Yesterday, I had the chance to head to town alone. I had a few things to accomplish, and for a change, none of my children had anything they were supposed to be doing.
It had occurred to me, as I was having to hike back and forth with the Bountiful Baskets order, how much easier it is to get things done when I have my kids along. And again, when I had to make a couple trips in and out at the farm stand, I realized what a blessing it is to have them with me. Then in the grocery store, as I had to do all the comparison shopping myself, and put the groceries up on the belt, and get the bags back into the cart, and get the bags into the car, and put the cart away... well, it hit me again how much help my kids are when I'm shopping.
What really got me though was at a couple of stops I was asked where my kids were. I said that they had the chance to stay home and sleep in. And in both cases, the response I got was something like, "Oh, that must make it so much easier for you today!"
In both cases, I had to explain that no, in fact, it didn't. I miss having my kids along. They share the load, literally and figuratively.
One of the pieces of advice I see so often about grocery shopping on a budget, or saving time, or eating healthy is to be sure to shop without your kids. In fact, I listened to that advice on some homeschooling seminar mp3 while I was driving yesterday.
And I just don't agree.
I know it is hard to shop with little kids. A decade ago, I'd be in the store with my cart full of a 4 year old, and 2.5 year old, and my 9 month old. There was barely room for groceries. It was reasonably stressful. I get that. And yes, when I could shop without them it was a relief.
But you know what? Shopping with them 85-90% of the time over the past dozen years has given me so many opportunities to train them.
They've sat in the car with me and prayed that the $15 we had to buy groceries that week would somehow stretch to feed us. They've sat in the cart and listened to me talk over the price per ounce of various options, and whether or not it was worth getting the bigger size to pay less per ounce. I wasn't trying to mentor. I was trying to keep them occupied.
They definitely learned not to ask for things without having a solid argument for why it is appropriate.
They've helped me count items for the various buy 10, save $5 promotions. They've helped me count dollars for various spend $25, get money off your next purchase promotions. They've put groceries on the belt. They've bagged groceries. They've put bags in the cart and then in the car. They not only return our cart, but the carts other shoppers rudely leave behind.
They have learned to watch for a sale, they have learned the value of coupons, they have learned to check the markdown racks. They've learned to compare, they've learned to make choices.
I have invested a lot in them... most of it totally unintentional. Now that they are older (14, 12 and 10 for those older three) they are a tremendous help in the store, not a burden or a cause of stress.
So MY advice to moms of young ones? Maybe leave them home for those complicated sales that require a fair amount of concentration. And certainly, if you can shop without an infant then go for it. But toddlers and preschoolers and certainly grade school children... they can start learning to be helpers. And it will pay off.