My post on tips for running errands with kids was so popular, I wanted to follow it up with a “day in the life.” Here is how it really looks grocery shopping with 4 kids.
It’s usually something urgent that prompts me to take all the kids grocery shopping. Like being out of Diet Coke or diapers. Yes. That’s pretty much it, really.
Spend 30 minutes putting on socks, shoes, and packing bags
My oldest two (4 and 3) can get dressed alone, but I try to pick out their clothes if we’re going out in public. However, on this day I let my daughter dress herself and left my 9-month-old in a fleece onesie. Yes, I know those are technically pajamas, but see if I care. I’m about to take 4 kids to the grocery store, so things like clothes are no longer a worry.
I have to pack food for the baby or plan on buying him something easy to eat there. This is the hardest thing for me because the baby is pretty much always eating if he’s awake. I don’t want a hungry baby 5 minutes into a shopping trip.
Spend another 20 minutes buckling the kids in the van
The kids get so excited to open the doors to the van. They run in, climb all over the place, and generally do not want to get strapped in. The oldest two can buckle their top chest buckles, but I must physically strap in all four children. That is, after I’ve convinced them to go to their seats in the first place. Usually, there is at least one light on somewhere and the change I keep for car washes is stolen so they can count it on the way to town.
Drive 15 minutes to the nearest big grocery store
By now, I’m nearly an hour at increased heart rate. And I haven’t set foot in a store. Once we arrive, I unbuckle each child and ask them to stand by the van with their hands on the tire. They only sometimes put their hands on the actual tire, but are good about staying close and waiting. This is a nerve-wracking part for me, and I look like I’m driving a clown car to passersby. This is my life.
We try to find an appropriate buggy
Everyone cannot walk beside me or we’ll all have meltdowns. Everyone cannot ride in a buggy or no food will fit in it. On this day, we were blessed to find a buggy that holds 3. Of course, this meant one was disappointed and attempted to meltdown right at the front of the store. But, since my 4-year-old can walk on her own and is rather helpful, I gave her another job.
We try to use the list
My daughter can’t read yet, but I put her in charge of the list. She mostly doodled but did learn to cross things off. She enjoyed this job for the first 30 minutes. I start in the back of the store with the cold items first.
No reason except I like to end at the front by the register because at this point we are all On The Verge. By the milk, in melodramatic fashion, they all started crying, “It’s cold back here, it’s soooo colddddd, mommmyyyy!” I agreed. One can dress for 100 degrees in the summer and need a parka in the cheese section.
We made our way around the store
As we made our way around the store I noticed something very nice. Nearly everyone stared at us… and smiled. I got some “whew, your hands are full” and “you must be busy” along with a whole lot of “you are so blessed” and “what a beautiful family.”
Halfway through my daughter just could not walk any longer. Her legs were soooo sore. So she took my son’s seat and he began to walk beside me. By walk I mean drag himself in protest. He was not very vocal about it, so I just ignored this. There are many things I ignore on outings with the kids, and this works in my favor. After all, our kids don’t always need us to make them feel better.
While I was distracted my 2-year-old ate a few strawberries, and put the tops back in the punnet. He also tried to crush everything I put in the cart and kept elbowing his siblings. He laughed, they yelled, and we carried on.
We checked out
When the store isn’t full, I will let my oldest two go to the arcade area directly across from the checkout counters. I don’t give them any money, but they climb into the cars or buses and pretend to ride. If the store is full I don’t allow this for safety reasons, but of a weekday morning it’s fine.
As I was loading groceries, my 2-year-old – who has the wingspan of an albatross – grabbed the Children’s Miracle Network donation can and tried to dump the money out. I stopped him. So he redirected his efforts and pressed every single button on the credit card swipe thing. The 19-year-old clerk did not think he was as cute as I do.
Back to the car
I let the bigger kids climb into the van in their seats. I park the buggy by the trunk, unload all the groceries, then put the babies in the car. This day, bless her, a woman offered to return my cart for me so I didn’t have to leave the kids. See… people DO like when you have your hands full.
Home, unload, pass out
By this time, it’s nearing lunch. I bought tortilla pinwheels and some fruit so all I had to do was plate up lunch. If I don’t bring home an easy lunch we all suffer upon arriving. I fix their plates quickly, get something for the baby to snack on, then put away the cold and frozen groceries. We eat ravenously. They, because they’re hungry. Me, because I want to put them all down to nap at the same time in ten minutes.
I take the kids, one at a time, to their rooms for naptime. I don’t have the time nor inclination to read them individual stories since we’re running late, so it’s time to use the potty/diaper change, turn on white noise, and into bed we go.
I tell them they need to go to sleep because I need a minute.
I lay down and think… “Why on earth did I leave the house with them all again?” Then I remember… I’d rather spend 20 minutes preparing, 30 minutes roundtrip in the van, and 25 minutes in the store with 4 kids 4 years old and under than not have Diet coke for 24 hours.
I think I have a problem….
I try to fit my errands into our routine as much as possible. I’ve written on routine quite a bit (click on routine at the top menu), but if you need a lot of inspiration, here’s a book we wrote with over 25+ routines ages newborn to 5!
I’m sure that Diet Coke was worth it and those 19-year-old clerks NEVER understand. :) Thanks for sharing your story because as a mom I GET IT! :)
Rachel Norman says
Ha, the coke was worth it ;). She’ll understand one day. Hahaha
erin @ the honey home says
I can relate to a lot of this with my three (ages 4, 3, and 20 months)–going to the grocery store takes ALL morning. Why does it take all morning?? I never can figure that out. I do like taking them, though, because I despise grocery shopping and they make it interesting. ;)
Rachel Norman says
Haha, you are too right. It takes all morning and I’m with you, it’s actually fun if you give in to it.
Thank you for this encouraging article, yes I found the chaos encouraging!! ? I have a 3 year old, a 15 month old, and twins coming in March! The idea of going to the grocery store alone after the babies are born keeps me up at night. We live 20 miles from the closes SMALL grocery store so when I go I make it count. Being reminded other moms do it everyday really helps!
Rachel Norman says
Jessica, it will feel crazy and out of control but you will do it and it will be okay. I KNOW YOU CAN! And super huge congrats :)
Diet Coke is my version of “coffee”. I totally get it and would absolutely do the same thing. I have three, three and under and am pregnant with twins (due Christmas Day), so we’ve been making lots of these trips while I still can. I’m pretty sure we leave a bread crumb trail throughout the store because if I don’t have food in their hands they’re destroying the shelves with their wing spans :) And we drive all the way to a Super Target just because they have plenty of what we call “jungle gyms” that will fit all three comfortably.
I love reading your blog! You give me hope that I can do this!! THANK YOU!!!!
Rachel Norman says
Christine, oh my goodness girl… three three and under preggy with twins due on Christmas. You are truly my hero. Did you “know” you were having twins, by the way? Love this.
Yup! I’m a surrogate for some friends and they put two in hoping at least one would stick. The RE called my uterus the “Ritz Carlton” and had a good feeling both would be making themselves comfortable. He was right!! The parents are waiting on naming until they see them, but it’s a boy and a girl. Carrying twins is so hard (especially with three small ones at home), but I kind of grin a little bit knowing that at the end of the day, I get to go home and sleep through the night (minus any pumping I do for them).
But to answer your question on feeling, while I was on bedrest after the transfer I felt distinct pinches/cramps/twinges whatever you want to call them and I text my friends saying “I believe I just felt them burrow in…” I got my first positive pee stick at 3.5 days after the transfer (or what would have been the equivalent to 8.5 days post-ovulation). It was faint, but definitely there. I knew having a positive that early meant there had to be two. Sure enough at the first ultrasound there they were! Exactly the same size. Definitely been a fun ride, but I’m looking forward to the end :)
Rachel Norman says
Christine, I’ve never talked to anyone who was a surrogate, what a generous heart you have :)
Katelyn Fagan says
Ha. My kids are different ages, so I think it makes my trips to the grocery stores with all 4 more manageable. I use an infant carrier for the baby, put the 2 year old in the seat, and let both my 5 year olds walk. They don’t have multi-seat carts at our local HEB so that’s out as an option. My twins are also in booster seats that they can buckle themselves, so that helps too. They also like holding my grocery list and marking things off, even if they can’t really read it. Gives them something to do.
Oh! And you MUST ask for help getting out to your car! Or accept the help offered by the bagger. Total game changer. By the time you get the kids in the car, the trunk is loaded and the cart returned. It’s SWEET!
Rachel Norman says
Oh wow I wish we had a store that had helpers. Ha
My husband just sent this to me. He is currently deployed and since he left, I gave birth to twins. We also have a 3, and a 4 year old. I mentioned not being able to go to the store before bed time (currently I am staying with my mother for ease) and I dont know exactly what he searched, but he came across this post and sent it to me and we read it together. He said “this sounds like a nightmare”, to which I replied “now imagine having two in the cart, and pulling the double stroller”. Thank you for writing so well that my husband can understand my struggle. I simply could not find the words.