From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

That Ugly Thing

Work situations might call for computers, but I could not think of a single reason to have one at home. After using it all day at work, why would I want one of those drab, unappealing, electronic boxes and accompanying paraphernalia in my home, my nurturing oasis?

But when we ended up with one, what choice did I have? I succumbed.

The computer sat on a corner-tucked table, the printer hooked up neatly on a shelf below. I shopped dutifully for the best prices on printer cartridges and paper, and set about making use of the ugly thing. What in the world would I do with a computer? It was all I could do to juggle school and work schedules, grocery shopping, and laundry.

My son took the lead, making it quickly evident that even two-fingered keyboarding produced nicely finished reports and legible homework. We laughed as we input our Christmas card list in the middle of summer, but surely found it handy to take printed labels on vacation, which made sending postcards a snap. I began writing long letters to distant family members, making detailed to-do lists, and digitizing telephone trees for various organizations. My fingers were burning up the keys, but I still regarded that PC as an amusement rather than a useful tool.

As utilities, gasoline, and grocery costs climbed, I looked for economical shortcuts. When I cut back expenses, groceries were my first target. Two competing chains in our area were running games that promised great rewards, but I saw them cover with escalating prices.

I waited until early on a Saturday morning after a busy workweek. Clipboard in hand, I visited both food stores and the buying club. Aisle by aisle I went, noting item number, package size, and price. Up one shelved row and down the next I scribbled on my notepad as I walked. I must have appeared to be an employee making an order or taking inventory. Ha!

Back home I rushed to the keyboard. Quickly I sorted the items into most frequently purchased and which store offered the best price. Prioritization came next, with the most nutritious first, followed by treats, with once-in-awhile splurges bringing up the rear.

While I was at it, I devised a menu plan that utilized leftovers and listed items that dovetailed with the growing shopping list. The completed document hung on the refrigerator, a fairly compact list with blank check boxes. All a family member had to do was make a check mark on the list upon finishing the last of any pantry or refrigerated item. No more discoveries of empty spaces in the cupboard after I’d finished buying groceries.

Shifting shopping responsibilities gave this working mom a break. When it came time to shop, anyone could do the stocking up and stay within the budget. Family cooperation rose to an all-time high, and that ugly computer earned a place in my home life.

Maryjo Faith Morgan

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