Online Shopping and the Working Mom

When I read that 84% of moms at work spend between 15 minutes and an hour a day shopping online (Loechner, Media Research Center, July 15, 2010), I wasn’t surprised. After an evening or a weekend with Sweetpea + spouse, I relish the quiet time at work and the opportunity that it gives me to get things done.

What kind of things? Example: I’ve run out of both moisturizer and allergy medicine. I know that it would be less expensive for me to run to Costco to replenish my supply, but instead I found myself browsing the virtual aisles of Sure I’ll have to pay for shipping, but a trip to Costco in Pentagon City has NEVER been an in-and-out trip. Parking, toddler wrangling, incidental purchases, plus the ridiculously long lines mean that I may save a few bucks on the items, but I’ve lost a lot of a finite, treasured resource: time.

What’s your time worth? MSN Money’s Know the Value of Your Time Calculator can help you figure out the value of your leisure time. After plugging in the numbers, I learned that my leisure time is worth just under $40/ hour. This means that even if I pay an extra $10 for shipping moisturizer and allergy medicine instead of languishing at Costco, it’s worth it.

Of course, all of this assumes that you have discretionary funds to buy back your time. Some months you may not have the extra money and off to Target and Costco you must go. But consider this take-away from AOL’s “Mall Behind the Spreadsheet” Report:

[Women] control $4.3 trillion, roughly 73 percent of U.S. household spending.1 And they do it all while juggling work, home and family life. Many – particularly moms – manage to shoehorn 27 hours of activities into the standard 24-hour day.2 It should come as no surprise, then, that 40% shop online during work hours. (But don’t tell them we told you.)

The Problem With “I’ll Do It Myself”

Like a lot of can-do moms, I’m hesitant to ask for help around the house and with child care. I like being in control. I enjoy wearing the mantel of competence as much as a pair of sweats with an elastic waistband. But after a while, all this doing gets tiresome.

For those of you like me, you know what comes next: bitterness from lack of recognition, looking heavenward and wondering why the heck something that’s flamingly obvious to you is not obvious to your spouse, and then the inevitable: Nevermind! I’ll just do it myself.

So what would happen if I delegated responsibility at home. What if I asked for help?

Things wouldn’t be done right, of course. We’d run out of dental floss. Zora’s clothes might be mismatched. Or she might subsist on a diet of tofu, hot dogs, and blueberries. And if I asked for help, well, then I’m not the Great and Powerful Mom that I thought I was. Besides, shouldn’t Rodney realize when it’s time to pay the nanny? Shouldn’t he know where the diaper bag is?

Not necessarily.

Five words have really helped me: Honey, I need you to

…watch Zora so I can exercise on Saturday mornings.
…put on her shoes in the morning while I brush my teeth.
…pick up something for dinner on your way home.

I was reluctant at first. I felt like I was skipping out on my responsibility. Then I had to deal with the question, if I’m not super woman taking care of everything that needs to be done, then who am? Working through that question is turning out to be more challenging than doing everything myself.