Three’s a crowd?

threes a crowd

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?

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20 Responses to Three’s a crowd?

  1. Caitland Orlicz
    Caitland Orlicz January 9, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    I am only a mom of one (for now…), but I find it so fascinating that people act that way! My father is one of 10 kids, and that didn’t use to be so uncommon. Families used to be huge, and I wish it were still that way today. I am willing to bet it was a lot more fun to be entertained by a group of siblings than sitting inside and playing on an xbox or tablet all day! I love hearing all of the stories of my dads’ upbringing, and all of the best ones involve the shenanigans he and his siblings got into.

    A gentleman that waited on us at a restaurant the other day told us he had six kids and one on the way. I was a bit taken a back (only because it is uncommon in this day & age), but my first comment to him was “That must be so much fun!”

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 9, 2015 at 9:51 am #

      You are right! Large families were once considered the norm. I didn’t realize that a shift in mentality had occurred. In fact, I’d have more if I could. I was unprepared to receive comments like those. I’ll never forget the first time I went somewhere with all three of them. I proudly walked through the store only to hear within minutes, “Wow! You must have your hands full.” My heart just sank.

      I read a study recently that said large families are on the rise though. 😉

      A friend made the comment to me last night that mothers of one get comments too. The comments shot at them are of an opposite nature…”You’re just having one?” “Don’t you think they need a sibling?” “Are you having more?” You just can’t win.

      People really need to reflect on the words they are saying and how they come across. I’m glad you had such a great response to that gentleman. A family with six kids would be a lot of fun. 😉

  2. Heather January 9, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    I have three kids, too. When we were planning our third, I was once referred to as a “baby machine.” Yeah, okay. Call me an over-breeder. Some folks just don’t have enough to do, so they criticize other people.

    Mine are 5 and 6 years apart, the youngest making his appearance when the eldest was 11 and in middle school. Most people are not shy about assuming Squish was an accident and having a good laugh. I am no longer bothered. If that little idea makes them so happy, then I’m happy FOR them. Small minds don’t need large toys.

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 9, 2015 at 9:35 am #

      “Baby machine?” Oh my! It really is shocking what people will say? I need to try to get to that place where it doesn’t bother me anymore. It is truly every time I go somewhere with the kiddos. Sure as the sun, someone makes a comment with the most common being that I supposedly have my hands full even though I’m perfectly relaxed and the kids are being well-behaved.

      • Heather January 9, 2015 at 9:45 am #

        I think sometimes people feel the need to say SOMETHING. “You must have your hands full,” is the first thing they can think of. Maybe they’re acknowledging in a friendly way the challenges three kids can bring, a kind of hats-off salute for your good work.

        Maybe one day the default response will be “What a beautiful family.”

  3. Christie Elkins January 9, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    YES. Oh I just cannot count how many times I have heard these same comments! That, and asking if my boys (who are 15 months apart) are twins. I am not sure how this information will change their lives any? Let’s just stick to compliments, people! 🙂 Great post!

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 9, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      My boys are 18 months apart and I get the twin question too. They look between the boys and ask, “Are they twins?” No, but if they had been…that would have been great too!

      “Let’s just stick to compliments, people”! Yes, that should be the moral of the story.

      Thanks for reading, Christie!

  4. Janie January 9, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    Count me in too! Having all boys, it even takes it to a while different level. It really is sad.

    That said, I have come up with what I feel is a great response to the “hands full” comments: “It takes two hands to hold even one baby; my hands have been full since my oldest was born!” I feel that is kind enough, but still let’s people know that the number of children I have shouldn’t matter to them.

  5. I have three who are 6,5 and 3. We had my daughter first, then my son. When we announced we were having a third (another boy) people were shocked. We already had one of each! I have been called furtile Myrtle, asked if I knew how this happened…. I could go on. I am always surprised by people’s reactions. Three is not a lot. It is one more than the standard. I adore my crew of littles. They are so close in age and emotionally close. They move as a unit when playing. We did it crazy with three in three years but the chaos, noise, loudness is wonderful. We are done, but I can only imagine what people would say if I had one more.

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 9, 2015 at 11:48 am #

      Yes, yes, and yes to all of it! To me, three doesn’t seem to be as you described “a lot”. So why the remarks from others? Hmm…I just don’t get it. And I agree…I love my crew too and love that they are so close together in age. It really is wonderful!

      I know, right? I can only imagine what they’d say with 4, 5, 6…

  6. Foster Mommy January 10, 2015 at 1:23 am #

    I’m a foster mom of 3, ages 3, 2 &1 (13 & 11 months apart, respectively) & we have had them all since they were babies. Anyway, these kiddos actually look like my husband & myself & still you could only imagine the comments I receive when I am out with them & by myself. Friends of mine that have foster children that are of a different race than their own kids/themselves…omg, people are just downright rude, full of hate & judgement & absolutely assume the worst out of people who don’t “fit in” to their little mind bubble. My best friend even, has 4 biological (prayed for, wanted, & wants more & even to adopt) kids gets comments from church members & especial family members wanting them to be done. FACT…(if you can provide for & have the means for a child) IT’S NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS BUT GOD’S & YOUR OWN!

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 10, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

      What a beautiful thing you are doing in being a foster mom. I have so much admiration for sweet mommas who foster and love on kids who so desperately need love and stability–a home! Sadly, people can be rude and really need to think about how their words come across. Blessings to you for what you are doing!

  7. Pnp January 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

    i have 3 — all were born in 21/2 years. I recall once being in the grocery store when someone commented on how cute they were. When she walked away my oldest , about 3 at the time said, ” mommy, she forgot to tell you how full your hands are!” They are all In high school now. Such blessings!!! I love having my hands full! I wish I had 6 children. Three more to love on when these guys leave the nest.

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 10, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

      As you can tell from reading the post, I feel the same way! My kids are the biggest blessings in my life. Thanks for sharing that cute story about your son.

  8. Kristin H. January 11, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    I have 6 kids with triplets on the way. With numbers 4&5 I used to feel kinda embarrassed when I was pregnant with the next because I knew the comments I’d hear. But now, I love to see the shock on people’s faces when they count all my kids and I tell them I have triplets on the way! You get over the comments. Just remember the kids are a blessing, and that not everyone could handle children. So think of how special you are with your little ones!

  9. Crystal January 13, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    I have one 4 year old child, and people are constantly asking me when I will have more. I have no plan to have additional children due to finances. We have absolutely no family childcare for our son, so everything we do comes out of pocket. It sounds like a selfish reason to not have any additional children (here I am feeling defensive), but with $6000 to have another child with my insurance and another $175-$200 a week for infant childcare costs, not including what I pay for my 4 year old…. I simply cannot afford another child.

    Yet family members, strangers, friends, coworkers always ask me when I’m going to have another child. Am I supposed to bring up my finances each and every time?? I struggle with fertility due to PCOS. What if infertility had been the reason why I had been unable to have another child? I had 2 miscarriages before I had my son. What if I had been trying all this time but been able to carry another child? I don’t owe anyone an answer.

    Someone recently told me that I was selfish to not provide my son with a sibling. Just flat out said that.

    My strongest opinion on the matter boils down to this: No matter what a woman’s reason for having additional children or having just one or having none at all, it is a extremely personal reason that is no one else’s business. Unless she feels like talking about it, it is absolutely rude to ask what a woman’s reason is for the number of children she has, so don’t do it. Family can be the worst offenders, but I still say it is a private matter and people should stay out.

    • Jennifer Dawn
      Jennifer Dawn January 13, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      You are right! It is a very personal choice and a lot of factors play into decisions like that.

      When I first shared the rough draft of this post with a friend, she too brought up the fact that people say ugly things to moms with only one child too. You get the “Well, aren’t you having another one?” comments. We just can’t win, can we?

      It would be nice if the focus was more on the love we give and less on the number of kids we have. I’m sure you are a wonderful, loving mother. Just keep giving that little one all the love you can.

  10. Kathy January 16, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    Oh my goodness, yes! Just the other day I was grocery shopping with my 4 kids and i had a cart full of food. I had man go out of his way and stop right next to me and ask “Are they all yours?” I simply said yes. And he continued with “what, are you starting your own team?” He then gave me a dirty look and walked away. Just like you said my kids were all well behaved, I just dont see why people feel the need to do that. Also i feel that people assume I get food stamps, being hispanic, so the dirty looks increase. Sometimes I just want to pull out my debit card and be like this is what I’m paying with, my husband is a too much of a hard worker for you just to assume you are supporting my family. Children are such blessings, and I’m so thankful for each one of them! Thank you for writing this, makes me see I’m not alone!

  11. Cassandra January 28, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Thank you for sharing this! I completely agree and yes, it is a triple blessing. I just wrote along the same lines but on how I may never be “done” having babies. Each one is a blessing and some people act like you’ve been cursed! So happy for you and your heart full!

  12. Renee June 30, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    I have two girls and strangers constantly ask if we’re going to try for a boy. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 10, all boys or girls or a mixture, it seems that people these days think it’s ok to blurt out whatever they are thinking. Does no one know what common curtesy or respect is any longer? But yet, I’m the rude one when I tell them it’s none of their business!

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