Grocery Shopping With Kids: The 10th Circle of Hell

The other day I got home from our neighborhood Safeway, lugged all of the heavy bags inside, and left the food sitting out on the kitchen counter while I turned around and walked directly to our downstairs living room. I paused in order to yell, "I NEED FIVE MINUTES OF COMPLETE SILENCE. DO NOT SAY A SINGLE SOLITARY WORD, DO NOT MOVE, JUST SIT QUIETLY, AND DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT BOTHERING ME." Then I slammed the door shut and collapsed on the couch with one arm draped dramatically across my throbbing forehead.

Out of all the responsibilities I have as a parent, who would have guessed grocery shopping would be the most exhausting? It is by far the most grueling thing I do with my two children -- and I am including the decidedly un-fun activities of taking them for flu vaccinations and/or Chuck E. Cheese's parties.

I keep thinking it'll get better as they get older, but holy crap, they keep proving me wrong. Week in and week out, they transform from mostly non-feral grade school children into manic howler monkeys the moment we walk through the automated doors. I don't know what it is about grocery stores, exactly -- the fluorescent lighting? The visual cacophony of food packaging? The tinkling background music? The dodge 'em car environment of carts and aisle displays and people? Why is an environment that represents the most menial of weekly chores to me more exciting than Disneyland to my kids?

Whatever it is, 30 seconds after we enter the store, I can feel a giant stress-vein bulging between my knit eyebrows as I find myself hissing the same things I always do. "Hey. Guys. Guys. Chill out. You, stop touching things. You, stop dancing. Watch where you're going! Dylan, stay with me. Riley, don't just stop in front of my cart. Dylan, I want you to -- RILEY, get back -- GUYS!"

It's not that they misbehave, exactly, it's more that they seem to experience a physical effect akin to shotgunning at least seven Red Bulls with a bathtub-crank chaser. You can practically see their pupils dilate and turn into little spirals as we go through the aisles, me trudging resignedly, the two of them levitating joyously a minimum of three inches above the ground.

Everything is just. So. THRILLING. They jostle each other in front of the apples in their rush to help me pick out the most perfect Honeycrisps, while I cringe in fear that the entire carefully-stacked display will come tumbling down. They reach their hands out to run their fingers over the weirdest-looking vegetables, peppering me with questions about what makes them grow so FUNNY. They twirl around in the aisles and walk backwards naming all the cereals they like, as I lunge to pull them out of the way of approaching shoppers. They race at top speed to the cat food section because OMG CATS. They stop dead in the bakery, closing their eyes and heaving great dramatic snorfling inhales: "THOSE DONUTS SMELL SO GOOD!" They squeal with triumph when I agree to throw some chocolate puddings in the cart. They bicker loudly over who gets to unload the groceries onto the conveyor belt when we go to pay, while I hold my finger to my lips in the universal motherly symbol for "PLEASE SHUSH I THINK THE CHILDLESS PERSON IN FRONT OF US IS ABOUT TO STAB ONE OF YOU WITH A BAGUETTE."

And ... okay, actually, now that I write it out like that, I can see the grocery store's appeal. To them, it's a fun diversion, a colorful place filled with things to look at and smell and touch. Whereas for me it just feels like a dreary amount of work, from the time-intensive process of getting all the items on my list (godddamn it I forgot bananas now we have to go all the way back to produce) to the gut-punch of paying (so long, hard-earned freelance check!) to the tediousness of putting everything away (why did I get so many refrigerated items WHYYY). Frankly, shopping by myself feels like a Canyon Ranch spa vacation compared to doing it all with two hyper boys.

Someday they'll probably hate to be seen in the store with me, and I'll remember these crazy years of Safeway shenanigans with a weepy fondness. For now, though, I'll continue tapping "Add exercise: shopping: 7,000 calories" in my fitness app whenever I get home. From my fainting couch, of course.

Do you find grocery shopping to be insanely exhausting when the kids are with you?


Image via Linda Sharps

boys, behavior

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nonmember avatar Eva

It's gotten so that I say, "Don't you want to stay home and give Daddy a make-over??" Poor Daddy, but my sanity is worth it. (He agrees).

JS0512 JS0512

99% of the time my nearly 3 & 13 year old girls are with me (13 y/o can NOT babysit the 3 y/o but sometimes stays home alone) are with me and it makes me want to yank my damn hair out.  Most times the groceries (except the damn cold items) sit on the counter WELL into the next day because I'm over it!

Katha... Katharine205

Yes!  I feel like I'm bitching at my daughter the whole way through the store; bitching at her to get out of peoples way, bitching at her to get out of my way, bitching at her to get out from under my feet.  Fortunately my grocery store has an ice cream spot so I can get her a little cup of ice cream and park her butt in the cart for the first half of the store (she's small for 5 but still too big for the seat).  Now the one that really irritates the shit out of me at the grocery store is my husband....

nonmember avatar Trina

I HATE taking my kids to the store. I will do anything I can to not take them with me. Not only do I have the exact same problem you do with your kids, I end up buying more stuff and forgetting more stuff because they distract me so much. It's the only reason I dread school breaks.

miche... micheledo

I can only handle one store when I take all 6 kids (8 years and younger).  It really does get easier as they get older.  My three youngest ride in the cart and the other three walk.  Or the two youngest ride.  :)  Sometimes, when I have lots of energy, I will run in quickly to a second store.  Grocery shopping for the week, with all the kids, takes me about 3 hours (counting travel!).


Often I do it with my husband, OR he keeps most of the kids at home and I go with 1, 2, or 3.  


Perspective matters too.  Grocery shopping with 3 used to by headache inducing and exhausting.  Now, with three, it is a breeze!

nonmember avatar Amazed

omg, i HATE shopping w/mykids. they are 5 and 7 and still i despise it. it takes so much longer and they ask for everything they see. i take pto from work to do my shopping on my own or i lose my mind. i do not want to be THAT parent at the stores!

Robin Hartman

My kids are 5, 7 and 8 and I don't remember the last time they were in a grocery store or a Target. I do it while they're at school!

ashjo85 ashjo85

Yeah, I don't do that. Lol, I wait for the weekend, leave the kids at home with Daddy, and perform this already torturous chore, blessedly, alone. Otherwise, I may be pillaging the Amazon.com grocery section because, hey, free shipping! Who needs fresh fruits and veggies...

wendy... wendywendy

I HATED shopping with mine, especially when she was young.  Once when she was 2 1/2 I took her to Whole Foods.  We were in the aisle with the bottled water, and I had to move my cart over to let another by.  When I moved the cart, she grabbed two gallons of bottled water.  As I'm trying to move the cart and get the water away, she's screaming "NOOOO MIIINE!" and she yanks with all her might and both gallons fall and break open.  Water splashes up on the first shelves on both sides and up the shins of the other two people in the aisle.  Two gallons of water is alot of flipping water.  She is stunned into silence and says "Momma, you need to get the paper towels."  We waited for the employee to mop it up, which took 20 min, and she had to apologize.  I would have had her help but it was way too much.  We waited til he was done so she would get how much work she created for someone else.


She's 11 now and wants to push the cart. But she doesn't know what aisle I'm going to next.  If she's ahead of me she gets distracted and I continually have to call her over so I can put the stuff I'm holding into the cart.  If she follows me she runs the cart into my heels 150% of the time.  Argh.

nonmember avatar April

Thank God mine are now old enough where I can say "Oh, I forgot to pick up chicken broth. Can you go grab the cheapest 16 oz can of chicken broth, please?" and send them on little errands. Not only does it keep them entertained, quiet and helpful, it does save me some time LOL. Then they come back and tell me how much ALL the chicken broth was, but they found the onl one for .99 cents

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