by Audra Rogers
When You Become a Parent, a Solo Trip to the Grocery Store Is Basically a Vacation was originally published on Babble.com and has been reprinted with permission.
It was a Wednesday, and I had put off going to the store so many times, my list was a mile long. You see, it’s not the actual purchasing and picking out of the groceries that I avoid — it’s the wrangling of the kids that’s the challenge. Some days I’m up for the task, but I was really low on mental energy this particular week, and I skipped the grocery store again that day.
We were out of bread, cheese, eggs, snacks, cereal, and dangerously low on milk for the toddler. I had to go to the store.
After a less-than-impressive dinner, I asked my husband if he wanted to go with me, and I braced myself to chase the children all over the store, but he said he’d stay home and hang out with the boys if I wanted to go alone.
And I instantly perked up. The grocery store alone? What? Did you just offer me a relaxing cruise to the Bahamas?! Yes sir, I will take you up on that offer.
I suddenly had the energy of a thousand women. I would have skipped down the aisles with joy if it weren’t so packed with holiday grocery shoppers.
I delightfully meandered down the aisles, taking my time, yet being careful to keep my cart out of other peoples’ way. I read every label — lingering on the fronts, backs, and sides of the packages to scour every ingredient — and then I tossed the groceries in the basket like Michael Jordan hitting a game-winning 3-pointer.
I smiled and waved at passersby. A fellow mom-sans-children reached for the same cereal I did at the same time, and we laughed and both said “excuse me” with huge smiles on our faces.
“Not a problem!”
“No problem at all.”
“Have a great day!”
“No, you are!”
I cha-cha’d down the paper goods aisle in bliss. I could actually compare prices, the eggs were in no danger, the bread was unsmashed. And dear God, there were no unexpectedly opened boxes of crackers or smashed fruits at the bottom of the basket.
There was no need for any on-the-spot cloak-and-dagger redirection or explanations as to why we couldn’t buy the Triple Xtreme Neon Sugar Flakes with the super popular toy inside. There was no negotiating or reasoning with a toddler, no one publicly disobeying me for spite. There were no “mom looks” given, no ill-timed requests to go to the bathroom — no begging, no pleading, no crying.
Just little ol’ me on vacation in the frozen foods aisle. The lights in the freezer cases were on motion sensors, so I felt like Michael Jackson in the “Billie Jean” music video as the cases lit up one by one while I made my way down the aisle with my bulging cart.
When my list was completed (and no one had impatiently drawn all over it, even!), I hadn’t had to appease anyone or hurriedly start throwing things into the cart so we could make it out of the store alive. Instead, I made my way to the checkout gloriously alone, high-fiving store employees and taking a quick peek down the booze aisle. Maybe I deserved a little treat after the kids went to bed …
Then suddenly, something familiar broke my reverie: I heard a kid somewhere off in the distance crying. Probably the produce section. I felt immediate solidarity to the caregiver and empathized with them deeply. I know what that’s like, and I saluted them in my head, wishing them blessings and patience. (It’s amazing how endearing a child’s cry can be when it isn’t your kid.)
After leaving the store in victory, I cranked the classic rock station in the minivan on the way home, singing with reckless abandon — remembering the good old days when I was cool in ripped jeans and mall hair. I really should try to get back in touch with that girl again; she knew how to have fun.
I backed the van up to the back porch for massive grocery unloading. I turned off the ignition, and the music stopped.
Then, with a sigh, I opened the back door and walked into the house to request help with unloading the most delightfully-gotten load of groceries.
“Yay, Mommy’s home! What can we eat?!” the kids exclaimed, as they ran to the car to rummage through the bags.
Vacation’s over. Back to (my beautiful) life.
More from Babble:
The 6 stages of cleaning out your kids’ toys
How to leave the house when you have a baby
This toddler needs a moment alone with Adele
Things I am thankful for: Spanx, wine, all of the Netflix
Eating dinner with a toddler in 38 “easy” steps
Audra Rogers's website is realhonestmom.com.