{You Look Like You Have Your Hands Full!}-Guest Post

Brought to you by Shell at Things I can’t Say:

The very first time that I heard the phrase that would become a source of irritation, I was about 7 months pregnant, with a 14 month old perched on my baby bump.

“Oh, you’re going to have your hands full.”

Why, yes, yes, I’m aware of that.

I heard it numerous times over the next year or so, as I had a baby and a toddler with me practically at all times.

And then, along came baby #3. Yes, THREE boys, all in the span of less than three and a half years.

Now, I can hardly go anywhere without hearing those dreaded words, “You have your hands full!”

Sometimes, I want to snap back and say, “I have them more than full, since I have more boys than I have hands.”

Or, “Better full than empty.”

Or, “Well, we did want these kids, you know.”

I’ve tried to be the bigger person and just respond, “Yes, I’m very blessed.”

But, sometimes I wonder where that remark is coming from. Yesterday, I had all three boys out playing on the beach. They were happily digging in the sand, no fighting, no running away, no whining; they were behaving. I was actually able to sit in my beach chair and read a book.

When, the comment came. “Wow, you certainly have your hands full.”

I wanted to snap back and ask why. Because it was a pretty easy day. I was relaxing with my boys.

Not that I want to hear it when I have all three waiting in the pediatrician’s office and one of them is crying, while another is running around in circles, and the third just tried to make a dash out the door.

No, I really don’t want to hear anything then, either. Unless it’s an offer to help.

Yet, it’s one of those phrases that people tend to think is just making conversation. But, I’ll tell you a secret: moms with multiple kids know they have their hands full. And it can sound like a judgment.

Want to make conversation? You can tell me how well-behaved/cute my kids are or that you love my purse instead. You’ll brighten my day and put me in a much better mood for when the next person tells me that my hands are full.

*And don’t forget that a little comment love goes a long way in winning a few of my favorite things!

**Wordful Wednesday will go live at 9:00 P.M  PDT.

About Angie

Angie is a CRAFT dabbling, recipe making, WORD loving, sunshine hording, book DEVOURING, Mama to a lot! She's kind of in love with Instagram right now, so if you want her attention, go find here there. {smiling}


  1. good points…I haven’t had this phrase said to me very often. I wonder if we have a third if I will hear it more.

  2. I hear that phrase multiple times per day!!! And, yes, at times or depending on the person’s tone and facial expression it does feel like a judegment. We have 3 boys under the age of 4 and baby #4 is due this summer. Now that I am beginning to look pregnant I’ve even had people ask me if I know where they come from!! But, we are blessed. Even on the days when I just want to let them go run off into the street! 😉

  3. OMG…I said this to another mother one day and I wanted to punch myself in the face…it was a complete accident, but at least I told her I wanted to punch myself in the face…that’s gotta mean something, right?

  4. Yes… with a 15yr old, a 10 yr old and an 8 yr old… I have heard that countless times. Its not really a “NICE” thing to say… though my kids were pretty well behaved when they were little… now they are terrors! But old enough to know better…. thats worse!
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..We are HOMEOWNERS!! =-.

  5. I’ve said it, I’ve heard it…

    Actually I think I said it to you in the ped’s office the first time we saw eachother after 14 yrs away from eachother LOL (Hope you didn’t think it was judgement Shell!)
    .-= Angie´s last blog ..6 words will say it all…. =-.

  6. Gosh, I never thought of this phrase that way–I have 2 kids, and really don’t get told that phrase all too often (thought there are others that I can relate to, I’m sure) but I know that I’ve said that same phrase to my sister in law (mom of 3 boys) on more than one occassion! LOL!
    .-= Chrissy MacCEO´s last blog ..Sunday Drive…Around the Web! =-.

  7. if i was there, i would say to my daughter or son, but loud enough for you to hear, “oh, look! 3 boys, how lucky!” that’s what we always say–two girls, how lucky! one of each, how lucky! 🙂

  8. You know me Shell and I can TOTALLY relate to this post! Which is why when I get a moment out alone and I see another mom struggling I always offer to help.

  9. You know what’s worse Shell, when you get those comments from family and friends. It is probably even true at that moment, but the family or friend doesn’t think to offer help.

    I also get frustrated with my mother who recently started implying I am not very capable of taking care of my four kids by myself. She keeps asking if I need her to come visit, so she can help. Her health is pretty bad, so I find this suggestion a lil rude for two reasons 1)I have to add her to the workload I have, because of her health (so let’s add to these full hands) and 2) She can’t really do anything to help with the kids, so how is she any better than me with the kids?
    .-= Oka´s last blog ..Post It Note Tuesday =-.

  10. People no longer have internal censors..that is the only thing I can think. I get that a lot, too, and I only have two girls. It’s rude and not even polite to say it.

    I try to respond “they are full of love” or “I am very blessed.” I think it gets the point across.
    .-= Krystyn´s last blog ..What I learned on our first family vacation =-.

  11. I can see why it is a bit annoying. I am definitely the mom…I think that comments on another mom’s bag or purse or even how cute her kids are. I do not want to offend anyone. You are definitely right too…it makes a mom feel good when you pay her a compliment amongst all the chaos.

  12. Lol… I never said this to anyone, mostly because I don’t have kids yet and I get THAT question all the time…. and trust me it isn’t less annoying.

    My SIL gets it though, but she deserves it. She has a “as long as there’s other adults around (even strangers in Target) SOMEONE will keep an eye on them attitude”. Hence, her 3 kids? So bratty, annoying and out-of-control. So I don’t feel bad when I hear people say it to her….

  13. My MIL says stuff like that all the time about my son and it drives me nuts. I don’t think she was too thrilled when we decided to have another child. I wish people would realize that those kind comments are, in fact, insensitive.
    .-= Evonne´s last blog ..How to Get Your Husband to Leave You Alone =-.

  14. With a 2 year old and a 4 year old I get that a lot to especially when we tell people we would like 1 more:) After struggling with infertility no comment phases me because you get all the insensitive comments then! All that really matters is that yes your hands are full but you wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  15. My 1st 3 were in 3 years. #4 entered the outside world (e.g. evicted from the womb) when the oldest was 6. You can imagine the comments we get that are rude intentionally or unintentionally (most are unintentional but some are VERY intended). However, there are a lot of people who give kind words & are great out there. Those people do more in helping to support (even just in kindness) than any of the others.
    .-= beth aka confusedhomemaker´s last blog ..Recycled Glass Appetizer Trays =-.

  16. To me, “you have your hands full” is a judgment. Pure and simple. What else could they possibly mean by that? I wish people would think before they open their mouth!!
    .-= Kmama´s last blog ..A Winner and a New Giveaway: Corel Digital Studio 2010 =-.

  17. Oh how I love you, Shell. I hate any comment I can feel coming. I always get a comment on how big mine is, and “What did he weigh when he was born?” I should wear a t-shirt that reads, He was 7.10 when he was born.”
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..Papa Paparazzi – The (B) True Gollywood Story =-.

  18. You’ve got your hands full Shell. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Hahahaha

    Raising boys isn’t easy, but ya know what? Raising teenage girls is MUCH harder. So whenever you see a mom with a teenage girl you should tell her, “You’ve got your hands full.” 😀

  19. I agree, there’s definitely a better way to start up a conversation, even if you are curious about how you manage life with three young boys. Maybe it’s the journalist in me coming out, but I think it’s better to ask questions that are heartfelt and “different.”

    And I think you should start using those little zingers in your comeback repertoire, even if we all know you’re too nice to do so, Shell! 🙂
    .-= Jenn @ South of Sheridan´s last blog ..Post It Note Tuesday: The job search continues =-.

  20. Hi Shell, I followed you over here too! It’s been awhile since I heard that phrase, since my 4 were born in 1978, ’79, ’80 and ’81. I don’t remember it bothering me, mostly people are commenting for something to say. I do remember a waitress telling us how well-behaved our kids were at a restaurant on our cross-country trip- now that’s the kind of remark you want to hear every day!
    They may have raised the roof at home but by golly, they were pretty good kids out in public. (Of course, they do have that slight problem with a touch of social anxiety and the idea that people are watching their every move)
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Still crazy =-.

  21. I’m guilty of having said this, I just never thought about it that way. Well, now I’m going to make sure that I don’t say it again. Instead I’ll offer to help or complement how well behaved they are. Thanks for making me stop and think about this.
    .-= Allison @ Alli ‘n Son´s last blog ..4 Week Gluten Detox =-.

  22. I actually think it’s a compliment! It’s like saying wow, you must have some super-human powers to be able to handle 3 boys so close together. If there is a judgement, it’s probably just the person saying it thinking that there is no way they could handle so many little ones. I just have one little boy, so no one has ever said it to me, but I have said it lovingly to people I know. This is just a reminder that what we say isn’t always perceived the way we mean for it to be!

  23. Oh! I hear this all the time as well! Why oh why do people like to point this out! I agree with your points! And loved them! I’ve been trying to remember to say something nice to mommies when I see them because I know all the not so nice comments that come our way! Great post!

  24. I’ve never really understood the “art” of just making conversation. Either sit in silence or say something useful! lol Clearly, you handle your “handful” just fine!
    .-= Lindsay @ Just My Blog´s last blog ..Post-It Note Tuesday: Brain Fart Edition =-.

  25. Hoo boy do I hear you on this one! We took our triplet boys (18 months) and almost 4 yo daughter to the zoo on Saturday. About 20 minutes in I started to respond (sweetly, but facetiously) with “Really? You’re the first person to say that today.”

    Like you say, it’s hard to hear when your kids are behving well. My boys were perfectly content in the stroller and Amelia was being great, too. Seemed that we had our hands a lot less full than some parents with just one or two kids who were running around out of control.

    I did get one comment I didn’t really know what to do with. One older gentleman looked at my stroller and said, “Lady, you are a saint.” I may be a lot of things, but saint is not on the list. It was intended as a compliment, I know, but it was very awkward.

    .-= Trippin’ Mama´s last blog ..Lonely =-.

  26. Exactly! But I’ve never heard that comment when mine are being good. I usually ask the people if they want one (of the kids). That usually shuts them up. Sometimes even the nice ones help.
    .-= Semi-Slacker Mom´s last blog ..10 Things I’ve Learned =-.

  27. while I only have 2 (4 and 7) I do keep 2 girls during the day (16mths, 3yrs) and we go everywhere, I did not become a sahm to stay at home!

    I LOVE the looks from people whilst strolling the isle of Target with 4 kids:) Most of them are the “oh the poor woman” and some are like “wow she looks like a super mom”. They all look as though they could be mine since there is enough time between my youngest and the oldest girl.

    Most people though I think just think I am nuts!
    .-= Joy´s last blog ..wordful Wednesday-Good daddy/son QT =-.

  28. Guilty as charged. (of saying it, but not judging)

    I say it more as an olive branch, mom to mom, “hey – I actually respect and admire you for all you have on your plate.”

    But I get that it might be perceived otherwise. Will keep this in mind the next time I hang out with my friend who has 7 year old triplets and a 4 year old 🙂
    .-= gigi´s last blog ..When Should Kids Get Trophies? =-.

  29. You are so right! I got really tired of people asking me the same questions, over and over, when I was pregnant – especially the ones that sounded a little judgemental. And I am very sensitive to people who see children as anything less than a 100% blessing! They aren’t work, they are an honor, in my opinion! But I have the coolest daughter ever, so I might be biased. 😉 It’s nice to hear from another mom who is totally embracing this hectic time of having three little boys – this phase will pass, and someday your hands won’t be full, and you won’t have to miss it because you enjoyed it while it was here! Kudos!
    .-= Grace’s Mom´s last blog ..Hot Topic: School Reform – Follow Up =-.

  30. As the mom of an only child I had to deal with “don’t you want anymore?” which I always wanted to reply with “I could only steal one at a time” just to shut them up.
    When my parents would be out with me and my twin brothers (we’re 15 months apart), strangers would stop them and say the same thing about having their hands full, etc. Whenever anyone would ask if they were twins, Daddy would say nope, triplets but we leave one in the car and switch ’em out every now and then. That REALLY shuts ’em up!

  31. Perfect advice!

  32. Oh, I totally hear ya! For me, the comment that grated on my nerves most was when I was pregnant …. we kept getting the ‘just wait’ remarks from all of our friends with kids. I mean, we knew our lives were going to change, that we’d be sleeping less, etc. etc. etc. But, we were HAPPY about our pregnancy and it was a complete downer every time somebody would say ‘just wait’ instead of a simple ‘congratulations’.

    You’ve got your hands full? Maybe it’s just people’s way of saying you’re better at handling 3 kids than they would be. Who knows? I hear it as a judgment too. And, I totally agree … if you’re gonna say it, it should also come with an offer to help.

  33. I was at dance with my daughter one day and another mom was there trying to put tights on her daughter while holding her baby. I could tell he she had her hands full so I didn’t need to say it. I just said, “Can I help?” She replied, “Really?” Like, OMG please!!!! And then she handed me the baby that I got to cuddle with for a few minutes. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..It’s just another random Tuesday… =-.

  34. While I do think you must have super-human abilities, I can see where this would get annoying. I heard it a little and my girls are nearly 5 years apart. Why can’t people come up with better things to say?
    .-= Angelia´s last blog ..And The Winner Is…ME! =-.

  35. I am so happy to hear that I am not the only person whose blood boils slightly when someone says that to me. I have gotten much worse too from people who I don’t even think realize what they are saying.
    .-= jennyleite´s last blog ..Funny Ph(F)rases Friday =-.

  36. I agree I would rather hear a compliment than that. I don’t remember anyone saying that too me since the kids are 9 years apart. But I do hear why did you wait so long to have another. It was not my choice to have such a age difference between the two kids. Just had a very hard time getting pregnant again.
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Monday Minute =-.

  37. Ya I hear ya! I think people just assume that when you have your children close together that you are a crazy person all the time! Sometimes though I feel like they just have nothing else to say and they are trying to make small talk…I hate small talk when it comes to stupid lame judgments!
    My favorite one that I always get (my kids are 5, 4 and 2 1/2) are they all yours? haha ! Well yes they are mine but instead of explaining my family dynamics which in none of their business I just say nope none of them are mine I just borrow kids so I can push the stupid cart at the store!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Monday Minute with The Daily Dose of Reality =-.

  38. I usually add to “oh, your hands are full” with “AND SO IS MY HEART”

    I leave it at that. That phrased always irritated me as well.

  39. I think after reading through all of the comments, I have the most kids so far…7, ages 16 down to 3 months. I hear this comment often, although I rarely go out with all of my kids anymore. I have also had far worse said to me in the presence of my children. “I would kill myself if I had all those kids. ” This was said at Costco while I only had 4 of my children with me. Even now, it still amazes me the verbal freedom that people feel they have in regard to your family size. For a culture who holds up being “non-judgmental” as a virtue, we sure are a bunch of judgmental folks. I find this virtue only applies in so far as you fit the cultural norm. Having 7 kids definitely opens you up for the critique of any randoms who happen to pass you by.

    Ultimately, despite what people say, I know my hands are full of the only things that really matter. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  40. Great post. I only have one child but I can totally see how irratating that would be. Especially when they just say it … no offer for help or anything?!?!

  41. I have 3 and I will be the first to say “I have my hands full”!

  42. As a person who never hears that, I will take this and learn from it in the event those words want to come out of my mouth to someone else someday.
    .-= Live.Love.Eat´s last blog ..Coca Cola Chocolate Pan Cake =-.

  43. So true…as always! Love to read what you have to write Shell.

  44. I once had someone say they felt sorry for me. I replied, “Why? We chose to have these kids and could not be happier” – all the while the toddler is tantruming in the grocery cart.

    Yesterday I told a mother of twins, “I salute you – mother of twin toddlers – I can barely keep up with the one toddler I have let alone two. Look how well-behaved yours are.” I was genuinely impressed but she seemed like she’s heard it before. Oh well – my intentions were good.
    .-= T Rex Mom´s last blog ..Living Doll… =-.

  45. Yep – that comment drives me crazy, too. But when people stop me, they usually only pay attention to my 8 month old twins and totally ignore my toddler!
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..The Candy Bandit Strikes Again! =-.

  46. My oldest three boys were all born within three years- my third came a week before my first turned 3. I heard it a lot when they were younger, it lets up a bit as they get older- unless you have two girls a couple years later and then twins after that LOL
    .-= Jayme´s last blog ..Post It Note Tuesday =-.

  47. As a mother of 5, I hear it ALL the time. Except now that the kids are bigger, I rarely go anywhere other than church with all of them.
    .-= Lolli´s last blog ..Best Lenses for Your DSLR =-.

  48. With four children ranging in ages 15 to 1, I get that phrase thrown at me often. It can be frustrating because you’re right…it sounds a bit judgemental. Yes, I have a 15 year old, a 1 year old and a couple more kids in between but I wanted each and every one of them. My hands may be full, but they’re blessed. Great post!

    Kristi, Live and Love…Out Loud
    .-= Kristi {at} Live and Love…Out Loud´s last blog ..Not Me! Monday – It’s Spring Break & Mama Needs a Nap! =-.

  49. I have never said that to anyone. I wouldn’t dare walk up to some one and tell them something like that. I can see how it could be rude. It’s like I’ve had said to me before ” you have a boy and a girl now, so you’re done. Right?” My answer is usually a chuckle.
    What I’d like to say: “No! just because I have one of each you assume that I’m finished?? ”
    ~If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Stay under the Radar: Post It Tuesday =-.

  50. Paranoid Devil’s advocate: wonder what they would have said if you had three daughters out there on the beach?

    Yeah, I went there 🙂 With two “wild and crazy and out of control males,” you know I had to.
    .-= Ash´s last blog ..Luckily, it’s one of my favorite John Lennon tunes. =-.

  51. I can see where that would get annoying. It does seem like being judged than a polite attempt at conversation. Someone saying it when they’re all behaving nicely would bother me. It would’ve been hard for me not to snap back asking why.

  52. Amen! You are a much nicer mama than I!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..And So It Begins =-.

  53. I had 3 boys in the span of 4 years – and this phrase irritates me too! Great Guest Post!
    .-= Mellisa´s last blog ..What’s in Your Lunch Bag? =-.

  54. That was a great post!! I find myself VERY easily annoyed with probably 90% of the people I encounter on a daily basis, and my rants are nowhere NEAR the level of classiness you have achieved here! Kudos, dear lady. =) PS – I would never say something like that to a person, especially not a total stranger…there should be a built-in “laugh” track for life that has ‘Here’s Your Sign’ programmed into it for moments like those. o_O Maybe someday they’ll make stupidity illegal, and we’ll all be free. 😉

  55. Love ya Shell!

  56. I was reading your post about having 3 children and the comments that people make. As you can see by my email address I have five children.
    They came about every two years. The comments I got when my children were little was amazing. One of the things I always dreaded everytime I got pregnant was the belly rubs from strangers.
    My pregnant belly always was straight out there like a basketball.
    It was amazing the boldness people had to rub it as if they would gain some good luck or something.

    Funny! I loved your post.
    @Buttons and Bows

    mommiesgotfivechildren at hotmail dot com
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..My entries for the week of April 11th through the 17th 2010 =-.

  57. I had a man tell me once, in reference to my infant triplets, that he would have committed suicide.

    [That’s why God gave them to me and not you.]


  58. Oh Shell you rock congrats on such a wonderful guest post..

  59. I totally agree! Tell me that I have beautiful children… tell me that you like my hair…. just don’t tell me I have my hands full!

    Also, don’t ask me if these kids are all mine!
    .-= Honey Mommy´s last blog ..A Photo A Day: Week 14 =-.

  60. As I said on your blog, yeah, you’ve got your hands full, but it sounds like you’re entertained! 😉
    .-= Much More Than Mommy´s last blog ..The Happiness Project: Happy Nappy =-.

  61. I don’t know if I have ever said anything about someone having their hands full but I hope I haven’t and I never will again if I did.
    Love this post and Shell!

  62. boy you look like you have your hands full

    um.. GREAT observation Einstein !

    Congrats on your post over here!! Soo excited for you ! I heart Angie.


  63. Gah I only have one and hear that all the time and Im like WTH? Some people just dont know how to take Thumpers advice..
    if you dont have anything nice to say then dont say anything at all!

  64. Oh yes! I know that phrase all too well and amazingly, even though my 6 oldest kids are now pretty self-sufficient, I STILL get the comments. Unreal!
    I have come to realize it will never end. UGH
    .-= debi9kids´s last blog ..Back When It Was 6 Under 5 =-.

  65. I had 3 kids in 4 years and so hear you on this post! Love your last paragraph on “tell me how well-behaved my kids are!”
    .-= It Feels Like Chaos´s last blog ..Their Selfless Love Amazes Me! =-.

  66. You always make me laugh my arse off! I love you! And I promise never to say that stupid comment again, not that I’ve ever said it, post children of course!
    .-= Mommy Drinks Because You Cry´s last blog ..2010 Ultimate Blog Party! =-.

  67. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this phrase!
    .-= Casey´s last blog ..Wordful Wednesday =-.

  68. I always say, “I sure do, but I’m so lucky…we had to work REALLY hard for these two.” If they have anything more to say, I’ll be sure to regale them with tales from my IVF cycle!
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..I think I have a new obsession… =-.

  69. you have your hands full! JKKKKK 🙂

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