No Mom Is An Island

“No man is an island.”   John Donne, 1624

We’ve heard this iconic phrase for centuries. I had to Google who actually said it, but I’ve heard it for years. Islands are, of course, completely separate from the mainland, surrounded by water, connected to nothing. They may be rich with natural resources or devoid of life, but they are alone, unable to share, unable to glean. John Donne’s sentiments were clear in his writings: we are all connected to one another, each an integral part of society. In Googling this guy, I read a few brief biographies on him: His wife passed away giving birth to their 12th child, a stillborn infant. Only 7 of his 12 children survived. He faced numerous financial difficulties and struggled with depression, serious illnesses, imprisonment, a disapproving father-in-law, imposed religion, and life as a minister (that’s tough enough). In short, homeboy had it rough. If anyone had a cause to want to disconnect, hibernate in a tunnel, and just plain be a hermit, it was this guy. And yet he felt strongly enough about the importance of community to include this phrase, this poem, in his many writings. No man is an island.

Why, then, are so many MOMS an island?

We isolate ourselves from the mommy mainland, silently separate ourselves and allow ourselves to be surrounded by the choppy waters. There are days where we literally feel like we are drowning. If you’re living on a tropical paradise, perfectly sustained, then share the wealth with your neighbors, give them wisdom, encouragement, peace, snack ideas. No mom should be an island.

This job we have is a tough one. Between the June Cleavers of our past and the Pinterest posts of our present, we have a lot of unrealistic examples of parenting. Peggy Bundy and Roseanne were a lot closer to life as we know it, but their whole characters were based on telling us they were BAD moms. Every morning we wake up ready for a new day, and almost every evening we go to bed convinced we’ve blown it. Social media provides an excellent platform for sharing the best of our lives, the highlight reel, the best-of moments. When comparing ourselves to the mom who finds the time for the gym, who homeschools her 8 kids with a smile, who bakes her own bread from scratch and gardens and crafts and sews and never gets speeding tickets and always has clean hair and maintains a tan all year long and doesn’t have to lie down to zip her pants up and has bottomless babysitting help from family and hosts a women’s Bible study in her immaculately clean home… we’re going to come up short.

And so we paddle out to our islands. We keep our struggles secret. The bad days, self-doubt, the horrible admissions that our kids drive us nuts sometimes – we tuck them away and put on a brave face.

One of the best things that has ever happened to me as a mother was being added to a Facebook group. I know, it’s cheesy and sounds like I’m in 10th grade. But a small community of women who are there to support, encourage, advise, bless, celebrate, console, share, and laugh at almost any hour through almost any life event has been just what my struggling mommy heart needed. Mommies need friends. Get yourself to a playgroup, a MOPS group, a Bible study group, or even just a kid-free dinner with a friend however you can. I found a great friend in my son’s preschool teacher. The days are long, but the years are short. But MAN, the days get long sometimes. Especially over the summer. Especially today. And while the long days are still long days, having friends makes the end of the day so much better. I’m one of the most stubborn people you’ll ever meet. My husband will attest to that. I have a hard time asking for help. I built myself an island. But thanks to the women in my life, some of whom are spread across the country, some of whom are just a few miles away, I’m now somewhat of a peninsula. Connected. Supported. Sharing. There are still those choppy waves beating against me, but not from all sides anymore.

Fellow mommies, I cannot encourage you enough to make mommy friends. They have bad days, too, I promise. They have questions and struggles and frustrations and poop on their shirts. The sooner we can all be honest with each other, the sooner we can start helping each other. Someone else thinking you’re a perfect mom doesn’t make you a perfect mom, so why keep up the charade? Be REAL. Be the mom that you are! Be supportive, be supported, just put yourself out there and find friends to help you through it.

Besides, once the kids are grown and gone, you’ll need someone to have lunch with.

 

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

– John Domme

Grocery Store Etiquette

In order to mark the momentous occasion that is my first official blog post, I decided to go big. Go exciting. Talk about something earth-shaking and mind-blowing and controversial that will make you glad you took the time away from playing Candy Crush on the toilet to read this.

Apparently grocery store etiquette doesn’t exist. At least not anywhere formal. There are sites dedicated to what NOT to do (wear) to the grocery store, but I’m not aware of any that tell you how to behave like a human. So I would like to make grocery store etiquette available to all who would Google it. Even though, let’s be honest, the people who are Googling “Grocery Store Etiquette” aren’t the ones who need it most, amIright?

Before embarking on one’s mission to the local grocer, there are several things to consider. Am I wearing the appropriate undergarments? Are said undergarments UNDERNEATH a layer of weather-appropriate clothing? Are all of these undergarments unseen? Am I wearing a recent application of deodorant? Have I showered recently enough to remember when? Only when the answer to ALL of these questions is yes are you prepared to exit the home and shop amongst the natives.

Upon entering the parking lot at a safe and appropriate speed, proceed up and down the parking aisles ONLY in the direction intended. If you have to bust a u-turn to get into your chosen spot, you are going the wrong way. In this scenario, we are in America, where drivers stick to the RIGHT side of the road. This applies later, as well. If you can see tail lights of the cars parked around you, congratulations on driving the right way. If you see headlights, try again. While browsing for your dream spot, heed the pedestrians. Yes, they walk like a herd of turtles. Yes, they intentionally spread out and leave no room for you to eek past in your parking quest. Yes, they load their groceries into the back of their SUV so slowly that it’s likely the expiration date on their milk will be reached before they finish. And you better believe they know what they’re doing when they sit in their idling car, updating Facebook and returning texts while you wait for their spot. But heed the pedestrians. Because it is REALLY awkward when you tap one with your bumper on the way to snag a spot, only to have them limp past you when you get out. Once that prime bit of real estate has been spotted and confirmed vacant, proceed at a speed of less than 20 mph. If you see someone else headed towards the same spot, it is not a race. I promise. Be the bigger person. ESPECIALLY if you see carseats or a pregnant belly. Let chivalry reign in the parking lot. Once you have claimed your spot, examine the lines on either side. Can you see them both? Are your tires free of any contact with them? Are your tires INSIDE both of them? Is your car angled to mimic those lines? The parking lot is no place to get fancy with geometry. Just park inside the lines. Can the customers and fellow human beings on either side of you comfortably enter and exit their vehicle based on the proximity of yours? If the answer to any of those questions was “no”, then go home. You have failed. If you can’t nail the parking thing, you’re probably going to be a turd inside the store, too.

Now you find yourself approaching the entry to your favorite store. You’re overwhelmed with choices – do I grab small arm basket? Do I need a motorized cart with a tiny basket? Do I select a shopping cart and risk  getting stuck somewhere behind the people who chose the motorized cart? Here’s how you choose: If you are getting anything other than a small bag of marshmallows, don’t get the arm basket. Groceries are deceptively heavy, and the metal handles hurt like a sonofagun when they dig into your arm. So just carry your two things. Plus, there’s always the awkward “Where do I put this basket?” moment at the checkout. If you’re buying more than 10 things, don’t get the motorized cart. You can see how small that basket is. They’re like actual denim blue jeans, not jeggings. No stretch. You can’t get away with shoving more than you should into them. Should you require the motorized cart, please, for the love of ALL things holy, drive on the RIGHT SIDE OF THE AISLES. The middle of the aisle is not conveniently open for your cruising. The bread aisle was not dreamed up for you to park and argue. Do your part to squash that crotchety-person-on-the-assault-wagon stereotype. If you tag a customer in the behind or take down a corner display, do the right thing and apologize. The grocery store is not a big whack-a-mole game of ramming legs. Look at me like it was my fault, and I may just grab one of your items and put it on the top shelf.

Obviously, at this point, we’ve deduced that the safest choice is a cart on wheels, a buggy, a doohiggy. Whatever. Maintain control of your cart at all times. Push your cart down the RIGHT SIDE OF THE AISLES at all times. If you get a defective cart with a wonky wheel, do not abandon it in front of the macaroni. Kindly return it to the shopping cart bay, or pull up your big girl britches and get your list checked off while dealing with it.

At some point during every shopping trip, I encounter someone. I’m not talking about the people I know. Not the people I prepared to see by putting on undergarments and deodorant. Seeing someone I know is inevitable. But so is happening upon THAT person. The time suck. The weirdo. The person of seemingly below-average intelligence and above-average loneliness. I’m told this doesn’t happen to everyone, but for me it’s as much a grocery store staple as milk. If you put off the same freak beacon as I do, you will encounter someone who wants to talk. And talk. Then ignore your attempts to back away or check the time. And continue talking. Be kind. My husband tells me it’s God drawing them near to me because I’ll listen and they need it. My head tells me it’s because I tapped a pedestrian with my bumper earlier. Either way, be kind. This trip may be their only interaction with people who don’t have tails. Since I believe in God, I have to believe that there is some divine reason, something I have to offer them. If YOU are the time-suck… for gravy’s sake, get to the point. You see my frozen items. You hear my cell phone going off. If you need someone to talk to, then maybe let’s walk and do it. Come to church and meet new people. Be efficient in your time-sucking, and I’ll be a lot more receptive. If you’re the old man who backed me into the Ovaltine and talked for twenty minutes about forcing uninterrupted eye contact on your children… just stay home and order out every night.

Your unwanted cheese does not belong amongst the Gain, so don’t leave it there.

“I seen” is not an English phrase. Do not refer to a sale you eyed on aisle 6 in this manner.

Place a jar of organic peanut butter and a bag of carrots on the very top of your cart to avoid being judged by the contents underneath.

Special considerations: Shoppers with children and couponers. Nobody WANTS to take their kids to the grocery store. Trust me. If you see a parent at the store with their children in tow, then their kitchen is BARE. They waited until they could wait no longer. As a hardcore-stockpiling-couponer-turned-casual-money-saver, I would ask you to extend couponers some courtesy. It took a lot of time and organization for them to haul their giant notebooks out. They’ve likely been there for hours doing countless math scenarios and coming up with back-up plan after back-up plan when they don’t find what they’d anticipated. If they clear the shelves, yes, they’re jerks. The world will keep spinning and gravity will keep working. And don’t worry, they’ll most likely encounter a really rude cashier who thinks they’re trying to steal from the store, so that will catch up with them REAL quick.

Have you ever noticed how the person who smells the worst/curses the loudest in front of your children/talks your ear off/walks the slowest always seems to have the same grocery list as you? Yeah, I haven’t found a solution for that one.

As this post has already gotten much more lengthy than I anticipated, I’ll try and sum it up: Be kind. You are not the only person in the store. You are not the only person in the world. Everyone is there because they need something. Grocery stores are great equalizers. Be considerate. Be kind. When someone inevitably wrongs you, let it go. Kroger is not the place to make a stand and prove a point. If you must be on a cellular device, do not speak loudly. Try and refrain from using salty language. When you reach the cashier, put your phone away, smile, and TALK with them. If you read People magazine while waiting, don’t set it on top of the Ice Breakers mints when you’re done.

And for the love of GOD, if you see someone you know and can’t possibly wait until a more convenient time to get caught up on the last 8 1/2 years of each others’ lives, then find a spot that DOESN’T BLOCK PEOPLE. Remember, we’re all here because we need something, so try and keep an open mind about what someone else may need – frozen pizzas, companionship, or uninterrupted eye contact.