The Oxford dictionary describes Groundhog Day as a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way.
As a stay-at-home mother of three preschoolers, I feel like I am suffering from Groundhog Day Syndrome. Never before have I endured such repetition in my daily life. Admittedly, in my former (working) life, I started each day the same way. I would turn on my computer, make a coffee and chat to my colleagues whilst my emails loaded. For years I followed this predictable routine and it never struck me as boring. Four years on it almost seems exciting!
One thing I have learnt since becoming a mother is that children thrive on routine and repetition. Play School’s endurance of 25 years is a perfect example of this. Kids love the predictability of this show. Imagine the outcry if one day the round window was replaced with a hexagon? Kids like knowing what’s coming next. The problem is that their desire for routine is often at odds with our need for change and variety.
Being a mother itself can be an intensely happy and rewarding role. This week my baby started to commando crawl, my young toddler learnt about a dozen new words and my older toddler wrote her name. These are wonderful experiences for a mother but unfortunately not the only ones. The domesticity of daily life is unavoidable – a necessary evil.
The never-ending cycle of nappies, washing, feeding and cleaning contributes to Groundhog Day Syndrome. I really loathe doing the same thing over and over again. I remember domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, once said “There’s something I find therapeutic about mindless repetition; it’s like a meditation.” As any Nigella fan will know, she can put a seductive spin on anything. I wish that I found pushing the swing over and over again meditative.
Last week, I decided to inject a bit of spontaneity into my day and shake things up a bit. The results were mixed. Here’s what I learned:
1. Taking three kids under the age of four to a café is ambitious and fraught with disaster. It only took a few minutes to devour a baby chino and the fights over who got the pink marshmallow and more sprinkles were not worth the effort. I abandoned this mission before my tea had cooled down sufficiently for me to have a sip.
2. When you can’t get to the shops, let the shops come to you. A little gift arriving at the front door breaks the monotony of any day and can help stave off Groundhog Day blues.
3. Don’t speak to Jehovah’s witnesses who come to your door simply because you are happy to talk to someone who is over the age of three. I am sure I have been earmarked as a “possible recruit”.
4. Take an indoor activity outside. A good dose of vitamin D is good for the soul. I removed half the kitchen cupboards of saucepans and gadgets and we made music outside. The kids delighted in banging the pots and pans at full volume and being outdoors made it instantly more fun. I am not sure my neighbours enjoyed the concert but considering I’d listened to their party into the early hours of the morning, I was confident there would be no complaints.
5. Do something differently for the kids. Cutting the sandwiches in squares instead of triangles resulted in tears, but the picnic lunch in the garden was a triumph!
6. Do something differently for yourself. I radically substituted my sandwich for sushi and riesling o’clock for pinot o’clock. It worked.
7. Don’t confuse the internet for company. Online auction and retail sites can be addictive but costly. “But, I am bored”, “It was a bargain” and “I am at home all day” are not justifiable excuses for blowing the budget
8. Breakfast doesn’t just have to be at breakfast time. Weet-bix for lunch and scrambled eggs for dinner resulted in laughter and clean plates.
9. Tradesman and babies don’t mix. Whilst it’s true that no one loathes her four walls more than a stay-at-home mum, don’t be fooled into thinking renovating is a good idea. Drawing up plans for a new kitchen might stimulate your creative brain but the quote will depress you. You could try ‘redecorating’ instead but the beautiful new throw will not recover from regurgitated milk and the kids’ crayons.
10. Some things should be a part of every day. Humpty, Big Ted and Jemima are almost family.
So, in my attempt to cure Groundhog Day Syndrome, I learnt a few lessons. Small changes can have a big impact. Some changes had positive outcomes and some did not, but at least we experienced some variety. Who knows how radical I will be next week!
* I revised my strategy in Lesson 1 later in the week. Instead of going to the café, I brought the café to me. I made supersized baby chinos and I was very democratic with my sprinkles. It bought me at least twenty minutes peace and was much cheaper!
* First published on iVillage.com.au