Motherhood, the Movie, Exposes Real New York Living

October 21, 2009 at 5:08 pm , by

Uma with bagsIf you want to know what it’s really like to be a regular mom in Manhattan, watch Uma Thurman’s character go about her daily errands in the film Motherhood, which opens Friday (October 23). It will show you why grocery shopping in New York City has become a religious experience for me.

Famous writer and fellow single mom Anne Lamott has said that the two best prayers she knows are “Help me, help me, help me” and “thank you, thank you, thank you.”  I say these prayers pretty much every time I leave the supermarket.

I usually go in with some reasonable list of things: milk, bread, yogurt, garbage bags. I remind myself that it’s past the home-delivery cutoff time so I need to be selective. But then I realize that my son and I have to actually eat every day, and I won’t have time to shop until the weekend, so the cart gets full and I end up leaving with eight or nine bags, all of which seem to contain cans of buckshot or whole watermelons.

In the suburbs, this isn’t a problem. You wheel the cart out to the car, then you pull the car up next to the back door and make a couple trips into the kitchen, no sweat.

In the city, you load yourself down, suck it up and start walking. In my case, a mere three blocks to my building (in my old ’hood it was eight blocks), and then up 3 flights of stairs. With 40 pounds of groceries and a three-year-old who may or may not be behaving. Sometimes I have to put all eight or nine bags in one hand and drag or carry him with the other. These are my most prayerful times.

I do think, “help me, help me, help me,” but since I’m pretty sure I’m on my own on the sidewalk there, I mostly try the gratitude prayer. As the bag handles cut deep red grooves into my hands, my fingers start to turn white, my biceps burn and my tantrum-throwing son’s limbs flail against me, I tell myself, “You are strong! You are healthy! You have legs! You can walk! What a wonderful thing!”

I also try to redirect my focus from my pain to the wonder of God’s creation: “Hey, check out that full moon tonight! Wow, the leaves are really starting to turn!” And when it’s really bad, I start listing the other blessed things about the situation: “I have a home! I have money for groceries! We can eat!”  The exclamation point is key, here.

In the usual Hollywood version of the Big Apple, every one of us lives in a $5 million apartment and there are no groceries to schlep—we all just wander around cobblestoned streets in our Manolos.  So I loved seeing a movie star loading the handlebars of her beat-up bike with shopping bags. Perhaps my favorite scene was the one in which Uma’s character, a harried mommy blogger, takes her arthritic, semi-incontinent dog out, which involves putting her 30-pound toddler in a backpack and carrying the mutt and the kid down five flights of stairs. Now, that’s New York!

Tell me, what are the special challenges of life where you live?

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DO GOOD alert: For the first two weeks of the film’s opening, for every Motherhood ticket purchased on Fandango.com, $1 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which works towards a cure for breast cancer.

10 Responses to “Motherhood, the Movie, Exposes Real New York Living”

  1. I hear you! When I think of leaving NYC, it’s because of the grocery shopping logistics. Where else does grocery shopping require such advance planning, or such suffering in the absence of advance planning? And when you factor in schlepping one or a few kids along, forget it.


  2. And for those of us without kids but with dog, this resonates also. Suburbs, leave the dog in the car & roll down a window, no problem. City, pick the stores where you can see the dog at all times & tie her up, or kiss it up to God & try to get in and out of there as fast as you can before someone steals her or tries to socialize with her really clumsily and gets nipped. (Or before a total stranger can come up and lecture you about how dangerous it is to leave a dog outside. Like we don’t know! Thanks for your concern! Now help me with my damn groceries!)


  3. What are the special challenges of life where I live? We are on the other end of the spectrum from New York- rural life at its best, and worst. The essentials of life (groceries, medical care, banks, department stores) are all at least 20 miles away. On roads that are beat up, potholed, maybe even covered with 3 inches of snow or ice. Or if it’s Spring, frost heaved, flooded, under construction. Summer is more construction & the deluge of tourists.

    Here is our winter trip to the grocery store: Bundle self & kids head to toe since it is 20 below zero with 30 mph winds AGAIN and run straight to car. Turn around & drag kids out of snow bank, back into house, change, repeat. Discover car doors are frozen shut, run inside for hot water to throw on each door. Attempt to buckle kids in with fingers gone blue with cold, shiver for 5 miles til heat kicks in, then later drive with white knuckles as car skids for the 100th time on icy roads on your hour drive.

    90 minutes from start, arrive with screaming bored kids at a grocery store jam packed with all the other families within a 20 mile radius of the only grocery store, and enter a shopping experience like no other. Think merging onto the freeway with road raged drivers as far as you can see, only in the form of grocery carts driven by harried moms or their cooped up too long kids. Oh, and pray it is not the first of the month or middle of the month when Maine social security, TANF, and foodstamps are issued and the number of shoppers swells to reflect Maine’s high rate of unemployment & poverty. If so, keep your grocery list, circle the things the store ran out of, and steel your nerves for a return trip.

    Bite your tongue every time a cart rams your heels, cuts you off, blocks your way, & when the woman in front of you takes the last 3 loaves of bread. Can’t forget the detour to the lobster tank for the kid’s viewing pleasure! Refuse to give in to your child’s screams for yet another toy or junk treat & refuse to feel like a child abuser when the same people who would condemn you for giving in are shooting daggers at you & your child amid the whining. (Ok, shreiking) Jockey your cart into position, number 8 in the lineup to check out of hell I mean the grocery store. Grind teeth to nubs as the register unfailingly runs out of tape, someone digs for minutes to find exact change/fights the cashier about needing an ID/runs back for one more thing, and feel your heart rate triple as you finally are next! Gag with sheer frustration as the cashier ohhhh soo slowly goes through the steps to SHIFT CHANGE! with the brand new trainee celebrating her 2nd hour anniversary there.

    Praise God! Groceries are in the cart! Uh, whaddya mean I can’t take the cool race car cart the kids always HAVE TO HAVE out of the store? Debate pros & cons of braving the chaos to get a bottle of wine, but in defeat switch groceries and two 50 pound 5 year olds to a regular cart. Fight coats, hats, mittens back on everyone, and have your sigh of relief sucked clean out of your chest as you exit the store into a blizzard. Anyone ever pushed a shopping cart freighted with 100 pounds of kid AND groceries 100 feet through 3 inches of slush? If not, pause for a moment to really think about that! Repeat car seat buckling & cursing procedure, only with sleet driving into your face, start car, load groceries while attempting to keep snow off them and not lose any body parts to frostbite.

    Now, drive over an hour through blizzard conditions with two kids fighting in the backseat. Say prayer as you drive and arrive home in one piece without the oh so lovely Maine experience of “going off the road”…with children. Unload kids & first trip of groceries, schlep back and forth through a foot of snow on the ground and more coming down (did I mention sub zero temps?) until groceries are unloaded. At least 3 hours later, force eyes open through exhaustion, and remind yourself just how much you love the kids as they wail “Mooommmm, there’s nothing to eat! When’s dinner?!”


  4. Exhausting!! I guess we have it really good here in the ‘burbs!!


  5. OMG, Mandy! I didn’t go into how cramped, poorly stocked and badly managed most NYC supermarkets are, but still, you totally win. I am exhausted just reading about it. I guess there’s a good reason so many people live in the suburbs.


  6. Ummm.. After reading both the blog entry and Mandy’s entry, I have to say.. I Love Fresh Direct!


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