It’s not uncommon for parents to hear some variation of “You’ve got your hands full” while out in public with their kids.
But after hearing it from a judgmental stranger, one Kentucky mom decided to confront the phrase and sentiment behind it. Courtney Lester posted a photo of herself with her three children on Facebook, along with a message addressed “to the stranger in Walmart who said ‘I feel sorry for you, you have your hands full with all those kids.’”
Lester began her post by noting in jest that her hands were literally empty in that moment. Then she opened up about some personal heartache.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Still, she added, that day in Walmart they weren’t misbehaving. Her 4-year-old was singing, her 2-year-old was sitting quietly, and her 3-month old was sleeping soundly in his baby carrier. ”If that is your definition of having your hands full, I feel sorry for YOU,” Lester wrote.
“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 3 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.”
Lester’s post received over 23,000 likes on her Facebook page and an additional 5,500 likes on the popular Love What Matters page.
The mom told HuffPost she suffered two miscarriages after having her first child ― one in August of 2013 and the other in April 2014. After the second miscarriage, Lester’s doctor said there was a chance she may never be able to carry another baby to term. “We prayed a lot and focused on raising the daughter we already had. I spoke to a lot of different moms who had also suffered the loss of a baby and that helped so much!” Lester said.
So when the mom learned she was expecting again and gave birth to her second daughter, she and her husband were overjoyed. “We were so thankful for being able to have another baby and definitely did not expect to be blessed with a third,” she said.
In an update to her Facebook post, Lester wrote that she hears comments about having her hands full all the time and knows that they’re usually out of kindness and solidarity. But this particular stranger seemed rude and judgmental.
His remark about feeling sorry for the couple particularly struck Lester, who said she doesn’t want anyone to pity her for having children. “Knowing that I should have five babies with me instead of just three, that comment hurt,” she told HuffPost. “I was kind of stunned by hearing someone say they felt sorry for me and didn’t really get a chance to respond. The fact they he went out of his way to come over to my family and make that comment in front of my children bothered me and my husband.”
In her update, Lester wrote, “The size of someone’s family is absolutely none of anyone’s business as long as their children are happy, loved, and cared for. If you feel like you should make a comment to a family or a parent, try something uplifting instead.”
While they were still at Walmart, her husband took a photo of Lester with her empty hands to send to her sister and share the story of what happened. But as the stranger’s comment continued to bother her, Lester decided to post it on Facebook and vent in the hopes that her mom friends would understand how she felt.
The mom told HuffPost that she never expected her post to go viral, but now that it has, she hopes people can take away a positive message.
Said Lester, “I want people to know that it isn’t OK to make comments like that to parents because you don’t know what they have been through.”