I know there is some belief or stereotype that women love shopping. I’m not in that camp. Of course, when I was younger it was fun. When I had lots of time it was fun. When I could mindlessly wander through the aisles without considering what I was making for dinner, what items took priority in the budget and without additions from “the peanut gallery”, then it was fun. But now? Logistics.
Shopping with children in tow can absolutely deplete me. It is not even a case of my little ones being bad, it’s simple logistics. If I think about it I began to dislike shopping when my twins were born. I had a 3 year old, a 2 year old and then two infants in car seats. By the time I loaded all of them into the cart, there was no room for groceries. Occasionally I had a babysitter so that I could run errands and pick up the necessities. Still, the result of my errand day was feeling guilt. I always felt bad for spending time away from my children. And, I was constantly rushing to make sure I wasnt away too long. My “alone time” shopping wasn’t even very relaxing.
Shopping with children though, is NO DOUBT the biggest challenge to shopping, especially on a budget! It seems to go one of two ways, either my children have their own money to spend or they want someone else to buy something for them. It can be totally legit, like when Gramma gives them money for their birthday. I want to help them pick out something special and I know that Gramma does too! Navigating the various aisles though, even when legitimate can try my nerves.
As holidays approach and family members ask, “what would be a good gift for each of your children?” I feel like I must give some concrete answers. Though I can study my children to know their personalities and interests to direct my own gift giving, that is hard information to pass on. So, I haul everyone to the store to see what is readily available these days. If I have three or four children with me I start to get flustered and there is no way I can keep everything straight. This mom thing is hard work you guys!
Now that I have “built in babysitters” with my older children, I can easily go alone but shopping will never be the same. Since I now have a larger family, the cart gets fuller and the bills are higher. I am older now and though I hate to admit it, I get tired more easily. (OK, even when I was younger I got tired. Walking around while pregnant was no easy task!) Sometimes the greatest gift isn’t even stuff to be purchased anyway! There are so many things to be considered and that takes time to figure out.
Living in this modern age is such a blessing. We have labor saving devices like washing machines, computers, cars and for goodness sakes, we have electricity. Considering all of that, it seems that we should have a solution to purchasing stuff. I mean, in addition to Amazon. There are a few ways I have (finally) learned to save me some time and streamline my gift giving. I can now take the time to consider and make well planned gift decisions. I hope these ideas will be a blessing to you!
- Take a photo of child with the item they want to put on their list
- Photo lists help Gramma shop (some of the things on their lists she has never even heard of before!)
- Photo lists help mom to keep track of WHO had an interest in WHAT. (It is so easy to get mixed up when everyone is excitedly showing things. )
- When at home and things are quiet I can go over the photos with my husband. We can take time to price compare and consider what we want to give our children.
- Sometimes the excitement in the store over a certain item is temporary. Later, when we are away from the immediate gratification of buying something NOW, I have found that my child didn’t actually want the item… they just wanted me to hear a story or to know about something they like so I always review with them later.
- The photos can be a launching point for deeper conversation
As some of my children have grown into adults and care for their own expenses it is harder to know what their needs and wants are. This is especially the case when they have their own homes. Several years ago I created a survey list for my family. I have them fill out the survey every year in October or November. Because I have a large age span, I have included questions that are helpful when getting to know each person. The pre-readers sit down with a reader and answer the questions. The surveys have become a source of laughter when years later we read back through them and see how each person has changed. It is also fun to see the sweet childlike handwriting from days gone by.
Maybe this kind of paperwork isn’t needed by everyone but it really helps me to keep things straight. I keep the surveys to refer to throughout the year. There are always things to celebrate with a big family. I don’t want my children to feel forgotten or misunderstood by giving them something that was actually their brother’s favorite thing just because my memory failed me!
Recently, as everyone has grown, I have gone deeper in my survey. In the early years it was simply a way to keep track of the physical things like sizes, favorite color and favorite candy bar. As my children have matured I have added questions about what they are learning in their Bible reading and how I can pray for them in the upcoming year. At Christmas when we draw names for “secret siblings” I make sure each person gets a copy of the survey from the person whose name they drew. I think this draws us closer, past the simple gift giving and into one another’s hearts.
I want to share these resources with you!
If you would like a free copy of the Christmas Preference Survey, fill out the form below to receive Tending Fields e-mail updates then follow the link to access the free downloads. There are a few different styles that you can chose from. I pray that this tool will bless your family as you grow together and in your walk with the Lord.