People are amazed by multiples. They’re a novelty, and sometimes people say things that they probably shouldn’t. As a mother of twin toddlers, whenever I venture outside of our home with my two tots in tow, which isn’t often, we become a traveling sideshow act where others gather and comment. Most are well-intentioned and simply curious, but the questions get old after a while. And as someone who is plagued by perpetual politeness, I never say what I wish I could say to shut it down. But here’s my chance. Here are things not to say to a parent of multiples and how I wish I could respond.
Are they natural? Do twins run in your family?
What these inquiring minds really want to know is if we used fertility treatments or if our multiples were spontaneous. I’m used to this question by now, as it’s usually the very first one out of people’s mouths, just after, “Are they twins?” I’m not sure why people feel they need to know if science helped or if my pregnancy was pure biology, but it’s uncomfortable. I’m a private person, especially with strangers, so such queries feel intrusive. Essentially, they’re asking how we got pregnant.
Polite response: “We used IVF, but my grandpa is a twin.” Knowing looks and nods follow as if my answer pleases them.
What I want to say: “As opposed to unnatural?” or “We did IVF. What sex position did you use to get pregnant?”
How much weight did you gain during pregnancy?
I was asked this while I was still pregnant — in front of a lot of people I didn’t know well — at Thanksgiving dinner … with a full plate of food in front of me. I was floored, and yet, because I am hardwired to be polite, I actually answered honestly, even though I was dying inside. Unless you are my doctor, you don’t need to know that, and you definitely don’t get to ask that.
Polite response: The truth.
What I want to say: “How much weight have you gained?”
I had my kids close together, so it’s like I had twins.
Even if your children are close in age, one baby is nine months ahead in independence, development and eating/sleeping schedules. There’s no syncing their schedules, which, for me, was the hardest part of being a mom of twins. Plus, with an age gap, you can use hand-me-downs between kids.
Polite response: Yeah, that’s hard.
What I want to say: But you had a 9-month break in between.
Wow, you have your hands full!
It’s true that my hands are full with my twin girls. Even with full hands and skyrocketing stress levels, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After experiencing seven long years of infertility, pregnancy loss and the arduous IVF process to get them here, I’d never wish them away. My hands may be full, but so is my heart.
Polite Response: “I sure do.”
What I want to say: “Thank you for your unsolicited notes on my life situation.”
Are you going to have any more, or are they enough?
It’s odd when strangers ask about how many kids I want or if I’m happy with the number of children I currently have. I don’t want to include strangers in my family planning discussion. If it comes up in a natural conversation with someone, that’s completely fine. But when I’m bombarded with it while minding my own business in the grocery store checkout line, that’s a whole different thing.
Polite response: “My husband has been wanting another set of twins since these two were born.”
What I want to say: “They’re absolutely enough, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have more if I choose to.”
How do you do it?
This question I understand completely. Many people can’t imagine having twins because it’s a lot of work. And when they find out that I work from home, too, they want to know my methods or how I survive. Sometimes it’s mere curiosity. Other times they’re looking for time management tips for their own lives.
Polite Response: “You do what you have to do, right?”
What I want to say: “I don’t know. I’m doing the best I can, and it’s never enough. I fail every day.”
I may get frustrated sometimes when people ask me personal things that they have no right knowing, but other parents of multiples may take it in stride and are happy answering such questions. While I do not enjoy the intrusion, I’ll probably never say what I want to say because I don’t need to add to my guilt complex. But more than that, I know that people are curious, have the best intentions, and enjoy adorable multiples. For now, I’ll keep being polite, because that’s just who I am.