Preventing Marriage Breakdown in Families With Multiples

Preventing Marriage Breakdowns when parenting twins or triplets

It is Multiple Birth Awareness Week this week from March 8-15, 2015. This week celebrates the joy of having twins, triplets and other higher order multiples and also seeks to increase awareness of the unique challenges when raising children for families with multiples. Because I was speaking about family breakdown yesterday, I thought that I would continue this theme today because one common challenge for parents of twins and triplets is a strain on their marriage.

I really do believe that having twins and triplets is twice, thrice, (or more!) as much love. However, the same applies to the workload that is suddenly thrust you. So many nappies, bottles, washing to be added to the normal household responsibilities. Combine that with a dramatic decrease in sleep and often an increased strain on the budget. After all, as well as doubling all the normal baby costs the rapid influx of children in a family often requires larger accommodation and transport requirements. This financial strain is often extenuated if there has been a high risk pregnancy where the income of the mother may have abruptly stopped before planned.

It’s no wonder why there is a higher rate of divorce for parents of twins compared to other families with a new baby.

To be honest, I always found having a newborn to be a difficult time in our marriage. On the one hand you are celebrating this new life together and are united in such a deep love for that little person. On the other hand you are SLEEP DEPRIVED and hormonal and stressed and exhausted. No doubt about it, the intensity was insane when the triplets were newborns.

Yet, one of my most precious memories during that newborn period was in the early hours of the morning. Alex and I were feeling completely smashed. We had been bickering with one another the past few days (maybe longer) and I was feeling completely emotionally depleted to deal with any more antagonism with one another. We sat opposite one another, me crying and breastfeeding two babies, and Alex not so patiently waiting with the third wailing child, deep rings under his eyes and the pressure of having to be a professional and function in a job the next day that demands high concentration.

All of a sudden we began to talk to one another. We stopped blaming each other for everything going wrong and started understanding one another’s perspective. It started with acknowledging that yes, having triplets was plain hard work and there was no easy way around it and it was a stage we just had to endure. But then the lights just started to illuminate to me as Alex explained that he was feeling impatient because we had a plan of how to do things before we had the triplets and he was prepared to execute that plan, but all of a sudden we weren’t going by the plan anymore. I suddenly understood why he was being snappy with me, it was because he wanted to help and was feeling helpless instead. I could then explain why I had abandoned some of the plans. (Primarily because planning for triplets is tricky when you don’t know what it’s going to be like and at that point in time I had never received any advice from another triplet mother.) And so at 2am in the morning we formulated a new plan and resolved to be supportive of one another. It was one of those turning points in our marriage for me. Our communication was already strong, but it reached a new level of mutual respect and resolve to understand one another’s perspectives.

The next three years have continued to be difficult, but we are committed to putting safe guards in our marriage to ensure it stays divorce proof. Here are what I would consider the three top actions that have helped us survive and remain happily married as parents of multiples.

  • Roll up sleeves and get hands dirty. Work together as a team to do the jobs.
    Husband’s, we know you work hard all day. We appreciate all that you do. However, we are working hard all day too. (Whether it’s in the home or in the workplace) Parenting doesn’t finish at 5:30. It would be lovely to clock off sometimes, but it’s just not possible. Children need to be fed, dirty faces washed, teeth cleaned, stories read and bottoms wiped. Get into a routine of sharing the duties. My husband is wonderful. He is brilliant at loading and unloading the dishwasher. It’s a chore that is so helpful and when he doesn’t do it, I really struggle trying to find the time to fit it in. Alex also brushes the kids teeth and reads them stories at night and gives the children breakfast in the mornings. We’re a team.
  • Find ways to enjoy one another’s company.
    Alex and I love dates. We love to leave the home and just be “us”. Movies, dinner, a getaway. We just relish those times. Dates are not always possible though. Finding a babysitter can be extra hard when you have multiples. We had very few nights alone in the triplet’s first year. Apart from that, it was just too hard to go out at night when there were three babies at home, especially when those babies had reflux and would normally spend several hours screaming before settling down for interrupted nights sleep. But we still found opportunities to enjoy one another. We didn’t consciously do a ‘date at home’ type of thing, although that may have worked had we thought of it. We just made an effort to slow down and took small opportunities to enjoy one another. Sometimes that was simply collapsing on the couch, turning off the TV and me lying down with my feet in his lap and we would talk. Other times the TV was on and we would watching a movie together, or we would have a baby (or three) cuddled in and we would sit there companionably and watch our favourite show, “The Amazing Race”. Grand gesture or simple things, remember you are only parents because first you were (and are!) a couple. Slow down enough to enjoy one another. Keep the connections that made you fall in love with one another strong.
  • Communication
    One of my favourite times of the day is when Alex gets home from work and I’m finishing off dinner while the kids are somewhere else in the house and we just talk, talk, talk in the kitchen. We talk about our respective days events and our feelings about what had gone on and then whatever else.
    Another important aspect about communication has been talking with one another if we’re feeling there is a problem. It’s much easier to explain how we’re feeling while the issue is still small so we can deal with it. If we are snappy at each other, when things are cooled down, we will try to deal with the root issue rather than letting it ferment. That way we can dismiss the superficial issue we fought over and our relationship stays strong.

I asked some other triplet Mums about their marriages and this is what they said.

Roxanne: In the early stages we worked together as a team as we had next to no support available. Being confident that we were on the same page with tasks meant we could each take turns going out alone to do jobs and have some breathing space. This helped keep us sane. We have struggled with our relationship especially as the physical care demands have decreased and the more mental and emotional demands with the kids have increased. We get through it by talking issues through or recently where we sought professional help and after the first session we both agreed the person was not for us, we committed ourselves to working harder as a team but respecting our individual needs.

Samantha: We talk and spend time with the kids. I found it hard not having family close to me and trying to juggle 3 newborns and 2 older kids.  My partner is a truck driver and not often home to help with the kids but our marriage had been good all around. But I would not change anything for my kids.

Paulette: After having multiples the marriage seems to take a back seat, it’s rare to find someone who would mind all three so you & hubby could go out… And even less when 2 out of 3 have Autism. We generally feel pretty tired especially when they were younger. And that’s about that really!

Clare: Not long after my triplets were born a friend told me that “Your children are your first responsibility and your marriage is your first priority”.  That advice really helped my husband and I to keep our perspective right. I think the consuming nature of raising multiples means that everyone involved gets squeezed to capacity all the time and the ‘dregs’ are what the spouse receives. Keeping this in check with open communication and making time out for each other we found really vital to surviving and thriving. I’m blessed with a great husband who helps me in all sorts of ways. I’ve found it really important to have the emotional support from him too. We’re there to pick each other up and keep on encouraging. We are both committed too. Like minded in realizing that we want to care for each other and thereby care for the children well.

It’s so easy to take one another for granted during the busyness of life with multiples in the family. When we consciously remember our partners and work on our relationship it might be difficult at first but in the long run it makes life easier, more fun and more beautiful. Sometimes the best way to love our children is to first love one another.

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Interview With My Husband

The very awesome Kylie Purtell posted a very funny Interview with her husband. A few bloggers have been joining in and interviewing their hubbys – with varying degrees of success! I instantly knew this is the type of fun thing I wanted to do also.

I knew Alex would play, but it would be a question of timing.  The Accountant is very task oriented and he has had some projects that he has been working on at nights lately and doesn’t take to kindly to interruptions and if you try to catch him at the end of the evening he’s tired and grumpy. I printed out Kylie’s interview so that I would have the questions ready should a good time pop up. I then forgot about it and left it in Alex’s office. He delivered it to me without a word and went to keep on walking. “Did you read it?” I questioned.

“Yes,” he replied, “What’s that about?”
I explained that some bloggers are interviewing husband’s and I’d like to do it too. “OK.” he replied. It seemed like it was going to be easy!

“Now?” I asked hopefully.

“No.” And off he walked.

That was earlier in the week. The rest of the week was busy, crowded with meetings and work. Saturday morning I planned to brooch the subject once again. I watched carefully as Alex read the paper. The timing had to be right. It couldn’t be to soon so I pounced as he neared the end, before he was planning his next move.

Caitlin: Hey babe, can you do that blogger interview with me now?
Alex: (Looks up, looks down at his paper. Frowns.) No.
Caitlin: (Looks down, he’s only reading the classifieds for goodness sakes. Glares.)
Alex: OK. I guess so. But it’s so noisy.

I get up remove the four plastic boxes and four wooden spoonso from the hands of two identical boys that were enthusiastically beating those boxes . I explain they need to be quiet and play with Thomas. I walk out deciding to ignore the stench of poo knowing I only had a limited time frame to ask the questions. I sit down. Trent comes tearing into the room demanding I cook some more porridge. He has just eaten a big bowl of it. I deny his request. He accuses me of being mean and runs out of the room, locking the glass door behind him. It is a move of defiance, but I take it as a blessing that we will not be interrupted. By now Alex is onto the sports page. I clear my throat, he looks up. From behind I can hear a high pitched whimpering from behind the locked glass door. I turn around. The small girl is holding herself and doing the potty dance. I run to the glass door and start banging, yelling at Trent to unlock it. Luckily, the small girl unlocks it. (When did she learn to do that?) We race to the toilet. She sits. She starts crying. She’s constipated. I’m stroking her back, reading her stories. Waiting.

Alex appears. “I thought I would ride my motorbike to the shop now so they can fix it. Can you put the kids in the car and follow me so I can get home?” I look up. He knows what I’m thinking. 16 years of marriage has trained him. “We can do your interview afterwards,” he kindly adds.

We dress five children. Put them in the car. After I pick up Alex, I get into the passenger side. We decide to drive the kids to get doughnuts for a treat. This will be a good time to question him. I whip out the questions and start recording his answers on my iPhone.

What is the best part about being married to Caitlin?
Alex: (He looks at me and we both start chuckling.  Interviewing your husband does feel a bit strange!) That’s a hard question to ask straight up front. Ummmmm. The best thing she’s a great Mum, a loving wife (slight pause) and very caring lady and a lot of fun. What else?

What is the worst part about being married to Caitlin?
Alex: She’s messy. Extremely messy.
Guilty as charged. That’s no secret.

What is Caitlin’s most annoying habit?
Alex: Creating more mess. Not putting things away. Not filing things.
All true. Let’s move on.

What is Caitlin’s most endearing habit?
Alex: (softly) Endearing? (pause) That’s a nice habit.
Caitlin: Yes.
Alex: Um. Cooking nice meals for her husband.
Caitlin: That’s it?
Alex: That was the most. Most means I only have to say one.

What do you admire most about Caitlin?
Alex: I’ve already said what I admire. It’s the same as the last question.
Caitlin: No, that was the best part of being married to Caitlin.
Alex: But I admire all those similar traits. You’re good with the kids, you’re a lovely wife that serves your husband.
Caitlin: Serves?
Alex: Well, you serve each other in a marriage don’t you? That’s what marriage is about.
Caitlin: OK. (You can’t argue with that!)

What was the first thing that attracted you to Caitlin?
Alex: Caitlin was a youth group leader standing out front when I first saw her and I thought she was very nice with a strong personality and very confident in herself. And so I thought I would like to get to know her better so I played pool with her because she had a pool table. (This is true, a few days after meeting Alex he turned up on our doorstep uninvited and asked if he could come in and play pool!)
Jonty: (Who obviously has been listening in on this) And I know what happened then. Grandma didn’t know who Daddy was when he came to play pool.
Caitlin: That’s right Jonty.

Before we were engaged. At my 21st birthday.

What do you enjoy most about being a Dad?
Alex: Hanging out with the kids doing fun things like kicking balls, riding motorbikes, swimming, going to the beach. All the fun activities and seeing them learn and develop as you train them.

What do you least enjoy about being a Dad?
Alex:  Screaming, crying, fighting, being woken up in the middle of the night for a wet bed. (He’s a great Dad, he changes most of the wet sheets in the middle of the night. Often I don’t even wake up!) Dirty nappies.

What was your favourite thing to do with Caitlin pre-kids?
Alex: Pre-kids? Travelling around the world.
Caitlin: Amen.

Hungary – 2002

What do you miss doing with Caitlin now you have kids and limited time?
Alex: Travelling around the world. (We both laugh.)
Caitlin: Do a different answer.
Alex: Going out for dinner. Doing one off spur of the moment trips to the beach.

In our favourite city in the world, 2004. A few months later we later we moved there to live for a year.

What is your most hated household chore?
Alex: Hanging pictures. (We both laugh.)
Caitlin: Can we do that tonight?
Alex: (Laughs then very abruptly stops.) No.
Caitlin: We really need to.

What is your least hated household chore?
Alex: Packing the dishwasher.
Jonty: And even doing the mopping.
Caitlin: Daddy doesn’t mop. We need someone to mop though.

What is your favourite thing to cook?
Alex: Pizza.
Caitlin: We knew that answer, didn’t we Jonty?
Jonty: Yeah. Pizza is his favourite.
Alex: Pizza and stir fry.
Caitlin: To cook? Or to eat?
Alex: To cook. I cook a stir fry to eat when you’re not around.

What do you think annoys Caitlin most about you?
Alex: When I fluff.
The 8 year old laughs.
Caitlin: True, there was an incident last night… There’s something else.
Alex: Grinding my teeth.
Caitlin: Grinding your teeth? You don’t do that much.
Alex: Itching the back of my throat when it’s itchy.
(YES! I hate that. He kind of does it with his tongue and his whole mouth moves in this annoying, dorky way.)

What do you think Caitlin loves most about you?
Alex: (Smirks) My good looks, my muscly body, (8 year old giggles), and my great personality. My humour.
Caitlin: I actually love your butt more than your muscly body.
Alex: My hairy back.
(Caitlin and Jonty burst out laughing.)
Alex: You’re so lucky.
Jonty: And his stinky undies. (The four year old male laughs.)
Alex: My scratchy face when I kiss her.
Jonty: And his cool clothes.
(Alex and Caitlin look at each other and laugh.)
Caitlin: Daddy’s cool clothes? Daddy didn’t dress cool until Mummy taught him how to. (Alex is laughing. He knows it’s true.)

A few years into marriage…

At this point, we go into the store, the children all choose a special doughnut so we can enjoy a family treat. Alex orders a coffee. The coffee takes so long that the children have all eaten their doughnuts by the time he appears. We need to get to soccer, so we go to walk out of the shopping centre. However, the triplets are overcome with the excitement of having Daddy around that they all want to hold his hand. Alex now has one hand due to the coffee. I’m trying to hold the hands of two children, who keep dropping to the ground in protest. (You know that classic toddler move.)  Alex is holding an older boys hand in the same hand as a younger boy. The younger boy doesn’t like this and is also dropping to the ground. We are in the middle of a busy walkway and have three toddlers at our feet crying. I take the coffee and pick up one child, Alex picks up two children and then we have only one child crying because he wants to hold Daddy’s hand. He becomes satisfied with an extended finger. You know what? I don’t think the kids will ever understand how in love I am with their father at that moment and every other little moment like this. We have a moment of weakness and let the children have a ride on the spiderman machine on the way out the door. We pay for it dearly and have to cart out three tantruming toddlers who want another ride. By the time we get to the car, loving feelings are gone and I am ready to throw that blasted coffee because there are not enough hands to wrangle wriggling, screaming bodies because of it. I’m only slightly satisfied when we get to the car and Alex puts it on the bonnet and spills a bit of it. He’s forgiven as I watch him try to wrestle a hysterical two year old into a seatbelt as he has stretched his body as stiff as a plank. Eventually we get in the car and realise we are in danger of being late for soccer.

Later I conclude the interview later over lunch.

Why do you think Caitlin is lucky to be married to you?
Alex: Because of my caring personality and my gentle caring loving nature. (Smirks.) My patience. And I help you a lot in the house.
(He said all of this in a sarcastic way, but it’s actually all true.)

What do you think the secret to a happy marriage is?
Alex: Yes dear, No dear. (This is an old joke we heard when first married when an elderly gentleman was asked that in church one Sunday when asked how he had stayed married for 50 years.)
Caitlin: Anything else you want to say?
Alex: And gifts.
(I’ve taught him well.)

So, how do you think your husband would perform for an interview? I kind of think that my guy did a pretty darn good job. And it was a lot of fun. I kind of love doing this type of thing after being married for quite some time. The times we just look at each other and laugh because we know what the other is thinking, the answers he gives that make me laugh because I knew he was going to say that. The answers he gave that made me laugh because I wasn’t expecting him to say that. Marriage is comfortable yet adventurous. I’m a lucky gal!

Linking today with Essentially Jess
(Oh, and apologies for the date at the top of this post. This really is a new post for today. I just accidentally pressed publish yesterday, then quickly reverted it to draft to publish this morning. I’m an honest person, so it bothers me that it appears that I’m breaking the rules!)

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Anniversary Reflections

At this time fifteen years ago I was preparing to get married. It was the usual flurry of hairdressers, chattering bridesmaids, make up, finery and photos. Then there was a pause when I was ready, the girls had driven away in their cars and I was sitting with my Father waiting for my turn. I wanted to arrive at the church on time. My Mum had wanted to arrive on time, and hadn’t. I wanted to do it for her, I wanted to ‘break tradition’. (I was too young to realise that I actually love keeping traditions. The youth in me just wanted to break status quo.) My father didn’t agree. “Brides have to be late”, he had said and then wasted time and ignored my requests to get in the car. I was nervous. I knew what came next was enormous, life changing and meaningful. I was nervous, but I was certain. I wanted to marry my Alex.

And so I eventually arrived at the church (late) and married him. My Alex. My best friend. So cliche, but so true. He was, and is, my best friend. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
I wish I could say I never regretted the decision to marry him. It’s not true. Because marriage is hard. I can remember driving in the car with him sometime during our first year of marriage. Absolutely furious and wondering what on earth I did. What had I got myself into for the rest of my life? Because at least I always had the perspective that this was a life deal. There are times when it would have been so easy to walk away from the deal. If I had, I would have never known the amount of happiness I would have been missing out on just because I chose to halt in a moment of unhappiness and unforgiveness. Instead, I can say that I love him now more than I did on that wedding day when I passionately, with all my heart said, “I do”. I know that I am absolutely 100% glad that I did marry my man, my Alex. 
There are times when I have been so frustrated, hurt and angry at this man I love. There are times when I think I never want to see him again. I want to pack up and leave this whole crazy scenario called marriage. And, I know that he is just as frustrated. But we don’t leave. Somehow we grit our teeth and we stay.
When I made those vows, “Until death do us part”, 15 years ago, unlike current trends, I really did take them seriously. To stay together until death parts us takes an enormous amount of hard work. It requires humility, graciousness, patience, acceptance, compassion and a whole list of other character traits. Divorce is not an option. Happiness is an option, and we have chosen it. We have chosen that the times after we have fought to apologise and to make things right, to sacrifice our own agenda for the sake of our marriage, and now for the sake of our children. Our marriage isn’t easy, because it never is when two people from different background, different desires and each with sinful natures combine. However, our marriage is happy. It’s fulfilling and it honours God. It means that for the one time that I wish that I wouldn’t see that man again, there are 20 times that I am infinitely glad I share my life with the guy that makes my heart full with his corny jokes, his silly mannerisms and his unconditional love.

Fifteen years ago I had one of the best days of my life. It was the perfect celebration of the first day of our marriage. Our lifetime commitment. 
Keep tuned as the story continues. For it will. Until death do us part.
What does marriage mean to you?
And because I’m thankful for my marriage this Thursday, I’m joining in with Six By The Bay for Thankful Thursday.


On another note. Congratulations to Sharon Fawcett, Melissa Bowdler and Juanita who wrote funny rhymes about burps, missing undies and nose picking. My son loved them and couldn’t resist awarding, “Good Night, Sleep Tight” to your amusing poems!
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