Honest question: Why do people make the comment "You've got your hands full!" ?
I've heard it more and more now that we have three kids. It comes from people of all shapes, ages, and backgrounds. Sometimes it's said with laughter behind it. Sometimes it's said with a judgmental eye. Like most people, I don't like confrontation and I generally make a point to avoid being rude to complete strangers (despite their comments to me). I usually give a fake chuckle and provide one of the following responses:
But in a good way!
The day I wrote this blog, I heard this comment SEVEN different times. I've gotten so frustrated with hearing it recently, I added a snap to my Snapchat story about it. I almost called a friend to vent about it. Then I thought about it more and more. So instead of stewing on it any longer, I decided I would turn it into something I enjoy-- photography and writing.
It's funny, because I truly don't know WHY people say "You've got your hands full." I started asking myself, "What is the intention or implication here?" I sometimes want to turn to them and say "Thanks, Captain Obvious!" I typically hear this comment now that we have three kids and occasionally when I'm out with an additional one or two kids. But ya know what, if I didn't think I could handle it or I wasn't handling it well, I wouldn't be doing it at all. So what gives? All I can think is this is a strangers way of saying "Looks like a shit show to me!" Or "You shouldn't be in public with *ALL* those kids." Or "You look like you could possibly use a helping hand but instead of giving that to you, I'm just going to stand and gawk at you. Then I'm going to follow it up with a jab about how busy you must be. Or I'll just point out that your hands are indeed full." Or "Aren't you stressed out??" I'm not sure what people hope to achieve with that comment. It's as though they're not sure what to say and instead of just giving a friendly smile, they resort to this awkward phrase directed at me as though to tell me and my kids that I'm not handling life well. And, really, who wants to hear from complete strangers that they can't handle their kids?
Someone once suggested to respond with, "You should see my heart!" But I feel corny saying that even if it's true. Perhaps I should try it sometime though to see how it's received. I know another common response is to say "I'm so blessed!" But that's not really a comment I would make. So I've been trying to think of a better response that's more suited to me and my kids.
I think my new response is going to be "Yep and loving every second of it!" or "In the best way possible!" I want the negative to be spun into a positive -- a "kill em with kindness" type of approach (as opposed to what I'm sometimes thinking which is a big fat "screw you!"). The thing is, I enjoy this stage of life that we are in. Sometimes it's crazy, sometimes kids have meltdowns, sometimes I'm super stressed and dream of shipping my kids away for a week. Sometimes with three kids, life looks like finding a place for me to sit and nurse while containing the other two. Sometimes we are able to relax and enjoy a cinnamon roll together. Often, we run errands together. Life doesn't stop when you have kids. If anything, it accelerates and I have learned to go with it. A lot of times it's fun, they bring laughs and smiles to my face, and it is definitely challenging. The odd part is that literally 100% of the time when I hear the comment, "You have your hands full!" -- all of the kids I have with me are being well behaved and we are getting along just fine minding our own business. I want my kids to know I enjoy them, we planned for this, and no stranger gets to put us down as a family minding our own business just because THEY can't fathom having their hands as full as mine apparently seem to be. I want my kids to see how to respond to unkind or back handed "compliments" and show them that just because people are judging you AND making unsolicited comments to your face, you can take the higher road.
I'm proud to say my hands ARE full...of little bitty dimpled hands that won't always need to hold mine, of car seats that weigh too much but hold the most precious cargo, of pacifiers or toys to soothe a tired baby, of burp cloths and wipes to clean little faces that don't even realize they're dirty, of a diaper bag that holds spare clothes for tiny bodies that sometimes have accidents, and snacks for little tummies to keep them full and happy. Some day my hands won't be full in this way anymore and I promise to future strangers -- the moms, dads, grandparents and caregivers of little people who seem to have THEIR hands full, I won't be judging you or telling you how you can't handle it. Instead, future strangers, I'll smile in solidarity and reminisce in my head about the good ole days gone by-- and I'll go so far as to lend a hand if needed. And maybe for a moment I'll be able to have my hands full once again.
Katie Gaeta Photography specializes in lifestyle and documentary photography in the St. Louis, MO area. If you'd like a day documented where you are rocking it at this parenting thing, let's talk about that!