It is with sadness I have decided to stop going shopping with my small people. And I like going shopping. I also like my small people but just not at the same time. There’s this thing called the internet to help us all out, right? Amazon Prime and Ocado are going to make a beautiful power couple in my life.
I thought I’d take a quick look back over my short Shopping With Kids career to illustrate why it’s not working out for me now I have a three year old and 18 month old yapping at my ankles. We had some good times. And some times we don’t speak about.
Let’s break it down into categories:
The Shopping Centre
For a special occasion (at least once a week on maternity leave) I loved a day out at a giant shopping centre and for me that was usually the glamorous Merry Hill in the equally glamorous Dudley. And yes, it is always a whole day despite it being an outing that should only really take two hours. It takes all day with a baby in tow because you have to account for poo explosions (and shopping for a replacement outfit as your oh-so-organised changing bag packing has let you down again) and feeding. You need a little time to actually shop after you’ve one-handedly snaffled your Spud-u-like or random burrito from the Food Village while feeding the baby with the other hand.
Then you’re likely to be stopped by a lot of people who want to look at what is in the pram.
Shopper: ‘Aaw, what’s his name?’
My usual response:
‘Oh, she’s a girl. It’s Olive.’
Response on a particularly sleep-deprived and couldn’t be arsed kind of a day:
‘Erm, it’s Oliver.’
I just thought it would be easier to play along that she was a boy that day. But then I had to endure a ten-minute chat about the joy of boys whilst looking at little Oliver in his flowery sleepsuit. I am sorry Olive. I just didn’t have the energy that day at the Debenhams’ shoe counter. And you did look quite boy-like when you were six months.
On a rainy day, the place is filled with pram pushers getting the steps in rather than getting sodden in the park. And up until the baby is around 9 months old and takes amazing chunks of sleep, I’d do it as often as you can. This is Shopping With Kids at its very best. There is time to graze through the rails like you used to, you know, Before Kids.
You soon turn professional and have your route planned – there is no lift in that place that you don’t know about. (After you’ve tried an escalator with an unbalanced pram due to the weight of shopping bags once, you’re unlikely to do it again. Flashes of baby being catapulted through the air and a mini heart attack right there. Always stick to the lifts.)
Sadly, the maternity leave budget only really stretches to Primark. Oh and Tiger – anyone else discovered Tiger? Like a small scale Ikea – you are guaranteed to buy a heap of things which you don’t really need. But when the babies become toddlers, you can’t go there anymore as they will nag you to buy them everything they don’t need. In fact, that’s generally what shopping with toddlers is – one big nag-athon. Another reason to quit while you’re ahead.
The shopping centre days are what I miss most about maternity leave but the husband didn’t ever really understand the appeal and so we generally used to just brush over it.
Husband: ‘What have you done today, darling?’
Me: ‘Oh you know, just stuff. I nipped to Merry Hill and then I’ve done a whole lotta housework. A LOT.’
It’s amazing how much you can get done in the half an hour between getting through the front door and when he gets home. Number one rule though – always stuff the Primark and Tiger bags to the back of the wardrobe first.
Alas, my two little ladies have now reached the milestone of not being trusted in a shopping centre. Until they wanna hang out there as teenagers I will leave them at home. Which basically means I won’t be going for some years. Ah well, internet shopping it is. Come on, Primark!
*But do remember that if you do get to go alone, you don’t need to detour to find the lifts – old habits die hard! I have done this and thought, ‘what a bellend’ as the lift doors shut on my face.
The High Street
I love to support my local High Street and it has all the essentials like Aldi (god love Aldi), Argos, Boots, a card shop and Peacocks – for when you desperately want to buy yourself something and a new pair of tights and some hair bobbles suffice as treats.
I would frequent the High Street a lot when on maternity leave to ‘get out of the house’ and so sometimes making several trips a day. Oh forgot the teabags, let’s go again. What an adventure. Great when the baby is happy in a carrier or pushchair. Terrible idea when they are 18 months old and want to walk and point blank refuse the buggy, carrier or any other conceivable transportation method. And their idea of walking is actually standing on the same spot turning in a circle.
There is also a real danger that you will bump into someone you know and sometimes you just don’t want that. Sometimes you just want to wander in all the crap High Street shops and pick up tat without anyone seeing you. Especially pertinent when all your toddler wants to carry with them is one of your tampons. Pick your battles, parents.
If I get organised, Ocado can cover off the High Street. I’ll save trips for things like getting emergency Calpol for when they are not sleeping. Sorry, I mean for when they are really ill.
And so we now need to talk about the joys of supermarket shopping with small people in tow.
For many people I’ve spoken to, the first trip out of the house after they have had their first baby is to the supermarket. And they have to jump straight in to the mindboggling array of trolley / seating permutations.
My first time I dumped the entire car seat in to the big, deep trolley and stuffed the few things I wanted to buy around it.
Then I saw this fancy trolley with a platform specifically for a car seat. Wow, I thought. No. This top loader thingy means you cannot see a thing and end up crashing into all the piles of discount washing powder and nappies. (Oh hello nappies, better take some of those.) I soon dumped the car seat back into the trolley. A little braver and you can transfer the baby into a nice low-riser baby seat. This seemed ok when they were small and mostly asleep. But many a time I have multi-tasked bottle feeding and shopping when the planets didn’t align.
Then they can sit up – and they get upgraded to the front seat. This is a good time. You’ve got them in a confined space and they can’t reach things.
Oh, you don’t like it in the seat anymore? You want to be in the main trolley where you can play / eat with the yet-to-be-paid-for shopping. (The rule is if it’s consumed in store, then it doesn’t need to go through the till. Is that right? Oh shit, no that’s stealing. It was my one year old, not me. Honest.)
Final trolley stage – they think they are big enough to push it. They can’t but we let them try and help them along while they twist round and defiantly swipe your hands away.
Then they have no interest left in the trolley whatsoever. They want to run wild in the aisles, getting lost and generally pissing everyone else off. This is where I am and so I’m no longer going shopping with them.
This is where Ocado can help me out once more.
Or for a very special treat, I can convince my husband this is a chore and nip off to do the food shopping alone. Yes, alone! This would definitely feel like a trip to the spa these days. I could even add to my designer wardrobe with a few items from George, Florence, Fred and some bloke called Tu.
So all is not lost.