You Have Your Hands Full…

Yesterday, I went to the train museum with my children.


This really warrants its own blog post, but in the meantime, IT happened.

Exhausted (remember, another post is coming), I got to the second-floor area with the toy trains children can play with. I sat down next to another woman, and we watched the kids playing. They love this room, and it’s nice and restful, because the children actually want to stay in one place, and the adults can thus sit down for a few minutes.


As I sat quietly for a moment, I realized how weary I was. Being the sort who chats up strangers, I turned to the woman on the bench with me and said, “They ought to have nap hammocks for the parents in this room.”

She said, “No kidding.”


She asked, “Which one is yours?”

This time, I relished it.

“Oh, that one. And that one…and, let’s see…that one.”

I know you all know what she said next, once she closed her surprised mouth.

“Wow…you’ve really got your hands full.”



OK, so here’s the fun part. Of course, I spent the next several minutes gleefully imagining good responses to this comment. This well-meaning comment, never meant in malice, but which basically defies response. This comment that you get all the time once you hit some number of children. (Is it two? Is it one misbehaving child? Is it three? I can’t remember.)

I considered the following:

“No, I don’t.”

“I’m currently pregnant with quadruplets, too.”

“Yes, I have realized I am in over my head, and have been trying to decide which one to give away. Do you want one?”


What would YOU enjoy saying?


And here is a wonderful response on My Years Off.


21 responses to “You Have Your Hands Full…”

  1. “And I haven’t even told you yet about homeschooling, my struggles with in-laws, and the fact that I’ll be lucky if the car starts in order to carry us home…” Sometimes it’s satisfying enough to imagine the conversation.

    1. Exactly! I am sure I get much more pleasure out of thinking of things to say than actually saying them.

  2. Debra A. Avatar
    Debra A.

    My response- Yes, I do. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
    (I’m a mom of 3 girls- twins 11 months and a 4 yr old)

  3. Michelle Avatar

    I have twins and an “older” – 3 years apart. So I really do have my hands full but still get annoyed at hearing a total stranger comment in a way that feels negative and at best is an assumption that they know us. I’ve learned to smile and say, “it’s a blessing.” Do they really think I’m going to tell a total stranger, in from of my kids who have EARS, “yeah, I’m totally over whelmed, barely hanging on by a thread, and dream of the time I slept the whole night through and still got to shave my legs 7 years ago!”
    There should be a national challenge to come up with socially appropriate things to say to a mother one doesn’t know, that tells her: I remember those days, and I support you with no judgement. And is NOT “hang in there, it’s gets better!” What the …. Is that supposed to mean? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Did you ever read that “Don’t Carpe Diem” blog? Very good one!

  4. Oh, definitely go with that “yeah, I am trying to decide which one to giveaway” response! I would find that hilarious…although, I can see that many others may not….

  5. I’ve always liked “I plan to keep having them until the food stamps run out.” ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Lol. I think i might try this the next time. (But I definitely won’t be able to keep a straight face for long! )

  6. Carolyn Zmrhal Avatar
    Carolyn Zmrhal

    I too have 3 kiddos (5, 3, and 5 months) and although they are relatively well behaved I hear that comment ALL THE TIME. I’ve started replying “yes, full of good things” as happily as I can muster. Works pretty well.

  7. My girls (10,7,6) are with me all the time, plus my nephew (5) most of the time. I get that comment so often I’ve stopped even bothering to reply that he’s not mine. I’m only 32 & look about 26/27 so jaws drop too usually (that part I enjoy!). But when someone tells me I have my hands full my typical come back is: “Yep, plus I’m a Youth Minister so on any given day I have a few teenagers drifting in and out of my house eating my food. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

  8. I have 3-year-old twins with a 6 year-old, and I constantly hear this!! I KNOW people mean well, or are just searching for something semi-kind to say that comes out slightly wrong. So I just say, “Yeah, we sure do.”

  9. christy Avatar

    I have a 6-yearo old and 3-year old twins and have heard that all too much. My favorite response is this – it implies gratitude and positivity and I think it makes the person THINK about what they’re really saying.

    “Better full than empty.”

    1. I like that one, maybe even better than my other favorite:
      “Yes, full of blessings.”
      (Maybe because i can’t always get it out, because if they’re saying it, it probably means the kids are not behaving like blessings at the moment. Ha.)

  10. […] my post entitled, “You Have Your Hands Full,” I said I had had quite a day at the train […]

  11. I usually say, “No, actually I don’t” and wave my free hands because the baby is strapped onto me in the Ergo and the other two are running wildly through the parking lot.

  12. My second bub is 1 yr old. Things are slowly getting more manageable as she’s finally learning to sleep at night, but that first year was sheer survival. She was very unsettled (different from my son who was a chilled little bub!!) plus I have had chronic health issues for the past 18 months.

    I often say to my friends, or even to strangers, who have more than 2 kids: “I don’t know how you do it.” And I sometimes add, “Two’s enough for me!!!”

    But reading this blog post and comments is making me think my little statements of admiration / disbelief might come across as being negative, probably really irritating if not downright offensive to the hearer…

    What I’m really saying is: “I always wanted 4 kids, then after having my first child I decided 3 would perhaps be more manageable… But then I had my 2nd and was in over my head. Hats off to you for coping with 3 (or 4 or 5) – I can’t even cope with my two, despite the fact that I love them more than words can describe and thank God for them all the time!”

    What should I say instead of my usual remarks, to convey my awe and respect to those I meet who have had more kids than me?

    Maybe there’s a bit of sadness and even slight envy in my heart too, I just realised. I sort of wish I was capable of having more but my health won’t permit it…

    Anyway, suggestions of helpful comments would be greatly appreciated!!!

    1. Thanks for weighing in. I do think there is a lot of well-meaning intent behind the statements we all make. I think words of encouragement are never inappropriate. It might be nice to offer assistance if it looks like it may be needed (though there’s always the risk of a snappish response from an overextended parent), or simply an acknowledgement that we all find parenting hard but that you can see someone is doing a good job. ๐Ÿ™‚ Complimenting their children is often kind too. One time I gathered up my courage to ask a crying woman with a stroller if she was OK. It turned out she had been asked to leave the library because her baby was making happy but loud noises. I think just having another mother listening and affirming her helped, and I was glad I had interacted with her, though my first instinct had been to leave her alone.

  13. MamaDaniJ Avatar

    My twins club has my favorite emblazoned on our club t-shirt: Think my hands are full? You should see my heart!

  14. One of my major pet peeve comments !! It’s like ” wow you look tired ” ! I always want to say ” am I the only mom of 3 that leaves the house ? ” ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Yeah, you don’t expect to be that much of an anomaly.

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