Close your eyes for a moment and picture a woman with a full grocery cart and three children in tow. One child—the toddler—is in the seat of the cart grunting and screeching as he struggles to unbuckle himself. Another child—the second-grader—is skipping along behind her and asking repeatedly why she won’t buy him the massive plastic barrel of cheese puffs she’s passed by four times because her list is all out of order and she keeps having to backtrack. And the last child, the gorgeous three-year-old with long blond hair and crystalline blue eyes, is gripping the back left leg of the shopping cart, body splayed out on the floor trailing behind as her mom pushes the cart forward, dragging her along as she screams bloody murder.
This mom is holding herself together remarkably well. And then a fellow shopper, an older woman, helpfully mutters as she passes by, “I think she needs a nap.”
This exact scene happened to me once. It was straight out of a comedy. And, to my credit, I did appreciate the humor of it. I was actually laughing at the train wreck that was my family in that grocery store. I mean, it really was funny.
But I’d like to avoid ever doing that again.
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In January, my family moved to another part of town, and I started looking for what would be my new grocery store. I tried the nearby Safeway a few times—that was where I did most of my shopping in the old neighborhood, and I loved accruing all those gas points. But someone suggested I try Fred Meyer, because apparently their produce is awesome. So, since there is a Fred Meyer really close to our new neighborhood, I decided to give it a try.
Which is where I discovered something that I never even knew was a thing.
Fred Meyer, at least the one near me, offers child care for shoppers. They have a play room and a person in there who will watch your kids for free for up to an hour while you shop.
Did you get that? You go in to the store, drop your kids off in the play room, which is manned by a trusted adult, and then walk the aisles alone. You can stop and read labels, calculate savings, brainstorm recipes or search for them on your smart phone, and, more importantly, be alone for a whole hour.
I sometimes even use that time to go to the bathroom by myself.
Can you even imagine? It’s a little piece of heaven.
Plus, they also allow you to accrue gas points.
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I recently visited with a woman who is a new foster parent. She has had her three-year-old foster son for just over a week, and she is experiencing what is one of the hardest things about the first few weeks: adjusting to the reality that, if you didn’t already have kids, you are suddenly never, ever alone. It’s a huge adjustment. And as I told this new foster mama, it is so very important that we find ways to get breaks and take care of ourselves so we have something to give. It’s the number one key to avoiding burn out. And it took me a long time to learn.
She texted me that night to say that she went to Fred Meyer right after we spoke. Her foster son had a ball and she got a break. Amazing.
For me, as a full-time stay-at-home-mom, the child care option at Fred Meyer has become part of my self-care. I used to love grocery shopping, because I love to cook and I love to calculate costs and look for savings, so I would shop sales and find recipes for what was good and in season (or make up new ones). But unless I shop super early in the morning before everyone is up, or at night after my husband gets home from work, or when I have a babysitter, I always have someone, or someones, with me. So being able to put them in the play room and shop alone is a gift. And now it’s something I do at least once a week.
But it’s not just about shopping alone. The childcare at Fred Meyer has also given me opportunities for weekly one-on-one time with my kids. Sometimes I pick my daughter up from preschool and take her and her little brother to Fred Meyer, where he goes into the play room and she shops with me. When we do that, it’s less about the grocery shopping or me getting some alone time, and it’s more about connecting with my daughter. She loves to do everything I do, so I give her some extra independence and responsibility during our grocery shopping “dates.” I let her pick which fruits we’re going to get—she loves to weigh things in the produce department—and she “helps” me with my list. It’s so good for her to just be involved in the process, but with multiple kiddos in tow, it’s not always feasible to do so. She loves it, and I love getting that time with her when she is not competing with her brother for my attention.
The same goes for when I have all three kids with me. I’ll put the younger two in the play room and my oldest can walk with me, chatting together about school or whatever is on his mind that day. Fred Meyer has given me a really great way to connect with my kids more intimately while accomplishing something that I need to do on a regular basis anyway. And for that, I am truly grateful.
I should also point out that my kids love going in the play room at Fred Meyer. We walk into the store and they run to the counter where we sign in. They know the drill and it has become pretty seamless getting them in and out.
All in all, it’s win/win for my kids and me. (And for Fred Meyer, too. I’m sure I’m spending more money there than I would if they didn’t offer child care 🙂
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Did you know about this? Is there a grocery store near you that offers child care?
I know IKEA offers child care, but I have found that it is often full when I get there, so I can’t count on it as an option. Plus, IKEA is not part of my usual shopping. I only go there once or twice a year. My gym, the YMCA, also offers child care, which is a huge part of my self care as well. My kids love the “Kids Zone,” and I love being able to maintain my regular routine of running and practicing yoga. I am a better mom when I am able to exercise.
But a grocery-and-department-store that allows me to shop alone? Amazing. Incredible. Revolutionary!
And that, my friends, is how Fred Meyer changed my life.