Is Having Twins the Same As Having Two Children Close in Age?

Why Parents of Twins Hate to Hear This Claim

Is having twins the same as having two kids close in age?
Tell me again how your two kids are "just like" having twins. Nicholas McComber / E+ / Getty Images

Moms of twins: you know the scenario. You’re out at the grocery store/mall/Target/Home Depot/post office. Navigating the aisles with your twins in their humungous double stroller, you’re desperately trying to accomplish some important errands in the narrow “golden hour” time period between nap time, feedings and melt downs (theirs, and yours). And you’re approached by a well-meaning -- but nevertheless annoying -- person who wants to interrogate you.

 Are they twins? Are they identical? Who’s older? The usual array of questions people ask about twins

The conversation usually concludes with one of two anecdotes. Either they will attempt to connect with you by sharing that their sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin’s neice’s nephew’s uncle had twins. Or, they will make a statement that will really set your teeth on edge. Want to see a twin mom’s blood boil? Watch her reaction when a stranger (or worse, a friend!) makes the claim that having two children close in age is “just like having twins.”

Why does this aggravate moms of twins so severely? Because it simply isn’t true.

You might think that we are simply being defensive, and that we want to maintain our martyrdom as moms with the hardest job. But you’d be mistaken. Having twins or multiples is hard. But so is motherhood in general. Having five children is hard. Having a special-needs child is hard.

Having even a single child that is practically perfect is no picnic. Motherhood is full of difficult moments. 

To the contrary, there are plenty of ways that having twins is actually easier than having two children of different ages. I don’t want to give away any secrets, but there is efficiency inherent in parenting multiples -- doing the same thing for each kid at the same time.

 

It’s not about difficulty. It’s about difference. Having two children close in age, even Irish twins (less than a year apart), is not the same as having twins. And I guess moms of twins feel resentful when you try to make it the same. 

How is it different?

  • No hand-me-downs. No recycling of baby equipment, clothes, toys, kid stuff. None. You need two of everything at the same time. Twins share a lot, but they each need their own car seat just to get home from the hospital. From Day One. Was that the case with your two kids born thirteen months apart?
  • With singletons, you have at least nine months -- the better part of a year! --  to adjust to each child. Yes, I recognize that there could be exceptional circumstances that would create the narrowest of margins between two singletons. Getting pregnant the week after giving birth. (Why?) Having a preemie that’s born early. There are lots of exceptions. But still, your singletons were still born months -- not minutes -- apart. 
  • Pregnancy with two at once. Not the same as two pregnancies. Enough said.
  • Twin issues. Two children of different ages, even close in age, don’t experience the same identity issues that twins encounter. It’s not uncommon to compare children (Oh, your brother did the same thing at your age. She looks just like her sister did when she was that age.) But when the children are twins, the comparisons are instant and constant. 
  • There’s no learning curve in parenting twins.  Potty training, riding a bike, learning to drive, starting college. Twins do it all at the same time. Parents guide them through it at the same time. With singletons, parents have the advantage of learning from the oldest chid and applying their knowledge with the younger.
  • While there are exceptions, singletons are not usually in the same grade. Most twins are. Having kids close in age but in different grades is not the same as having two children in the same grade. The school issues for twins are different. Should they be in the same class or separated? And try negotiating Open House night at school with two kids in the same grade. 

So we’ve established: It’s not the same. It's not necessarily harder. Or easier. Just different. If you’re reading this because you’re a mom of twins, feel validated. Unfortunately, people will still make the claim, and you’ll have to grin and bear it. 

But what do I know? I’ve only had twins. Here is some input from moms who have seen it both ways: 

“Having had one set of twins and two close in age singletons, I would say both scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages, but are not at all the same!!” - Nelly

“My two older boys were 16 months apart and at the time I did compare the situation to having twins. Well, along came the twins and I was wrong. Each situation is very unique and offers different challenges. I do think it’s more difficult with twins however the joy they bring is immeasurable.” - Sheila

“I have 5 children. My first 2 are 18 months apart, then 3 years later I had #3 and 3 year later had the twins. When I had only the first 2, I always compared it with having twins. Now that I have 8-month-old twins, I can positively tell you it is NOT the same thing! With the older child you can put him in a high chair and give him a snack to keep him busy. The older child can play or watch a tv show while you are taking care of the baby. Plus, you do not have 2 babies teething at the same time (what I am going through now). It is definitely NOT the same! I hear this comment all the time too. Having two close in age is difficult, but in no way compares to having twins!” - Debra

“I have both, two older singletons close in age and young twins! Totally not the same. Hard in someways but beautiful in others. My older children just do no have the same relationship as the twins do. Completely not the same!!!” - Lori

Here are some other insightful comments:

“As a twin myself, I can also say that it is not similar for twins or the children born close together themselves. In a twin situation, we had to share a room, share friends, share the same teachers, same lessons (Where some teachers even sat their classes in alphabetical order-so we had to sit together!) and have to share our birthday (Although I don’t mind that, as I know no different, and its not that much of a big deal!) Experiences are shared and the praise you get from your parents is halved. A singleton goes through milestones at different times, even if close together. “ - Holly

“Pregnancy with twins is much more difficult than a single birth pregnancy. Also over half of twins are born early which presents a whole new set of challenges. This being said, every child is different. I know many mothers of multiples (twins, triplets, and quads). Every parents situation and the disposition/health of their child makes things different. Having two passive, quiet twins is easier than one extremely colicky child. Raising one child on your own while trying to work full time can be harder than having twins with a support group to help you. Having twins is not the same as having single births, but let's not fight over whats harder. Every parent, child, and situation is different.” - Amber

“I find it interesting that people who only have twins say it is nothing like having kids close in age but that parents (like myself) who have both say it is different but has it’s similarities. When people tell me they understand me, I try to use the similarities in the conversation and not point out all the ways they or I have it harder. My older two are a year apart and you do take them to the doctor at the same time, and I did have two in diapers and two on pacifiers. I think it’s easier for twins in some ways because the bad times go away quicker; you aren’t just getting done with teething only to start it all over again. A child at one-year-old is still a baby and needs a lot of attention, so it is alike in many ways. I try not to be bitter about the people who want to feel like they can understand me. It’s people I don’t even know being compasionate towards me. I find that pretty amazing in itself.” - Carisa

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