On Monday I was particularly well put together. The kids were dressed, Kate's hair was braided, I did my own hair and makeup. We went to run errands and both Kate and Wynn fell asleep by the time we parked at the first store. Everyone caught a little nap ;) MUCH NEEDED.
I went to the grocery store with my laminated grocery list, my own shopping bags, and remembered the ergo carrier so that I had Edwin on my back and Kate in the cart. We eat vegetarian and make most things from scratch, so my cart is usually full of items from the bulk section, lots of produce, and the few snack items I buy are non-GMO fig bars or natural fruit leathers. This just happened to be a really well put together day.
At the checkout there was a young mom in front of me. She didn't have her kids with her at the time, but she commented to me that it was brilliant to wear your toddler in the store because that way they can't run away from you and it's less likely that they will cry while you're shopping. True that, sista.
At WinCo you bag your own groceries, so by the time our food was up on the conveyor belt, I went to the end of the counter to start loading up our cart, and the young mom and I continued to chat. She said that she admired me for having my own bags and even said, "This sounds so judgmental, but when you walked up and I saw the food in your cart I thought to myself, 'she probably brings her own bags, too.'" We laughed it off, but I told her that she just happened to catch me on the one time a month when I actually REMEMBERED to put the reusable bags in my car. I also mentioned that I had been married 11 years, so the grocery shopping system she was witnessing was a LONG developed project for our family. The other mom had been married for 7 years and has three kids (one is 6 months old). She laughed that maybe eventually she would get to the organized healthy food system. She even told me that she was buying groceries for her own mom that day, so her shopping trip was double the amount she normally has to handle. This other mom was in workout clothes, still looking adorable, and clearly busting her butt to keep up with her family needs.
As my neighbors can attest, my attire usually consists of pajamas and workout clothes. I am DEFINITELY not the health food, environmentally conscious mom I'd like to be all the time. HAHA. There are plenty of days when we throw up the white flag for the day and pick up Little Caesar's pizza or Taco Bell for dinner. Mondays are my longest days (because it is grocery shopping/errands day) and it's usually a miracle if I remember the kid's shoes and water bottles heading out of the house, let alone have myself in any sort of state to look presentable in public. This just happened to be an exceptionally good Monday.
But this was the Monday that the other mom saw. She saw a mom who was dressed, with makeup done, baby wearing, had a cart full of healthy food, a grocery list organized by aisles of the store, and her own reusable bags. The other mom was doubting herself and her capabilities, and her worth.
As we stood there bagging our groceries across from one another I just looked straight at her and said, "I just have to tell you that you are doing GREAT. I'm so impressed that you have three kids and that you're also buying groceries for your mom. That is clearly a lot to keep up with and juggle on any normal day. And if you do want to eventually bring your own bags to the grocery store or eat differently, just pick ONE thing a week. And if you sew, you can also make your own tote bags out of scraps. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, and it won't all happen overnight. But you're doing awesome already!"
She smiled and said that was so good to hear. She does sew and thought the scrap bags sounded great! But more than that she thanked me and said she just needed to keep that in mind: pick ONE thing at a time. One thing a week to work on can make such a difference. :) I headed toward the exit before she was done loading her cart, but I wished her a happy rest of the day, knowing I probably would never run into her again.
As I drove home, my day felt uplifted. That was so kind of her to acknowledge that she felt like I was doing good things. It was a boost to my confidence in kicking Monday's butt. But even BETTER was recognizing that we are a human family. I was not about to look down at this mom who is ME 90% of the time. I thought about social media and perceptions and how she only saw 1% of my entire life there are the grocery store, but I could tell it weighed on her. Comparison can be so easy and so dangerous. I was glad that I could tell her that she was doing better than she thought she was. I was glad that she told me her thoughts (even if she felt silly) so that I could tell her we only started eating better within the last two years, and that I hardly ever remember to bring my bags to the grocery store. In the end I felt like I had a made a friend. I hope she knows how much she meant to me just by being there at the same time at a WinCo in Idaho on a Monday afternoon.
I'm so grateful for teachable moments and spiritual lessons that can happen in the most unlikely of places. "Having it all together" is not all it's cracked up to be. ;)