When your days are spent managing the practicalities of life in the company of three little blond, cute-as-a-button, carbon-copy brothers, hardly an errand is run without one or two comments made by strangers. 

Your boys are so adorable! 

What a beautiful family!

You’re one lucky mama!

And of course, the token, You’ve certainly got your hands full! 

Or worse, Are you going to try for a girl?

Sure, the latter comments twinged with a little hint of disapproval, unsolicited advice, or nosiness can be irritating regardless of circumstances.

But it is often the sweet, encouraging compliments from beaming strangers that really cause my heart to ache.

How can something so kind and true break my heart? Each time someone says something complimentary and sweet, my face smiles and I respond with, “Thank you so much!” or, “Yes I am!”

But inside I am thinking . . . If only you knew. If only you knew the truth. That these beautiful boys have a broken family. That I am a single mother. That our lives are not as perfect or enviable as they appear.

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On my more challenging days, I feel a spark of anger toward the people commenting on my full hands. I find myself wanting to retort, “Yes, actually, they are very full. More full than they should be. This single mom gig is for the birds. It is no joke. I’m not only sad and alone, but I am worn out. Overwhelmed. And yes, thank you for pointing out the obvious. With two of my children under the age of five, my hands are quite literally full.” 

Oh, and the one about trying for a girl? I would love nothing more. But I no longer have that opportunity. That one stings, too. 

You see, no one assumes a cheerful mom with three playful little ones might be divorced. It just isn’t all that common at this particular stage of life.

And when she is struggling with three children in church, the people around her assume her husband is traveling, or in the restroomnot that she is truly doing it all alone. When well-meaning strangers suggest it will be nice “when Daddy gets back” I smile, swallow the lump in my throat, and try to distract my kids.

Frankly, it is easy to have a pity party for myself when outsiders make comments which unintentionally trigger me. And, yes, it is fair to sometimes just feel a small stab of resentment. But, really, for the most part, these commenters are correct. I do have a beautiful family. I am a lucky mama. My boys are adorable, and yes, my hands (and heart) are full. 

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It requires little effort to look around and notice only people who possess that which we are lacking. But I challenge you to consider that the snippets of the lives we see don’t show the whole picture. We each carry with us pain, secrets, losses, and fears, and we also each possess things that are beautiful, unique, and irreplaceable. Don’t forget to be gentle with others even when they appear to have it all and don’t miss out on the blessings in your own life by allowing yourself to fixate only on its voids.

Emily Sisson

A New Mexican native currently residing in Colorado, Emily is a single mother of three wonderful young boys and a convert to the Catholic faith. After experiencing various traumas including a profoundly unwanted divorce and remaining upright by God’s grace, Emily has made it her mission to help others in their trials. She hopes that her writing and perspective can be a beacon of light for those experiencing loneliness and pain.