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Mall-Mom. I have always respected her since before I became a mother myself. You know, the mom that rocks a ponytail or messy bun with flip-flops on her feet. A Mall-Mom has a minimum of two children with her, usually, an infant and toddler. A spouse or any other “wingman” is absent, yet she glides on by with confidence. How she keeps her shopping bags, let alone diaper bag, stroller, two children in safe proximity and a good portion of her sanity, while giving her little boogers hugs, kisses and an occasional glaring look to escape a catastrophe was beyond impressive.

Today, as my kids and I bounced from one shop to the next, stopped for a diaper change, snack, bottle-warming, and play area pits-stop, I realized, I was Mall-Mom. I was that ninja mommy with my messy bun, flip flops, two kids in hand with diaper bag fully equipped to weather even a small hurricane. And well, the kids and I sort of rocked it.

Mall-Mom status doesn’t come easy, however, there are some things we can do to make any outing with our kiddos more fun, manageable and stress-free:

#1 Do not take tired and hungry kids… anywhere. Please, just don’t do it. Have you ever heard of the slang word “hangry”? It’s a term that cleverly contracts the words hunger and angry together to describe this merged emotional state. A hangry adult can be scary, but a hangry child is just plain dangerous. Make sure the kids are well-fed and well-rested before making an outing. Otherwise your fun, magical day that you planned will end up in a disappointing disaster. It’s not always possible to avoid it, but if you can, please do.

#2 Set realistic expectations. Expecting your 6 month old to bounce around with you from one end of the mall to the other for 3 hours straight is just not realistic. This is bound to end in an emotional melt-down by you, your kids or both. Limit outings to a length you know your children will be able to handle as tempting as it is to squeeze in one more stop for ice cream or pick up those boots you’ve been eyeing that finally went on sale. Unless you are willing to make several pit-stops, which can turn simple errands from a sprint into a marathon, try to keep it short and sweet.

#3 You are the coach, and your little team needs to hear the next play. Set expectations before you reach your destination. Give them pep talks on the car-ride and even upon arrival. My 4 year old loves the mall play area and the earth comes to a screeching halt whenever he hears me utter the words, “It’s time to go”. Well, we now have a deal that I’ll give him a 5 minute warning before it’s time to leave so he can wrap up his last few rides down the slide or whatever he may choose. When I give him a signal (buy-in is crucial), he will come back to me in super hero style. Having mutual agreement between both mom and kiddo beforehand is critical to making this work. And remind, remind, remind. There’s no such thing as a broken record with a toddler. There’s no such thing as a broken record…oh wait.

#4 A little bit of this. A little bit of that. Keep the essentials. Snacks, hand sanitizer, water/milk, and diapers are a must and I pretty much never leave the house without these. If you can avoid an extra trip because you already had a few essentials with you, it’s a win. I even keep a basket in my car that holds hats, sweatshirts, umbrellas, undies (accidents can still happen post potty training!), a blanket and a couple of toys. It doesn’t take up much extra space, and there have been a number of times this little box saved my life. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but it made my kid a little more comfortable and it made me feel like a winner.

#5 You know that saying, “It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about dancing in the rain?” Well, it rains a lot when you have young kids. No matter how much you prepare, your well-fed and rested kids may still have a tantrum. Sometimes our predictions are off. It happens.  A little bit of humor and some hugs & kisses go a long way.  As frustrating and exhausting it can be, a Mall-Mom tightens that ponytail, takes a few swigs of her coffee and carries on with grace.

Our kids won’t stay young forever and mall trips will eventually go back to being quiet and ultra-efficient one day. The days of spraying hand-sanitizer on little hands or frantically looking for a space to nurse my babes will only become old memories that will make my wrinkled face smile.

You only have a small window to be a bold, beautiful Mall-Mom. Embrace it. Own it. You got this.