Lately, I’ve been noticing my hands quite a bit — and how much they’ve changed in the five years since I first became a mother. I knew my body would change after growing three tiny humans, but my hands? The way they have changed both literally and figuratively has been one of the biggest surprises to me in motherhood so far.

I have a distinct memory from college, when one of my good friends asked me to hold out my hands; she put hers next to mine and said, “Look, our hands still look so young!” Little did I know they would change so dramatically when I became a mother.

These days my hands sport chipped, brittle nails that rarely see a manicure. My fingers are swollen and chapped and often have a weird allergic rash on them. These hands that once leisurely, gingerly turned the pages of a book on a Sunday morning, that typed thoughtful documents for clients, that handwrote lovely thank you notes on a regular basis — now they never stop moving. They are changing diapers. They are submerged in water and soap. They are buttering toast. They are wiping bottoms, crafting meals and snacks, catching bodily fluids, coloring, playing with Legos, lugging around a car seat and groceries, holding tissues to noses, and clutching chubby fingers as we cross the street.

Now, these hands are so so full, each and every day. And I’m told so constantly when I’m out with my brood of boys, at preschool pickup, navigating the stroller through the library doors, at T-ball games, pushing swings at the playground, wielding a shopping cart down the aisles (baby covered in groceries): “Wow, three boys — your hands are so full!”

I was at a Barnes & Noble recently, perusing new titles for 30 seconds following a kids’ storytime event, and an elderly gentleman stopped in his tracks, looked at my boys (who were chasing each other around a table), and declared, “How do you ever have time to read? Your hands are so full!”

Yes, my hands are so full right now. And at the end of every day, I truly feel like I just took my turn at “pin the tail on the donkey,” but spun around a few too many times, taking a stab at hitting a target while dizzy and unable to see clearly.

But my hands are no fuller than any other mom’s; the truth is, every mother’s hands are very full. Their hands, constantly doing things for their children, are the outward symbol of their hearts full of love.

My oldest son just started kindergarten, and I am all too aware that this is the beginning of my hands becoming a little less full during the day. Oh, they will still be plenty full for years to come. But with this new milestone, the winds of our daily lives have shifted once again, and my hands will be steering the helm of the ship as we navigate new waters.

My changing hands are a metaphor for this journey of motherhood, and while they look so different from what they were before, I think they are most beautiful when they are so full.


Kate Cotter
Kate came to New England for college a decade and a half ago, and fell in love with all things Boston. She is the mom of two beautiful baby boys, ages 2.5 & 10 months, and loves watching them explore this lovely area of the country, experiencing Boston through their eyes. Heart-filling: spending time with my family, spontaneous hugs, kisses and “I love you Mommy” from my boys, reading great books, fall in New England, the Adirondacks, golden retriever puppies (don’t have any yet!), coffee, champagne, and serendipity. Can do without: Boston traffic, inconsiderateness, never-ending winters and stir-craziness.


  1. Not only have my hands changed, but my heart has as well. I thought I could never love anything as much as I do my own children. I was wrong. My heart continues to expand, fill, and make room for each grandchild on this journey to “grand -motherhood.” Love the article, Kate.

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