It's been said that children are gifts -- little bundles of joy. But, increasingly, those gifts are arriving in twos, threes, fours and more. Take twins: In 1980, the odds in the United States of having twins were 53-1. Three decades later the chances increased to 30-1. Fertility drugs and more pregnancies in older women are among the causes of the growth of deliveries in multiples [source: Borba]. Whatever the cause, the challenge to the parents is great.
Rest assured, however, that because of the increasing number of parents with multiples, there's a huge base of knowledge for you to draw from. You may feel isolated and overwhelmed, but you're no more alone than those tiny people who are now under your care. Thousands upon thousands of others have dealt with the same challenges and, collectively, have created strategies, approaches, tips and tricks that can be helpful to you and your little ones. Notice that we didn't just say "your little ones," but instead "you and your little ones."
One of the overriding issues with parents of multiples is that they focus every bit of their attention on the children -- often to the detriment of themselves and their partner. Taking good care of yourself and your spouse isn't selfish, it's essential to the health of all of you.
Speaking of the maintenance of good health, it's often the first -- and sometimes the biggest -- challenge with multiples. For that reason, it tops our list.
5: Maintaining Good Health
Toys, trinkets and furniture. As the parent of a multiple, you'll encounter many occasions when you see an item for sale in your local store and you think "that's a must-have!" But before you buy one or three of those items, it pays to consider, "will this be in a landfill or a garage sale in a year?" Considering that question may be enough to save you from a rash, expensive purchase.
Remember the bundle-of-joy adage? Each newborn among multiples is less a bundle and more a teeny, tiny package. Because multiples weigh in far below the 7- to 8-pound (3,200- to 3,600-gram) birth weight of single-birth babies, they often have health problems [source: Raising Twins]. They're often born premature, which means they're underdeveloped in many ways. This can lead to jaundice, lack of intricate muscle coordination in the eyes, or life-threatening problems. Even if your multiples are relatively healthy, you may find yourself spending the first few weeks of their lives in a hospital as they're monitored and assisted with growing to a healthy, sustainable weight [source: Swenson].
4: Managing Money
Don't know how to live frugally? It's a skill that has to be acquired for parents of multiples. Your money will go to diapers, car seats and toys when they're little. That will become money spent on clothes, dance lessons and daycare as they get older. As young men and women, it'll become colleges, cars and insurance. And don't forget weddings. As a parent of a multiple, living modestly is essential. You'll amass a huge amount of junk each year without even realizing it. There's a difference between niceties and necessities -- with twins, triplets and more, it's critical to see that difference [source: Swenson].
3: Maintaining a Marriage
Having twins or triplets and more can add an exponential amount of joy to a household. But there's also a sad truth: Divorce is more predominant among couples with multiples [source: Case]. It's hard to find time to focus on your relationship because that time being spent on the kids [source: Swenson]. You may establish excellent teamwork to raise the children, but, even if you successfully get them out the door and on to pursuing their own adulthoods, you may find that your relationship with your spouse has been neglected. It's not selfish to take care of your spouse and yourself, but it is difficult.
2: Understanding Fairness
They may look and dress alike, but that doesn't mean they should be disciplined as a group. If there's one offender, he needs to face Mom and Dad's wrath on his own [source: Borba].
Think about parents you know who have had kids of varying ages. Each child has his own personality, skill-set and approach to life, right? Yet, in an effort to be fair to each of your multiples, you can end up treating them all the same.
The "good child" ends up with the same number of restrictions and rules as the wild child. But that's actually unfair: One of your children may get his homework done without any prodding whatsoever, while the other has to be kept to a particular schedule to insure his duties as a student are carried out [source: Borba].
It's wise to start with the goal of having a fair-and-equal playing field, but then give yourself the flexibility to adapt to each child's specific traits [source: Swenson]. They're multiples, they're not clones.
1: Making Assumptions About the Future
It's easy to let your guard down once you've survived an initial challenge but, unfortunately, there are many more issues you'll encounter. You endure the sleepless nights of infancy and the tantrums associated with toddlerhood and, lo and behold, they start driving and dating and you discover the previous challenge was easy by comparison.
That's not to say you should continually stress about the future -- that doesn't benefit anyone -- but planning and anticipating future needs can help you better adapt to the inevitabilities ahead. Take for example, your retirement. If those children are your sole focus, you can be left on a financially barren island once they're out of the house, out of college and married. Assuming that your life will be easier in the future is a good way to guarantee that it'll be tougher. It pays to plan.
Life as the parents of multiples can be intensely rewarding, but there's no denying that it's challenging and difficult, as well. Knowing what those challenges are can help you better handle them.