The divorce rate of parents of multiples is higher than the divorce rate of parents of regular kids. It is easy to imagine why! Parents of multiples are in emergency mode or exhaustion mode all the time. I don’t think my husband and I finished a sentence for a whole year after the birth of the twins. When we had one child, even though he came to us through adoption with only three days’ notice, we still felt like us, only with a baby attached. When our twins came along two years later, we felt like we were getting continuously hammered in the head while getting smacked in the face while drowning. It’s hard to put your marriage first during that.
Anyone who knows us knows that we put each other first. We have known each other since we were maybe 14 years old, and we were together for 12 years (married for eight) before our first son was born. As much as we wanted children, we still aren’t used to the mayhem. Our “normal” mode is still just the two of us, since we were alone together for so long. I used to feel guilty about that, but I don’t anymore. The kids are temporary: they will grow up and move away. Mr. Okayest and I are married for eternity. (Like, for real. We were sealed in an LDS temple, which means we don’t “death do us part”.)
I am no marriage expert, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that ensure my sanity – or at least my marriage sanity. I can’t tell you what is right for your marriage, but I can tell you what has helped us. Here are a few of my own survival tips that might help other parents of multiples- or all parents!
- Never keep score. We agreed early on that we would never say, “Your turn” or “I did it last time” or anything like that. Sometimes it’s easier to remember that with multiples than with singletons, because all hands are on deck with multiples! Each of us always had a baby. It’s deadly poison to tally up how many poops you have changed or how much trash you have taken out. We each just do our best, all the time, until we can’t do our best – and then we say we need a break. Scorekeeping is a marriage enemy.
- No sarcasm AT the other spouse. Dr. Phil says this is one of his top predictors of divorce! Of course, we have plenty of snark when we are making fun of something (someone?) else, together. Heehee. We just don’t eye roll or use sarcasm when we are disagreeing, arguing, or even being super sleep-deprived. (The first six months after twins saw a super sharp increase in snippiness, though. Sorry, honey.)
- Eat after the kids go to bed on the weekends. Sometimes it’s cold cereal and sometimes it’s carryout. Either way, we know it’s our time for each other. At least I can eat one meal a week where my husband doesn’t have to see all my partially-chewed food as I yell to toddlers to eat with their mouths closed. We are all about family dinners, but five or six times per week is good enough.
- Reserve nap time for each other on the weekends. We do as many of the chores and errands as can during the kids’ waking hours, and then we are off-duty, together, while the kids nap. The whole house shuts down. Consider yourself Italian/Spanish and worthy of a siesta.
- Keep the bedroom a kid-less sanctuary. This suggestion is not for everyone. It works for us, though. We don’t allow children in our bed, and I don’t even have pictures of the kids in our bedroom. It is just for us. Simple.
- Organize a “Date Night Co-op” (free babysitting swaps) with other parents. I do the super simple version: I give my friends from 8 PM- midnight. I won’t put your kids to bed, but I will leave my husband at home with our kids, come to your house after your little ones are tucked in, and I will channel-surf on your couch and make sure the house doesn’t burn down. I don’t care if you go to a movie or make out in a parking lot. Just come home happy and give me a turn the next week or the next month. Simple, free, easy. (I’ve also seen more complicated versions, where an entire neighborhood or entire church will work together to earn points or hours with each other. Large groups of older kids can have movie nights at one person’s house while the other sets of parents go out.)
- Remember that your spouse is doing his/her best and needs breaks. We hear a lot about wives trying to convince their “clueless” husbands that what they do is hard. But you know what? Husbands work hard too. They don’t get enough credit. I don’t envy my husband’s tasks of vehicle maintenance, home repair, and taxes. I can’t do his jobs, but he can sure do mine. Sometimes he needs breaks. He likes to relax in ways that I don’t, and vice versa. He never judges me for how I might need to decompress. (Watching the Kardashians? Eating a whole bag of Doritos?) He never sighs when I ask if I can leave him to do bedtime while I go to a movie with a friend. I’m not sure I can say the same, but I’m working on it. He’s a good example to me.
These sanity tips have kept us best friends while having three kids in diapers. What tips do you have for stressed-out and sleep-deprived parents?
This article was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website. You can find the original here.