When Did Buying Groceries Become “Me” Time?

fridgeI know a lot of SAHM’s. Some of them home school their children. Some of them drink wine all day. Some of them consider mani-pedi’s  a competitive sport. The one thing they all have in common is that they take at least some time to be alone sans children in order to attend to the things that keep them sane. I do not get the luxury of time alone sans anything. I spend every waking moment of my life with my children. It is not by choice. It is, for now, by necessity thanks to a perfect storm of schedules colliding in a perverse way that means I must sacrifice any free time in order to care for my small folk.

Don’t get the wrong idea I adore my children. But I also adore having the ability to finish a sentence without a whiny voice interrupting to ask the same question for the 15th time. I enjoy being alone. In the exceedingly rare moments that I get to myself I am generally running around frantically trying to clean my house or run endlessly mundane errands in order to make the rest of my child-full day a bit smoother.

Then today happened. I shuffled my children over to my parents-in-law’s house to get away from the boring monotony that has become our daily routine as of late. While I was there my mother-in-law suggested that I go shopping alone. Without children. Like, by myself. I wasn’t sure what that meant at first. Was this woman speaking Russian at me?! What is this alone that she is pushing on me, anyway? As it happened to work out, I ended up tagging along with my sister-in-law.

Before I left I neurotically walked my mother-in-law through the contents of my diaper bag as if she had never before encountered a wet wipe or a jar of strained peas. I grabbed my coat, turned my phone off mute, and walked out the door with my sister-in-law. I was a bit stunned that for the first time in nearly a year (or longer, maybe?) I was not with my children.

My head was swirling with worry about my infant crying and my mother-in-law not knowing that he doesn’t like to be in the supine position because he thinks he will fall asleep and miss everything. Or what if my entrepreneurial four year-old dupes her into giving him more snacks than I have sanctioned for the day? Or what if an asteroid smashes into the house and kills all the grown ups and the cell reception and I am stuck in the middle of fucking Hannaford? Ack!?!??!?!

So there I was in the middle of the grocery store and there was nary a perilous threat calling me on my cell, which I had gripped in my hand. Cause, you know, just in case. I had made a grocery list but forgot to dig it out of my pocket. I sort of wandered around the grocery store in a haze of surreal understanding that this is what normal people do. They go to stores and put things in carts and pay for them and then cart them home. They do not have mini existential crisis’s in the middle of the of personal care aisle because the phone hasn’t rung yet to tell them that your smart tot has just learned to walk while you’re away or that your sweet infant won’t stop crying because he just knows you are not there.

But then it dawned on me. I was having some “Me” time. No child of mine was going to beg and plead for some stupid plastic tchotchke in the check out lane. I could slow down and read some labels. I could peruse the lip-gloss selections. I could pick up a trashy celeb gossip rag and do nothing for a quiet minute. And then, after that glorious non-child-errand-hell trip, I could GO TO ANOTHER STORE. There would be no frantic negotiations trying to keep the calm so that I could return some pants at one store or pick up birdseed and light bulbs at the hardware store. I could just….go.

In a truly comical ending to all of my fuss and fluster over going to a store without my children it turned out that they hardly noticed I was gone. My four year-old was happily scamming his grandmother into letting him watch all the Wild Kratts he wanted on her streaming Netflix. My infant was asleep.

But I was at once relaxed and just plain emotionally drained.

So now I am thinking that I will start taking my husband up on his habitual offer to let me sleep in on the weekends and spend some time…alone.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.