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75 Comments

  1. I have been there,we have 5 ( that don’t look alike) and we are always with my 3 nieces who are absolutly other looking then my kids. I would hear people wisper that lady has 8 kids, with different dads and the kids would go nuts. Last I told a lady in a clothing store that all that mathers was that none of the kids are behaved, they were not disturbing anybody in the store and if she couldnot keep her comment to her self, to please come to talk to me and not to the kids cause for them its no fun. The lady told me sorry and walked away.

  2. I really appreciate this. I catch myself laughing along to these comments, probably just to be polite, but you are absolutely right. I don’t want my children to feel like they’re a burden, or the butt of a joke! Thanks for sharing. I’m personally, going to use the ‘wouldn’t have it any other way!’ comment. :)

  3. “And my heart is even fuller!”

    1. I love that positive response. How lucky your children are to have you as their Mum.

  4. Thanks so much for this post – I have twin boys so I have had that comment since the day of their birth!! They are 5 now and while they are VERY well behaved for the most part – they just do.not.stop.moving! We usually say – “yes – you should see our hearts.”

    1. Katrina Romney says:

      What a sweet response!! I might borrow it :)

  5. I have 6 children. All single births and the first 4 were born in 4 years. I also happen to look much younger that I am most of the time. I have heard it all. I have been using the “better full than empty” and “I know I wouldn’t have it any other way” comments for years. It really does help put it all in perspective. I think I’ll add the “full of love” one now too.

    PS…. eventually I’ll have to blog. ;-)

  6. If you think my hands are full you should see my heart!

  7. “Better full than empty” Ouch! There are so many times in a person’s life when this could cut far deeper than asking about your three beautiful children full of life. Infertility, empty nest, death of a child to name the most prominent… I’m surprised you thought that was a good idea!

    1. That’s interesting, Brandy, and you may be right. I didn’t think about that when I read this article. I think the idea was more of “Yeah, I’m gonna miss this.” (That’s how I word it when I give that answer). I can see how it might hurt others who don’t have the same full hands, and of course we can’t know the situation of every stranger. I’ve made comments that don’t come out right, but when I go back and apologize for being insensitive, 9 times out of 10 it was taken the way I originally meant the comment rather than as a slight.

      We mom’s with hands full could choose to be offended by their comments, or we can try to let our kids know that we love them and WANT them all. Strangers have that same right to take our comments either way.

    2. Brandy, that’s a great point. I’ll replace it with another idea above. As Jen said below, if we moms with full hands can take this comment without offense, I would hope the person on the other end could take our reply without offense. But best to be conscious of the power of our words, so I’ll update the list!

      1. Thanks for the update! It’s always worth the effort to be mindful of our words, both with our children and other adults.

    3. Better full than empty. I love it! I will use it excuse I have 5 kids of my own and I wouldn’t change it for nothing. I am so in love with them. I don’t see what is the big deal when people see a big family? I feel they are negative because maybe they can’t handle no more than one. To all the mommas out there you guys have a heart of gold. God has made us to love so much and blessed us with a big beautiful family.

  8. I have to agree with another commenter that “better full than empty” is a dangerous one. You could inadvertently hurt someone who wasn’t able to have kids and was, as you say, politely making small talk (or worse, wishfully eyeing your brood). The other suggestions put a very positive spin on the situation, but that first one could be very backhanded when said to the wrong person.

  9. I’ve said all those! :) Bonus response: “I know, isn’t it wonderful?”
    I truly feel like I’m the luckiest mom in the world, and if my paths cross those strangers who started out with “You’ve got your hands full” have turned into, “Wow, you’re doing a good job.”
    I don’t know about that, but I doing the best I can. That’s all that’s needed, really.

  10. Love it! I’m always at a loss of what to say… just seems like it deserves an answer of some type. My smile doesn’t always seem to work. And I don’t care who you are… 1 kid or a baseball team…. kids keep your hands full constantly.

  11. Kelly RUssell says:

    I just love this…..We only have 2 children regularly at the store with us (3rd is my awesome older stepdaughter on the weekends) and I still get the comment “you have your hands full” with just the 2 little ones in tow (2 year old and 5 year old). I have almost always responded with “yep, in the best possible way” or “I wouldn’t have it any other way”. I love these new ideas of responses especially the “and we are just getting started” one! Ha! Just to through the judgey folks off! I still don’t think having 2 or 3 or even 4 children with you at a time is having your hands full! So many people have more children then that, maybe they don’t brave the store and only shop online….we have had our fair share of screaming children that we had to drag out of the store without buying anything we came for, but it is still all so worth it and I just laugh it off. They are children, they are learning how to act right in public and they always are tougher on mom and dad then teachers and other care givers, I do really wish some strangers would just keep their comments to themselves though! I know I do….

  12. A huge pet peeve of mine is when people comment on your children and the intent of their statement is unclear. In those moments I naturally become a bit defensive. I have boys who are 1 year apart so in their toddler ages I heard that a lot! My most frequent response was “Yes ma’am/sir, the best thing I could be blessed with having a handful of!” :)

  13. “Yes!” Delivered it’s a big smile. They usually start telling me, why it’s good thing.

    1. Thank you Christy. I have made this comment but always with a smile. Blessings on you moms with your quivers full!

  14. I have six girls. I get comments about it all the time. My best comeback is that it’s so fun! And I wholeheartedly believe that. These are great suggestions. And, no, obviously three is not too many kids. :) It sounds like you have a sweet family.

  15. That was a wonderful article, and in fact, it has opened my eyes to how people may assume those comments are an insult, when in fact, I always considered it more of a compliment. I thought when someone said to me “you have your hands full”, it was their way of connecting and recognizing how tough parenting can be. Because, you know what? Some days, it does feel like I have my hands full and other days, I think we’re getting better at this parenting gig (like maybe I should offer to take the neighbours kids to Costco too? ha!) Seriously though, I agree with your comments and comebacks, and I know that tone has a lot to do with the delivery of a compliment or insult. I just hope that you can forgive the well-meaning individual, who’s delivery may have sounded terrible, but in fact, they simply wanted you to know that, good day or bad day, they admire the hard work you do!

    1. These were my thoughts exactly. I don’t remember ever saying this to anyone but I have definitely thought it when seeing a mother wrangling a little group of her offspring, but never with any thought of malice. Just of connection since I raised three girls pretty close in age and I know I had my hands full. Thank you Jennifer for putting such perfect wording to this explanation.

    2. You know it’s interesting how even the most innocent comment with no ill intent can be taken as potentially offensive. I have said this comment a million times over to parents. I only have 1, pretty well behaved child and I still feel overwhelmed. I can’t even fathom more than 1. Kudos to the mom with more. My health is so shot that it wouldn’t be wise to have anymore, which makes me sad, When I say comments like this to strangers, it’s more of a recognition of how hard it is to wrangle a little one on the go, how hard it is to deal with a little one having a hard day because they refused to nap, etc. I have no idea about the mother’s parenting abilities and I am not judging her but apparently even the most benign comment meant to try to connect with others can be taken so out of context and interpreted as something mean. Maybe I should clamp my mouth shut, stare straight ahead and ignore the humanity in front of me. Maybe then people will have no reason to get offended over every last living thing! I”m really so tired of the politically correct world we live in where no matter what is said everyone is so hyper sensitive to what others actually meant. What a sad world we live in.

  16. Oh this is only half, the others are at school.

  17. I love this! We have “Abbi duty” for my 2 and a half year old. It sounds like the typical shopping experience out of our Lifebook. I have four girls aged 14,12,7 and Abbi, the terrorist. I love outings with my kids and take comments like these as a compliment. I am a Mom, who works, I have four beautiful girls, so completely unique. I need to dress ALL of them, feed ALL of them, pack lunches for ALL of them, do a the school run (to four different schools) which, by the way, is one of my favourite times of the day, and love ALL of them. I think that I do a damn good job. We are loud, we laugh, we cry and I cope! (Some days, just about, but I Do). I think that it is a privilege to be blessed with so many kids!

  18. My apologies for the misperceptions, mamas – but when I’ve said “you’ve got your hands full”, my inference was awe and envy and total respect of you mamas who are not only out in public with a bunch of kids but you remembered to put on pants too! As the mama of one wonderful, easy going toddler, I would love to have a brood but I am well aware that one is all I can handle at this stage of life (I’m 42). Next time I will change the comment to “I am in awe of you!” ?

  19. slgrutsch says:

    We have 3 (5, 4, 15 mo) with our 4th on the way and get this comment often. I have found the best response to be “We have a lot of fun!” It generally brings a positive response regardless of their intent.

  20. I like to say,” you think my hands are full? You should see my heart!”

  21. I have 5 daughters ranging from soon to be 17 and 5, I do get looks when I’m with all of them and yes I get asked if they are all mine, and you will get that certain person so dumb founded that you actually had that many kids,lol. My come back is “I’m so blessed as we have worked out when the girls are older I can have coffee with one every day of the week and they will come to my place on Sunday for roast dinner..” I say this with a big smile as I know I’m lucky and blessed.(and I worked out that other peoples opinion are just that)

  22. I guess I’ve been lucky. When I go out I hear most often “Looks like you e for some good helpers there!” And they love it.

    1. I meant it looks like you’ve got some good helpers there.

  23. I have 4 ages 8 & under, and my middle 2 are pretty wild sometimes. When people say that to me, I reply, “so is my heart!”

  24. Sarah hill says:

    I would be tempted (being a childminder and sometimes having up to 6!) to say, no! but my heart is bursting with love

    1. Sarah hill says:

      I have been known to say…..and they all have different dad’s (then pause) I’m a child carer

  25. I really liked 2, 3 and 4 but totally disagree with 1 or 5. Half your article was based on what your kids heard. We know young children can take things very literally. I don’t want my girl thinking I’d be doing something naughty and she’s the only thing able to keep me out of trouble. I also don’t think there’s a need for 5. Good for you or anyone lucky enough to keep going after 3. “How did I get so I lucky?” or ” I hope I’m just getting started” followed by a genuine grin sounds nicer than option 5 to me. If one isn’t planning on any more “I’m just getting started” is a parent outright lying infront of their kids to another adult – again something they will note and remember. I don’t want my girl lying even to make a joke to someone else so I know I have to be very careful with sarcasm within her earshot. It so often amazes me how she hears things literally.
    I agree to disagree on the whole implication that the small talk they made was “You’ve got more kids than you can handle”. Look at the glass half full rather than half empty I think. I reckon they’re either 1 implying you’ve got more kids than they can handle, 2 Are in awe of you for taking on the responsibility of numerous gems 3 Empathising with you about one of the challenges that goes with the super reward of being a parent. I think we are automatically doubt ourselves if we judge their comment as them implying such a negative connotation that you imply Kelly. I have so much respect for you and any other Mum lucky and brave enough to have more than two children. With only one I do know a bulk of the challenges of parenting that come with it’s rewards but none to the extent you guys would. I’m admiring any Mum I make a lighthanded comment such as the ones you referred to. I hope you’ll think that the next time someone makes such a comment to you. Why not give the other person the benefit of the doubt and, assuming they are paying you a compliment tell you daughter something more along the line of “not everyone’s as lucky as us to have the oppotunity to have 3 kids”.
    I like the bonus response of asking for help. Something I think I and heaps of other parents need to do a lot more of!! 3 children? Wow you lucky thing. xx

    All the very best

  26. As mom to 8, I rarely got the “hands full” comments but when I did I resonded with “better full than empty” or “that’s the best way to be.” More often I had people who envied me and said how blessed I must be. :)

  27. lois shoemaker says:

    I had four kids four and under. I never took them all shopping at the same time,either for groceries or clothes. That was our special one on one time. That way I never had a melt down toddler on my hands or too many kids in too many directions. My husband watched the kids while I took one of them with me

  28. I loved, loved, loved this article. I actually have tears on my cheeks from reading response no.1. I have a five yr old and he is super, well, he’s super fly! He’s just vibrant and funny and amazing. And I recently had a woman that I admired say to him, “Well, I wonder if I’d like to be your teacher!” And I didn’t like it or they way she said it. It was a snide remark about his way of being and I let her get away with it and I will never let anyone else get away with that in his earshot. I am also blessed to have a two yr old and I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life and I say cheers to you on your blog & this post! Love your writing style and humor. You’ve definitely got a new follower!

  29. When, or if, but more, when, said, ( I think it is more from memory.) We had four nearly under five. “You have your hands full” is from empathy- and follow up action/words.. “how can I help?” .. or just helping by playing with one, holding an item or a bag, or whatever… Sometimes, from community-oriented ,sometimes older people, it is not a criticism, but empathy…( as more than one was common,)and an offer to help…or even a comment of admiration….

  30. Arlene Rasmussen says:

    I think turning the tables and asking about their family would make it a positive experience. I was unable to get pregnant for five years when we first got married, then had triplets that died a couple of hours after birth, tried for three more years, then had 4 children in 7 years. I’ve seen all sides. I don’t know that saying you have your hands full is always rude. I did have my hands full, but never regretted it. I always wanted more than I was able to have. I was from a family of 12 kids. I can tell you snarky!

  31. “Full and BLESSED! Thank you!” I have 2 very apparently adopted, aged 15 & 6. Some of the well meaning strangers will point that out as well! I will then say that we get to celebrate TWO very special days in our lives! Their BIRTHdays AND their GOTCHA days!

  32. I have 5 children. 2 daughters have special needs, Joubert Syndrome that for years needed to use wheelchairs. Have you ever tried to push 2 wheelchairs while pregnant and open a door? Even though my kids are older now I still hear “you sure have your hands full’ or “you have a lot on your plate”. I would like to say it would be nice if you asked if I could use some help or how about if I brought dinner over? Now my girls each hold onto one of my arms while walking (other than around the house) for balance and support. It is sad how often no one even will help open the door to stores for us while I struggle to open the door while supporting my daughters.

    1. Wish people would help you more my son and I are door openers we love to open doors for people we get weird looks for doing it and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid myself drove my parents nuts apparently I just think it’s cute when my son does it he is slightly autistic and sweet as sugar most of the time and so many people rag on me because he is not potty trained yet its hard sometimes but worth it my younger 2 are girls 2 years apart and smart but stubborn as a box of rocks lots of people underestimate them cause their cute and end up wrapped around their little fingers giving them exactly what they want but I have found that most adults are jerks and fudge heads They don’t even notice my son is autistic or that someone other than them might need help i get told that using a leash on my kids is cruel but how is one woman supposed to keep her autistic child and her 2 year old close while also holding a an infant with no stroller in sight

  33. BlessedMama says:

    I like to say yes! But they are full of good things!

  34. We have 2 year old twin boys. Similar to the “you have your hands full” comment, which we receive regularly, is the “double trouble”. I usually just chuckle and smile. But it seriously grates on me, because more often than not the boys are sitting perfectly content in the stroller or shopping cart without doing much more than jabbering to each other. They’re not screaming, pulling away from myself or my husband, or even pestering each other. We’re expecting a little girl in January and I fully expect the unsolicited commentary to escalate. I will definitely bookmark these responses and add them to my phone notepad for helpful referencing.

  35. This is said to me almost daily with 4 girls 6 years to 11months. The girls and I just smile and say, “Hands full…hearts full.”

    Great, positive suggestions in this post. Thanks!

  36. Leslie Atkins says:

    I have 4 (7, 6, 4, and 16 months). I get this one ALL THE TIME. My answer is always “every day” or “all the time”. I get this one every time I go into a store with my kiddos, especially during the day when most kids are in public school. I home school my 4 and find grocery shopping is best done during the day when most people are at work. I don’t really know why people aren’t more creative. YES I have 4 very noisy children out in public. YES I have my hands full. Do they expect me to look surprised like I didn’t know this fact? Maybe. Oh people………..

  37. Was interesting to read your experiences and to see that parents on both sides of the scale have similar issues. You for having ‘too many’ children. We get comments about having ‘only one?’ child! Mind you, some from strangers and some from people that actually know us! And also I imagine people don’t mean it in a hurtful way, but sometimes it makes me feel we’re doing our daughter a great injustice by ‘keeping her alone’. Comments like: ‘When is the next one coming?’ we’ve literally been hearing a day after I gave birth! ‘Is she all alone, poor thing?’ Or: ‘She needs a brother or sister to play with, being alone is just sad.’ ‘Better get on it, you’re not getting any younger’. Sometimes directed at our daughter too: ‘Wouldn’t you like a little brother or sister?’

    It used to hurt, because people don’t always realize that it might not necessarily be a choice. It took us years to be so blessed to have our lovely girl (who’s now 3,5) and finally did make a choice not to go through all that again at our age (just turned 39). We are so happy with her and personally don’t feel a need for more kids anymore. Our daughter is thriving, is a very sociable, kind, smart, funny little spitfire and we make sure she has lots of kids to play with. 

    At first I would be taken aback and respond seriously and explain why it wasn’t possible. This would make people uncomfortable because then they realized their comment wasn’t the most tactful of things to say. 

    Now I try to respond with a lighter comeback as well (ideas are always welcome! ) like: ‘When she was made, the mold was broken!’ Or ‘She’s not alone, she has three 4 legged siblings to play with and lots of friends!’ Or ‘she’s all we ever dreamed of, so we stopped while we were ahead.’ 

    We’re all in the same boat; we want to raise healthy, happy, kind, content and emotionally strong kids no matter how many kids we have. To all moms out there: hats off to you, ladies! You’re doing an amazing job and don’t you forget it! 

  38. Johnna Brunenkant says:

    I have 3 girls and hear this often, with the added “I feel sorry for you because you have 3 girls,” even though they are lovely, well behaved darlings. I usually say “It’s wonderful having 3 girls! It’s like living in a real-life doll house. We have lots of pink laundry.” With a wink. As soon as you put some charm on it people warm over with appreciation for the situation. ?
    And if people balk at the number of our kids, since our 3rd was an unwelcome surprise, I will also be sure to tell people what an amazing blessing she was that she came at the hardest time of our lives – How God used her to change me for the better.
    I probably say too much in those moments, but if people are going to criticize, they started by saying too much. ;)

  39. I have 4 (all born within 4.5 years) with my oldest being 6. My favorite comeback to snarky people is “Yes!! They’re giving them away free in the parking lot!! You have to hurry though….the supply is running low!!” I’ve had a few people ask me “You know how babies are made, right?” and I just stared at them with a questioning face and say “No. How?” Stops them in their tracks.

  40. This is great Kelly. I’d extend this to the comments WE make as well. Things like ‘I need a day off’ or any comments that put a negative view on parenting said in front of our kids have the same problem. It’s too easy for them to make the connection – kids make dad tired -> I’m a kid -> I make dad tired -> I’m causing problems etc…

  41. These are wonderful – like you, I have a tough time with the small talk when it’s loaded with heavier innuendo… Love the one with the wink :)
    – Ayelet from Strength In Words

  42. Such a great message as I consider having a third. I am proud to say I’ve used one of these before, but will certainly be more cognizant in the future of my response to these comments.

  43. The other day I got my worst comment from an elderly lady. I was a little surprised at first and my 2 older boys(5 and 4), I could tell were thinking ‘why did she ask that?’ The lady looked right at my baby boy and said, ‘you were supposed to be a girl!’ I couldn’t just not say anything especially with my older 2 noticing….but all I could say was (in the best cheery voice possible) ‘Yep! We’re pretty lucky to have 3 boys!’

  44. “If you think my hands are full you should see my heart!” ??

  45. Been getting this since having my second 9 months after the first. Now we have 5 boys and more often its comments about them all being boys. Sure I wanted a girl and all my boys know that. But I hope they also know that they are pretty special and I love them just the way they are. And I really wish people would mind their own business!

  46. I have 3 children ages 1, 3, and 5 and people constantly say, “you’ve got your hands full”. I respond with, “full of good things.” Another great response is, “they’re not as full as my heart.”

  47. I don’t think people are generally being negative when they say this. I have four littles, and I get it all the time. I think it is an unusual sight nowadays, and people just want to connect with me with a friendly comment, and this cliche is what they come up with. We don’t have to be offended or defensive — it’s always better to assume the best in people. Btw, my kids are aware that the family is large, so it’s not surprising to hear it from outsiders. They love being in a big family, so they are not offended, either. I always laugh and agree — my hands ARE full, lol!

  48. I get this all of the time! I have four girls under the age of 7! I never quite knew what to say when people said this to me. These are great tips. I think I will start using, “In the best way possible!” Thank you for sharing.

  49. CandyZackey says:

    I would turn their comment on their heads with, “It’s a good thing I have all this help!”

  50. We have 9 kids. Ages 18-2. We hear it all the time. I just tell people it keeps life fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s people being snarky, some are truly curious. I always try to keep in mind others may have empty hands not by choice. I don’t want to “rub my family in their face” so to speak. So I usually wait to see where the conversation will go next.

  51. Cecilia Grapes says:

    I get told this all the time.. the same line every time I am in the store! “Sure have your hands full!” I usually smirk or say “ha.yeah.” Last time a lady stated the obvious, I said, “You wouldn’t believe how often i hear that!” . But I’ve thought of a better one for at the grocery store..peek over into their cart and say, “And your cart is full of carbs!” ???

  52. I’m the parent of 5 and 3 year olds. I have to politely say I think you’re being too sensitive. I just said this today to someone. The thought that that person couldn’t handle them or had too many never crossed my mind. It was a statement of fact. He really did have his hands full. I would lay my life down for my kids but you know what?? They are a HANDFUL sometimes. As s matter of fact, they are little jerks sometimes. Lol

    I think everyone needs to turn the sensitive meter down a few settings.

  53. I usually just say “Well between WIC, food stamps and welfare, we do pretty well with them,” or “The other two are at their foster parents this month, so that helps a lot.” Usually instead of me feeling mad, I can’t help leave them feeling a little mad.

  54. The one I didn’t like was “you have your plate full”. Only reserved for mothers of small children. It’s nice when people finally start leaving you alone. It’s even worse when you are a single parent. Then they feel they can come off with all sorts of comments. My dad’s wife said I thought I was super mom. No, I didn’t. I had a job and three kids under 12.