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When you have a baby, your whole life suddenly becomes everyone else’s business, right? Well, that’s doubly true when you have twins. I learned very quickly that the days of being able to quickly pop to the shops for milk (or being able to do anything quickly, for that matter) were over the minute my twin bump started to show. It got worse after they were born.
In some ways, the attention is quite nice. I was (and still am) incredibly proud of my babies, especially after everything we went through to have them. I loved showing them off and would happily talk about them to anyone who would listen. But, after a while, the novelty of answering the same questions and biting my tongue to the same comments wore off.
So consider this post a public service, to help you avoid the 10 things you should never say to a twin mum.
1. Are they twins?
This sounds like a perfectly innocent question, I know. And it is… the first 10 times I hear it on any given day. But I guarantee that you will not be the first person to ask. I never really understood why people would need to ask this question, especially when they were obviously newborns. Did they think one was just a really tiny toddler? Or that I’d picked someone else’s baby up on the way in, to balance out the double trolley/buggy? Even now, I don’t think the twins look different enough to be at least 9 months apart in age. If you see a parent with two babies, just assume that they’re twins. If it turns out that they’re not, no harm done.
2. Are they identical?
Firstly, isn’t that usually obvious? Secondly, when it isn’t obvious, does it really matter? You’d be surprised how many people ask me whether my twins are identical. Not to mention how many shocked looks I get when I shrug and reply, “Well, this one has a penis and that one doesn’t, so…”. And before anyone decides to be clever and tell me that it is possible for boy/girl twins to be identical, that is, of course, true. But it’s incredibly rare, caused by a male twin losing his Y chromosome during the very early stages of development, and (from what I understand) less than 10 cases have been confirmed. So the chances of the boy/girl twins you see in the supermarket being identical are ridiculously slim.
3. Were they natural?/Did you fall pregnant naturally?/Are they IVF babies?
I hate the word “natural”, for a start. I’m very open about the fact that Jack and Alice are IVF miracle babies and I don’t mind talking about it at all. But asking if twins are “natural” implies that there’s something unnatural about IVF twins. More importantly, however you word this question, what you’re really doing is asking about a stranger’s sex life and fertility. Not cool.
4. Oooh… you must have your hands full!
This is another one that is pretty obvious. I have two toddlers. Of course my hands are full. But so is my heart and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
5. Rather you than me!
This one is usually said with a sympathetic smile that looks more like a grimace. Some people actually shudder when they say it, like having twins would be the worst thing that could ever happen to them. Twin mums do not need your pity. My kids are awesome. Being a twin mum is awesome. I promise. If you don’t believe me, check out my Five Reasons Why Having Twins is the Best Thing Ever post.
6. Double trouble!
My kids are actually very well behaved… in public, anyway. Most of the time. The most annoying thing about this one is that the person always says it as if they’re the first person to ever say it. They are not. Stop focusing on the negative, people! Try “double the love”! That one’s always true, even if it sounds super cheesy.
7. Two boys, then? (Or basically any gender guess)
Poor Alice was not blessed with a full head of hair when she was born. I think Jack stole her share of the hair genes. So, I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people sometimes thought she was a boy. Even if she was dressed head to toe in pink, with a bow in her hair. Or after I’d already told the well-meaning but nosey stranger that their names are Jack and Alice. If you’re not sure, don’t guess. You’ll only look silly.
8. I had my kids close together, so it was like having twins.
No. It wasn’t. I’m not saying having kids close together in age wouldn’t be hard. In fact, it might even be harder than having twins. When my friends say they don’t know how I cope with twins, my first thought is that I don’t know how they cope with a toddler and a baby. But it’s not like having twins. Nothing is like having twins. Except actually having twins.
9. Don’t you wish you had a boy/girl?
I obviously don’t get asked this one, because I have one of each, but my twin Mum friends with two boys or two girls hate this question, so it deserves a spot on the list. It implies that they’re not happy with the children they were given, which is just not true for the vast majority of parents. Gender disappointment is a very real issue, but not one you should ask strangers about.
10. You don’t want anymore, right?
This one is actually true for me. I always wanted two children and that’s what I’ve been blessed with. After the nightmare of infertility and IVF, I’m glad I never have to put myself through that again. But that’s not the case for everyone. Some twin mums want a huge family. I’ve spoken to some twin mums with more than one set of twins, plus singletons as well! Some twin mums would love another child, but don’t have that option, whether it’s because they needed fertility treatment to get pregnant the first time and can’t afford more, or because they’re struggling with secondary infertility. A good rule of thumb is to just avoid asking people how many kids they want or whether they’re going to have any, whether it would their first or their 5th. It’s a very sensitive subject and you just don’t know what a person’s story is.
Having written this list of 10, I think I could probably think of at least 10 more! Out and About Mummy has covered some of them So check out her list here!
In the meantime, if in doubt, say something positive. Tell a twin mum (hell, any mum!) that her children are beautiful or that she’s doing a great job. It’s much nicer to put a smile on someone’s face than to make them think of excuses to run away from you!