OK mamas, we’ve all been there. Our fridges and pantries are empty, you are completely out of milk, and you’ve been “borrowing” your husbands deodorant for the last two days. But the worst part? There’s no one to watch your tribe of little people. So what’s a desperate mama to do? You put on your big girl panties, load up the diaper bag, pull your hair back in a messy bun, and brave the isles of the grocery store alone. But be prepared! There are five stages of grocery shopping with small kids. Let’s begin in the stack of shopping carts that you can never pull apart from one another.

1. The Calm Before the Storm: Once you’ve successfully strapped the baby into his baby carrier on your chest, you get the others comfortably settled. They are excited to be there! A couple of kids may be eagerly hanging onto the front of the cart, another comfortably seated in the basket or seat. The elderly greeter at the front of the store hands them each a sticker. They are smiling and laughing! You sigh a breath of relief as you head into the fresh produce section, noting that they are obeying and keeping their hands to themselves (I mean, what kid reaches outside the cart for the broccoli or cabbage?). Things are still relatively peaceful, you get your things and head into the cereal isle. By this time, the baby is asleep.

2. The Time You Open a Can of Worms: Once in the cereal isle, you make your first mistake. You actually ask your kids if they see any cereal they like. Each child starts calling out their requests, and each of them has a list of their top 5. One by one, they start climbing out of the cart, pulling boxes from the shelves and chucking them in the basket. It’s ok, you can handle this! You hold your arms out, forbidding any more contributions to the cart and calmly ask each child what their top pick is. You put back the ones that don’t make the cut, making sure everyone is back on the cart, but not before calming a squabble between Billy and Sally, because Billy isn’t giving Sally enough room to ride. The baby has squirmed a little, but your walking has lulled him back to sleep. Now onto the snack isle.

3. The Fit Hits the Shan: Now that the can of worms was opened in the last isle, everyone riding in the cart thinks that their opinion matters. You quickly realize that Tommy has run back to the cereal isle to grab the box of fruit snacks that you previously forbade, and when you come back around the corner, Billy and Sally are sitting on the floor opening a box of Cheezits. You quickly put Tommy back in the cart, snatch the box of Cheezits from the two on the ground, and give them a look of embarrassment, gritting your teeth and snapping your fingers while you direct them with your powerful “Mom Finger.” At this point, you’re starting to sweat. The baby is fussing, Tommy is screaming, and the other two are still sitting on the floor whining. You quickly grab the bag of Animal Crackers out of your diaper bag, trying to diffuse the tension. Your little group is officially the loudest in the store. You can feel the eyes of the other shoppers all on you and suddenly it happens. The full on hysterical scream from Sally (you know, the kind when they hold their breath). She does not want the Animal Crackers and says she needs to go potty. Oh. My. Freaking. Word. Back to the front of the store you go.

4. The Eye of the Storm: Sally makes it to the potty on time. Everyone goes into the bathroom, no one touches the toilet or the “napkins box,” and everyone is settled back in the cart. At this point you are sweating like a banshee. I mean, your butt crack and back are completely soaked. You start for the check out lane and then you remember. You forgot the milk. Back to the farthest corner of the store you go. Waddle. Gimp. I mean, you are barley hanging on. You know you don’t have much time left as you shove the pacifier back in the baby’s mouth, but your kids are still content from the simple joy of washing their hands in the bathroom. You grab the milk and now the check out line is just a few feet away.

5. The Weeping, and Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth: You pull into the shortest check out lane, hopeful that the checker is a fast one (but of course, she’s the slowest). As you begin to put your items on the belt, your children see it: the candy shelves. Before you know it, the wrappers are flying off the candy bars. “Janice” is taking her time ringing up each of your items, commenting on how “full your hands are,” and you solemnly hand her the empty candy wrappers to scan. Janice is still taking her time, your kids are done with their candy, and now they are screaming for more snacks. Once again, you are the loudest cart in the store, and you sheepishly grab your receipt as you push your cart out the door and load the bags into your van. There is a beautiful sense of victory as you slump into your driver’s seat… Until you realize you completely forgot to pick up your deodorant.

Whether you take two children or five to the grocery store by yourself, you are a brave, brave soul, mama friend. May your patience be long and your grocery list be short.

Lauren Eberspacher

I'm Lauren and I'm a work-in-progress farmer's wife, coffee addict, follower of Jesus and a recovering perfectionist. When I don't have my three kids attached at my hip, you can find me bringing meals into the fields, dancing in my kitchen, making our house a home, and chatting over a piece of pie with my girl friends. I'm doing my best to live my life intentionally seeking all that God has for me and my family. Follow me at: www.fromblacktoptodirtroad.com From Blacktop to Dirt Road on Facebook laurenspach on Instagram