Tears in my Shopping Cart

Like most women who stay at home, I find myself at the grocery store quite often during Mom Hours (9:00 to 3:00 pm), and I tend to avoid the store other times. When you shop during Mom Hours, you obviously see lots of moms, and frequently those moms will have their kids with them. I used to be one of those moms towing kids along, but I’m not anymore. My kids are big and in school all day, and they smartly choose to avoid the grocery store whenever possible.

Back in the day, taking my kids to the store was never what I would call “fun,” but it wasn’t terrible, either. It was just something we did together for many years — part of my Life with Small Children, part of my Life as a Young(ish) Mother. Most of the time, things turned out just fine. Yes, we had our moments, and I’m sure some trips were stressful and embarrassing and rather unpleasant at times, too. But mostly we were fine.

It’s hard to describe or explain my sorrow over losing something not particularly fantastic. It makes sense to mourn the loss of snuggles and public hugs and cute mispronunciations and naps, but it doesn’t make sense to miss a chore you never especially cared for in the first place. And yet, inexplicably, I will be in line and see a mom with three little ducklings behind me, and I will sometimes have to blink back my tears. It doesn’t matter if one of the kids has a runny nose and the other one is trying to steal gum and the third one is whining that he’s thirsty and the mom looks a little frazzled. It doesn’t matter that I am showered and my hair is brushed and I might even be wearing something nice because I am soon going to a grown-up lunch with a grown-up friend to enjoy uninterrupted grown-up conversation. I see that woman with her three little kids, and I always feel sad and sometimes even a little jealous. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I suppose I am at a crossroads, transitioning from the world of needy little kids to independent bigger kids. I’m not quite ready to leave Sesame Street and Fisher-Price behind, but my kids have long since graduated from those baby things. Like the perpetual college student, I just enjoy it here way too much and want to keep things the same even though all of my friends have moved on to bigger and better.

Years ago, when I was first starting out my career, I worked with a girl who talked about what she wrote under “ambition” of her high school yearbook senior picture. She told me, without the least amount of shame or embarrassment, that she wrote her ambition was to be a good wife and mother. Really, I said? That’s it? Boy, did I feel sorry for her. Frankly, I thought that was the most pathetic thing I ever heard. Hello, is it 1950? A good wife and mother? Way to aim for the stars, Sister. Nice job setting feminism back fifty years.

Greetings, Irony, we meet again. Despite all of the colossal — and perhaps delusional — ambitions of my late teens and early twenties, I ultimately settled on being A Good Wife and Mother as my ambition. I can’t imagine a better one to have chosen. But there are days like today, when I’m in the grocery store all by myself, when I am reminded that my days here at this gig are numbered. Today I am buying food for five, but in a couple years, I will be buying food for four. And then three. And then two. Excuse me while I break into Sunrise, Sunset while sobbing by the yogurt.

The simple fact is that I truly love being a homemaker, and I think I’m pretty good at it. And I really don’t want it to end. So if you see a teary-eyed 40-something lady staring a bit too long at you and your kids in Acme, don’t be alarmed. That’s just me willing myself to remember every mundane detail of the best job I will ever have.