How a Solo Mom can stop feeling like she’s done this all before
Groundhog Day is a strange holiday. It seems to have roots in an ancient planting and fertility ceremony, but for most Americans, it now involves an unhappy animal pulled from the ground by men in top hats.
Some of the significance of this apparently quaint, rural event, which only takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has been brilliantly explained to us in Groundhog Day, a classic comedy that has film students and Buddhists alike singing its praises.
The movie’s basic premise is that a smart-aleck newscaster sent to cover the event (played by Bill Murray) has to relive the same day of his life over and over until he gets it right.
Wait, you say to yourself, isn’t that my life? Why do I feel like I’m living the same day over and over? Because, as a Solo Mom, you are. And you’ve been doing so for a lot longer than Murray’s character did while in Punxsutawney. No wonder it feels like forever.
When the kids are babies, you find yourself brimming with that immense and overwhelming sensation of both love and sleeplessness, and repeating your days has a certain novelty. Learning how to diaper and rock and stay up with a sick child, these are magical (and sometimes miserable) moments, when you feel needed and wanted. In fact, sometimes it seems as if these little creatures are training you and then rewarding you with that first beaming smile, that perfectly pronounced word, and the chubby finger pointing out what is really wanted.
As the novelty wears off, however, that Groundhog Day–like monotony sets in. Every day you get up and do the same thing. Sure there are variations: they use the toilet, can feed themselves, and soon even dress themselves. But your fabulous sense of anticipation with a new day feels like it has been hijacked.
You shed the fat diaper bag stuffed with crisis items, change of clothes, etc., but then you replace it with a backpack filled with snacks, sweaters, a spare shirt . . . You stop having spit-up on your shirt, but you haven’t gotten that peanut-butter stain out or ironed it in quite a while.
[Cue the Sonny and Cher music.]
We’re supposed to be learning something, right? But what?
That’s the conundrum of a real-life Groundhog Day. It should really be called Hamster Day.
How do we get out of it? Is there a way to create enough variety in your routine to feel different? Unfortunately, most of the big stuff in your routine you just can’t mess with. The kids still have to get to school on time, but you try for variety in small ways.
Lunches! You try a little variation on your sandwiches. They come back uneaten. Back to the PB&J. On wheat. With an apple. You switch it up with a bento box. It’s fun and different. But then, of course, it still involves packing a lunch, which often comes back uneaten, no matter how healthy and cute it is. Even the lunch box gets pretty dull. After looking for that special new lunch box for years, we settle on whatever keeps stuff warm or cold and is cheap at Staples.
Dinner. Perhaps some new grains. A vegetarian spin. A different vegetable. One child is amused, even decides to add sriracha sauce; the other stares at the plate, announces a conversion to veganism, squints, and then does an imitation of Ferdinand the Bull, the sad bovine who is misunderstood. [Sigh] Back to the baked ziti.
If you take a page from the movie script, then you have to repeat this day enough times to get it right? But how do you achieve that happy ending?
But what you do, as a Solo Mom, is you take care of you. Here’s how:
- Embrace the hamster wheel. Love the hamster wheel, and it will love you back. Take time to work out even if you hate it at first. Why, you may ask? Won’t that underscore the Buddhist futility of my efforts? Actually, it is precisely because you have that short-term goal entirely focused on you for a set period of time that it works so well. Once it’s over, you feel better and can sail through some of the other more tedious chores. Carpool? Sudden need for ink in printer? You got this. School project requiring cotton balls that have magically adhered to the carpet? No sweat. You already used your perspiration quota for the day.
- Pamper yourself. If you can afford the time and money for a massage or a facial, go for it. But if you can’t get out or don’t want to choose between your mental well-being and the phone bill, consider at home do-it-yourself treatments. Indulge yourself, and live right in that moment. Sure, some people call it mindfulness. Solo Moms call it common sense. Or . . . ahhhhh! With every day being about them, how can it hurt to take a moment and include yourself? You came out, you saw your shadow, and you said to yourself, So what if I’m doing the same things over and over as long as one of them is about me? Take a bubble bath, and light some pleasantly scented candles. Sure the dishes may pile up in the sink, but so what? It’s Groundhog Day. Tomorrow, you will deal with it.
Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.
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