Why, yes, we DO have our hands full!

Why, yes, we DO have our hands full!

Why, yes, my hands ARE full!

Easter this year didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of Easter lunch and an egg hunt with Sean’s mom’s side of the family (something we’ve done every year for the last 9 years), the kids and I headed to church without Sean, grabbed pizza and Starbucks, visited urgent care and then grocery shopped and filled prescriptions.

While having a husband with the norovirus and a sinus infection myself was not part of our plan, it really wasn’t a bad day, and I have to admit there was a sweetness to seeing my big girls step up to the plate and help with the baby through the appointments and shopping.

But what really struck me were the number of comments about our family size that we got while we were out.

You know the ones…

“Wow, you have your hands full!”

“You must be one tired mom.”

“How many of them are there?!”

“Oh, just one boy?”

And all of this even though my baby belly probably still looks like leftover baby fat from the last baby rather than another little one on the way.

This is a huge pet peeve of mine, so I’ve written about it before.

Oh, not the comments themselves…the reaction to these comments.

Because while people complain about the things people say to them when they’re out and about with their larger-than-normal crews, I’ve never found the people saying them to be anything but sweet, encouraging, and friendly.

And the people we ran into yesterday were the same. Not one of them meant anything negative, even though there comments included things like, “Your husband must just sit and rock in the backyard!”

Because honestly? I AM tired and my hands ARE full. (The words coming out of my mouth on this particular day included a constant refrain of, “Please stop quacking. Being respectful of other people means not being loud and obnoxious. Please don’t touch. Walk behind the cart. Single file, guys. Jack, sit down.” And on and on and on.) And some days? My husband WOULD like to escape to the backyard to rock.

Each of the people who commented on our family did so out of kindness. They were mostly older people, people who I assume have children and grandchildren of their own and remember some of the chaos of those days. They weren’t being rude; they were just trying to connect with a busy mom on Easter Sunday .

I get so frustrated when people complain about these type of comments. Why do we assume the worst about people who are just being friendly? Why are we so defensive about our family sizes that we take offense when someone comments (with a sparkle in their eye) about the number of kids we have?

I’ll be honest here. When we found out Jackson was a boy, I was prepared to be offended by the comments about Sean finally getting a son and the assumption that we were finally done adding to our family now that we had our boy and, oh, the poor boy growing up with four sisters. But you know what? The people making those comments aren’t being rude either. They’re just being friendly! And while we would have been happy if Jack had been a girl, it IS fun to have a boy after all these girls, and Sean and him DO have a special bond.

Now, instead of getting offended, I just laugh and nod. And whatever comments come as my belly continues to grow, I hope that continues to be my response. Life is too short and there are too many real tragedies to be offended by a friendly cliche from a stranger!

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. As the oldest of five, I used to be SO embarrassed by comments like that. (But I was 12 when my youngest brother was born… so I was all teenagery and touchy anyway).

    The cliche I always hear? Almost every time I go somewhere with Juliet, someone comments on how bald she is, and how their baby/grand baby/friend’s baby was the same way. For a long time I got defensive on her behalf, but I’ve learned to just laugh or say “Well at least I don’t have to fix her hair every morning yet!” 🙂

    And really, since she’s so ginormous (she’s in 2T… and a lot of the pants are getting too short already!), I’m kind of glad she’s bald-ish, because it makes her look more babylike. If she was so tall AND had hair, people would expect a lot more maturity, so I’m glad she still looks 17 months. 🙂

  2. Same experiences here. And really– once upon a time, I was the one looking on in awe, praying that Momma could be me! So many losses, so much waiting… I will take every single comment and treasure it!

  3. This. 🙂

    “Life is too short and there are too many real tragedies in life to be offended by a friendly cliche from a stranger!”

  4. I agree with you. People are always looking for a way to connect. Usually the easiest way to start a conversation is to “take notice” of the person you wan to connect with. I get a kick out of how people address me now that I am a blogger (who is slightly obsessed with my beautiful flock of backyard chickens). 9 times out of 10 it is “How are your Chickens????”. Of course, I have two beautiful children, but I just don’t blog about them as much…..so I smile and choose to take it as a compliment. At least they care enough to bring it up……

  5. I remember those comments so well, and they never bothered me either. I was/am proud of my big clan and when others took the time to notice, I felt affirmed. Now I do it when I see families, especially moms out with a passel of kids. If I get the opportunity, I try to encourage them by sharing how we’ve raised/are raising six children now 12 through 25 years old, three married, and two with babies. And as trite as it sound, yes, it seems like yesterday . . . Now I’m living in the harvest of those early years, and it is SO worth it!

  6. Yes! I always think this and thanks for finally saying it 🙂

  7. These comments don’t bother me either, but I think you are being generous. Some of the comments I have heard are very judgmental and seem to be meant to hopefully liberate me from my child bearing trap. I usually respond with humor or kindness as I know how wonderful my life is and they obviously don’t. But not all of these comments are made to connect or to be friendly. A large portion are but not all. Either way, even on hard days, I know I am blessed beyond measure and most people get that.

  8. Liz, I’m so sorry that’s been your experience. I honestly cannot think of one time when the comments about our family have been anything other than kind (although the woman who scolded me for letting our youngest run around in a tank top on a chilly day was definitely being judgmental!), so I’m not sure it’s generosity as much as a reflection of our experiences!

  9. I love that, Kim! When we had our girls so close together, I expected that they would experience every stage of life at about the same time. Now that we’ll have an 11-year spread, though, I’m looking forward to welcoming grandkids while still raising our younger ones, and I love to see the pictures of all of your kids/grandbabies together!

  10. That’s too funny, Sarah! I love that you take the comments the way they’re intended.

  11. Awww, I love Juliet’s bald head! (I will say that one of the surprising things about having a boy this time around is that his hair looks “right” as a toddler.)

  12. That is so funny. We have a family of 6- 5 teens and a tween. No twins and obviously close in age. Of course, when I took them places , I was so busy keeping them all within my sight, I hardly noticed. Now, we are a blended family so 2 of the teens weren’t mine when my kids were little. My oldest was 8. I had 3 2 girls, a boy, and two more girls- one in Heaven, with her Heavenly Father, while she watches over us and her identical twin sister. When I had my girls, I wanted a boy, but my 2nd born daughter was born with a heart defect, so even more than average I think, I wanted a healthy baby, but he was both- healthy AND a boy.

    This may sound silly, but I could deal with the “Wow! You are a busy!” Type comments. The “No Boy” comments got to me a little, because my two oldest girls are only 18 months apart, and I honestly don’t remember them fighting. Now that they are “big girls”- my oldest at our local university in the dorms and next oldest is 16. They’re inseparately, spending days off together, and Sunday is her favorite day (for MANY reasons) but everyone looks forward to spend the day with Aly.. As the oldest of 6, she has such a nurturing, loving and gentle spirit, but is so funny and bright. I know that they grow up and leave the nest, a good thing, (right ???), but we miss her and our family feels just a bit incomplete

    Oh my, I’m babbling- must be getting sleepy. Anyway, not having a sister, I was very happy that they would have each other AND they got along. I would get a bit annoyed about how I must be desperate for a son.. That just bothered me. First of all, he did NOT have his sister’s heart defect, and it just seemed at the time that it was somehow minimizing my girls. Years later, I just think that anyone who is commenting in ny dani,y with a smile was just taking the time to acknowledge how wonderful it was to raise my beautiful babies, who were very well-behaved, and I was often told that as well. Also, I think they were saying that my hands were full, but lovingly so, and it was apparent. I think that many of us are too quick to take comments negatively and feel judged, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt, and say: “I sure do, and blessed and love my Kidd. Thank you, have a great day!”

  13. Just wanted to say, I have people say this to me ALL the time! I have two active boys! I sometimes think they may be being judge mental when I have one tickling the other, or talking about “poop” in the middle of the store with no care for their “indoor voice”.

    But honestly, sometimes the “handful comment” comes at just the right time…and what I want to say is, yes….thank you….thank you for acknowledging that my job as a sahm is hard. Thank you for acknowledging that I’m trying my best. Thank you for saying that.

  14. @jennifer…my reply was not s reply to your comment…I hit the wrong button 🙂

  15. You are blessed. . .we have received many positive comments over the years, but with five boys and one girl (11 year age spread) we have also heard unkind comments. Now that the kids are ages 18-7, most take the form of feeling sorry for our daughter having so many brothers. Yes, she hoped each of her younger brothers would be a sister, but she’s 15 now and mostly over that. 🙂

  16. I think maybe where our perspectives differ is on those comments themselves being unkind. We get lots of “Oh, one poor boy with four sisters…poor guy…that’s rough…” kind of comments, but I don’t get the impression that those people are being unkind. And you said your daughter always hoped for another sister, so it seems like maybe the people who feel sorry for her for having all brothers are actually trying to empathize with her and what that must be like?

    I get why those comments make us defensive (and I was much less charitable when we had all girls and people who say things like my husband must be so disappointed not to have a boy), but at the end of the day—even if the comments are ignorant—I think they’re said out of kindness.

  17. I’m sorry, let me clarify: when she was little (the younger boys were born when she was 2, 5, and 7), she really wanted a sister. By the time she was 10 or so, she was content with having 5 brothers and a room to herself. She now seems both annoyed and amused with people pitying her because she doesn’t feel sorry for herself.

    With all due respect, I find people today are more critical of large families of boys than girls or sexes more equally mixed. One or two boys in a household can learn to be mild mannered. Three or more boys and the energy level goes through the roof. Outsiders see “loud and obnoxious and physical” and assume they are always misbehaving and that I am neglecting to correct them, when in fact most of the time they are just being boys training to be men. Living with them is a lot like living in a boys dorm, so at the end of the day I often lack the energy to put the best construction on comments from strangers. Or from people who do know us, but haven’t bothered to get to know the kids as individuals and instead see them as a mass of testosterone-infused chaos!

  18. Thanks for this. I needed it – you’re right. We are way too easily offended these days.

  19. I understand, Angie—I guess I’m just inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt that when they “feel sorry” for her, they’re really just trying to be kind or make a connection. And I have heard that the culture in general approaches families of boys that way, which is just unfortunate.

  20. I was once in line to get into the state fair with my then 7 children (we are a foster family so it varies) with my friend and her 8 children. As they were checking our multiple diaper bags an irritated patron behind me said, “Do you thing you have enough children!!??” I turned and smiled and said, “Absolutely not, I’d love to have more.” The lady turned away. But my children all smiled and learn a good lesson I think. 🙂

  21. My favorite line is ” Life is too short and there are too many real tragedies to be offended!” Yes!! That is true for most things! Thank you for the reminder. I’m writing it down!:)

  22. Hey! I’m the only girl, with five brothers! I’m 17, number four in the line up. And I also get the “Oh you poor girl, how ever do you manage?!” comments, but they amuse me now. 🙂

    Also highly entertaining is when my best friend gets mistaken for being my brother, when I get mistaken for being older than my older brothers, (the two still at home are 19 and 22), and the frequent and mistaken idea of my older brother and I being married. (I’m a very grown-up looking 17 year old, apparently.)

  23. I will admit that I have said these comments myself, before I realized that they offend some. BUT, in my heart, I AM just connecting and admiring your family. Due to my husband’s anxiety & depression along with our 1 child having crazy health problems (Cystic Fibrosis, asthma, Ectodermal Dysplasia)… Our family is small. And people will say… “Oh, just the one?” Or “you HAVE to have another” or “Only Him”? As if our son is not worthy?! But, I don’t think, most of the time, people mean to be rude. I try to shower them w Grace, like Jesus does for me. I have said my share of stupid things!!! But thank you for bringing this to light and encouraging grace!!! We ALL need it:).

  24. THIS drives me CRAZY!!! my son has health issues (he has CF, asthma, and a condition which prevents him from having proper sweat glands). Anyway, yes, my son may be happily playing in the winter w a tank top! Yes, but he’s obviously happy and healthy that way so Mind your business, lol. OR the ones who tell me to take my son home w THAT cough. I’m like: he has asthma and it’s windy!!!! Lol. But, I don’t mind that one SOOO much because I DESPISE parents letting their kids cough their sick germs everywhere in public, so that MY low immune son gets Pneumonia from your son’s cold virus infected shopping cart!!! But- I gotta be a lil crazy w THIS kiddo:)

  25. Thanks for speaking up. I have never understood why people get offended! Yes, I do have a big family and my hands are full. I have never felt the comments were said with a malicious tone. Usually they were either enjoying my children’s antics or empathizing with me when I seemed frazzled.

  26. When I was pregnant with my seventh child I was asked “Don’t you have a tv?” And “Do you know what causes that?”
    Kinda hard not to be offended by those kind of comments.
    I have 11 children total so I have heard a lot of comments.
    I have also been complimented on how well our children behave, especially by the older generations. We are in Texas, the south, so go figure.

  27. The little ears listening always drives my response to the comments. I, too, have one boy and five girls, and do dismiss negative comments about how terrible it must be for him. I don’t want him believing that lie!

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