So I have been sort of resident advisor or go-to person when someone in our multiples community asks if its ever possible to raise multiples without help. I have exactly almost 2 years experience in raising my four little girlies on my own, and of course with the husband but absolutely no other help otherwise. We do our own chores, we take public transport and my girls do not attend daycare or school as well, so I am home with them almost all day, everyday.
Most parenting advice columns and magazines and even your gynaecologist and paediatrician will tell you that with multiples you DO need help. It would be terribly unwise to not procure help. I remember the NUH paediatrician nagging me on the phone about how I am risking my babies’ well-being by not getting a helper. They had kept the triplets an extra day in the nursery precisely because they felt maybe I couldn’t cope. I actually had to insist for the girls to be discharged because the doctor’s plan to increase their weight was not working in the nursery.
But you know there are all sorts of families out there for whom help is just not coming. Maybe you can’t afford a helper. Maybe your apartment is too small and there is just no space for a helper. Maybe you just do not like the idea of a helper. Maybe your parents or in-laws still work full-time (I mean this is Singapore, lots of elderly folk work in their silver years, including my parents). Maybe they just do not want to have anything to do with babies, or forgotten how to take care of them. Maybe they have passed away like in the case of my husband’s parents.
Whatever it is, whether you have help, limited amount of help, or no help at all like us; all these arrangements are possible with careful planning and realistic expectations. The problem I find with many people who struggle are that they have totally really unrealistic expectations: they want to have it all without having the help to help them achieve their goals. For example, if you want to breastfeed fully, which is a very, very demanding task when it comes to multiple babies, its quite difficult not to have help with the house or with other childcare arrangements if you have older children. Most parents who do it alone resort to bottle-feeding because it allows for a predictable schedule to follow.
Another pitfall is believing you do not need emotional support whether its in the form of a spouse, friend or relative. A new parent of multiples needs ALOT of emotional support, especially in the first 2 years. I personally found what worked for me was that my husband understood and appreciated the mental and physical burden of being a stay-home parent of multiples, I also befriended and joined a supportive multiples parent community, and that I found meaningfulness in staying home, which for me was homeschooling the girls. I don’t think I was ever truly alone in that sense. I feel surrounded by a positive and supportive network of people who would come to my aid if I ever so needed. Having that feeling of being supported is so important to your mental well-being because human beings need connection and friendships.
And the last piece of advice I would give is once you have decided that you are going to have to raise your multiples on your own, maybe you even need to quit your job and stay home and become a single-income family, instead of asking the question, “Can this work?” Instead ask the question, “When can we make this work and how?” I recently read an excellent article on minimalism and becoming a single-income family. What I found in my own personal journey was not to make things too complicated and not over-thinking your opportunity costs. As far as possible, streamline everything down to its very basic. For example, chores: there is no need for major cleaning everyday. Just one weekend every month would suffice. I went as far as overhauling my entire house room to room, and just breaking everything down to its basics and getting rid of everything else. And also you might want to look into your lifestyle and cutting back on those things that financially stress you out.
So if you’re a multiple parent and you want to go at it alone, you totally can. Just be realistic, form a supportive network of people, and simplify your life. Its actually not an easy adjustment, but if for whatever reason you find yourself without help by accident or by design, you will need to reassess everything you know and re-prioritise. I think the decision was very easy for us simply because we had triplets. Having triplets just narrow down your options for a lot of things, and we had less decisions to make because it was made for us. It was frustrating yes, but I felt I reached self-acceptance of my circumstances earlier and learnt to make the best of it.