My Hands Are Full, But My Heart Is Too (So Don't Feel Too Bad For Me)

Photo of a mother with her hands full of kids and her husband
Cyndi Cohen

“You’ve really got your hands full, huh?”

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this phrase over the course of the past nine and a half years. At the market, at a department store, at the playground, at school drop-off and pickup, at the soccer and baseball fields, at the pharmacy, at the doctor’s office, at a restaurant, on my front lawn — you name it.

Anywhere that I have ventured with one, two, three, or god forbid, four small humans in tow and other people have been within 10 feet of us (meaning they are able to see or hear us), I have been asked this question.

Sometimes it’s an innocent, almost-friendly, small-talkish sort of inquiry. Other times it has felt like more of a judgmental, mocking observation of my apparent pathetic attempt to go out in public with my demon spawn. Either way, in my classic nonconfrontational, introverted, easily embarrassed, not-wanting-to-make-waves style, I typically smile shyly with an affirmative eye roll as if to say, “Yup, my hands are full. Don’t you feel bad for me?”

However, at the same time, my thoughts are racing and my blood is boiling as my mind and my mouth try to come up with the perfect, clever retort for these astute suburban observers because I actually love that my hands are full. The reason?

The fact that my proverbial hands are full means that many other precious spaces are full as well:

– My arms are full of sweet babies who want to be hugged, rocked, comforted, and loved.

– My lap is full of toddlers who want to be read to and amused.

– My head is full of ideas for birthday parties, weekend plans, holidays, lunches, crafts, and so much more because I have the chance to share these things with my children.

– My thoughts are full of wonder and possibility when I see little smiles and kind gestures.

– My calendar is full of events, games, parties, and get-togethers.

– My boobs are full of milk.

– My fridge is full of food.

– The rooms in my house are full of cribs, bunk beds, dressers with lots of drawers, and shelves with lots of books.

– The closets are full of toys, clothes, shoes, and some more toys.

– The attic is full of baby stuff to be sold, hand-me-downs for the next in line, and containers of precious kiddie art (all masterpieces of course).

– Even the corners are full.

– And can you guess what else is full? My heart — with so much love.

Are my arms tired? Yes. Is my lap fought over? For sure. Is my head spinning? At times. Do my thoughts race with soul-searing worry and nearly paralyzing fear? Every single damn day. Are some days so jam-packed that we can’t fit everything in, and weekends seem like a roller coaster ride? Often. Are my boobs less than perky and working overtime? You betcha. Am I dog-tired every day at 3 p.m.? No doubt about it.

So, with all of this overflow, I guess one might have to wonder how a heart can keep up, and how those hands don’t drop everything. I think that the heart opens and widens. It helps the hands. It embraces the overflow in the most amazing way. It swallows all the good, bad, and indifferent. It digests it and softens it like only a mother’s heart can. It is strong but also sensitive because it has to be.

So next time you see that mama of four (or more) on her weekly Target run, or trying to feed cold pancakes to her kids at brunch, or just balancing her brood for a walk to mail a letter at the post office, please don’t pity her and please, please do not judge her. She chose to fill her world with these little humans, she loves them more than anything, and while she definitely enjoys a nice glass of red wine after a long day, what appears a struggle to you is just her daily grind. She’s living her life, loving those in it, and embracing the overflow.