How Being a Parent is Like Using a Shopping Cart

parenting and the shopping cart theory

Being a parent. My shopping cart theory.

I recently came up with a theory about being a parent. A metaphor for life sorta. Being a parent is like shopping at the store. Wait let me edit that. This idea can be applied to simply being an adult with responsibilities. Here me out. 

Being a parent: I’m just going in for one thing. I don’t need a cart.

Sometimes I go overboard when I go to Target. I see so many pretty things, and I want to buy them all. Even if I am just there for one thing and one thing only, I will still leave that store with a cart full of things we “need.”  To try to outsmart myself, I have tried shopping without a cart. Because I’m there for one thing, I can easily just carry the one thing, and it will be faster without a cart anyway, right?  

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s say you are going to the store to buy milk. 

You go to the store without a cart (because it’s just milk right?) to buy milk, you pay for it, then leave. Success! 

Shopping without a cart just to get one thing is like navigating life with your first child. 

Oh! Let me grab one more thing.

Now let’s say that you go to the store to buy milk. You get the milk and start to leave, but then you see the creamer. Creamer is a good idea. I love creamer in my coffee, and I just remembered we are almost out! No big deal! You can just grab the creamer in one hand and milk in the other, check out, pay, and leave. Success!  

Shopping without a cart for just one thing but grabbing an extra thing with no trouble is like doing life with your second child.

Now let’s imagine that you are going to the store to just buy milk. You see the creamer, decide to get that too. As you head to check out, you pass by the bread isle and grab a loaf because “what if the bread on the counter is growing mold by now?” You are now carrying milk in on hand, creamer in the other, while caring the bread precariously by the end of the bag. You’ve got this! Sure the bread may start to slip, but hold on tight so it won’t fall. Who needs a grocery cart? You got this!

Now my arms are full, but I got this.

Shopping without a cart for just one thing then actually getting several things unexpectedly is like going through life with 3 children. 

Finally I want you to imagine, you are going to the store just to buy milk. Then you decide to get creamer, then some bread. On your way to check out, you see the medicine isle and remember you used up the last of the tylenol with your last headache. Now you need to grab a bottle. What luck! It’s on sale BOGO free, so you grab 2 bottles (who doesn’t love a bargain?!) and tuck them in under your chin.

You are walking through life–I mean the store, carrying a gallon of milk in one hand, creamer and bread in the other hand, with two bottles of tylenol under your chin. The bread is starting to slip so you tighten your grip. The tylenol is awkward, and you realize if you drop it, you would not be able to pick it up from the floor, so you buckle down hard straining your neck a little. You better hurry up before everything falls!

Shopping without a cart just to get one thing, getting a bunch of stuff unexpectedly and things being a lot harder than you expected is like life with 3 kids and 2 foster kids.

I am carrying too much stuff. I need a cart!

Then everything falls. The milk busts and the bread gets squished, and the tylenol crashes to the floor and rolls under a shelf. Maybe not really, but you can see it as a major possibility and maybe lose a little sleep over it. 

So what do you do? I don’t know what you do, but in my metaphor, you take a breath and think. You put your things down before everything crashes, walk to the carts, and resume your shopping using your cart. You use a cart. But sometimes the cart is stuck and you have to accept help from the greeter and that’s ok too.

Realize that you can use tools. Accept help. You don’t have to carry everything by yourself!

Realize that you can use tools. Accept help. You don’t have to carry everything by yourself!

Going to the store for just one thing, but getting a shopping cart just in case is the mindset needed for doing life with 5 kids. Things will go much smoother if you use the tools and help available to you.

Go get a cart. Get back to shopping. Go back to that BOGO sale and stock up on all the essentials to be prepared. Fill the cart up!

The shopping cart for me represents systems of organization. In my case I started using a Happy Planner, following Organize 365, de-cluttered my house, created a bunch of binders, and otherwise getting my act together. I started planning ahead, meals, schedules and shopping. Using these tools and others equipped me to handle 5 kids.  

Systems of organization are tools to help you be more efficient. When you work more efficiently, you use the same energy to get more done. When we transitioned from a family of 5 to a foster family of 7, I implemented a few systems of organization that were crucial to survival.  

What systems of organization have helped your efficiency?

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