“You’ve Got Your Hands Full!” + Other Ridiculous Things People Say to Parents with 3+ Kids

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I have four youngish kids.

That’s not double digits or anything, but I acknowledge it’s larger than the average family. I don’t normally take them out all together in public right now aside from the daily marches around our block, which have started to look more like a carnival than a leisurely stroll (complete with music, popcorn, and death defying stunts performed by my six year old). But in the “before COVID times,” we would get quite a few comments from our fellow shoppers.

Yes I do know that it looks like I have my hands full because I do have my hands full.

mother with 5 children on a blue couch
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Sometimes the comments do not phase me. Other times – when I am trying to keep it together as I attempt to entertain both twins while reigning in a wiggly 6 year old and answering questions from my 8 year old who suddenly wants to know how every part of the store works, all while shopping for whatever the heck we went to the store for in the first place – the words hit my nerves. They leave me feeling like, “Who asked you, anyway?” especially when I get some version of the phrase, “Better you than me!”. 

I’m frequently up sitting alone and rocking cute but refusing to sleep babies at all hours of the night, so I put that time to good use and came up with a few replies to try out to these comments. Responses that weren’t unkind but also satisfied my need to do something more than smile and say “Blessed!” I am blessed, but I’m also tired of feeling like I owe an explanation to every person who decides they need to let me know their feelings on my family size.

Here are my tried and true, most successful replies to the “That’s a lot of kids/You’ve got your hands full/You know how that happens, don’t you?” comments.

I’ve had each of these said to me more than once, as just about any mom of three or more probably has. Please feel free to use them yourself at your own risk.
large family standing near the water
Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

“You’ve got your hands full!”

– “I sure do! Thanks for noticing and offering to help us do our grocery shopping today. We haven’t been here in 2 weeks, my kid is all hopped up on Mountain Dew, and I have quite the list!”
Also, I am lying, my kid has that energy without soda and at no point have I gone two weeks without shopping. I am incapable of planning that far ahead, even during a pandemic. But the size of the eyes on that man when he heard me take him up on his offer to help was worth the exaggeration.

“You know how that happens, don’t ya?” – this one exclusively comes from older men. I don’t know why, but it’s true.

– “No! But I have been trying to figure it out, could you please explain?” 
This one gets lots of nervous laughter and then they will back away slowly for a minute before turning to bolt. Pro tip- if you’ve recently had “the talk” with any of your kids, they will rat you out on this one, so know your crowd.
– Alternate reply: “Yep, we’re just really good at it.”
This is my husband’s preferred response, but saying it makes me roll my own eyes at myself. I know. Aren’t your eyes rolling, too? It’s awful.

“Better you than me!”

– “Sounds like that’s true!”
Is it a little rude? Maybe, but it’s less rude than the initial statement.
-Alternate reply and maybe a little less rude: ” Well, it’s good that you know your limits.” 

“That’s a lot of girls, but at least you got one boy!”

– “Why?”
I wait for them to answer this one while I stare directly into their face because I think that kind of stupidity needs to be put on the spot. I am equally lucky to have each of my kids; their sex is not part of that equation.

“Four kids! That sure is expensive!”

– “Well good news, I hadn’t planned to send you a bill! “

Most of the time, people are quite lovely and try to compliment us no matter how awkwardly that comes out. I try to always reply with a smile and a thank you when there is true kindness at the heart of a comment. I really am lucky, and I really do know that.
But here’s the bottom line about all of the comments mentioned above: my kids are listening. Each of these turns of phrase contains an underlying tone that my kids are in some way a troublesome burden or less valued than their siblings due to either birth order or sex. I will be sassy to strangers every day of the week of it means my kids understand that they are worth the work it takes to raise them. 

So yes, I do have my hands full. But as cliche as it sounds, I have a full heart, too.