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Parenting twins? Repeat this mantra: I will survive.

So you have more than one child, born at the same time? You are in good company! The data show that in a recent year, 137,217 twins were born in the United States, as well as 5,906 triplets, 355 quadruplets and 80 quintuplets or higher. That’s a lot of children who share a birthday!


Of course, we all know how different each child can be within a set of multiples, even when they appear to be identical. These differences can range from the obvious (different genders) to the more nuanced, such as personality, developmental stages and personal preferences. What is a parent of multiples to do to manage so many variables?

Luckily, the parenting virtues that work for all children work for multiples as well. Love, patience, clear boundaries, flexibility, respect and a good sense of humor are the cornerstones of all good parenting, and needed two-fold (ha!) in raising multiples.

But what about the nitty-gritty details, the day-to-day minutiae, the work, of raising multiples? Well, why not ask the true experts…parents of twins! I am lucky enough to know parents raising multiples, so I posed questions to them, and yes, they had answers! Read on!

How do you prepare for multiples?

Beyond the obvious answers (such as reading the books, talking to your doctors, finding a good pediatrician and finding parenting support groups for multiples), many parents spoke to me about sleeping while you can, going to as many movies, restaurants, and date nights with their partner and seeing friends. The end of multiples pregnancies can become quite uncomfortable, so as much as the mother can walk, swim, and move her body; it improves her overall mental and physical health.

And when the babies are born, it’s all about organization! Rachel S., mother of four-year-old twins says, “Being organized is my number one tip. The more you can prepare, the better…I am also a BIG believer in routine. If I didn’t get them both on a schedule when they were younger, I would spend my life feeding. Developing systems for two is also a time and lifesaver. When they were smaller, it was a color that we used to remember who was drinking what amount, etc. I also used charts because I was so sleep deprived and sometimes couldn’t remember who had done what.”

Cooking for multiples: should I cater to specific needs?

“You give them whatever they want as long as they stop that whining. (Wait, is that the wrong answer?)” says Mike D.

I know for a fact that Mike and his wife feed their twin 2.5-year-olds nutritious food, but his funny quote speaks to the frustration of trying to accommodate different palates. Many parents suggest having a little bit of everything on the plate.

Rachel S. says, “I didn’t ever want to be a short order cook, so they eat what they get. I try to make a variety of things so that if one doesn’t like one item, there is usually something else on the plate they do eat. And probably the next night, I will make something that the other one I know will eat.”

Laren P., mother of 21-month-old twins, says the food issue has been made better by the option of choices: “Meals at my house go like this: the adult decides what’s to eat, and options are given within reason. For example, everyone has chicken and green beans, but everyone decides on if they want applesauce or yogurt or a banana. They also get to choose which fork or spoon they want to use. I’ve found that if they have a few options that don’t impact the overall nutrition of the meal, they will eat happily…especially with their favorite fork.”

Going on vacation with multiples: how can I manage it?

As any parent knows, traveling with kids requires three main things: organization, organization and more organization. With multiples? Traveling also requires a healthy dose of patience, a sense of humor and some tricks that only a multiples parent would know!

Laren P. says, “I ALWAYS travel with a heart beat bear or white noise maker.” Mike D. and Rachel S. both agree that ordering the diapers and wipes ahead of time and having them delivered to your destination can really cut down on the packing! Rachel also adds, “For each girl, we pack a travel bag that has items to occupy them in the car or on the plane. They have their own items. Then we do one family bag of snacks, etc.” And if your multiples share a gender, try to pack similar outfits to make dressing the kids easier.

Going out to eat with multiples: how to get in and out alive!

Everyone with multiples agrees that yes, it is a nice idea to go out, but when they are very young, it is often just too hard (especially if you are bringing other siblings along).

Laren says, “Eating out: we’ve avoided it. My singleton is 3.5 years old, and the twins are almost 21 months. I’m brave, but I’m not dumb.”

Mike agrees it is tough, but “if they’re behaving and coloring quietly, live it up: order dessert, have a chat, take advantage of the fact that you do not have to clean up afterwards (but tip well). However, if one of them is tossing French fries over his shoulder like he’s a new bride, and the other one is half a dozen sips into the ranch dressing, it’s time to go.”

When does it get easier???

A good friend, Colleen F., has four children, eight and under, with twin six-year-olds. She reports that, “Having twin babies and a 20-month-old was the most exhausting time in my life. I walked outside, and four months had passed! And so, yes, the physical work does start to become easier. Now they dress themselves, eat, bathe, walk to the car, etc.”

But, it’s not just about physical work. Colleen adds, “What has surprised me are the emotional challenges. I have realized that their emotional needs, the need for separation and to be recognized as individuals, are now what we need to balance. For instance, now we balance when one twin scores two goals and the other scores none. What we say and do, to grow them as unique and different children, is my new parenting challenge.”

And while discovering who multiples are as different children is a challenging balance, Colleen also states how exciting it is, “Watching these boys become two very different people is fascinating. They have always had each other: to play together, eat together, share a room. Yet, they are so different. It is amazing.”

Parenting multiples, while more and more common these days, has its own set of challenges and joys. As a parent coach, I always recommend support, asking for and being able to receive help and cultivating a good sense of humor. And while the work is most intense, self-care and attention to your marriage is key. Parenting multiples isn’t easy, but the rewards are unique and sweet! Enjoy them!

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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