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It works when a friend points out your lost earning potential. It works when a stranger at the park scowls at the antics of your tired three year old. It works when your boss implies that you’ll fall behind if you take maternity leave. It works when your professor delays your graduation. It works when the teacher at your son’s high school raises an eyebrow that you’re pregnant again.

It works when your parents question your fostering/adopting/in-vitro decision.

It works whether your kids are behaving angelically or demonically. It works whether you feel fresh or frazzled.

It works because these three tiny words contain no hint of religion or politics. They don’t preach, and can be said in whatever tone of voice is most appropriate for the moment: gentle, chipper, humorous, even apologetic.

It works because it speaks to everyone present, not just the person you’re addressing. Your children are often listening, and they need to hear it. YOU are listening, and perhaps you need to hear it most of all.

It works because it’s true.

It works because these three words are a testimony. Your testimony. Your understanding of God’s whole glorious plan, and your personal commitment to that plan, all rolled into a phrase that takes less than two seconds to say. And when you speak testimony of something true, even in just three words, the Spirit of God can echo them deep inside someone’s heart.

It works because it hints at a life span of joys you don’t have time to elaborate on: newborn snuggles, first steps, bathtub splash parties, play-doh creations, dried tears, secret crush confidences, bike rides, raking leaves, family vacations, diplomas, and eventually grandkids.

It works because it implicitly acknowledges that there are stresses, sacrifices, and impediments that might legitimately frighten someone away from motherhood. It doesn’t ignore the strain, the pain, or the weight gain. It doesn’t attempt to whitewash away the hourly struggles to balance nutrition, finances, education, fitness, sleep, and babies. Or the tears and prayers during teenage power struggles.

It works even if you just want to proactively advocate for motherhood in neutral situations. For example, if you take several kids in public just twice a week on average, you’ll have an easy opportunity to say it around 312 times this year, to people from all walks of life. That likely-low estimate assumes that during each outing three strangers will observe, “You’ve got your hands full.”

Mommy blogs offer lots of witty comebacks for mothers who don’t know what to say in awkward situations. Most are either contrived and cheesy (“Hands full now, hearts full later!”) or snarky (“Wanna babysit?”)

This answer is different. It works because it helps open hearts. And when you say it, either at the grocery store or at the office party, most people will feel its truth and instantly agree.

You shrug, smile, and say “It’s worth it.”