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What NOT to say to mom of twins

I’m the lucky mother of twin daughters, Alexandria and Sydney. In 2003, they were born 10 weeks premature and spent almost two months in the hospital before they came home. It was a traumatic catapult into motherhood, but thankfully my daughters - now fifth-graders - have always been healthy. Every day, I think how blessed I am to have twins.

I get that people are fascinated by them, especially as babies. People want to share in that specialness by talking to you, and that’s kind of nice. Most of the time.

But then there were days when every trip out of the house resulted in a cross-examination. Here are some of the rudest questions and comments:

1. “Are they twins?"

I realize it was an obvious way for someone to strike up a conversation with me (after staring at my daughters, trying to confirm their suspicion). And I appreciated the fact that a stranger was interested enough in my life to take a minute to chat. However, there were days when this ubiquitous question was downright annoying. Maybe because the answer was just so obvious (two babies, the same size, who look to be about the same age in a double stroller), or maybe because I knew that answering would only compel the interrogator to fire off another question, like ...

2. “Are they identical?” *

People want to be able to classify twins into two categories: identical and not-identical. Most people know there are two types of twins, but they don’t know what this actually means. This question exasperated me because I felt compelled to educate the interrogator, but also feared that my engaging in conversation would lead to additional, and more invasive, questions.

* Variations on this question include “Are they fraternal/paternal/maternal?” And also: “Were they in the same sac?”  

3. “Did you do IVF?”

Um, hello! Can you say nosy? Is it really anyone’s business how I conceived my twins? (And for the record, the answer is no. I went to Paris with my husband. We didn’t even find out we were having twins until I was five months pregnant! Surprise!)

4. “Did you have them naturally?”

This question always followed question No. 3 and was always asked by total strangers. What did they really want to know? The manner in which my daughters were conceived? Or how they were delivered (vaginally vs. C-section)? The answer to either is, "None of your business."

5. "How do you tell them apart?” 

I’d say the twins are fraternal, to which the stranger would respond, “Oh, no way! You're your babies are TOTALLY identical!” OK. You’re right. You would know better than I would.

6. "Do twins run in your family?"

I appreciated the interest in my genetical family tree. Really, I did. But some days it was just too much to explain what causes multiple births and why it may or may not be hereditary.

7. "You're so lucky! Two for the price of one!"

Really? You think people with twins are actually saving money? Even with excellent medical insurance, my daughters’ extended hospitalization was extremely expensive, and I don’t recall the hospital giving me a twin discount.

When we bought two cribs, we did not get a buy-one-get-one deal. Not for the two strollers, two swings, two bouncy chairs, two high chairs and two excersaucers either.

I didn’t get a half-off discount on the double boxes of diapers and wipes or the doubled expenses for food, clothing, education and mommy-and-me activities.

Catch up to present day: My daughters recently got braces. Both of them. At the same time. 

8. “Which one is the good one?"

This question actually upset me. No one would dream of asking the mother of a single child or children born years apart to identify them as being either good or bad -- right in front of the children, no less!

Variations on this question included, “Which one is the smart one/friendly one/shy one/quiet one?” and/or “Do they have different personalities?” 

9. “Double Trouble!”

This made me furious. Flashing back to my daughters in incubators in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, hooked up to monitors as I prayed they would not have lifelong health complications, to hear a stranger imply the twins were a burden was especially rude. I realize people who said this were referring to the extra challenges that raising two babies simultaneously brings, but it was really just a euphemism for “Oh man, are you screwed! Glad it’s not me!” 

10. “You have your hands full.”

Don’t you just love people who state the obvious? Better full than empty, I say.

11.”I don’t know how you do it!”

Honestly, there were days when I didn’t know how I did it either. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. But what were my options? To only take care of one baby and let the other one fend for herself? I managed the best I could. At times, I gave people the benefit of the doubt: “I’m sure you would do what you needed to do to take care of your babies, too.”

12. “My children are 11 months apart so it’s like I have twins, too!”

Granted, it is not a competition on who has a more difficult job as a mother. Maybe these mothers were simply trying to find some common ground. But if you don’t actually have twins, you truly don’t know what it is like, and you really should not comment. It would be as ignorant for me to day, “Oh girls are easier to raise than boys.” I don’t have boys, so how would I know?

13. “Why didn’t you give them matching names?” and/or “Why don’t you dress them the same?”

Because I think giving twins rhyming names like “Kara and Sarah” or “Chloe and Zoe” is stupid. I would never ask the mother of a single child or of children of various ages, “Why did you name your son Igor?” 

For the same reason, we chose not to dress our daughters the same. We want to give each a sense of individuality. They already shared my womb. And a birthday. And a face. We felt the least we could do is dress them differently and as they got older, let them decide if they wanted to dress the same. We wanted to raise them with the conviction that even though it is so special to be a twin, that they are still complete and special people as individuals.

(Ironically, when they started private school they were required to wear uniforms. But they often opt to wear different color polo shirts.)

Every year at their birthday parties they get their own cake and we sing “Happy Birthday Sydney” and then “Happy Birthday Alexandria”. I never wanted to penalize my daughters for being twins and forcing them to always have to share everything in their lives.

14. “Are you done having children?”

None of your beeswax.

Being the mother of twins is an incredible gift. I’ve often felt is it a special member-only club or a secret society that you just have to be blessed to be able to be a member of. It’s been more than a decade and there are some nights when my husband and I still marvel to each other and say, “We have twins!”

Our daughters are the biggest blessing in our lives and even though having two babies at once did bring unexpected challenges, we can’t imagine life any other way.

And not all the comments we get are rude. Like when someone would look at my daughters and say, “Oh honey, G-d bless you.” 

And I’d reply with, 

“Thank you. He already did.”