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Monday Mom challenge: Explore your hometown

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Local shopping & connections

Before I was a mom, I knew every nook and cranny of the town we lived in, and most of the surrounding towns, too. I had time to poke around side streets off the main drag and find tiny shops and get to know new businesses. It was great. I always knew exactly where to go for this or that, or a perfect gift, and knew a fair number of the small business owners. It was supporting the local economy at its best.

Local shopping & connections

Since becoming a mom (in a different town), I have far less time or ability to do such local poking around. First it was the stress of bringing little ones along and as the kids get older, that lack of time gets to be more and more of an issue. At this point, I figure it's a good thing if I can make it into a new local shop within six months of it opening - and it's often longer before I make it in again. But I miss the sense of local connection. I miss not knowing what is right around me. The Internet is wonderful, of course, for comparison shopping and late-night shopping, but I sometimes wonder what I am missing that is right around the corner.

Make a time

It's time for that to change, I decided. I need to know my town a little better, and I need to know a couple surrounding towns a little better, too. It's time support my local economy a little more - my support my neighbors right along with that.

Of course, the kids' schedules are still the crazy kids' schedules, so how on earth do I do this? I can either hire a babysitter for a slightly non-traditional time (Saturday morning at 10?), or trade sitting with a neighbor so she can do exactly the same thing. I just need a couple hours, no kids in tow, and no errands to run that might impede the goal of exploration.

Once in exploring mode, I just poke. I walk into the stores I never even noticed before in my rush. I make constant mental notes of the feeling of the businesses. Which ones will I go back to? Which one had those beautiful wine glasses that my college roommate would just love? Or the great independent toy store with something perfect for my son's birthday? While I generally try to avoid purchases on these information gathering expeditions, sometimes small purchases do happen, and that's okay.

An added benefit of this poking around is just plain time to myself. We all need a little time in our own heads, and getting that while doing a little local exploring is definitely a bonus.

Make some new friends

When you explore your hometown and get to know local businesses, you are supporting your local economy. A local shop cultivating a local clientele is much more likely to go the extra mile to get in that something that you like, hoping that you'll go the extra mile to support their business. A funny thing often happens in this scenario - you often end up making a new friend an addition to finding a great little gourmet shop or beading store. It builds a sense of community beyond just the shopping district.

No matter where you live, I bet there's an area of your hometown that you could know better. Why not make time to change that?

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