Parenting

I'm Sick of Hearing 'You've Got Your Hands Full!'

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

I have two kids under the age of two. My daughter is a very active 20-month-old, so staying inside with a new baby was never really an option, especially since the start of the summer. From about the second week of my son’s life, we have  been out and about at play dates, the park, the playground, and picking strawberries at the farm. We are out doing something every, single day, at least, that’s my goal. I put my oldest in the stroller and I wear my youngest in a baby carrier. Usually the older one is very well-behaved and the younger one still sleeps on my chest in the carrier, giving me two hands free. We’re able to get a lot done and I like to even think I make ‘two under two’ look easy most days.

Inevitably, though, I will hear the same phrase over and over from everyone I meet: “Boy, you have your hands full!” I used to just smile and nod. Now I’ve started saying, “Yeah, I do, thank G-d.”

And I do. Thank G-d, that is.

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Tummy time times two with two under two.

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My husband and I were, obviously, over the moon when we found out we were pregnant again. We adore our daughter and the idea of a big family. We have, unfortunately, seen many friends experience infertility and secondary infertility. Even though we had it relatively easy getting (and staying) pregnant the first time around, there were no guarantees we would have it easy again the second time. With that in mind, we decided to leave our fertility up to G-d, and He came through for us with an incredibly beautiful and sweet son.

When we started telling people we were pregnant, we were shocked at some of the responses. People were annoyed at worst, apathetic at best. I can count my hands how many people were actually genuinely excited for us.

The exceptions were friends who had experienced infertility themselves. They knew what a blessing our son was. They knew it was not to be taken for granted.

Everywhere I went when I was pregnant, people told me how hard it was going to be. It got to the point when I was in the last stages of waddling that I didn’t even want to go out in public anymore because the disapproving looks I got chasing a toddler while looking like a house were too annoying to bear.

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I won’t say it’s easy. There were, however, about a dozen friends who had each done ‘two under two’ themselves and they were overwhelmingly positive about the experience. With three months under my belt, and arguably the most difficult three months at that, I can attest that their experiences are true to my own as well. It’s hard, and sometimes (like this morning at the supermarket at 8 a.m. after I had already been awake for several hours) I walk around like a zombie. Sometimes both kids lose it at the same time in public, and I take on the role of zookeeper in addition to mom. But I almost always loathe bedtime. I’m sad to put my daughter down for the night because we’ve had so much fun that day.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment when I hear, “Boy, you have your hands full!” I hear it, usually, from older individuals wanting to give me credit for the insane undertaking I’ve made. Younger folks just shake their heads in disbelief, but older folks generally admire that I’ve signed myself up for this, even if they think I’m nuts for doing it.

What I would love to hear, though, if I could pass this blog post out to everyone I meet in the drug store, supermarket, train station, and playground is this: “Wow, God certainly has blessed you!” or “Your house must be fun!” or “Your kids must be so close!” Not just for my benefit would I like to hear this, but also for my daughter’s. She might be young, but she’s not stupid. The negative tone most folks use when uttering, “Boy, you must have your hands full!” is infuriating. I hate to think that she interprets their remarks to mean that I’m not incredibly lucky to have both her and her brother, or that I don’t appreciate having them every single day. She’s young enough not to really understand her brother’s entry into our family. She just rolled with it (a benefit of having ‘two under two,’ for sure), but I would hate for her to grow up learning to resent that he was born.

Ultimately, hearing such negativity is a sign of how our culture has grown to treat having kids. It’s no longer viewed as an undertaking worthy of our time, energy and money. There’s a reason why, statistically, women are having fewer kids and starting later, if they’re having them at all. We’ve come to believe that having our hands full is a burden, instead of a blessing. Take it from me, a woman who has not slept more than two consecutive hours since my third trimester started six months ago: having my hands full is a gift, not a curse. It’s my wish that people, even those I meet at the supermarket checkout, would start treating it as such.

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