Paradise Valley Mothers of Multiples was founded in 1984 to educate members on child development and rearing as it relates to multiples through the interchange of information between parents, educators, doctors and others with a direct interest and appropriate experience.
This month, PVMoM Colleen Clemency Cordes describes what it was like to go back to work after her sons were born. She is a newly appointed Assistant Dean and longtime Clinical Professor in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University. She also works as a psychologist and behavioral health consultant in the community. She is mom to three-year-old twins Avery and Ethan and a daughter, Hannah, who was just born at the end of April. Congratulations, Colleen! 1. How old were your babies when you went back to work, and what factors were part of that decision?
When the twins were born, I took 10 weeks of full time maternity leave, followed by 4 weeks of part time leave, where I went into the office every Tu/Thurs, and worked remotely an additional 4 hours. At the end of those 14 weeks, I went back to work full time.
A variety of factors played into my decision. The first, and probably largest, was that when I was about 9 weeks pregnant with the boys, I was offered an incredible opportunity to become a department chair at ASU. While it was hard at the time to determine if I should take it when so many things were in flux, once Chris (husband) and I decided to go for it, it was clear that I would take advantage of my 12 weeks of FMLA, and then be back at work. I thought that it would be best for both me and the boys to taper back to work too, which was why I did the part time transition. During my most recent pregnancy (singleton), I was again offered a great job opportunity when I was about 4 months in – now to transition to an Assistant Dean position – and so it was easy to determine a similar approach (full time leave followed by part time taper back).
I’m also really lucky in that ASU has 6 weeks of paid parental leave available to me, plus a VERY generous sick/vacation leave accrual policy for faculty, and so taking 12 weeks of FMLA means no change in salary for me during that time.
2. What was the best part of the transition back to work, and what was the most challenging part? What were your emotions?
There has never been a question in my mind that I would go back to work after having kids. My career (as a psychologist and now faculty member) has always been a very important part of my identity, and my mother modeled balancing a high-powered position (she was the CEO of a nationally known nonprofit) and family life. Chris used to joke that considering I was getting my PhD when we met, he never had any expectation that I would stay at home, and I think I’m a better mom because I have outlets to engage in other passions.
That said, the transition back was definitely harder in some ways (and easier in others) than I had expected. Before the boys were born, I was on bed rest for three weeks. So if NOTHING else, it was amazing to get out of my house and interface with adults on topics other than feeds, sleeping schedules, and diapers. And yet I was still exhausted, and found myself checking my phone every few minutes to make sure everything was okay at home, or to see if I had new pictures of them. During the transition period, the boys were being watched by my in-laws, so I knew they were in good hands, but we had gotten into such a good routine that I was worried about losing, and then I found myself wondering if they wouldn’t be attached/bonded to me in the way I hoped if they were being cared for by someone else. I found these worries lessened with time, but especially when I went back to work full time and the boys were being watched by a nanny instead of family.
3. Many working moms describe feeling pulled in two directions. Have you experienced that, and how have you handled it?
Absolutely I feel that way! I am really lucky in that despite working A LOT, I have quite a bit of flexibility in my job as a faculty member. I can work from home a few days a week (which was great when the boys were at home with a nanny, because I could take play breaks throughout the day), and I can be present for the important things without too much difficulty. I’ve also found a good balance– I’ll often leave my office in downtown Phoenix before rush hour so I can be home when the boys get home from school, and when they are home and awake, I’m in no-electronics mode. The boys’ schedule has been pretty consistent, and so after they go to bed at 7/7:30, I can finish off any work-related activities that need to be addressed before the next morning. The biggest challenge I’ve had has actually been feeling like I’m occasionally neglecting self-care in the mix (the constant mommy problem!). Exercise, for example, is hard to fit into the day, because I don’t WANT to spend a Saturday morning in a barre class (my pre-boy go to) when weekends are the times I get to spend the most quality time with them.
5. What advice would you give to a mom of multiples thinking about going back to work?
The best advice I got came from my mom. Mom mentioned that the first weeks back at work after my older brother was born, she cried the entire train ride from Long Island to Manhattan, thinking about quitting her job because she couldn’t believe she was spending so much time away from her baby. After about a week she set a deadline – 6 months out – to make a decision. The deadline wasn’t a “I need to decide by” deadline, as much as an “I won’t make a decision UNTIL” deadline – recognizing that this is an adjustment, and the first weeks are going to be hard, and while that hardness won’t go away per se, it’ll change as you and your family adjust. Waiting 6 months to make any major decisions allowed her to adapt to new mommy-hood and working mom status, rather than acting on the strong emotions that came out in the first few weeks during the transition.
The other thing is that there is no “right” way to be a mom. There is what is best for you and what’s best for your family – and that will vary widely from family to family. It’s so easy to hold the “grass is always greener” mentality when looking at MoMs who are on the other side of the work spectrum. My mom always told us growing up we should “find what makes your heart sing, and you’ll figure out the rest.” Being a mom makes my heart sing, but so does my career. And so finding a way to balance both has been the key to my family’s overall well-being.
by Erin Sweeten I was awakened the other day to a torrent of pee falling into the kids’ toilet. My five year old sons were going at the same time, and already in full competition mode: whose pee was the loudest? Whose stream shot the farthest? Who could make the most gargantuan pee bubble? They can turn literally anything into a who’s-better contest. Whenever someone remarks on how tall Callum is, Ronan immediately pipes up, “I’m two minutes older!”
Sibling rivalry occurs among all kinds of siblings, but it has an especially strong hold on multiples. Their life circumstances are so similar that they have more opportunities to compare. They have also dealt with the divided attention of their parents all their lives. I asked a mom of twin fourteen-year-olds if the rivalry ever tapers off. “No. Uh-uh. Still going strong,” she replied. Drat. Looks like the sibling rivalry is here to stay. What’s a mom of multiples to do? I am still learning as I go, but here are a few things that have helped us tame the rivalry. What are your family’s most effective strategies?
When your children are learning a new skill, have them learn it separately if possible. I took my boys to learn to ride their bikes and one got the hang of it right away while the other wasn’t even close to ready. He jealously watched his brother wobbling down the sidewalk and kicked his own bike over. “I don’t want this old bucket of bolts!” Whoops. I made sure that we didn’t have any more shared lessons. The non-rider is now my number one pool care assistant, and he cheers proudly for his bike-riding brother zooming around the park.
Celebrate all kinds of progress. Create regular opportunities for family members to share their successes. We used to do a family toast once a week or so at dinner, cheering one another’s triumphs. That lessens the sting when one kid is recognized for an accomplishment and the other isn’t. Reviewing the day individually at bedtime helps too.
Help them to develop individual relationships and interests. The more often I remove the option to compare, the better we do. The boys are in different classes at school. Our family schedules “kid dates” every six weeks, where parents take turns going out one-on-one with the kids. This weekend, Callum and I shot Nerf guns, rode bikes, and played in the splash pad at a park. If one child is playing with a friend, the other child can always opt out and play alone. Each child can choose his own extracurricular activity.
Help them build friendship and cooperation. For every one time my sons are arguing and competing, there are three times where they are getting along well, inventing elaborate games or shooting squirt guns at ants. I make sure to remark on those moments. My favorite trick is to suggest that a struggling child figure it out on his own. His brother will rush to his aid almost every time. This strategy backfires when I am trying to apply some kind of consequence (i.e., insisting that a child clean up his own mess) and the other one sneaks in behind me and takes care of it. But even then, I kinda like it.
Avoid refereeing. If they are disputing about who is the fastest or the strongest or the best Lego tower builder and ask me to weigh in, I annoy my sons greatly by saying every time, “You each have your own strengths and ways of doing things.” I. Will. Not. Be. Drawn. In. They can compare all they want; my job is to see and appreciate each boy as himself.
I could say more, but I’ve got to intervene in an argument over whose head fits better through shirt neck holes. Wish me luck!
Did you know that the PVMom Blog has been posting advice and encouragement for several years? I KNOW, right!? Super-duper amazing! Fellow moms have covered everything from feeding babies to rocking family photos. This month, we’re doing a Blast From the Past Blog Post Round-up to introduce old favorites you may have missed. Heaven forbid you should miss out on a single precious word!
FeedingLittles: A two-post series on introducing solid foods, plus great sources for kid menu ideas and recipes. (Each word of the title is linked to a different post.)
You’re Not Alone: Shannon Galasso shares her personal experience with Postpartum Depression in a moving post.
There’s so much more on the website, too! I know you have SO much spare time on your hands to go blog surfing, but if you’re ever, I dunno, sitting in the passenger seat of a car for once in your life while the kids are sleeping, check out the archives for more ideas on saving money, traveling with littles, getting ready for the hospital, or just having a good laugh.
I used to judge the parents of assertive kids. My first child was a delicate flower who needed to be coaxed up the stairs of a play structure. She’d get halfway up and a couple of loud, energetic children would go careening past. She’d freeze in terror, crying, and I’d have to climb to the rescue, muttering all the while. Could these parents not reign in their wild toddlers?
Then I had twin boys. One was boisterous and prone to meltdowns. The other was so insatiably curious that no device or full container was safe around him. He’d continually scurry off--- down the hallway, across a field, through rows of library books. Though I developed high security at the house and elaborate systems for taking my sons out in public, stuff still happened sometimes. It was my turn to be judged.
And yet, as a stay at home mom, I longed for opportunities to connect with friends old and new, and to talk about something other than my children’s poop. Enter the playdate. In my mind, the kids would play peacefully with cars and babies and puzzles while I carried on a meaningful conversation with my friend. The reality is different.
PLAYDATES WITH BABIES In some ways, playdates with babies are the easiest of all. You can hand them their favorite toy and put them down on a blanket. But caring for two or more babies, even happy, well-rested ones, takes a lot of time and attention no matter where you are. If your friend will pitch in when a random baby starts crying or spits up, you’re golden. If your friend pays attention only to her own singleton and watches as you alternate between your babies, shaking her head and marveling, “I just don’t know how you do it!”, you’re going to need to coach her. “Do you mind running out to my car and grabbing the gray bag? I’ll keep an eye on your baby while I’m taking this wet onesie off of mine.” If she doesn’t respond well, it’s best to make your future visits with her kid-free.
PLAYDATES WITH TODDLERS Once your kids are mobile, the parenting awe of your friends shifts into a more uncomfortable mode (like my own former outlook), especially if it’s their first child. They feel protective, and your kids are probably more assertive and accustomed to sharing than theirs are. My kids had spent their entire lives wanting the same toy at the same time; we’d developed a certain skill set that our friends hadn’t yet. Sometimes I warned them in advance and told them how we handled disputes: redirecting, finding a similar toy, taking turns, taking a snack or book break.
Parents of singleton toddlers can just pick up a child, remove him or her from a tough situation, and murmur lovingly into a little ear like they are Mr. Rogers himself. I suspect this grab-and-go maneuver is the reason that singleton toddlers can sometimes seem more well-behaved than multiples. Alas, the grab-and-go is not universally available to us. It is dang near impossible to hold one toddler and successfully chase after another. I have done it, but felt I deserved recognition on Fox 10 News afterward. This is why I only had playdates at my house, at the homes of other twin moms with similar quantities of safety gates, or at parks with the toddler area fenced in. I would not put myself in a situation where I had to replace a Ming vase, no matter how much my friends were “ totally used to kids” and “absolutely adored” my toddlers.
PLAYDATES WITH PRESCHOOLERS Once the preschool years begin, you can no longer throw your kids together with some other kids because you like the mom. They must like the kids. Your children spend enough time with annoying people at preschool; they don’t want to be forced into it after hours. Our family had the difficulty of one twin having lots of friends, while the other none. Oh, the drama! Should I just arrange playdates for one child, or should I try to find somebody my less outgoing son would like? In the end, when one son asked for a playdate, I asked the other if he wanted to invite anyone. If he did, I’d invite two kids over. If not, he’d just play on his own. My quiet son got extra social practice tagging along on his brother’s invites too. My favorite playdates are the after school park meet-ups. Each of my sons has had a room parent willing to regularly organize these activities. The downside is that their introvert mother must engage in exhausting chit chat with numerous parents and grandparents. But hey, I need the practice too.
PLAYDATES WITH SCHOOL-AGED KIDS Once my daughter hit grade school, I started letting her go to friends’ houses without me. Because she attends our assigned elementary school, her friends are right in the neighborhood, and she can walk to their houses. I get to know their caregivers by hanging out at the bus stop. For the first playdate with a friend, I go with her and see how the parent interacts with the children and if it is clean and safe. I make sure the pool is fenced, and ask how the family stores their guns. I also give her a very basic phone that she can use in emergencies. When neighborhood kids come to our house, I set out tortilla chips and a pitcher of water and let them play and graze and hit all our whiffle balls over the fence. I’ve had to let go of my embarrassment over not having a spotless house when people are here; it’s a small price to pay for easygoing friendships.
You find yourself at 10 p.m. sniffing a pile of board books to make sure they don't smell like poop.
Your home security rivals Fort Knox —every drawer, cupboard, doorknob, doorway, and electronic appliance has some kind of lock or fence.
Someone in your family is crying because he pinched his own bottom with a binder clip.
You’ve broken up so many epic fights over the Cozy Coupe that you give your kids WWE-style nicknames like The Crusher and Banshee Baby.
You had to turn off the breaker because someone filled an outlet with toothpaste.
People in your family argue about whose nose it is. "Not yours! It's mine!"
You find yourself saying, "Where did this booger come from? Who gave me this booger?"
You have stood chatting with another adult while locked in a silent battle with your children, one of whom is trying to fish around in your shirt for your boob as the other attempts to climb up your legs under your skirt.
One twin is crying because the other one looked out his car window.
You turn your back on an opened stick of butter and when you turn back, it has bite marks, one per kid.
Giving a kid the wrong cup color is a betrayal that causes her to question the whole relationship. She is sure you love her sister more.
You have to wash all the cookie sheets because the kids got the bright idea to take off their diapers and sit on them to see if they were fun to ride.
During daylight hours, you only visit stores that have double car carts or drive-thrus.
You say, “Gimme a kiss,” and you get an open-mouthed lick somewhere on your face or neck.
Someone keeps putting a plastic saw in the silverware drawer, despite the drawer lock.
You have developed a point-scoring system with your spouse for how quickly you can sprint to the bathroom with a vomiting child during flu season.
You set out paper, brushes and paint, but everybody ends up with blank paper and blue foreheads.
You have been awakened at 3a.m. by someone poking you repeatedly in the face and whispering, “Eye… nose…. ear…. mouth…” while another toddler shouts from the bedroom, “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM! MORNIN’, MOM!”
You put your child down for a nap and he is immediately quiet. Not because he is asleep, but because he has cut a hole in his fitted sheet and climbed inside to hide. He defeated the drawer lock and snuck the scissors into the room while you were trying to get another one to go to sleep.
You let your family open their own fortune cookies and somebody accidentally eats his fortune.
You own more potty seats than actual dining seats.
You ask the store employee to cut the tags off of new flip flops at the checkout counter because the floor around the cart is already littered with shoes and socks and the children are about to die from Old Shoe Syndrome.
You laugh and cry more than you’ve done since your own toddler days.
We have another Mom of Multiples Hero! These posts give us a chance to get to know each other and share triumphant parenting moments. Whether it's the tiny wins or the jaw-dropping successes, we all have parenting moments we're proud of. It's easy to be critical but it's time to give yourself a pat on the back. You're doing an awesome job!
If you missed the last post in the series with Oly, you can find it here. Today I'm handing over to Jamie... she's one busy mama!
Q1: Please introduce yourself. How old are your children and what's your favorite thing about them?
Hi my name is Jamie Wagner and I was born and raised in Omaha Nebraska. I met my husband Dean six years ago who also was raised in the Midwest, well I never considered Saginaw Michigan Midwest but its close enough. We have been married now for four years this month and had our first son Noah On May 17, 2015 three months later to our surprise we found out we were expecting identical twin boys!
I delivered two healthy 6 pounder baby boys on May 1, 2016 named Emmerich and Andrue. Everyone always asks if they are triplets but we have to get into detailed conversations how they are only 11months apart.
Noah is definitely the first born child and a lot like me, strong willed, smart, loving, entertaining and loves to be surrounded by people. Emmerich was born first so we consider him the middle child and he has a lot of characteristics like his older brother but is definitely charming, vocal, a lot of personality, determined in many ways even being so young, he will figure things out after endless trial and error. Andrue is the baby and he is happy go lucky, highly intelligent like his brothers but it takes him a little longer to grasp. He is very athletic in the sense that he tackles his brothers and this baby still gives the best hugs in the world.
Q2: What's the one thing you wish you'd known before having your multiples?
The one thing that I wish I would have known before having twins would be how important it is to take them out individually one on one or with both parents. My husband I and I didn’t start doing this until they turned a year because One: no steady babysitter or stable nanny who could handle our oldest with one of the twins. Two: our twins have terrible motion sickness and I didn’t have the energy to change clothes to and from an activity. We were creative and had to walk them individually with our dog etc...
Q3: How do you practice self-care? What do you do to pick yourself up after a tough day with the kids?
I would be lying if I said everyday wasn’t tough but it is, its reality. Honestly having such a supportive, loving and hands on dad/husband makes my life so much better. He’s an amazing father and provider and I hope all my boys turn into the man he is.
On another note I keep my wine refrigerator stocked, Starbucks green tea, and read the mother of multiple moms posts and realize this is what God's plan was and he blessed us with three healthy boys so I need to embrace everyday and everyone tells us it gets easier ☺
Q4: What has been your biggest struggle and how did you overcome it? (or how are you currently working on it?
I like to think that I have a lot of patience but when you have three toddlers under the age of 2.5 its hard to keep calm. Every second of the day. I never thought that I would raise my voice as a parent, well not until the boys were older and understood mom means business.
I now am working on this when they all are whining, wanting mommy at the same time or are refusing to eat vegetables today. Now I am just going with the flow and if I feel as though my blood pressure is rising I go the pantry for a minute and deep breathe. This too will pass that’s what I keep telling myself.
Q5: What has been your Mom of Multiples Hero hero moment? That moment you gave yourself an internal high five because you were totally bossing it?
My Mom of Multiple Hero Moment? This would have to be I got all my boys to sleep through the night and nap two-three hours a day after 12 weeks. I had experience with Noah my first born and when the boys were born Noah turned one a few weeks later and I told myself once the twins turn 12 weeks they can adhere to sleep schedule just like my eldest did.
It took a few nights of the crying out method for only an hour but it was the best thing I did for them and our family. With a well rested mommy I was a more productive, fun and engaging for all three boys. I have friends who only have one child and they are exhausted because their child still wakes up in the middle of the night
Thankyou Jamie for sharing your story, three sleeping babies, whoop! Sleep is so precious once you become a mom and if we can get them into a routine early we are definitely making life easier for everyone involved. Being pregnant with twins with such a little one must have been tough too... definite hero status!
This month’s post goes out to all the families struggling through the weeds of that terrible time of year: The Season of Infectious Illnesses. I’ve driven the blog time machine back to when all three of my kids were really sick at once. The twins were two and a half and their older sister was five. I want to both empathize with and encourage you: you’ll get through this. Though I felt guilty and inadequate in the thick of it, my children are happy and un-traumatized. They felt then, and they feel now, well cared for. Yours do too.
The Sickest Days, 2014
This past month included a week that ranks among our hardest ever as a family: all three kids down with a severe stomach flu within a day or so of one another. Caring for three small sickies at once is just ridiculous. First there is the sheer hard work: all the stripping of beds and clothing and all the scrubbing of floors and bathtubs and the constant loads of laundry. Next there is the mental and physical raggedness of interrupted sleep. Some nights I was lucky to get 20 minutes of silence in a three hour period. My husband and I took shifts on the night watch, but often we had to recruit the other parent because the mess or the number of children awake was so extreme. As the week wore on, we each got better at handling nighttime emergencies on our own, which is a victory of sorts. He also adjusted his work schedule so I could have some time to rest each morning before facing the long hours once again on my own.
The hardest part was the emotional toll. One minute my heart would break for Ronan weeping through a session of vomiting or Abi asking for a piece of bread and then just staring at it tearfully. The next minute I would look at all my miserable children and mentally beg them to JUST STOP. Stop trying to climb up my legs while simultaneously trying to press down on your brother’s head to keep him from succeeding at the same task. Stop leaking explosive diarrhea out the legs of your shorts while I am filling your sippy cups with yet another flavor of Pedialyte. Stop crying at the same time. Stop chanting “I need you, I need you, I need you,” in that weak, piteous little voice, Callum. Oh, now my heart is broken again. Yes, I will pick you up.
My standard of care for sick children was set by Abi. Whenever she got sick as a baby and toddler, I would hold her pretty much the entire time she was awake. That was what she wanted, and what better thing did I have to do? When her brothers came along that was no longer possible for her or any of them, but in general, my M.O. is to give the neediest child the most attention. The sick child gets picked up the oftenest, and the other two are able to go with it. And while I sometimes struggle with feelings of inadequacy about that, it is nothing compared to staring at three wan, tear-streaked faces at once– each with that desperate look that conveys feeling shaky and nauseous and crampy and clammy and wanting Mommy to cuddle and cuddle and cuddle–knowing you can give none of them as much comfort as they desire. Once in a while I set the timer to designate when it would be the next child’s turn to be walked around in my arms.
And then there was one night when I was only awakened once; and a day with no leaky diapers and the children suddenly putting their food into their mouths instead of their pockets or the creases in their chairs; and the craziness of newly energetic kids who have been in the house far too long; and it was over. Relief, relief, relief. Callum immediately went back to working on being funny (like trying to climb out of the bathtub on the wall side– “Bye bye, mommy!” “Where are you going?” “Preschool!”) and Ronan learned how to say “mechanic” with perfect clarity and got busy “repairing” everything in the house; and Abi became obsessed with doing science experiments in the freezer (at the moment there is some plastic Easter grass in there because… well, who knows what the point is). There were no hard feelings, and life was no longer miserably messy but beautifully messy, just the way we like it.
It's time to here from another Mom of Multiples Hero! If you missed our last story from Bonnie, find it here. This blog series helps us MoMs celebrate our triumphant moments, because momming is tough and we all need a little encouragement from those that have been there.
Q1: Please introduce yourself. How old are your children and what's your favorite thing about them?
My name is Oly and I’m 25 years old. I’m originally from New Mexico but after getting married in November of 2015, I moved to Phoenix. Shortly after my arrival in the valley of the sun, I was shocked to find out not only was I pregnant (thanks for nothing, Mirena) but I was pregnant with twins! Needless to say, life changed very fast for me. Before my pregnancy, I was just a 23 year old trying to pick a grad school!
I have 13 month old fraternal boys named Lawrence (Law) and Orion. They are complete opposites. Law is my fearless adventurer, my go-getter and the one frequently on the receiving end of my “wait! Don’t do that!”. Everything about him is big, loud and determined. Orion is my sweet bug, mellow as they come and so ready to crawl into your lap to be held. Truly my favorite thing about them is how well they balance each other out and even though they are completely different personalities, they really are so mellow.
Q2: What's the one thing you wish you'd known before having your multiples?
It’s so cheesy but I wish I would’ve known how much they would make me grow as a person! I was given all the horror stories about the sleepless nights, the colics and the public meltdowns, but I wasn’t told about how accomplished I would feel when we faced a challenge and crushed it. I love to be challenged. I tend to throw myself head first into things and fight to succeed. That mentality has lent itself quite nicely to the whole twin parenting thing but it has also made me the biggest advocate for myself and for my boys.
Q3: How do you practice self-care? What do you do to pick yourself up after a tough day with the kids?
My first love will always be the outdoors. Pre-babies, I used to be an avid long distance runner and hiker so now when I’ve had a rough day with the boys, I first take the time to meditate and think about the good that’s in my life, then I go for a run.
At first, running was defeating in and of itself because I was not in the shape I was in before but even that has been a trying but welcomed learning experience. Before I took for granted being able to just walk out the door and knock out a run. Post baby, I’ve definitely developed patience and respect for what my body has gone through.
Q4: What has been your biggest struggle and how did you overcome it? (or how are you currently working on it?)
We had faced quite a few medical problems with Law in the beginning. At one point, we had an appointment for him almost every day of the week. That was rough but we made it through the bulk of it and thought, “there’s no way things could be worse that that!”. Then we got news that my husband’s grandfather had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His grandparents are the only family he has so we made the decision to leave everything and move back immediately. We had no plan, no jobs lined up, nothing. All we knew was that we had to get back as soon as possible. So in a week, we packed up the babies, our two cats and left.
We were blessed to have 3 months with him and will cherish those moments forever. I wouldn’t say that we overcame it because in that type of situation, you’re just along for the ride. I do think that while losing him was the biggest struggle we faced as a family, it taught us just how precious life is and how there was a plan in place for everything. Before we were so surprised to have gotten pregnant with twins against all odds, but now we really like to think it was so he could meet his great grandsons and have those moments of joy in his last days.
Q5: What has been your Mom of Multiples Hero hero moment? That moment you gave yourself an internal high five because you were totally bossing it?
This memory always makes me laugh. The boys were 5 weeks old and it had officially been the longest we had gone without camping. To say we were going stir crazy was the understatement of the year. At the time, my husband was working 12 hour days and was due to be home smack dab in the middle of our witching hour. I had had ENOUGH.
I went to our outdoor closet and started throwing everything that we would need for one night into the living room. Tent… sleeping bags….coffee….bear spray….water reservoir…jetboil.. and then I realized that I had no clue where to even begin in packing stuff for these teeny tiny babies that were screaming their heads off at me. After a few minutes of googling the weather conditions for the surrounding 100 miles, I decided to throw together some warm-ish things for them, my pumping stuff and just sat down on the floor with them (still crying) to wait for my husband’s arrival.
The second his foot passed the threshold, I told him we were going to go camping. Much to my surprise, he just shrugged his shoulders, grabbed some things and started packing the truck. We literally picked a direction and started driving while I looked for campsites. After one particularly scary moment of feeding the babies on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, we managed to find a campsite at 11 pm and settled in for the night.
Well the boys slept amazingly while we were up every hour trying to make sure it wasn’t too cold for them, cleaning bottles, checking for wild animals, etc. It got down to 43 degrees that night. The next morning, with the boys wrapped up like burritos on a cot, my husband and I looked at each other and just smiled. We realized that our previous lifestyle of being outdoor junkies had not ended; we had instead just gained 2 more adventure buddies. Since then the boys have been to 5 states and have camped out under amazing skies in beautiful landscapes. All because we had survived our first overnight camping trip.
Thankyou Oly for your story! I feel like I need to pick my jaw up off the floor at the thought of going camping with 5wk old twins. Sometimes you've just gotta do what feels right and I admire your determination to make it work!
My husband and I dated for a few years and were married twelve years before we had our first kid. That means we had almost 1.5 decades together without needing a single babysitter. We’d just say, “Hey, I’m going for a run—wanna come?” or, “Ooh, there’s a meteor shower tonight. Let’s drive out of the city and go watch it.” Or, “I feel like going to a taco stand.” Then we would just do it. If I needed an ingredient for a meal, I’d run out to the store and get it. Then we had the kids. That’s when we learned that there was no longer such a thing as a Free Date. That’s when I learned that herding three kids under age five into the supermarket at the same time is a harrowing obstacle course that takes up to three times longer than it used to. That’s when I learned there are no sick days in parenting. Having kids in a state far from family can cost big $$ in childcare. It came as a shock, let me tell you. Like firecrackers-going-off-suddenly-in-the-street level shock. But I have found some ways to reduce the financial burden of paying someone else to pay attention to my kids awhile so I can pay attention to my husband or, if the stars align, actually get some things done. Did you know that some supermarkets will watch your kids for you for free? Check out these cost-saving options.
Babysitting Co-ops: a group of moms each agree to be the designated babysitter a certain night of the week. For example, if three moms each agree to babysit one Friday night per month, each mom has an opportunity to get out of the house twice a month. Make sure you choose moms whom you trust and whose parenting style jives with yours.
Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs): Your employer may offer this benefit, in which you can put aside part of your income to pay for qualifying childcare before taxes. We use ours for preschool tuition, too. Calculate your tax savings.
Quality First child care scholarships: Ask your daycare provider if they participate in this program and fill out an application. Low-income families can receive full or partial scholarships for up to two children.
Mother’s Helper: Consider hiring a young teenage girl who wants to hone her babysitting skills while you are still at home. Pay her minimum wage while you take a shower or a nap and she plays with the babies and folds laundry. If you don’t know any girls who fit the bill, try posting on nextdoor.com, the neighborhood sharing site. It’s great if she can just walk to your house. Do interviews and call references just like you would with a regular babysitter. Mother’s helpers are also excellent for trips to the park or library story time when two sets of hands are helpful.
Kids Night Out/Parents Night Out: Many religious and nonprofit organizations offer very low cost babysitting at regular intervals—we’re talking $5 per kid and they get pizza and games while they’re there. These nights out work great for older kids that will not be thrown by staying up late away from home in a large group of kids. If you don’t have access to this type of activity, ask around among your friends. MOPs groups sometimes offer similar daytime services to members. These moms groups usually meet in churches and offer play groups and parenting support to parents with kids of all ages.
In-Store/On-Site Child Care: Some stores offer free childcare while you shop for kids over age two. You sign them up, drop them off, and are issued a pager or arm band. Ikea has a great kids’ space. Some Basha’s locations offer the Cub House, while some Fry’s Foods have Kids Korner. I know a couple that drops off their kid at Kid Korner and walks over to the Starbucks elsewhere in the store for a little date. Fry’s does not list their Kid’s Korner locations on their website, but I called a few on the linked list and verified they were still operating. One review I read stated that the kids area is up on the TV feed so you can see what they are doing while you shop. Some Harkins movie theaters have play centers that will watch your children for $6 per kid aged 3-8 while you are in the movie.
Parks and Recreation School Break Camps: Valley cities also offer affordable childcare in the summers and on school breaks. Check your city’s parks and recreation page for more information.
Inexpensive kid-free time is possible, even if your mom lives five states away. So push that non-car-shaped shopping cart around the store with a mind at ease.
Watching my five-year-old boys eat is akin to watching someone putting money through a shredder. They have breakfast. Then a snack on the way to school. Then a snack at preschool. Then lunch. Then two more snacks before dinner. Then dinner. Then a bedtime snack. Every few months I mentally revise downward the estimated date we will have to buy a second fridge. Don’t even get me started on how fast they wear out the knees of their pants and the toes of their shoes. For fun, I daydream about how much life will change when we don’t pay two preschool tuitions.
Kids are expensive. The Department of Agriculture estimates that it now costs $233,610 to raise a child to age 17. With multiples, those annual costs of nearly $14,000 are not staggered as they would be with singletons. We have double (or more!) the baby gear, the diapers, the child care, the preschool tuitions. But it doesn’t have to be a bank-account-crushing experience. There are always workarounds and ways to cut costs.
This, week, we’ll cover food, diapers, and clothing and gear. Next week, check in for ways to save money on child care, education, and enrichment activities. First off, here are some general money-saving tips.
Before any transaction, ask about deals for siblings and multiples.
Never make an online purchase without first googling promo codes for that website.
Search for Facebook Swip Swap groups in your area to find used clothing and gear in good condition. Use your part of town (“North Phoenix”) or a topic ( “Baby” or “Twins”) as search terms. If you haven’t signed up for the PVmom Swip Swap, do it!
Sign up for newsletters and that publish weekly deals on kids-and-family stuff. Some favorites of our PVmoms:
Breast Pumps: Federal law requires that breast pumps be fully covered by insurance. Check with your insurance company on how to claim the rental cost. You may qualify for a better pump if you mention you are expecting multiples. You could easily save $50 a month.
Formula: Ask your pediatrician for free samples every time you visit. While you’re there, sign up for the multiples benefit programs through Similac and Enfamil. You’ll get samples and valuable coupons. Check your swip-swap groups for free coupons, too. If your babies don’t tolerate regular formula, insurance may cover all or part of the cost of hydrolyzed formula with a prescription from your doctor.
Baby Food: If you have a microwave, a blender, and a few empty ice cube trays, you can make and freeze your own baby food without much fuss. You could spend $.79 on 2.5 oz of organic peas in a jar, or $1.49 for 10 oz of organic frozen peas that you cook yourself. That’s about half price. Fellow PVmom Katherine Betts has great baby food tips at Twinpickle.com. One PVMom tipped us off that Big Lots carries discounted baby foods—just make sure you’ll be able to use what you buy before the expiration dates. Some manufacturers also offer deals for multiples, which are listed on this Twiniversity page.
Snacks: Save money by avoiding individually-packaged items and drinks. Yes, a single-serving bag of goldfish crackers is soooo easy. Trust me: it’s not that hard to buy a family-sized bag and portion it out yourself, spending less than half the money. A nine-pack of 1 oz goldfish servings costs $.66/oz at my grocery store; the 30 oz box costs $.28/oz. Divvy it up after you bring the groceries home. Check Sprouts ads for deals on bulk items, and if your kids like seaweed, an Asian grocery store is your best bet. Pick up a case of 24 packages for about $6.
Organic Veggies: Consider joining a CSA, in which you subscribe to a weekly box from a local farmer. Prices per week range from $12-$30, depending on the provider and how much food you want. Yelp has an up-to-date list of CSAs you can check out. Each has its own drop-off sites.
Restaurants: Many local restaurants offer free kids meals on certain days. Our favorite low-cost restaurant meal is Vietnamese pho. We buy two large bowls of beef and rice noodle soup and ask for extra bowls for the kids. It’s as quick and cheap as fast food, and much more delicious.
If cloth is not for you, use your email newsletters to keep track of sales and coupons for disposables. Keep on top of your local Facebook groups, too. Swip Swap moms post low-cost partial packages that their babies have outgrown.
In my experience, the best store for inexpensive diapers is Target. I loved the Target Up and Up brand, which you can get for 10% off with a Red Card and a subscription( size 1s are currently 12.5 cents each before the 10% discount, compared to 24.6 cents for Pampers). Target also periodically offers deals on baby supplies, such as buy two cases of diapers and get a $20 gift card. You can apply additional coupons through the Cartwheel program in the Target app.
Amazon Family can be a good deal—free shipping and 20% off diapers and baby supplies if you have five subscriptions. You can apply coupons on top of your subscription price too. Managing it can be tough; sometimes I made the mistake of ordering too many diapers and having my boys outgrow them before they were gone. Be prepared to pay the $99 prime membership fee after your free trial, unless you have an .edu email address to qualify for the student rate.
Clothing and Gear There are very few items that you need to buy new. Many of our toy acquisitions come from the stuff piled on top of the clothing racks at Goodwill. In addition to your Swip Swap groups, take advantage of children’s consignment shops and thrift stores. One of our PVmoms owns Once Upon a Child Scottsdale and is a club sponsor. Her store has high quality items at good prices. Here is a map of child consignment shops in the Valley, where parents buy and sell gently used goods:
Now go forth, and raise those babies on a budget! May the wind be ever at your back. We'll have more tips next week.
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