Twin Mom Carrie gets chatty with the author of "Double Time," twin mom Jane Roper.
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to speak with The Twin Source! I first discovered your wit and charm on Twitter. Your tweets on twin parenting always ring very true—and more often than not include a dose of humor! When I found out you were a writer and that your memoir on raising twins, “Double Time,” was nearing completion, I knew we had the perfect ingredients for a conversation to share with The Twin Source community.
It’s my absolute pleasure! Thanks so much for reading the book. And let’s hear it for Twitter, right? I resisted it for so long, but since I joined up about two years ago, I’ve found it to be such a great way to connect with and get to know people I otherwise never would have “met.”
Before we delve into “Double Time,” we need to discuss one thing: You are funny! Even when things are dark or a total mess, you are able to find the humor. I often think a sense of humor should be a genetic requirement for twin parents, but sometimes it can be very hard to find the humor. How do you do it?
Uh, oh … I feel the need to say something funny now. But thank you for the compliment! I think I’ve always used humor as a coping mechanism in situations where I feel uncertain or overwhelmed or frustrated. And being a parent of twins is all of those things—sometimes at the same time. There’s a very fine line between laughing and crying; they’re both a kind of emotional release. But I’d much rather laugh than cry, given the choice. So I try to find the humor in any situation.
I have come to realize that there are some universal truths that go along with raising twins—such as it’s not good to get caught up in comparing the two children’s developmental progress. Such was your experience with your daughter Elsa smiling well before her twin, Clio. Can you speak to how you were able to step away from comparisons?
It’s still a constant challenge for us not to compare our girls—even now, five years after those first smiles. So I’m not sure I can say my husband, Alastair, and I have completely stepped away from comparisons, but I can say that we are much more relaxed about developmental or other differences between Elsa and Clio.
We also make a concerted effort—and I think we’re succeeding—not to talk about them in terms of each other. So, for example, if someone asks what Elsa’s personality is like, I won’t say “she’s more outgoing than Clio is.” It isn’t easy, though, because everyone, it seems, is fascinated by the differences and similarities between twins. They’re dying to hear the compare-and-contrast, and it’s hard not to fall into it yourself.
I could absolutely relate to the Twin Yang phenomenon you describe in “Double Time.” Will you share your thoughts on this oh-so-true occurrence?
Ah, yes. Twin Yang. This is the tendency Alastair and I have always seen in our girls to take turns when they’re going through tough phases or just generally giving us a hard time. When, as infants, one was being irritable and whiny and constantly hungry, the other one—blessedly—would be a low-maintenance angel. Then, a few days later, they’d switch.
To this day, we find that the girls will go through phases where one is more needy or difficult, and then the other. And, sure, occasionally they’re both a complete mess at the same time. But not nearly as often as you’d think. One of our (completely unscientific) theories is that they’re subconsciously compensating for each other, maybe as a way to make sure the “difficult” one can get the full parental attention they need. Another theory is that they’re just trying to make our lives easier. Because, you know, little kids are so thoughtful like that.
Throughout “Double Time,” you offer amazing takeaways for parents of twins. Could you name three of the biggest lifesavers that you can recall from the first few years of parenting? What things could you not live without?
- A hands-free pumping bra. This only applies for moms who plan to breast-feed (or give it a shot, anyway), but it’s an absolute must—unless you want to just sit there holding the collection bottles up to your boobs while you pump instead of reading a magazine or checking your e-mail.
- A really good double stroller. This is one place where we splurged for a fairly pricey item—a BOB double jogger stroller—but it was totally worth it. We wore the hell out of that thing. It fit through doorways, handled like a dream, could go on or off road, and folded down to fit in the back of our car. I’m really glad we didn’t cheap out on that purchase.
- Ten zillion washcloths. From the time the girls first started eating solid food to the present day, we would be lost without washcloths to wipe hands and faces and occasionally other body parts after meals or messy art projects. Indispensable. (And, oh, we occasionally actually use them in the bath too.)
Your feed/sleep scheduling philosophy for your twins is basically what we encourage here at The Twin Source. We believe that a schedule is necessary because it not only benefits the twins but also gives mommy a fighting chance at getting some sleep. Why do you think a good night’s sleep is so important when raising twins?
Alastair and I were absolutely determined to get our girls into a good sleep routine because we knew we’d go nuts if we didn’t. The absence of a schedule would have cut into our own sleeping time. And, having the girls on a schedule gave us some downtime to refuel and reconnect with each other in the evenings and to take a break from the intensity of twin parenting during the girls’ naps.
I also think being a twin takes a lot out of kids. You’re always vying for attention, trying to be heard, trying to figure out how to share and coexist with this sibling who is exactly your own age. It must be exhausting!
“Double Time” examines not only twin parenting but also parenting during bouts of depression. I think your honest account of this highly personal experience sets “Double Time” apart. Can you speak to your decision to include your battle with depression in the memoir?
I felt like I couldn’t tell my parenting story without telling my depression story, because they were so closely intertwined. It would have felt strange to be completely open about my experiences and feelings about mothering but then not be open about what else was happening in my life during that time. I was also motivated by the fact that when I was going through my depression, I really would have liked to read another person’s account of the same sort of thing, but I couldn’t find one—just as I couldn’t find anyone’s personal account of parenting twins.
Lastly, let’s talk about Alastair, your husband. We definitely crush on great twin dads, and in “Double Time” he certainly seems crush-worthy. What advice can you give new parents of twins concerning the simple fact that they are in this together?
Oh yes, I have a huge crush on him. He’s a co-parent 100%, and I can’t imagine it any other way. The one piece of advice I’d offer new or future parents of twins is to try to carve out some time for yourselves alone as a couple to reconnect and interact when you don’t each have a baby in your arms. It’s pretty different.
We can’t thank you enough for sharing with us. Any last bits of advice you would like to pass along to new twin parents?
Thank you so much for having me. My parting bit of advice to new twin parents is this: Go easy on yourself. Don’t worry about doing everything just right (kids are surprisingly resilient), and definitely don’t compare your parenting style or priorities to those of singleton parents. Twin parenting is a completely different ballgame, and the rules are a lot looser. You have to find what works for you to keep your babies and yourself happy.
“Double Time” is available at your local bookstore or through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.
Jane Roper is the author of “Double Time: How I Survived—and Mostly Thrived—Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins” and “Eden Lake,” a novel. She writes the blog “Baby Squared” on Babble.com. Jane received her MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her writing has appeared on Salon, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and twin daughters, Elsa and Clio. Jane is available for readings and talks with Mothers of Twins clubs and other groups.
Photography in this article was shot by Mara Brod.