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Stranger’s Candid Photo of Mom in Grocery Store Highlights the Beauty of the “Imperfect”

Several weeks ago, I was at the grocery store with my kids, and I was beyond flustered. My daughter had run the cart into me about five times, and my son kept bolting off towards anything shiny that caught his attention. When I went to check out, I was so tired that I was basically throwing things onto the conveyer belt and praying for mercy.

It was then that I noticed seven boxes of frozen donuts in my cart. How did I not even notice seven FREEZER items that were not on my list, making their way into the cart?

Looking from kid to kid, I couldn’t figure out which one looked guilty. Then I caught sight of the man in line behind me, who was looking at me very sternly.

Feeling like he had every right to judge the failure of my grocery trip, I simply looked at him and said, “I think the kids are trying to kill me.”

It was then that he burst into laughter and said, “I’m sorry. I have kids of my own, and I was trying not to laugh, because we have all been there.”

And as parents, he is right — we all have.

Earlier this week, Jess Wolfe found herself in a similar situation, dragging her four children, Zion (7), Ezra (6), Ireleigh (3), and Salem (6 months), to the Aldi grocery store with her.

“I don’t particularly enjoy taking all four children to the store with me,” Jess told Babble, “because it tends to be what I call a four-ring circus. But I had a coupon that was going to expire — and well, you know how that goes,” she chuckled.

And I’d like to say that her trip was easier than mine, but it wasn’t.

“It wasn’t a horrible trip. It was just nuts,” she recalls. “Ezra was using everything as a weapon, Zion had brought a dollar with him, wanted to buy everything, and kept asking me questions like, ‘If this only cost 95 cents, will I get change back?’ People kept stopping to talk to Ireleigh about her vivid blonde hair, so of course I was keeping her close, and the baby was fussing!”

By the time she got through the checkout line and was bagging up her groceries, she was in a full-blown sweat. And in that chaotic moment, a stranger asked her if she had “one of those phones that takes pictures.”

“I’m standing there thinking, ‘Oh great, where is this going to go?'” admits Jess.

But what she didn’t know, was that it was about to go all over the internet in a Facebook post that has now been liked over 35K times.

Trying not to convey my annoyance to someone else adding to the million questions that make up my day, I replied that, yes I do have one of those fancy phones,” the post reads. “She asked to take a picture of me with the kids. At the grocery. Together. She told me that she wishes she had photos of herself doing everyday things with her kids. She validated the fact that a simple grocery trip is hard. She told me that what I do matters. She doesn’t miss what made the days hard, but she misses what made them sweet.”

Jess tells Babble she wishes she had responded more graciously in the moment. “I was flustered and in a hurry, and I was just kind of like ‘Uh, thanks,’ but when I got to the car and had everyone buckled in, and I looked at the photo, I couldn’t help but smile.”

The photo, which accompanied Jess’s post, in and of itself is nothing special. “We actually look like hobos,” Jess laughs, explaining that the kids wanted to dress themselves that day.

But that is exactly why Jess shared the photo in the first place.

“As a professional photographer, people have come up to me over the years, and commented on how beautiful my family photos are, and how we seem to have it all together,” Jess says, before explaining that it actually makes her sad. “We don’t live in a perfect Instagram world, and I feel like as a mom, we are already under the microscope enough, that I don’t want people to think that I’m perfect.”

But I think the most interesting part of this whole story is that although Jess laughs and admits that it’s a little cringe-worthy to see her self-proclaimed ‘hobo picture’ going viral, being approached by a stranger helped her realize that people see even more than the imperfect mom in the grocery store.

“We always hear that one day we will miss the chaos, and if I’m going to be honest, I don’t always feel that way,” she explains. “I appreciated someone validating that she didn’t miss what made the days hard, but she did miss what made them sweet. Looking back, my kids won’t remember me sweating and flustered, they will remember the 95-cent pack of gum they got with a dollar, and got five cents back.”

A great point was driven home by one Facebook user, who commented: “I’m sure that you think a lot of older moms are looking at you and judging you, but we are really looking at you and longing to have those moments back.”

And I can’t argue with that. Because when we look back at our lives, it isn’t the once in a lifetime that makes up our journey, or our kid’s childhoods, but rather all the sweet moments we lived in between, day after day.

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