‘You have your hands full’—Mom’s message on how to respond goes viral

📷 Courtney Lester/Goldie Huff Photography

“You’ve got your hands full!”

We’ve all heard it a time or two—sometimes in encouragement and sometimes in judgment. But, as one Kentucky mom said in a viral Facebook post, her full hands are blessings, especially after all the challenges she experienced in her path to motherhood. So, how about we all agree to retire the phrase “you have your hands full” once and for all?

Courtney Lester, a mom of three, made the incredibly insightful point on Facebook after an encounter in her local Wal-Mart. As Lester recounted…

To the stranger in Wal-Mart who said ‘I feel sorry for you, you have your hands full with all those kids,’ this is what I have to say to you: First off, my hands were empty as you can see in the photo (had to point that out).
What you can’t tell is that I lost two babies before being blessed with my last two, so if you want to feel sorry for me, there’s the only reason why you should.
My children are blessings. They aren’t perfectly modeled citizens because, well, they’re children. Sometimes they’re loud, sometimes they misbehave and sometimes they have complete meltdowns. However, you didn’t even see that side of them. What you saw was a young couple with a 4-year-old singing a song, a 2-year-old sitting quietly in the buggy and a newborn sleeping in his baby carrier. If that is your definition of having your hands full, I feel sorry for YOU.
The truth is, I do stay busy. Some days, I can’t wait for bedtime. My children keep me on my toes and one of them always needs something, but I have never viewed them as an inconvenience or a reason for someone to ‘feel sorry’ for me. Even on days when they won’t listen, have meltdowns and when it seems like nothing I do is good enough, I have never felt sorry for myself and I don’t expect others to either. If having three kids automatically makes my hands full, so be it...
But, please, never feel sorry for me because my heart is more full than my hands could ever be.
📷 Courtney Lester
📷 Courtney Lester

After Lester posted the story to Facebook, it quickly amassed tens of thousands of shares, likes and supportive comments—all to her surprise. As she told Motherly, “I figured a couple of mommy friends would share their input.”

But, to her, it was just time to say something after multiple similar encounters with strangers ever since her first child was born. She said, “I still hear it, yet it's usually followed by, ‘You know what causes that, right?’”

It’s certainly no one’s place to comment on the size of another person’s family, but it was the most recent comment at Wal-Mart that hurt Lester the most, because the person thought her family was something to feel sorry about.

“I just can't stand the thought of someone thinking my children are anything other than a blessing,” she said, noting that she and her husband cherish all the kids in their arms and their shopping cart. “We lost two babies and didn't expect to have another, much less two more.”

Lester knew some people may read her post and think she was being overly sensitive, but she felt the need to speak up for herself and her family.

“I know that parenting is hard, and that by old standards it's common to tell someone they have their hands full, but it's never OK for someone to tell a parent that they feel sorry for them or to act like their children are an inconvenience,” she told Motherly.

“I wanted to share to let people know that it isn't OK to make comments like that, because you never know what that parent or family has been through.

Hopefully, as Lester’s post spreads around the Internet, more folks will take note of how their comments can hurt—and think twice before telling a mom she’s got her hands full with anything but love. 💜

Heather Marcoux is the News Editor for Motherly and mom to one little boy. A former television journalist, Heather lives in Canada with her husband, son and a foursome of adorable pets.

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