I was running errands today, with Ben. We were giving Paul a break, while getting in some Mama-Ben time. I put us in our Acute Invasion T-shirts and off we went to visit Mid-City
Somewhat outdated photo of Ben & I in our Threadless T-shirts. He is much bigger now, and I am slightly smaller
We went to Whole Foods first, where I purchased many fine meats. I do all our animal protein shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, because they contain the least amounts of unnecessary crap. Also, perhaps it is the quality of the feed, or the quality of the animal’s life, but we also find the food in question – especially the chicken – to be genuinely more delicious. But because it is called “Whole Paycheck” for a reason, I wait for the “Butcher Buys”, buy extra, and freeze it. I actually have a Reynolds Handi-Vac for exactly this kind of purpose. And yes, I will do things like buy a half-salmon to get it for $7.99 a pound, have it chopped into salmon steaks identical to the ones selling for $9.99 a pound, and then freeze them against a day when I need fish for dinner. I also plan my menus weekly, clip coupons, and shop at Costco. I am resurrecting the art of Kitchen Economics.
Anyways. Point is, we went to Whole Foods, and we bought meat – but that took a while because I had to wait for an actual butcher to cut and wrap it up. By the time we were done, I knew I was running out of Ben’s Patience Minutes, but I was hoping I could buy more with the animal crackers I was feeding him. Then we went to Target, because we had coupons for Huggies. Which were also on sale. But by the time we got to the cashier, Ben was tired of shopping. He did not want to be in his stroller ONE MORE MINUTE, and dammit, he wanted UP. (I had steadily been ignoring his requests for “Up?” for five minutes already) So I released him from his stroller, and then proceeded to check out, while talking both to the cashier and Ben. It sounded like this:
“Ben, stay close to Mama. You can only stay down if you stay close to Mama. Oh, I have a reusable bag – can I use this and not the plastic ones? Here, Ben, have an animal cracker. Yes, sir, that is my shampoo, as well as the diapers. Benjamin, no, do not eat the cracker off the floor. Here’s a fresh one. Wait, I have coupons! Benjamin, stay close to Mama! Here’s my Visa card. Benjamin, hold my hand please. No, I’ll take those, the diapers can go in the stroller. Benjamin, you must hold my hand! Thank you.”
The girl behind me in line was there with her boyfriend, and she had this look of smug pity on her face. Pity because I was clearly trying to balance paying for diapers with my toddler, and it was a juggling act. But she was smug because she wasn’t a harried mother trying to run errands with a baby. She hadn’t let herself turn into that yet, and she probably thought that, if she did turn into a toddler’s mommy, she’d be a less messy stereotype than I am.
I wanted to tell her, I am your future. Two years ago, I thought I was all sassy, too. I thought shopping at Target was a sort of slumming it – a rare visit to a chain associated with the suburbs, a trip to a store that belongs in middle America. I, of course, was not the sort of person who would normally shop at Target, because I was a alt-type twentysomething living in Hipsterville, Los Angeles. Now, I shop at Target on a regular basis, because that is where I can get the things I need in the one stop that I have time for.
I wanted to say, it happened to me. It will happen to you. Someday you will be trying to check out of a store with your toddler, whom you have let out of his stroller, and you can only hope that your child is as well behaved as mine.
(Actually, Ben did me proud today – he DID stay close to Mama, he DID hold my hand as we walked out, and continued to hold it all the way back to the car. He was like a real tiny boy, not just a toddler. I’m SO proud.)
To all the girls out there who have yet to get married and have babies, to all the girls who think, “I’m never going to be THAT mom,” who think that they won’t drive a minivan or shop at Costco or seek out grocery bargains, or try to negotiate with a toddler while shopping for his supplies…IT IS COMING FOR YOU TOO. It may all be cliched, and it may all be horribly suburban sounding (and I don’t even have a house in the suburbs to show for it), but IT IS COMING FOR YOU. You, too, will find your second job to be The Domestic Sphere.
But in that process, I’ve been extremely lucky to stay, well, me. My minivan is a microvan, my Costco trips include Woolite Dark because I am still a goth, my grocery bargains are in line with my ethical eating standards, and my toddler is learning how to be a Tiny Boy, and not a baby, and negotiating with him is part of his independence. I took all the things I do as a wife and mother, and layered in my own identity. I hung on to that. At times, it may seem like I lost myself in the shuffle, and there are a lot of days where I feel like my identity did get lost in the day to day tasks. But then, I realize, it’s still there, just in different ways. It helps a lot that my husband handles his share of the day to day, and then some, in housework, in childcare, in general Family Tasks. But I’m still hanging on to who I am, despite the addition of Wife and Mother to the roles I fill.