It’s Not All Mary Poppins

It’s only because we’re CONSPICUOUS

It always feels a bit illicit.

I’ve taken the tots to the local mall. It’s about a two km walk each way, easily manageable for Noah and Tyler on foot, the babies all neatly tucked into my four-seater stroller. I have a few errands to run, an item or two to pick up. I’ll hit the drug store, the post office, the grocery store.

And, oh! I’m out of wine. Why don’t I pick up a bottle while I’m here?

Well, no reason why not at all, except that I feel hugely conspicuous with my enormous stroller and my five-kids-under-three. You can imagine the thoughts in the heads around you.

“My GOD, look at all those kids! Sure can see why she’d be needing that!”
“I hope she’s not going to go straight home and slug that back.”

I don’t drink during work hours, of course, but now that the nice weather’s arrived, I do enjoy a glass on the front porch after work. I mean that quite literally, too: a glass. One bottle lasts me a week, usually. But somehow you feel, in this situation, like you’re a certain kind of mental image: the middle-aged lush-lady, the slatternly caregiver on that slippery slope down to greeting the parents with a crooked grin, bra-straps showing, reeking of gin.

Like I said, I feel a tad illicit.

But hey. A bottle a week, tops. It’s not like I’m in and out of that place four times a week. And it is Friday, after all. Conspicuous yes — I’m conspicuous at work no matter where I go — but not out of control.

We approach the cashier, who takes the bottle and greets the the tots with a broad smile.

“Hey, guys! Nice to see you all again!”

Next time, my husband can pick up the damned wine.

June 18, 2010 - Posted by | our adoring public, outings | , , , ,


  1. Ouch. And I bet he said it really loudly, and you got the look of disapproval from your fellow shoppers.

    At least, hope you enjoyed the wine!

    The cashier was a woman, and she genuinely likes the kids, though she was speaking loudly enough for others in line to hear — except I was the only person in line. In fact, at 10 in the morning, there may not have been any fellow-shoppers in the store at all!

    Comment by suzie | June 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. Just found your blog, and I love the name. Thank you!
    When my kids were little I employed a qualified nursery nurse who lived with us. She had very clear rules for almost everything.
    One weekend when she was enjoying a few days off my son and I watched the movie “Mary Poppins” together. Afterwards I asked my son if he would rather have a nanny like Mary Poppins. His eyes widened in horror and he said “No – I need Rachel.”

    Oh, that’s lovely, and wasn’t it affirming of your choice?

    Comment by dressingmyself | June 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. I feel illicit with just my two sons at the grocery store and a 12 pack of beer, for two adults, for the week. I find if we go to the big fancy liquor store on a Saturday afternoon however, lots of people have a baby or toddler in their basket and people smile and greet the babies.

    Funny how people’s reactions are different! I also think that a family out shopping with their child is different again from a caregiver out shopping with her charges. The reason is not too hard to pinpoint: While mom and dad can have a drink when caring for their child, a caregiver (well, apart from of-age family babysitters — an aunt, uncle, or adult friend, say) can’t. Not that it would be any more or less safe, mind you; it’s just the perception.

    Comment by rayne of Terror | June 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. When I had a toddler and was hugely pregnant, I stopped by the liquor mart to pick some beer up for my husband. The two year old scampered away from me (very out of character)and had to be brought back by a coworker of my husband’s that happened to be there, while I held the beer over my ginorous tummy. And everyone stared.

    That was the last time I went in there until well after the baby arrived…

    Mwah-ha. What is it about being pregnant/mother of small child that makes everyone think you’ve suddenly become some sort of holy woman, untouched by the perils of the mortal world? It’s kind of weird, really. But I totally understand the feeling, as you watched your child scamper away, clutching the booze to your burgeoning belly, of having suddenly become some sort of trailer-trashy stereotype.

    The next time I went, I had Emma wait in the mall — two stores down! — while I popped into the liquor store by myself!! (With, thank heavens, NO pregnant belly.) And, moreover, I brought my own bag, so my purchase was completely camouflaged. Nyah.

    Comment by tuesy | June 20, 2010 | Reply

  5. 🙂 Love your blog!

    Comment by Chrissy | June 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. Ha ha ha!! I shouldn’t laugh I guess, but what a funny picture that paints in my head.

    I figure so long as you aren’t giving one of the tots $20 and getting them to pick it up for you while you wait outside and share cigarettes with the others, you’re OK. 😉

    No, no, laugh! That’s the whole idea!!

    You’re right! No cigarettes in my house. So I’m good, then, is what you’re saying?

    Comment by Rambleicious | June 21, 2010 | Reply

  7. I love that you used the word “slatternly”!

    Thank you! It’s the English degree showing (or maybe just all the pre-20th-C literature) but isn’t it a good word?

    Comment by Elizabeth | June 23, 2010 | Reply

  8. When I was 8 months pregnant buying, yes, beer for my husband, the cashier told me that I “really shouldn’t be drinking that.” As a hugely pregnant woman, you already feel about as conspicuous as a walking orca. Why not add looking like a lousy mother before you even get started?
    Now I earn my funny looks when I carry my 7 month old straddling my 4 month pregnant belly. I guess it’s my lot right now to help others feel better about themselves.

    It’s amazing what people assume is any of their business… And the assumptions. Why assume the beer’s for you? Don’t women run the family errands all the time?

    As for those looks, though. I would bet that a lot of them are not disapproval, but relief. “There but for the grace of God go I.” Or, more colloquially, “Better you than me, you poor thing!” I get those same looks all the time! One woman, largely pregnant and with a busy toddler, who thought all the kids were mine, told me, “Oh my god. You are living my worst nightmare.”

    Comment by Katie | June 23, 2010 | Reply

  9. You can get it delivered to your door by wine on line!! Not any less conspicuous as all of my daycare kids follow me to the door (a visitor is always exciting), but at least its only one person to oogle!

    “A visitor is always exciting” made me laugh out loud. How many times have I fought my way to the door through the crowds of knee-high people AND an eager dog, while the delivery man/salesman/neighbour/friend stands and laughs. AT me. 🙂

    But really, I’m thinking that I’d prefer the relative anonymity of the liquor store, where I’m only one customer among hundreds, than my neigbours, who know me well. “Good grief. She’s got the wine guy there AGAIN??” 😀

    Comment by Karan | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  10. Love it!
    My older two are a bit older than my tot, so it’s usually just my toddler and I in the store. “Mommy, you need more wine!” is what he says when I get to that particular aisle…and so not what most people expect to hear from a two-year-old! 😦

    Comment by LoryKC | June 25, 2010 | Reply

  11. ha ha! It’s true, it would be hard not to remember you, since I doubt the LCBO gets that many groups of toddlers…

    Comment by kittenpie | June 30, 2010 | Reply

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