Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Twice the price

Last year I took my two older boys to see Disney on Ice as a birthday treat. At around £150 for a family of four this was an extravagance for a special occasion. This year I looked and to take my new family of six it would cost almost £300. In the past few years I have taken the big boys to Florida on holiday, again not cheap, but just about affordable on our two incomes, this year the flights alone ran into many multiple thousands. Perhaps it's no surprise that even though most twins are born into relatively affluent families, they still end up facing financial hardship and are more likely to divorce as a result.

But, while I would never say no to an extra bob or two to help meet the costs of bringing up my children, I think the real strain that twins put on a couple is more practical than financial. Just one baby can be shared between two parents, allowing each to take a break and have a bit of down time. One baby doesn't tie you to the house because overcoming the obstacles put in the way of a double buggy is just too much trouble when you're a tired, overwhelmed parent of multiples.

Yesterday I took my two boys to the doctor to get a vaccination. I am lucky, my nanny was able to come with me and help out. But having an extra pair of hands on this trip wasn't a luxury, it was a necessity. My surgery doesn't allow pushchairs, and even if it did I doubt my monster buggy would make it through the door.

As they are far too heavy for me to carry both on my own, the only way I could get both to the doctor would be to leave one alone in the car, while the other remained on his own in the waiting room, while I rushed out to retrieve his brother - hardly ideal with crawling, curious babies. Then we'd have to repeat the whole performance after they'd both been jabbed too. A far cry from the cuddles, kisses and care my first two sons had when they went through their early injections and it left me wondering how a mum of twins would cope alone.

Most shop doors are barred to me on my high street as they are either up steps or too narrow to get through, and if I do make it inside I am met with tuts and huffs as people try to squeeze past the pushchair to negotiate the narrow aisles. I wouldn't dare take the pushchair on the tube, and my local station can't be navigated without climbing two flights of stairs anyway. Buses are out due to space constraints, so my only means of transport is the beleaguered car. Which has to be an enormous gas guzzler just to fit my four children and their paraphernalia inside. Another huge cost levelled at many parents of multiples.

That said it was my choice to go ahead and have my boys, and I wouldn't change it for the world, but it has given me a new perspective. I feel a lot more empathy for anyone consigned to a wheelchair, as I now realise how many doors are closed to them and how isolating that can be. I also realise how no one who hasn't had twins understands the challenges we face.

Where my family rushed to help with one baby, with two we have been left to cope alone far more. People are too overwhelmed by the concept of managing two to want to help out. Nannies have come and gone under the strain of dealing with two babies at the same time. Babysitting offers have all but dried up, and forget about going away for any more than a night. Even then only one set of grandparents is prepared to take on all four, which again narrows our options.

I think that having twins is bit like any life changing event and it reveals the true depth of any relationship. I have grown cool towards family members who have backed off as if we had contracted a particularly nasty infectious disease since the mere mention of my twins arose, so I can quite understand how it might come between a couple.

It is intense and overwhelming to cope with a newborn baby, coping with two is be too much for some to handle. I just thank my lucky stars that our twins came when we were already ground down by caring for two demanding little boys, so it wasn't quite such a shock to the system as it might have been first time round and that at least there weren't three inside me as that probably would have been a stretch too far in more ways than one.

1 comment:

  1. It certainly isn't easy, is it? I think you're doing a tremendous job, though. Some people (probably me) would have had a complete nervous breakdown by now....