Episode 201 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
Today we continue our father of twins interview series with Phil M. Jones, father of identical twin girls. Listen as we explore his twin parenting journey, including:
- Overcoming preeclampsia during the twin pregnancy
- Taking time off before the twins are born
- Supporting Mom in the final stretch of the twin pregnancy
- Spending a couple of weeks in the NICU and Dad’s emotions
- Dad’s role after birth in the hospital
- The best part of having twins in the NICU
- Transitioning from home back to work after the twins were born
- Getting back into the parenting routine when traveling frequently for business
- Finding support for Mom when Dad is away from home
- Moving to accommodate the twins’ arrival
- Using technology to stay connected with the twins while on the road
- Taking lessons from the workplace into parenting
Connect with Phil:
Joe Rawlinson: Hello there and welcome to the 201st episode of the Dad’s Guide To Twins Podcast. This is Joe Rawlinson. Today we are continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow twin dad, Phil M Jones.
As always, you can find me on the web at twindadpodcast.com where you’ll find the complete show notes for this episode and all previous podcast episodes.
Today’s show is brought to you by the very book that the guest of today’s show read as he was preparing for his twins, Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins, How to Thrive As A Father Of Twins. You can learn more about that book and get your own copy at raisingtwinsbook.com. Today’s guest, Phil M Jones is a bestselling author and one of the world’s leading sales training gurus and he happens to be a new twin dad.
(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)
Phil shares some great tips about managing family life and business and frequent business travel. In today’s show, I know you’re going to get a lot out of our conversation, so let’s jump right into that chat with Phil. Today, I’d like to welcome to the show fellow father of twins. Phil Jones. Welcome to the show, Phil.
Phil M Jones: Pleasure to be here. Thank you. Thank you.
Joe: So Phil, tell us about your twins. How old are they right now?
Phil: So I have Kensington and Violet. They are identical twin girls. They are just entering into their 20th week of being born. So they are four and a bit months old. And I’m still not sure whether we count in weeks forever, whether we count in months or where that pivot point changes.
Joe: Right. That’s the great mystery of raising kids. When did switch from weeks to months. Yeah, whatever works for you. So how’s the sleep going? They’re four months. Are you getting a full night’s sleep now?
Phil: Well, interestingly enough is I get a fairly decent night’s sleep a chunk of the time because for the last two months or so, I’ve been back on the road with work, so I had a hotel night the last couple of nights at the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles, so I slept great. My wife on the other hand is a hero in terms of of taking care of the two of them and we get … I spoke to her on FaceTime this morning and last night was the first time that she can confidently say they slept through the night.
(NOTE: Still expecting? Get weekly updates on your twin pregnancy here.)
Joe: Oh, fantastic. That’s a big milestone.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. So she’s so proud of what she’s doing. I’m so proud of her too.
Joe: Yeah. We’ll dive a little bit more into the logistics of how you handle being on the road traveling and your family life as we talk today. Let’s rewind a little bit back to when you found out that you were having twins. What was that experience like for you?
Phil: Oh, when we found out it was really kind of funny. We went for our ultrasound and we found out in the order that yes, we are definitely pregnant. And I think one of the funniest experiences in my life where the technician asks the question, “Do twins run in the family?” And I think my wife’s response was like, “Shut up, shut up. Really?” And it was a huge shock but a giant gift at the same time and it was … you almost don’t ever imagine for it. You can’t ever plan for it. It’s not something that we’re expecting, but we found out really early in the pregnancy and then it’s been a ride since then.
(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)
Joe: Yeah. We were quite surprised by the news of our … we have identical twin girls as well and identical twins. They just are random and they show up every couple of hundred pregnancies. And so you and I both won that giveaway there.
Phil: Yeah. We then had the worry early on that they thought that they were momo early on and then they were mono di. But we had a relatively risky pregnancy with lots of concerns, worries and scares throughout. But fortunately everything we were worried and scared about never came true. So that was good news.
Joe: That is good news. What were some of your big concerns that didn’t turn out to be a concern after all?
Phil: Well, so there was concerns about the two of them growing at an equal rate and they had some worries over that for a period. My wife got preeclampsia towards the end and we’d got taken into under the high risk doctor’s care into another hospital were the 29, 30, and 31 weeks and she managed to be able to keep them good in that period of time. And she got discharged, which I think is the first time that that doctor has said in over five years that when somebody gets admitted, they don’t end up delivering the baby. So that was good. And then we got back out, had another two weeks at home and then went to the labor ward where Charlotte wanted to have the babies. And they were born healthily, had two and a half weeks in the NICU following the birth, which again is something we didn’t plan for in terms of just the logistics of being present and there for each other. And I’m very fortunate, I guess with my work that I could take some time and had best part of eight, nine weeks off through that period of the first hospital visit, the second hospital visit, the whole NICU period and the baby’s being home for a couple of weeks too.
Joe: That’s great that you have the flexibility to do that. So you started taking time off even before the girls we’re born?
Phil: Yeah, and my wife needed the support particularly with the hospital visits and I couldn’t focus on my work knowing that at any given point in time she could be going to an operating room for the babies to be delivered. So it was nice for me to be able to put a stop to everything else and just be there by her side.
Joe: What are some things that you’re able to do to support your wife? You were there physically, What are some things that helped her along the journey?
Phil: The logistics of managing relationships with friends and family from afar, i.e., who comes when, how to keep people in communication, how to be able to manage and tether her energy from needing to be connected to a phone or feeling the responsibility to keep dozens of people updated. So to try and manage that communication flow so she could concentrate on her health and still feel good about the fact that people we both care about were being communicated with. I guess having fun with the whole piece too is whilst you’re in the awkwardness of the pregnancy, it’s very hard to think too far ahead. I think a normal parent can get excited about nurseries and what the birthday’s going to look like and what’s the personality is going to be looked like. But when you have some health scares going through with some complications attached to a twin birth, it allows you to be way more in the moment or you have to be waiting on the moment because you can’t jump too far ahead.
Phil: So it was trying to almost almost laugh at the ridicule of the craziness of our life and be 100% present in the beat of that moment I think was something that was pretty supportive. And then the usual, right? Like back rubs, go get some food when she needs it, make sure she has supplies or things to read and keep entertained, and that the laptop or the iPad is charged so that she can watch the show she wants to watch. And any of those other little creature comforts. I think be being well prepared for the hospital stay in terms of having robes and slippy socks and things that could make her feel a little more human were all little things that she appreciated too.
Joe: That’s fantastic. So being Johnny on the spot with what she needs when she needs it and also being your wife’s agent, liaison with everybody else in the outside world.
Phil: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it.
Joe: So tell us a little bit about the NICU time. Probably came as a surprise. How was that emotionally for you as a dad with your babies in the NICU?
Phil: The hardest part of that was the babies went straight to the NICU following delivery. My wife went back up to the mother and baby ward and the babies were downstairs. It’s just weird that we were separated for that period was very, very unusual and I felt very bad for my wife in that she had just gone through C-section delivery and gone through the whole operation and now babies are a floor down and the other end of the wing of the hospital and not really sure what’s going on.
Phil: The communication isn’t necessarily the cleanest and it was unusual. I’d go down every two or three hours and the nice thing about the NICU was that we could visit at any point and I could sit alongside and I could observe and do all that aside. I’d take my phone down and FaceTime my wife in for the first couple of days or take videos and photographs and bring them back up and talk them through. But that was tough the first couple of days where she couldn’t move too good. The nice thing about me being off though, which is something I would probably highly encourage to a number of dads is because I was my wife’s carer for that period, she couldn’t walk post surgery but she could be in the wheelchair. If we waited for the hospital staff to be able to bring her down, she might have been able to get to the NICU once or twice a day.
Phil: But because I was there, I could push her up and down in the wheelchair as often as we wanted to go up and down. And she barely got some time to be able to nurse and some time to sit alongside them and the NICU was more frightening, not because of the situation with our babies, but just seeing what was going on elsewhere and bringing light to just how fortunate we were that things were as good as they were. So they just needed a little help feeding. That’s the primary reason that they were there is that they are slightly underdeveloped and were feeding with a tube for a number of days. The best part of the NICU is you get taught how to be a parent to a premature baby. So you have some of the most incredibly warm hearted staff that are there caring for your babies and teaching you to be able to do the same. And the fact that we were there alongside a lot of was a huge gift that when we took the babies home, we felt like we were so ready because we’d been trained by this two week experience in the NICU. So that, that was almost a gift.
Joe: Learning from the professionals is a huge gift.
Phil: Yeah, absolutely. And I have two older daughters as well from … I have a 12 year old and a 10 year old from my first marriage. This is my wife’s and I’s first children and it’s a long time since I was changing diapers and yeah, it just becomes a complete reset again. You’re like, “I don’t remember some of this stuff.”
Joe: Yeah. As soon as you get through those phases you tend to forget them because you’re focusing on what’s right in front of you. The next challenge as a parent. So were both girls are able to come home at the same time or was one in the hospital?
Phil: Yeah, that was actually a real good thing actually. They did both come home together and we were worried about that for some time because their development in the NICU was slightly off kilter with each other. But fortunately yes, they could come home real quick and it changed really quickly. We were thinking it was going to be another four or five days and they did what’s called our car seat test, which proves that they can maintain being in a car seat for a period of time and the temperatures were great and their food came down and they then said, “Oh well they can go today.” We’re like, “Whoa.” That was crazy. So the NICU experience was challenging but rewarding at the same time.
Joe: So once you brought the girls home, what were some things that surprised you about having twins?
Phil: Well, I think the first surprise is that we didn’t have to sign any papers or complete a questionnaire that says we are competent in being able to take care of of two babies. It’s a freaky thing that they don’t come with the owner’s manual when they … you’re like, “Oh this is us now. We’re on our own.” Getting them home was just unusual set of circumstances because you hadn’t thought too much about what a routine’s now going to look like. So you’re just in it and crazy cycle of just trying to get the logistics right within the house. I think we’re still doing it now because four months after they’re born, the circumstances keep changing all the time. But that was the real challenge of saying, “Okay, what goes where? How do we make this work? Which rooms do we sleep in? Do they sleep in with us in the crib? Do we set up the sofa bed?” We had thoughts about night nurse, we’d gone through dozens of different variations. Every week over the last four months has been a new plan and a new adaptation and a new evolution of the sleeping within the house. How the baby’s sleep, the feeding set up set up, where the pumps are positioned. Do we use the table for two set up? What’s the right thing for the Twinsie pillow for breastfeeding? Just a logistical operation of nightmares that changes and evolves every single day.
Joe: And how long were you able to stay home with the girls before you started back to work?
Phil: I think I was a further three weeks from when they were home before I had to get back on the road again. And my work is interesting, but because I took some of the time initially that I wasn’t expecting to take when Charlotte was in the hospital, first of all. It meant that I had to reschedule a number of things that then made my calendar a lot busier in this period really right now. So I hit the road about three weeks after she’s back and then I’ve had a number of go missing for three, four days, come back for two, three days, go missing for three, four days, come back for two, three days. So it’s that intermittent pattern, which I really don’t think helps my wife find a routine. It probably causes more hindrance than help sometimes.
Joe: Yeah. So how are you able to plug back into the routine when you’re coming and going so frequently for work?
Phil: I guess what I do is I let my wife lead and try my best about to say, “Okay, tell me where you need help.”
Phil: One of the things that we did prior to the twins arriving was we had a sit down conversation and said, “How do we want things to change past the fact? Shall I scale back on work? Should we look to be able to fully co-parent as much as possible? Do I take a year out?” Those kinds of decisions. And what we decided upon was for this early-ish period is that my career is in a position where if I put my foot to the floor over the next couple of years, then then we set ourselves up financially in a way that will mean that I can be there for the three, four, five, six, seven years of the twins a lot more. So the deal was, okay, how do we get busy in this period?
Phil: And I kind of feel the wind at my back when I’m away working is that my wife is fully supporting. But the decision was that if we could throw money at anything that makes her life easier while I’m away, we will do. So we’ve had night nurse, mother’s helpers have been a solution. We now have a highly skilled babysitter that provides some support and have some family support nearby too. But when I come back and plug in, it’s [inaudible 00:15:05], what do you need from me? What do you need me to do? How do I support this best possible way I can? And let her lead. I’ve very much had to let my opinions scale back a little and know that she’s in charge of that area of our life and I’m there to be able to support it best I can.
Joe: Yeah, sounds like a good plan. Anytime you can get extra help, if it’s a another person, like you’ve mentioned several options there or even some baby gear that you’ve mentioned that makes life a little bit easier is a huge benefit when mom’s home with the babies by herself or even when you’re together as a family.
Phil: We did and I think one of things that’s really helped is my wife is breastfeeding, exclusive pumping. I’m doing everything she possibly can to be able to make sure that the babies have as much breast milk as possible. That’s something she feels really strongly about. And I did the research into what’s the right pumps to be able to do things and she didn’t want to spend the money so to speak, because in her mind she’s not working, she’s not making the money, et cetera at this point that her confidence to be able to go and part with cash on things in those areas was her trying to be able to do the best she can with the minimal equipment. And that’s something where I stepped in and said, “No, no, we get this right.” And we hired the breast pump from the hospital. We now have a breast pump on two separate floors in our house so that she can not have to be carrying it around depending upon where she wants to be.
Phil: And we also got the Willow as the breast pump, the portable one that means that even if she’s taking the twins out, et cetera, she can pump on the go a little bit more so. And I’ve tried just about every solution of looking to better make anything easier. If there’s a way with a tool or a technique that could potentially remove a piece of friction or save 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes. It’s like, okay, let’s do that right now. I think this is the time to not try and compromise.
Joe: Yes. Fantastic plan. Did you have to move or change lodging to accommodate the twins coming in?
Phil: Yeah. So this is the other crazy thing. So we live just outside New York city. We’d just bought a two bedroom condo and the challenge with it was … so the twins came on us pretty quick. We were very much undecided as whether we were or weren’t going to have children. Then last summer decided, “Okay, let’s try and see what happens.” And then about 15 minutes later we were pregnant with twins. So that kind of kind of hit up on us real quick. We had our condo and then a little beach house that was supposed to be my wife’s and I’s little getaway that I’d just finished refurbing. And then when we were pregnant with twins, we’re like, “Okay, well that’s not going to work anymore.” And our condo wouldn’t work because of access.
Phil: So in the greater New York area, our car was parked blocks away in a parking lot. There was a stoop with multiple steps to get in and out of the apartment and it just wouldn’t work. So fortunately I put my foot down there again and said, “Okay, we’re moving.” And we stretched ourselves to get into something new just before Christmas. Babies were born in March, but it was about, can the stroller come straight in off the street? Can we park the car outside? Can we take care of creating some space for us to be able to grow into. And I’m really, really glad that we did the move before the babies arrived. If we were trying to move now and we would just almost be imprisoned in a place that was too small but also too busy to be able to deal with the logistics of a move and too tired to deal with it the mental brain capacity of working through a move in that time period. So I’m really pleased that we got ready ahead of time.
Joe: Yeah, those are some subtle details that you don’t really think about in your home until you are you bringing the kids home. Like you mentioned the stairs, access to the car. Those are things that you have to think through or you maybe take for granted.
Phil: When you have two, the second you put a set of stairs or something into play, what do you do? You carry one baby up the stairs, leave another one on the sidewalk? And then put one down the side and come back out and grab the other. It’s just like a complete no can do.
Joe: So now that you’re back to work and on the road again, we talked a little bit about how you’re supporting your wife. How are you able to grow and nurture that relationship with your girls when you’re traveling so frequently
Phil: It’s hard. And I think in truth, I don’t have an answer to that question yet. FaceTime is a wonderful tool. My wife is brilliant at videos and photos and I’ll come back to my phone after a busy session with clients. I might have 25 messages on there of some amazing things that have happened and some video of them, let’s call it talking to each other, but making harmonic sounds side by side in the crib that’s just adorable. The other thing that is a tool that I find great joy in is we had the … you are aware of the Nanny baby cams?
Phil: For me being away, it’s so nice that before I go to bed that I can open up the cam and I can see them sleeping peacefully and I can even talk back in through the technology there that they can hear my voice and can attend to them that way around. So that has been something that’s given me a lot of peace on the road. And even just seeing how many times they may have got up in the night or any of those things has allowed me to have a little more empathy for what kind of night my wife might’ve had. Other things to stay connected is just to try and be present when I’m back. So it’s can I work full on when I’m away so that then when I’m back home I can be fully present in that environment?
Joe: Yeah. It’s a great combination of using some tools and technology we have as well as a good mindset to have when you return home to be with them fully.
Phil: Yeah. And we go on our first trip, in fact in in a week. So I have two and a half weeks off starting from next Friday and we’re going to be taking our first flight together and that’s going to be a lot of fun. And I get to be able to pivot back and be husband and dad as primary responsibilities as opposed to needing to give any attention towards work stuff.
Joe: Oh fantastic. I’m glad you have that opportunity. We in retrospect look back and wish we would have traveled more when our girls were little. I mean they’re really quite portable when they’re so small. Too often we use it as an excuse that there were too little just to stay home bound. So I’m glad you guys are getting out on an adventure as a family.
Phil: Yeah. And that’s been fun trying to work out the logistics of what’s the best way to make choices whilst traveling of where do they sit? What do you take with you? What goes in the hold? How to navigate that situation. So their first flight is a transatlantic flight, New York to London, which will be a boat load of fun. I think it’s going to be interesting to say the least.
Joe: What’s one piece of advice that you received while you’re expecting the twins that has really helped you once they arrived.
Phil: I still think the best piece of advice I got was to put the timings of having the conversations with my wife ahead of time as to what this next chapter might look like. So we’d given that some consideration so the choices that crop up along the way in terms of childcare, help, support, what next, managing the relationship part of where me as a father have to deliver on my financial responsibilities to the household while still trying to be there emotionally for the people that care about. To try and map that conversation out ahead of time so we’ve considered it as many of the what ifs before that were in it to know that we’re on the same page once the craziness of the arrivals comes [inaudible 00:00:22:28].
Phil: I’m very, very pleased that I picked up that piece of advice from a friend of mine who’s in a similar industry to where I’m at. And I reached out to him and said what are some of the things that he either learned from or wishes he learned ahead of time and I got that advice from him. Other advice, we didn’t get a great deal of advice if we’re honest. We got lots of stupid questions and random unnecessary comments or pieces of advice that were less than helpful.
Joe: Yeah. Those never stop. The stranger’s comments and questions, until your girls are old enough where they maybe don’t look like twins anymore. Yeah. Those questions never end.
Phil: And then my favorite still is like, “Oh, so are they identical?” And you’re like, “Yeah, they’re identical.” And they say, “Yeah, like a boy and a girl?” I’m like, “That’s not identical.” But yeah, so all sorts of crazy stuff. And to be fair, my wife and I have learned to not not hate that stuff, but it becomes now a private little in joke in a text thread between us is like, what’s the stupid things that somebody who said, so we’ve made that fun too.
Joe: Professionally, you’re your best selling author and a keynote speaker and you do a lot of training around sales and persuasion. What are some of those principles that you teach in the workplace that you think are going to help you as a father in parenting as your girls get older?
Phil: I think much of what I’ve learned entrepreneurially is stuff that I want to be able to bring back to being a better parent. I wish I knew earlier on in life that you can live life on your terms more easily. You don’t have to fall into this conforming of, this is what a job looks like, this is what a career looks like, this is what a house looks like. That you can start to be able to map out your own destiny that way around. I think other key things that I’d like to better bring towards my girls is all the work before the work. See, much of my work that people see on the surface is making it look effortless. However, the reality is is that it’s a huge amount of preparation towards that, it’s a huge amount of of being ready for the moments long before you’re in those moments. And I think I’d like my girls to be able to see how they can do more of that and I try and bring my skills of being well prepared and well organized and considering all of the what ifs ahead of times towards being a parent so I can enjoy the moments more.
Phil: Looking into the future is really hard because there’s so much to be able to deal with in the present. It has actually forced my window to be a lot more present in moments as opposed to trying to think about the big, what next? What next? What next? Because there’s so much going on.
Joe: Yeah. One of the fun things of being a dad is you do figure out things as you go along and you try different approaches. Just like you mentioned, you’ve tried different routines with the girls just in the early couple of weeks. Same thing goes when they start to have a mind of their own and questioning everything. I was looking at one of your books, Exactly What To Say, talking about the magic words for influence and impact and a lot of those key phrases you share in that book, I can see myself using them with my kids as a father too.
Joe: Because often times you’re trying to persuade them or influence them to do with what the right thing is. And then sometimes those conversations can be quite interesting with a very strong willed child.
Phil: Yeah. I think that’s probably going to be one of the biggest things that I will look to be able to bring some of my skillset back towards parenting is to help them see things for themselves rather than me telling them things is the more that I can do through utilizing questions for them to be able to form their own mind and maybe teach principals through values that way around and not be the preacher, the shouter, the teller, try and keep any arguments out of the conversation. Can I influence their behavior through them seeing things from a different point of view? More so than being a dictator as a parent and feeling that I should know best at everything.
Joe: Yeah, that’s a great perspective to have because when they come to their own conclusion, those habits stick, the good routines stick as opposed to being a dictator, which never seems to work in the house or in life. So Phil, if listeners want to connect with you and learn more about you and your books, where should they go?
Phil: So PhilMJones.com is my website. From there you can spin out to any of the social media profiles if people are interested in following online. If they want to connect with me individually, both LinkedIn and Instagram are the two platforms where I probably show up in person more than anywhere else. So always feel free to be able to reach out from there and for any of the twin dads that are listening in right now, if you do follow online and you see me away on the road, et cetera, or I’m cheering on any of the moments of being alone and sat in a hotel bar wishing I was at home with my kids would be would be very much appreciated. Yeah, that’s about it.
Joe: Perfect. And I’ll link up to all those, there’s social media and your website and stuff in the show notes for this episode of TwinDadpodcast.com. Phil, thank you again so much for sharing your story and journey with us. We really appreciate it.
Phil: Likewise, thank you for having me on and appreciate what you do for us. So thanks for making some information available for dads. I met you through your first book so I appreciate everything that you do for us.
Joe: Thank you. That means a lot to me. I appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed that chat with Phil today. His journey as a twin dad and how he balances life on the road with balancing his family life and raising those twin girls of his.
Again, if you want to connect with Phil, I’ll link up to all the sites we mentioned today over in the show notes for this episode at twindadpodcastat.com. Today’s show is brought to you by my second book for dads of twins called Dad’s Guide To Raising Twins, How To Thrive As A Father Of Twins. You can pick up your own copy of that book at raisingtwinsbook.com. If you would like to share your story on the podcast, reach out to me, [email protected]. Or you can Ping me on Twitter or Instagram at Twin Dad Joe and I’d love to share your story. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
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