Ayumi Nibu excels at seeing double. As her three-year-old twins Itta and Arata race around Caramel’s Tokyo store in fits of delicious giggles, their mother somehow manages to appear both stylish and unflappable. Casually pulling out mini packs of playdough to pre-empt the boys from pulling clothes off shelves (it works wonders, she knows all the tricks), Ayumi smiles: “Twins. I think the biggest lesson is knowing how to accept help from others.”
Beneath Ayumi’s calm demeanour clearly lies a hectic daily lifestyle, juggling nursery hours with work as a creative consultant (she formerly curated a gallery store and event space – and is launching a new business next year).
Here, she shares the highs and lows of life as a mother of twins in Tokyo, from double the trouble – to double the happiness.
How has life changed post-twins?
I used to be very independent. Since having the twins I’ve faced situations that were impossible to manage alone. Raising twins has been a collaboration of many people – my husband, my parents, friends, strangers, people sitting next to us in restaurants….
Best and worst bits?
The hardest part is that I only have one body! But the positives are being able to witness how these two souls that shared one womb are now sharing their lives and will experience every new adventure together. Sometimes it is double trouble – but it really is double happiness too.
What’s it like raising children in Tokyo?
There are sometimes complaints about strollers and noise. But despite it being a mega-city, Tokyo is extremely safe, which makes it a great place to raise a family.
And your favourite spots to visit?
We often come to Daikanyama [home to Caramel’s Japan flagship]. A favourite place is the bookstore complex T-Site (http://real.tsite.jp/daikanyama/english/). We also like Bird café
(http://bird-daikanyama.com/), which is great for reading children’s books and enjoying a coffee and a fruit sandwich.
How similar or different are the boys?
They are identical twins but their personalities are different. Itta has an active, high energy curiosity and likes to jump over strings, make sounds with objects. Arata has a more focused analytical curiosity and could spend hours stacking up blocks. But I never compare them because they can be rivals as much as friends and our goal is to help strengthen their own unique qualities.
How do you dress them?
Often, I intentionally dress them the same, so that people recognise each child’s individual personality – and not just tell them apart by their clothes. I find this allows nursery teachers to build a deeper familiarity of each boy’s characteristics and quirks.
What kind of clothes do you like to dress them in?
I silkscreen their T-shirts myself. Every year on I ask an artist friend to create illustrations for their birthday. Then I make a stencil out of the illustration and silk print it onto many T-shirts. So there is no stress involved in wearing nice white T-shirts and getting them dirty.
Finally, what are you golden survival tips as a mother of twins?
Never turn down help.
Accept that you have limitations.
And sleep when you can.