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Sweet Dreams

What do today’s busy parents want – besides more sleep? Serene shopping.

So I’ve had a pretty wonderful time in bed lately.

Got your attention? Don’t worry. I promise this letter isn’t going to take a sordid turn. The reality is actually pretty mundane: I recently purchased a spiffy new bed frame, mattress, duvet and sheets. When the queen-size beauty was delivered to our door, I couldn’t wait to tear into the boxes. My husband, who was tasked with building said bed, was understandably less enthusiastic. Ultimately, we paid someone to put the frame together for us—an unprecedented decision in our household.

At first it was difficult to let go of our guilt about paying someone to tackle a task we were perfectly capable of completing on our own. My husband and I are both fairly frugal. And we’ve managed to decipher Ikea instructions before, which I believe earns us an honorary degree in engineering. But it was simply a matter of time. As in, we had none.

And we’re not alone. This month The New York Times published an article titled, “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” More children than ever before are being raised in families where both parents work full-time. And, the Times reports that “56 percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding.” Of course, it goes without saying that we love our son to the moon and back. But, like many new parents, it’s tough to find time to do everything—working, parenting, cooking, cleaning, building beds…

So what exactly does this have to do with childrenswear? When I think back to my most relaxing experiences in the past few months, I recall the times I browsed boutiques in my Williamsburg neighborhood. At Pink Olive, I spent a lovely 20 minutes chatting with the sales associate, who helped me put together a beautiful care package for a friend. At Wild Was Mama, I lingered in the spacious dressing room, trying on several dresses. (I wore the one I selected, by Dote, to the Earnies.) At Smoochie Baby, I kept returning to the all-too-tempting shoe selection before picking up a plush fox and a pair of Appaman sweatpants.

At all of those stores, the incredibly knowledgeable staffers immediately helped me find what I needed, and I walked out feeling like I made a friend, as well as a purchase that would make life a little easier. Did I pay a little more than I would have at a big-box shop? Without a doubt. Was it worth every penny? Absolutely.

Which brings me back to my bed. (Forgive me—I’m a new mom. All I dream about is sleep.) I had a gift card to a national department store chain (that shall go unnamed to protect the innocent), so that’s where I went to pick out my duvet. The bedding section was unorganized, the sales staff nonexistent and the sheets were located, indecipherably, next to the luggage. Then, to my surprise, I discovered that the chain no longer provides cashiers in each department. I had to lug my merchandise all the way to the front of the store and stand in a long line. Wait a minute, I thought. Isn’t this exactly the same format as every off-price merchant? So what makes that department store distinct from a Kohl’s or T.J.Maxx?

This is why I don’t despair for the future of independent retail. I’ll take the peace and tranquility of a beautiful, thoughtfully-curated boutique any day over an impersonal, unorganized retail behemoth. In an incredibly busy world, those boutiques provide an oasis of calm that no online vendor or mass merchant can ever replicate. I know where I’ll be heading for my holiday shopping this year. That is, after I get some sleep.

Here’s hoping all your sweet dreams come true in 2016, too.

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