I was rushing out of my neighborhood Target while they were meandering into the same store. She looked fresh out of the shower with her hair tucked up into a messy bun and her yoga pants on, sweetly tucking her daughter into the front of the cart surrounded by a huge cushy cover so she could play with toys while they shopped. I heard her sing-song voice and I stopped dead in my tracks because the memory of bringing my tiny girl to the exact same place hit me like a Mack truck.
When my first baby was born, we lived out in the suburbs north of San Antonio in a lovely community with lots of land and privacy but also a bit of a drive to any H-E-B or Target. Like most moms, I was often nervous about how to get anything accomplished while simultaneously trying to keep my tiny person fed, napped, and wearing mostly clean clothes. It was a hard adjustment when I realized that I was not exceptionally skilled at getting myself showered and dressed in the middle of all that too. When I factored in the 30 minutes of driving time, it often felt like such a daunting task that I just gave up and didn’t leave the house for most of the day. I remember calling my own mother one day to ask what to do if the baby was fussy and just wanted to be held since I needed to do laundry or wanted to run errands. Her shocking advice? She told me, “Then you just hold the baby and the rest can wait.” My kind mother knew that I was only on maternity leave for a short time and would soon be going back to work, and perhaps I would wish for more time to just cuddle my baby and enjoy this phase of life.
When I eventually got the hang of things, I knew I had to have my act together if I was going to venture out into the city. One crucial step I often forgot was to check my diaper bag and be sure all the essentials were packed: diapers, wipes, extra clothes, blankets, pacifiers, and a dozen other things that were too expensive to be constantly buying again if I neglected to bring them on an outing. Since I often tried to feed my little one every three hours, that meant that I had to knock out one milk session and then start the proverbial clock detailed below.
Finish feeding the baby a bottle and burp her: 15 minutes
Wash her bottles and change her shirt if she was too messy: 10 minutes
Throw in a load of the never-ending laundry that comes with a baby: 10 minutes
Play or read with her and keep her stimulated so she will nap later than usual: 15 minutes
Get myself dressed and somewhat presentable: 20 minutes
Repack diaper bag and find the things I randomly moved all over the house: 5 minutes
Get the baby loaded in the car, then go back in the house to find my keys: 10 minutes
We wouldn’t even leave the house yet and we had already burned through half our time! By the time I made it to any place, I basically had to rush through one hour of shopping and then dash back home so that I could start the feed-change-sleep cycle all over again. The days of spontaneously deciding to go anywhere seemed like a distant mirage across the whole freaking desert. I am profoundly sure that people who are not currently in the middle of the tiny baby phase of life either cannot understand or have forgotten just how hard it can be.
So back to the situation at hand. When I saw this lovely mom and her tiny person, my heart just swelled with pride in the funniest way. I wanted to high five her and just congratulate her on making it there! I don’t know if she felt like it was a mountainous task to get both of them ready for a Target run, but I do know that I wanted to walk around that store like her personal hype man. “Coming through, one accomplished Mama! She has a magic window of time to get her things done so everyone needs to be nice to her!”
The moral of this story? The next time we see a mom and little one, perhaps we can have a bit of extra grace if she forgot wipes and has to ask a stranger for help. Let’s offer understanding if she seems flustered and exhausted. Tell her that she is crushing it because she managed to get anywhere, even if she can only stay for 45 minutes. She is in her magic window and it is harder than it looks.