You might not think it to look at us, but Angelina Jolie and I have quite a bit in common and it’s not just our dark good looks. We also have a set of twins each and far too many children – she has six, I have four, but mine are all boys so I think it adds up to the same thing.
Alongside our taste for extreme parenting, we also share a deep and passionate love of shopping as is made clear by the number of times she braves the malls with her children in tow. She clearly is a tough as alter ego Lara Croft as I know from bitter experience just how hard it is to indulge in a spot of retail therapy with children in tow.
Perhaps her secret is that she has the fine art of bribery down to a T. Of course it helps that she is a zillionaire film star, as if I were to give in to the demands of my boys on a shopping trip I would need a million dollar movie contract to cover my costs, and despite my claims of being Jolie’s separated at birth identical twin, Hollywood has yet to beckon. However, if you like Jolie and I can’t bear to be parted from the shops just because you are a mum here are my top tips for a peaceful hour or two of retail therapy:
1. Food – never underestimate the power of a box of raisins (or in particularly trying circumstances a packet of chocolate buttons). They can silence a toddler for a full 15 minutes – just enough time to try on those skinny jeans in River Island before the screeching recommences.
2. Sleep – a well timed nap can buy you hours of silence in which to browse. Just make sure that under no circumstances do you allow your child to sleep in the car on the way to the shops, you need them ready to nod off the moment they are strapped into the buggy.
3. Bribery - This has to be planned in advance or it becomes ruinously expensive. Before you even leave the house dangle the carrot of a trip to the toy shop at the END of the shopping trip. Then you can use the stick of cancelling this treat all the way through to quell wails before they become too ear splitting.
4. Entertainment - Pick your route carefully and you can distract the children with endless free entertainment pitstops. If you have boys, then gadget shops with TVs blaring are always a winner. You can let them drool transfixed in front of the latest 3D, HD screen while you idly browse the latest iPods and pads. Also never forget the value of the Early Learning Centre shops for smaller children. They can play with all the toys left out to tempt you to spend and then be dragged away without you parting with a penny. Finally if you have access to the wonders of Westfield there is a dedicated (if a little small) play area for you to use to exhaust toddlers while you plan your shopping strategy.
5. Bring reinforcements - Many hands make light work of children on a shopping trip. Preferably choose a companion who doesn't have children, but longs for some of her own. That way she will think it is cute when they regurgitate half chewed biscuit down her cashmere coat, be begging to practise nappy changing and think it is fun to stride round and round a shopping centre in a vain attempt to get the little darling off to sleep. But whatever you do don't choose an off duty mum to come along too as she is sure to leave you holding the baby as she relishes her own down time.
But if all else fails simply strap them up tight in their buggy and ignore the screams. This approach is clearly the one favoured by the majority of mums in my own dear Brent Cross as I cannot count the number of times the peace of a lone shopping trip has been shattered by some other mother's child left yelling and whining in its pushchair outside a changing room as she tries on endless outfits.