I am that mom at the grocery store. You know, the one you wish you could be.

The one that is calm, cool, and collected. The one that offers a sweet smile as she effortlessly guides her cart full of food and children past yours. As her ornery toddler pulls item after item off of the shelf, she doesn’t get perturbed. Instead, she laughs and asks him in her most tender voice to please stop. She is the one that looks at her kids with adoring eyes, and even when her baby starts to fuss, she just smiles and takes it in stride. Grocery Store Mom doesn’t show her frustration, doesn’t lose her temper, not even for a moment.

Grocery Store Mom lives a privileged life; no financial stress to speak of, and easy flowing mornings as she gets her babies ready for the day ahead. She is always dressed to the nines, make-up done and hair even brushed (gasp!).

Grocery Store Mom is the one with the well behaved children. (Her mild manner and gentle touch must soothe them into happy compliance.) She’s the one who uses all of her manners and makes friendly small talk with strangers, all the while keeping a watchful eye on her little ones. She always ensures that her toddler doesn’t stand in the cart, which could be unsafe. When she asks him to please sit on his bottom, she says it with a smile… even after the tenth time. She never forgets a suitable chewy for her teething baby so that he doesn’t end up gnawing on the filthy cart.

I am that mom at the grocery store that maybe, just maybe, you wish you could be.

Here is the thing though– once my crew and I step outside those sliding doors and climb into our messy car, grocery store mom takes a break. Once I am out from under the curious eyes of strangers, I still try my best to be patient. However, I am ashamed to say that sometimes my toddler is the recipient of a snappy comment when he just won’t listen to Mama. I try to be calm, cool, and collected, but there are times (too often, admittedly) that the mom I am in private gives in to stress far too easily.

What you don’t see is how I spend the majority of the car ride home crunching numbers in my head, going over our budget again and again to make sure we will make it through the month.

Yes, my children are well behaved, but they are still children. Just because my sweet toddler was good natured during our outing doesn’t mean he won’t throw himself on the floor in a fit the second we arrive home– just to prove he can. The same baby that Grocery Store Mom strategically distracted from the cart handle may be found chewing on his brother’s shoe only an hour later, while I unload the car.

I can assure you that no time is lost between the unloading of the bags and the changing from my meticulously chosen outfit into sweatpants and an oversized tee. And those groceries? The cold ones will be thrown haphazardly into the fridge, but the rest can often be found in bags on the kitchen floor an hour, a day, or even half a week after our trip to the store has ended.

The truth is, there is a whole lot more Real Mom going on in this family than Grocery Store Mom.

Whether it’s the pressure to put on a “perfect” facade in public, or simply the fact that for just an hour a week I can be her, I’ll never know. But here is my dirty little secret: that Grocery Store Mom you wish you could be? I wish I could be a little more like her too… and not just at the grocery store.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward