When I take my kids out into the world, some stranger almost inevitably observes that I have my “hands full”. It doesn’t really matter where we go, be it a playground or a grocery store or a museum, people just feel compelled to comment on the size of my family and how difficult it must be to manage them. “You must have your hands full” is almost invariably the idiom that spills from their mouths.
On one hand, I get it. Large families aren’t exactly the norm these days, and often people are simply surprised to see one parent out with a significantly large brood. And sure, six kids are a lot of work so in some respects that idiom is fairly apt. That being said, it’s also kind of a ridiculous comment to use just towards someone with a large family, because it implies that those with fewer children somehow don’t have their hands full, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The fact is that all parents who take their role seriously and dedicate themselves to raising their children, have their hands full. They’re constantly busy taking care of their children, regardless of how many they happen to have. Parenting is simply a big job, whatever the circumstances.
I remember having just one infant to take care of. He napped a lot, and was a fairly happy baby most of the time, and yet I still felt constantly busy just trying to make sure I met his needs. When the twins arrived less than a year later, I continued to feel constantly busy taking care of three kids. I could say essentially the same thing about when numbers four, five and six each arrived. And while taking care of six children is certainly _different_ than raising one or two, I don’t actually feel like I’m busier than when I had only one newborn to take care of. Back then, as now, I tried to dedicate myself to caring for my children and the result is that there’s always something to do, regardless of how many little people there are swarming around me.
So by all means, when you see a large family feel free to compliment them on how well their children are behaving or something along those lines. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it – I certainly do – but don’t just jump to the assumption that they’re somehow working harder than parents who only have one or two children. Parenting really isn’t a competition, and no matter how many children a family has, parents can usually use some encouragement from time to time. And when you see a smaller family, say something kind to them as well. Because they also have their hands full.