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What shopping looks like as a mother
From potty breaks to runaway kids, shopping trips are just one of the pre-motherhood pleasures I have bid farewell. - photo by Erin Stewart
My husband thinks I have an online shopping problem. His appraisal is due mostly to the fact that there is rarely a day without a package on our front step, and I often cant remember what is inside each one until I open it.

I have tried to explain to my husband that online shopping is the only way to shop without having to actually go into a store with two children. I told him that shopping in an actual store goes like this:

  1. Get to store and pick out a few things to try on. Panic because I cant find my 4-year-old daughter. Find her hiding in the middle of the clothes rack laughing hysterically.
  2. Get half undressed when my daughter says she has to go to the bathroom right now or she is going to have an accident. Hurriedly put clothes back on and race to the nearest restroom, which is often in another store.
  3. Stand in the stall singing songs to relax my constipated daughter.
  4. Return to dressing room only to run out half-naked seconds later because my daughter discovered that she can fit under the dressing room door and is now racing away, most likely to reclaim her hiding spot in one of the dozens of clothing racks.
  5. Get daughter. Get clothes. Get in insanely long checkout line. Wait. Wait. Wait.
  6. My turn! Start checking out. Daughter informs me that now she has to tinkle and yes, it is an emergency.
This is why I online shop in my pajamas while my kids are quietly tucked into bed. Shopping in real, actual stores is just one of the things Ive given up as a mother. This list of simple pleasures of pre-motherhood includes such things as:

  • Finishing a conversation. Oh the luxury of talking to another human being uninterrupted. I have tried to achieve this unattainable goal by teaching my daughters not to interrupt mommy when she is talking, but instead to use a signal of touching their noses and wait until I can talk to them. This works OK, except now my 4-year-old thinks if I do not immediately respond to the signal, that she should get as close as humanely possible to my face and breathe moistly into my ear with her finger smashing down her nose until the person I am talking to is looking at me and her like we are nut jobs. On most days, I would settle for simply being able to finish a thought in my own head.
  • Using the bathroom alone. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. But yeah, it would be nice not to arbitrate who had the coloring book first from my porcelain throne.
  • Running a quick errand. Remember the days of just hopping into the post office or the bank? Those days are long gone. Now every quick stop entails unloading kids from the car, which means unbuckling the car seat and waiting while my daughters take their sweet time descending. What could take so long, you ask? First, there is the hunt for shoes because heaven forbid anyone ever keeps their shoes on while in the car. Then there is the search for items that absolutely must come on this errand with us. Sometimes this is a doll or a pencil or a particularly special piece of trash. Then, we actually complete the errand, all the while negotiating whose turn it is to push the elevator button, the postal kiosk buttons, the door buttons. Once our errand is complete, we walk to the car and whats this? A bug? A BUG! We must stop and study this bug and ask a million questions about this bug.
So, moms learn how to cope with the loss of these simple pleasures that we used to take for granted. I write emails now rather than have lengthy conversations. I shop online rather than in stores. I try to limit my errands, or do them when I am not pressed for time because if its not a bug, its going to be a leaf or a flower or an insanely interesting crack in the sidewalk that catches my daughters eye.

But in all honesty, I dont mind giving up some of these pre-mommy habits. In fact, the more I let go of what used to be and embrace the reality of now, the more I see what I was missing before. When I slow down, I see my daughters eyes light up as that ladybug outside the bank crawls on her finger. I see children full of questions and curiosity and things to say about their world. I see creativity in the form of turning clothing racks into castles and dressing rooms into obstacle courses.

And while the shopping and chores may take a little longer, Im so grateful to have my little helpers who help me slow down and see the moments right in front of me.