Being told you’re having twins is a big moment. Being told you’re having twins again? That’s something the Fuimaono family have come to expect.
Zoe and Junior Fuimaono are in their mid-twenties. They’ve already trained and worked in their respective careers, travelled, relocated to Australia, returned to New Zealand, oh, and had four children. Having four kids obviously happens a bit faster when you have babies two at a time.
Zoe has been a stay-at-home mum since she had twin sons Henry and Theo two years ago. Before babies, she was a flight attendant, and maybe this prepared her to handle any turbulence with a calm poised demeanour and a radiant smile on her face. And Junior, a police officer, would clearly understand the importance of order and respect in his line of work, but at home this translates into a doting fatherly gentleness. Perhaps it’s their job training, probably it is just who they are.
Indeed, when I (Ellie) met this family, everything was calm and peaceful, despite the fact that they had recently welcomed home Noah and Harlow, a brother and a sister for Henry and Theo. The overriding impression from their home was one of organisation, practicality, resourcefulness and, well, calm. To be honest, not what I expected from a household of two sets of twins in two years. But Zoe and Junior know what they’re doing. Forgive the over-used adage, but this couple is really living out ‘keep calm and carry on’.
Zoe remembers the moment they were told they were expecting twins for the second time. “To be honest, we weren’t surprised, I knew it would be twins again, I just had an overwhelming feeling. Hubby thought it would be too but he needed to see it to believe it. We were both really excited but it was definitely an ‘oh my goodness, how did this happen and how will this work?’ kinda moment.”
Zoe and Junior have a comprehensive routine for their week. Mondays and Tuesdays are home days, Wednesday to Friday Henry and Theo go to daycare. Wednesday is housework and groceries day, and when possible, Zoe and Junior try to do something nice together while the babies sleep. “It’s good for us to just hang out as husband and wife, instead of mum and dad” says Zoe.
The family love spending time at the beach in the weekend, but that activity is on hold. “We’ve attempted it once since Harlow and Noah have arrived and it was such hard work that we won’t be doing it again anytime soon!” Other easier destinations include the zoo, and the amazing newly developed Whoa studios, just down the road from where they live. There are also lots of family events to fit into the weekend, and every Sunday Henry and Theo are at church with Junior’s family, allowing Zoe and Junior a moment or two to relax.
The couple first met as teenagers and became good friends while working for the same catering company. Junior then went to police college and Zoe went travelling. It wasn’t until four years later that they decided to officially get together. “I think we both knew that if we were ever going to get together, it would be serious, so we waited until we were both truly ready” says Zoe.
Large tight-knit families had a significant impact on both Zoe and Junior. “I had an awesome childhood” remembers Junior. “I come from a very cultural background and a lot of my time was spent with family. There was church every Sunday and then big family events with heaps of singing and dancing. Both of my parents worked really hard and it definitely pushed me to work hard and get into the police force when I was young”. Zoe adds “We want our boys to grow up in a family-orientated environment. We want them to spend lots of time outdoors exploring, just like we did. We want them to experience all their culture. I am Māori and Junior is Samoan, so we have a great mixture”.
The couple have thought a lot about their family mission statement. “Being open and honest is a really big deal for us. We want our kids to grow up kind and accepting of others, to be creative and know they can achieve anything they want to. We try and instil these values in our children by modelling them ourselves, and through lots of encouragement when they try new things. I can already see their characters starting to shine!” reflects Zoe.
Days of our lives
Okay, so we’re all wondering. How exactly do you survive, let alone thrive, day to day with four children under two years old? We asked Zoe for her top tips.
“Our first tip is don’t be so hard on yourself. Even if you don’t want to, just ask for help. When we accept help, it makes life so much easier. If you can, try and organise a meal plan for the week or fortnight. I do a little bit here and there so things don’t get on top of me. I think it is also very important to keep the lines of communication with your partner open and to take time out for yourselves when and if you can. Know that you don’t always have to have everything together. Have days where you do absolutely nothing and don’t feel bad about it. And most of all, try to enjoy all the little moments you have because life is so fast paced. There are so many things out there that take up our time causing us to miss out on what’s actually in front of us.”
In what ways has parenting twins surprised you?
Parenting twins is all we have ever known so it takes a lot to surprise us. I think what is most noticeable is just how time-consuming everything is. Of course you know you will be busy with two, but just how busy is something you can never prepare for. Second time around has been so much easier because we are so laid-back and relaxed this time around. We feel like we have been able to enjoy our time with them so much more because we know what we are doing. Breastfeeding has been so much easier because I knew what to expect and how to cope.
What have become some of your strategies for coping?
If we ever feel like everything is getting too much, we just leave the house, leave all the housework and just go and get some fresh air. Our ‘go to’ is fish and chips at the park. The boys get to run around, we all get food in our belly, and mum and dad get some fresh air. Harlow and Noah are so good - they just go along with whatever we are doing and usually sleep most of the time.
I exclusively breastfeed Harlow and Noah and it is hard work. As much as I love it, sometimes I need a break so I express on top of feeding. This means more work, of course, but also that someone else can feed them sometimes. It also helps us cope knowing if the babies are both really hungry, we can top them right up which definitely helps them sleep longer.
We also have lots of support so Henry and Theo have lots of special outings and sleep-overs with family and friends. They head to church with their Aunty Amanda every Sunday which is so nice for all of us. We love knowing that our children are happy and okay without Mum and Dad. Knowing that they are so loved and so well looked after is such a blessing and one that we don’t take for granted.
Selling up and moving to Australia, and then moving back again, caused you to reconsider how much stuff you actually needed and seek out minimalism. How does that work with four children under two?
We didn’t realise how much stuff we had accumulated over the years. We had so many things we didn’t use or need, so when we moved, we sold everything and had only a few suitcases of clothes and a couple of boxes of mementoes. We decided that we would only acquire extra things that we needed or would use on a regular basis. We try to live by that philosophy, I guess - we only buy things for a purpose. If it has no purpose, apart from just wanting it, then usually we don’t buy it. In saying that, we have just had a bit of a clear out and we do so every month so that we don’t keep accumulating things we don’t use. It’s funny, when we think about it, our house is quite bare as it is, but that’s proving handy because we don’t have to baby-proof!
What baby gear do you consider to be essential?
Our baby swings are our ‘go to’ when we need to get things done and the babies are awake. We know we can strap them in and put the white noise on while they get rocked to sleep. They absolutely love them. We also love our front packs, especially for trips out where we can’t be bothered using the pram. Our video baby monitor is also a must-have. Harlow and Noah are now in their own room and knowing I can see and hear them gives me peace of mind.
For the toddlers, our double pram is a life-saver. We have a Bugaboo Donkey and it fits through normal doorways and is so light and easy to use. It’s always in the boot of the car, ready for us to use anytime we are out.
Outdoor play sets and trampolines are life-savers for us too. The older boys spend so much time outside playing together. Knowing they can just run outside and have a mini park in our backyard is so awesome!
How has having twins changed you both as people?
It has definitely changed us for the better. We have realised what’s important and that is family, friends, quality time and experiences. As a couple it has made our relationship stronger than I ever thought it could be. We are mostly on the same page, but when we aren’t, it’s okay because we have learnt to honestly and openly communicate with each other. We haven’t let having two sets of twins change the things we do, we still pretty much do everything we used to do - it just takes a lot longer to get ready now.
You have a large following on your blog and Instagram – what are your thoughts on sharing parenting updates on social media?
Sometimes I do question whether or not I share too much of our life. When we had Henry and Theo, we barely posted anything of them on social media and now it’s the complete opposite. There are definitely things that we keep private, but generally speaking,
I love sharing our journey with our followers because 99.9% of them are so supportive and encouraging. It truly makes my day when I get messages from people saying we have helped or inspired them in some way. I didn’t realise how many people can actually relate to things that we do or go through every day - you just think it’s normal and you don’t consider how many other people are probably going through the exact same thing as you. I like to keep my posts 100% real. I never want to portray a life that we don’t actually live. It has been hard though - especially when we have a messy house or when it’s been a hard night and I’m feeling horrible - because you leave yourself vulnerable and open to criticism if you keep it truly ‘real’. But I feel like if there is one person who can connect with what we are going through and feel a little less alone, then it’s totally worth it.
A huge thanks to Zoe and Junior for welcoming us into their home back in January when Harlow and Noah were tiny newborns. Follow the Fuimaono family on Zoe’s blog, blessedindoubles.com or instagram.com/blessedindoubles.
Photography: sam mothersole, sammothersole.co.nz