I first got this comment when Isaac was an infant and James was a toddler. I had them both in a double stroller and I was pushing them through Downtown Decatur, GA. At the time I was so pleased to get this comment. I felt like I had achieved some unspoken status symbol. I now had enough children to have my hands full.
Lately, I have been getting this comment everytime we leave the seclusion of the house. I now have four children six and under. To some, this seems like a lot. To others, I am just getting started. I have what some women desire more than anything else. I have my hands full. Full of children.
I wouldn't be so annoyed about receiving this comment so often except that the person to say this comment almost always states it in a way to suggest that this is a bad thing. I say "person" but I have never once received this comment from a man. The comment usually comes from a middle-aged or older woman who takes one look at my crew, catches my eye and says, "My, you have your hands full!" Borderline rudeness hints in the undertone. A smug look sometimes follows as if she has said the most insightful thing I have heard all day. When in reality, I have probably already heard this comment at least twice that very day. If I happen to be at Walmart or the library, then most likely I have heard it in the last five minutes.
How to respond, oh, how to respond? The rudeness, if present, is so subtle that I would never want to respond in a way that might seem rude. I wouldn't fight fire with fire. Not in this case at least. My friend Alexandra once taught her girls to reply, "Full of love!" whenever she got the comment. Clever, but also not my style. Truthfully, I don't know how to respond in my own unique and clever way. I mostly just say, "Yeah, I do." or "Yup." and continue to get my groceries before the ticking time bomb (I mean Margaret) explodes and we have to run for the car.
What I am trying to relate here is this: It doesn't really matter how many children a woman has, every mother has her hands full. Heidi has one, Annie has two, Eugenie has five, Jo has twelve. Every woman who is a mother has her hands full. I dare someone to approach my friend Erika and claim that she is not as busy as myself because she only has two children opposed to my four. Mothers with less children still only have 24 hours in the day.
Once in a while I am not completely distracted and can retort in a timely manner (you know, like when the person who made the comment is still standing there as opposed to that night after dinner when I am blogging about the comment). My reply is: "Oh yes, I am truly blessed/lucky/fortunate, etc." I do not deserve these children. God has allowed me to experience a little bit of heavenly happiness here on Earth. Society teaches that I am not suppossed to like being a mother this much. I have been oppressed and mislead. But there is something sacred about motherhood. Something that my BA in Women Studies forgot to mention. Yes, I am sometimes so busy that my head spins. My arms ache from the weight of carrying multiple children. But when I am out alone, I often feel that something is missing. My children have become a part of me. My hands truly are full of love.