figured out. However, even after you have many strategies in place, there will be days or moments when you feel overwhelmed. That is the nature of the job. You are at a particularly challenging time right now because your kids have just learned to walk and because there are two of them.

Here are some suggestions to think about (knowing that you have very little time for thinking, much less implementing):

  • Use the environment to your advantage. When our babies become mobile, we look at our environment in a totally different way. It can be useful to crawl around your house (before or after your kids get mobile) to see what is interesting, available, and dangerous at that level. You will discover many things that need attention. However, remember that you are not nearly as creative or curious as your toddler, so she will continuously be bringing things to your attention that need changing.

There are many resources for parents on "babyproofing" your house, including experienced parents, catalogues, stores and consultants. After you have taken care of basic safety issues (electric plugs, heaters, breakables, etc.) you can start thinking about creating play spaces for your toddlers. A carefully set-up play environment can cut down on many challenges. Many people create different levels of safe environments in their homes. There may be one room or space that is very safe, where you could leave a child unattended for a few moments. (Remember that no space is safe enough to leave a child unattended for longer periods of time). This might be a room that is gated off or a fenced play area. There may be other rooms in the house, which are partially safe, but in which children need almost constant supervision. (like the kitchen or bathroom.)

Creating safe, interesting play spaces for children doesn’t need to be expensive. There are many things found around the house that children love to play with. A mattress on the floor, pillows, dress-up clothes, small blankets, plastic containers, plastic jars with lids, pots and pans, water. If you are buying toys for your toddlers, look for toys that are "open-ended" that can be used in a variety of different ways. Soft blocks, soft dolls, balls are all good choices.

  • Get out. As challenging as this can be with two new walkers, getting outside usually has big rewards. You can pile everyone into the car or stroller and go to the park or you can go out into the yard or the porch. There is a wealth of things to explore outside as well as good places to run. If you don’t have a safe place for kids to explore freely outside, you may be able to use a portable fence to create parameters that will keep kids out of the street. Supervision, of course, is still essential. In warm weather, you could set up a tub of water or turn the hose on low.

With one toddler, walks are challenging, but with two, they may be next to impossible when you are alone. Remember, however, that toddler walks may consist of walking around the perimeter of the yard or going next door to look at the dog through the fence or to check out the snails in the garden.

  • Explore your resources. Parenting twin toddlers is a very difficult job to do alone. Think about your resources, both for childcare and for other household help. Do you have friends, relatives or neighbors that you could call on for some help? Are there other parents you can get together with to talk and watch kids together? Are there playgroups, parent support groups, or toddler care centers in your area? Can you and your partner think of other ways to divide up the tasks or parenting and keeping the household together?
  • Take care of yourself. This will look somewhat different than it did before you had children, but it is still important to fit some of it in. Can you schedule a few hours a week where you can read, exercise, have a date with your partner, visit with friends, shop alone? Scheduling the time not only helps you make sure it will happen, but the thought of upcoming time alone can sustain you when things get hard.
  • Let go. Your house may be a mess for awhile. If you can figure out what is really important to you, you may be able to focus on just a few areas and let the rest be. Some people can let go of the rest of the house if one room stays neat. Others can manage to feel okay if they can just get a chance to do the dishes every day. Many parents learn to simplify their cooking and eating once they have children.

The other part of letting go is about letting go of the idea of the perfect parent, the one who has all the answers, who never feels confused, tired or overwhelmed, or who gets everywhere on time. In order to be a responsive parent to two energetic toddlers, there is going to be lots of letting go, moving on toddler time, improvising as you go along, changing plans in the middle and just plain muddling through. If you can remember at least once a day what a gift these children are in your life, it can help you keep your perspective and not be too hard on yourself when things get tough.

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