fighting overwhelm · from the trenches

How to Survive Shopping Day with Small Children

I recently learned that pink car shopping carts and tired children are not compatible. I also realized anew that writing long, newsy emails while parked in the grocery store parking lot is totally a good thing.

What does a typical grocery run look like for your family? For my family it looks a bit like this: I park in the Safeway grocery store parking lot while the kiddos nap and I wait to run in and grab some groceries. I read, write, text or email. Eventually they wake up (usually because I finally woke them) and groggily follow my commands to head for the grocery store where they settle into the cart and slowly become more lively as the shopping progresses.

Because we live forty minutes from the nearest grocery store, my grocery shopping trips are not merely grocery runs but usually involve searches for clothes or gifts or anything else. They typically happen once a week or once every other week and take up the majority of my day. Because a full day of shopping is a lot to expect from small children, I try to make at least parts of it interesting for them as well as myself. And because a day with no naps is almost never a great day, I sometimes go to desperate lengths to ensure at least one child sleeps during the day.

I was again reminded of why this is necessary during last week’s Safeway episode where no naps were had and fights broke out on all sides as I attempted to fill my cart with something besides dueling offspring. Finally I called it quits and resumed my grocery shopping after naps. For some reason it made for much more peaceful shopping then… We also treated ourselves to Starbucks frappuccinos and muffin and that may or may not have helped.

As I have been spending more time in the parking lot lately, I’ve been thinking about the evolution of my shopping trips over the past ten years lately. Did you know shopping habits can evolve? They actually do. Fascinating, I know.

As newly-weds, Kev and I almost always went shopping together. We were usually gone late into the evening. And if there was a time when I went by myself I had to have some very specific directions to find my way to some of the shopping centers and definitely all carpentry-related business places that I frequented for my husband. As the business expanded and changed I had less business stops to make but also less opportunities to go with Kev.

Eventually I had children (one, to be exact). Shopping became a whole new experience. For quite some time the thought of going alone with my baby caused me a very high level of anxiety. Fast forward to two children and the stress level again sky-rocketed as I learned how to navigate the city with two small fry.

These days things are a lot easier than they used to be. Getting two highly mobile children out of their car seats, while inconvenient, is not nearly as awkward as wielding infant car seats that latch on to Old Navy shopping carts and do not come off until I have prayed urgently 59 times and tried 38 violent things to remove it.

Today I give myself more grace when I go shopping (I mean on average, not as an absolute). I no longer consider it a wasted day to go to only two stores in an entire shopping day. Every additional store is a bonus. These days, before I have to rush home to school children and when I no longer have an infant that requires feeding and diaper changes every 1.5 hours (perhaps that’s being generous), I have decided to embrace totally frivolous shopping days.

Frappucinos, mall rides, emailing frightfully long emails in the Safeway parking lot, Stuart Little audiobooks, browsing the toy and book sections of stores for lengthy amounts of time are all par for the course.

This season will be fleeting and if nothing else, I like to think it balances the tantruming shopping cart loads where one cannot easily distinguish anything between the flying fingernails, tear floods and verbal abuse not to mention the mother at her wit’s end who can clearly be seen sprouting another eighteen white hairs and moving one inexorable step closer to insanity.

I have come to believe that whatever is needed to balance that scale is what we must do, whether weird, random, awesome or absurd!

Friends, let’s not be afraid to embrace these “balancing” habits and whatever stage of shopping evolution we are currently at. If it takes idyllic vanilla-bean-frappuccino-sipping moments to calm the mental instability on shopping day, by all means embrace it!

Here’s to peaceful grocery shopping in the days (and years) ahead!


2 thoughts on “How to Survive Shopping Day with Small Children

  1. Oh, I understand this! You sound like you have it figured out. I’ll have to quit dreading a quick trip to the store so much. Maybe I’ll try to make it fun instead of trying to be back home by noon, hoping I got almost everything.


    1. Ha, I haven’t quite got it all figured out yet… If only! But at least I know some things that DON’T work. Surely that counts for something. 😄


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