We’re wheeling through the store. My two boys are riding in the shopping cart, and my daughter is by my side chatting away and helping to put things in the buggy. My youngest one cries briefly for a sippy cup that is quickly pulled from the diaper bag and handed over to him. That does the trick! And as long as I have the snacks ready for when that little bit of hunger hits, we’re golden! I mean…who could blame them? It makes me hungry to shop for groceries too. We are typically a happy bunch going through the store enjoying our outing. I may give an occasional reminder about behavior, but they’re sweet kids who aren’t causing a scene or tearing through the grocery store. Like any small child, their attention span only lasts a limited amount of time, so I’ve become an expert of navigating the aisles and grabbing the items on the list in a quick, clean fashion. They are pleasant, and I’m prepared. Then it happens…
I’m look up from the kids and the cart long enough to notice that we have an audience. A well-meaning stranger is looking our way. First they glance from one kid to another counting in their head, and finally their eyes land on me. It’s like it all happens in slow motion, and I brace myself for what I know is coming next–those words! “Lady, you’ve got your hands full!”
It would take many hands to count the number of times this scenario has played out since becoming a mother of three. When it was just my daughter, we got used to hearing things like…
“Look at those curls!”
“She’s a doll!”
“What a beautiful child!”
After my son was born, strangers would often remark on how precious the kids were. But with three kids, the comments changed drastically to various forms of…
“You look like you have your hands full.”
“Wow! Are they all yours?”
“Whew! You’ve got a slew!”
“You know where they’re coming from, right?”
When did having three or more children become something worthy of such insensitive comments? Is it that they are close together in age? Could it just be the sheer fact that I’m outnumbered? Having taught classrooms of 30 kids for several years, three feels like nothing. What people think are innocent remarks can come across as stinging barbs to a mother who views her children as a blessing and not a burden.
I recall another incident that took place when I was pregnant with my youngest. I was eating at a restaurant with my two older children and my in-laws. The kids were being polite and well-behaved throughout the entire meal. No one had done anything worthy of judgement. When it was time to leave, I stood up revealing my very pregnant stomach from behind the table. It was then that I heard the lady at the next table audibly exclaim, “Oh my! Look at her! She already has two kids, and she’s pregnant with a third.”
Red-faced and embarrassed I grabbed my take out box and walked out with the rest of my party. I should have said something to her. I should have said something to the man who asked if I knew where they were coming from, but the non-confrontational part of me didn’t have the nerve to respond. There are so many replies that I wished I had given, but in the midst of these instances, words failed me.
If only I could have said something like this…
My kids–all three of them–were prayed for and desired. Yes, my house is brimming with noise, but it is also filled with lots of love! And, yes, sometimes there are fights among siblings, trying moments, tantrums, and tears. In this wonderfully, challenging role of being a mother to three, most days are peppered with bubble baths, lessons, baking, kisses, and cuddles though. My kids have taught me to find joy in the small things–the little, seemingly insignificant moments that collectively are the inner workings of a beautiful life. Each one of my kids is a gift, and I consider it a privilege to be their mother. My pregnancies were hard and high-risk, so I’m grateful for not just one but three healthy kids. I know that the days as a mother of three are as exhausting as they are beautiful, but above all else…I know that it isn’t my hands that are full. It is my heart that is full!
So, is three a crowd? No, three’s a triple blessing!
Have you had similar experiences? How did you respond?