The man looks at me then at my overflowing basket of groceries. He raises his eyebrows and turns, sealing his single apple in the plastic bag with a twisty tie. I know that look. I know what he’s thinking and the answer is yes, it’s 10 pm and yes, those are ALL my groceries.
I used to love grocery shopping. I made elaborate shopping lists and spent hours during the day checking every item off. I nodded as I passed the other moms with screaming kids – avoided eye contact with the ones that looked really ticked off. Stopped to chat with every old lady that that cornered me to say, “Your daughter has the most beautiful red hair.” And bribed my kids more than once with candy so they’d stay in the cart. Life was good. I was on the stay-at-home mom team and this is how we did grocery shopping.
Then the rest of life happened. My kids got older. My husband’s teaching salary didn’t stretch as far as it used to and I started working. Now with all four kids in school, the carpooling headache that goes with that and a part time job to fill in the dull spaces, I find myself doing the weekly grocery trips late at night.
I may not be on the stay-at-home mom grocery team anymore, but I ‘m still on a team. Most of it’s made up of businessmen in plaid shirts and flat front khakis. They look like they’re buying just enough food to get through the night. We have gym-goers whose taut glutes make the rest of our team question the choice to put three packs of oreos in our carts. We have a few single parents who I nod at respectively while they attempt to hush their screaming child in pajamas. And me, cart overflowing with goldfish and carrot sticks. Call us the Bad News Bears of the grocery world, if you want.
In reality, my Bad New Bears aren’t my favorite grocery companions (shh.. don’t tell my teammate who just finished lifting). I like the chatty old ladies, and not being the only one in line with a full basket – but this is what life is for me now and that helps me see there’s not a perfect formula for happiness in life (or grocery shopping). Every version of life has bitter moments and sweet ones. Being a stay-at-home mom was wonderful, I loved grocery shopping during the day but tired of being on call for my children every hour of every day. Now, as a working mom, I no longer have to change diapers or wake up with kids at night but do miss the snuggling and random stillness when all the naps magically aligned.
I was happy then, I’m happy now. And hopefully I’ll be happy in every phase to come – even when I’m the old lady cornering a stay-at-home mom in the bread aisle to tell her how beautiful her daughter’s hair is.