What It's Like When A Mom Shops At Target

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 

A trip to Target is not usually something I plan for, per se. Sure, I make a list, scan my Cartwheel app. But I walk in knowing that I am calling death closer, as time moves much faster beyond these hallowed doors. An hour can fly by in moments, along with the contents of my wallet. And while every trip may end in a surprise, the end result is almost never surprising. I don’t think I have ever gone into a Target with a list and come out with just what is on that list — or sometimes, anything on that list. A Target list is really a suggestion. At most, it is an illusion of power.

There is a routine I have, a ritual, for my Target trips. I always enter by the pharmaceuticals. It is now clear to me that this serves as a metaphor for what Target is in relation to my life as a whole. I browse the makeup aisles, usually picking up a shade of lipstick I will never wear because I chew on my lips and lipstick tastes gross. Then I go through the cleaning aisles. Sometimes we are running low on toilet bowl cleaner and I have a legitimate purpose there. But usually, I am just checking to see if I can find a product that will finally get my entire home clean from its permanent space behind my pantry door. Hope is eternal.

I usually don’t bother much with the food aisles, but I rollover those allotted minutes into extra time spent looking at and comparing throw pillows. The table runners may get a glance if Threshold has some new cute ones out before I remember that a table runner will spend exactly one beautiful moment on my table before it is bunched up onto one side where I keep all the mail and other paper crap that lives on the end of our kitchen table. We have a table that seats six. If I ever have four children I will need a bigger table because there will be no seat for all the Pottery Barn catalogues I never looked at or recycled.

Then I wander over to shoes. I do not need shoes. But who doesn’t need $6 ballet flats on clearance? Disposable shoes! I do need those. I can use them for stepping in things. I also need these three pairs of boots that look exactly the same, aside from buckle placement. Then I cruise past the men’s clothing because I have a list and I need to get cracking on it.

Seasonal items were not on my list, but that was blatant oversight because there they are and I need them all. It doesn’t matter that there is a ton of snow outside and all that’s back here is Easter crap and patio furniture; they can sit in their bags in my living room for a month until I am ready to use them. That is called being proactive, my friends. I am fully prepared for a springtime emergency with all of these Reese’s Eggs and ceramic planters.

Now to the baby stuff. I haven’t had an actual baby in well over a year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t gawk at onesies. Baby product hunting also works the same as cleaning product hunting; maybe they now sell the thing that fixes all the problems? Must walk slowly so I don’t miss it. Then I bypass the electronics and DVDs and books because I am a pillar of strength and immune to impulse purchases. OOOOOO THE DOLLAR BINS! They are so well-stocked today! I walk away with all of it in my cart.

My last stop is usually women’s clothing because I have earned a new shirt. These cardigans would be cute if they would come out with some that aren’t already hanging in my closet. Then I pay and walk outside and it is now dark, even though I began my journey at lunchtime.

Today, I went to Target with a list of home things we need. Two curtain rods. Some pillows for the basement couch. DVD storage boxes. Wipes. A basket for toys. The thing that made today’s trip notable was I had a time limit. I left my house at 1:30, and had to be back in time for my husband to leave at 2:40 for the eye doctor. At first, I said I would just wait. “You can’t go to Target and be home in an hour?” Skeptical husband was skeptical, and I thought fine, I just won’t browse. I will stick to my list. In and out.

I came home an hour later with two things: Wipes and high blood pressure. Most of the items on my list were home decor items, and therefore needed to be scrutinized, compared, maybe given approval via a texted picture to someone I trust. The time limit was literally ticking in my ears. I had forgotten about the accelerated time laws within the walls of Target. It’s just a curtain rod. Those are ugly. Those are cute. This one says cafe rod? What is that? Do I need that? What’s all this hardware? Do they not come with hardware? This one is cute. Is it as cute as this one? Will this purchase bring me joy? I’m going to go look at pillows and then I will decide. (Repeat all that shit I just said, only with words relating to pillows.) At 2:20 I went to the baby section, grabbed a box of wipes, paid and left. When I got home, Adam was putting on his shoes. “I bought wipes. I’m going to eat some cookies. This was the worst day of my life.”

Target sees your time and budget constraints. It sees your rent that is due and your reminder to pick up your kids when school lets out. It sees your DVDs still in their shrink wrap and the cafe rod you already own but don’t know the name of. And Target laughs. For Target sees, but gives no shits.

Related post: The Seven Stages of Going to Target with Children

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