Dear Mother of three in the grocery store,
I see you attempting to control the cart while your oldest tries to careen through the aisles at the same time you’re plying your toddler in the front seat with snacks to keep him from howling. The baby in your front pack is wiping his pacifier through your hair as you try to catch your breath.
I’m not staring and smiling at you because I think it’s funny—believe me, I feel your pain. There is nothing funny about shepherding three kids through the grocery store, even if there are only two other people in there. This sh*t is tricky. It’s an art few have mastered, and I was never one of them.
It never goes smoothly. You never remember everything on your list, and you never, ever feel good upon leaving. I know even though it’s 9 a.m., you’re already all out of energy. You are ready for a hot bath, a long nap, and for everyone to shut the hell up so you can delve into the bag of chips you just wrested from your toddler’s hands so you can throw it in your cart.
As you make your way through the store, trying to keep your temper in check, it becomes harder to have any chill at all. The displays wobble when you walk by. You’ve already told your kids to stop asking for things 25 times, and you’re only in aisle two. And for the love of all things Holy, why do they have a banana tree right in front of the sugar cereal?
I see you eyeing the free cookies. Sure, they’re a great way to bribe kids to behave during the trip, but there have been times you’re in the store so long, they double as lunch. You’re not alone. I’ve been known to grab a fist-full for myself on occasion, and I’ve seen other mothers stuff those babies in their bras or purses knowing someone is going to need nourishment on the way home. Taking three kids to the grocery store totally counts as cardio—the sustenance those cookies provide is well deserved.
I hear a fellow shopper tell you to, “enjoy these moments because they are fleeting.” I know these comments come from a good place, but for the most part, they make us feel like shitty parents because it’s written all over our resting bitch faces that we are actually hating this very moment. In this moment, you want nothing more than for the fresh hell known as grocery shopping with kids to be done.
I know you’re probably worried about what others think as the chaos intensifies. But if onlookers judge because it appears you don’t seem to have control of your kids, just let them. Who cares about the dirty looks and eye rolls? This is about survival.
I once abandoned my cart in the freezer section and walked out the grocery store trying to carry three screaming kids because they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t each pick out a half gallon of ice cream. As I made my way to the parking lot, my pants were falling down, and I could feel boob sweat trickling down my postpartum belly. I saw the mean faces and fingers pointed in my direction.
To them, it might have been hard to tell who was in control. But really, who was the boss in this situation? That would be me since they are my kids, and I can handle the situation however I want. Besides, if I’d let my kids have the ice cream, I’d be deemed a horrible mother. If I’d let them continue to scream in the grocery cart, I’d be deemed a horrible mother.
People who think your kids are your rulers simply because you can’t get them to stop crying in a public place have either never had kids, or have forgotten what’s it’s like. Kids are not little robots who follow every command, and there is something about the damn grocery store that seems to put a kid’s inner asshole on display.
So go ahead, mother of three who is trying her hardest to make this experience as painless as possible for all involved. I know this is a shitshow, so you do you. Let’s just make a deal right here and now: We will never stop another mother who is about to tear her hair in the dairy aisle and tell her to enjoy these moments. Are you with me?
Now, go home and do something special for yourself, even if it involves eating chocolate in your bedroom closet after you’ve plugged your kiddos into a device. You’ve earned it.
A mother who has been there so many times my hair hurts just thinking about it.