Some days…err, most days… I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. You’ve seen it, right? Murray’s character, Phil Connors, is a Pittsburgh TV weatherman who’s on a much-hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Just when Connors thinks he’s done with Punxsutawney Phil and his pesky shadow, he wakes up to find himself repeating the same day over again. And again. Every day, his alarm clock wakes him at 6 a.m., blaring the same song—Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe.” The day plays out exactly as it did the day before, with no one else aware of the time loop but Phil.
Some days, I feel like that. Except that my 6 a.m. alarm clock is a screeching baby, and Sonny and Cher sound like this: “MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMMY! MOMMY! (never Daddy).” I get up. I change a diaper. I go down to make breakfast. I clean up breakfast dishes. I unload the dishwasher. I reload the dishwasher. I throw in a load of laundry. I fold a load of laundry. I shuffle stuff around the house—the same stuff that I shuffled the day before. I make lunch. I clean up lunch. I change more diapers. I put kids down and pick kids up at designated times. I review homework. I make dinner. I clean up dinner. I brush teeth. I do jammies and stories and kisses. And the next day, at 6 a.m.:
““MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMMY! MOMMY!”
Ok, it’s not always like that. Sometimes Will gets up with the baby. Sometimes he makes breakfast. Sometimes a babysitter gives the kids dinner and puts them to bed. Sometimes we get takeout. Every now and then, my very favorite woman in the world (from a local cleaning service) comes to our house to shuffle the stuff around for me.
Still, there are many days when I am Bill Murray, feeling like I spend less time on quality parenting and more time on janitorial duty. I don’t even want to know what percentage of my day is consumed by wiping things: bottoms, floors, tears, noses. Whenever I do manage to break out of the time loop, you’d think that I had thrown a wrench into the very fabric of space and time—nap schedules get thrown off, kids get cranky, and we are digging out of dishes and laundry for days.
In the movie, Phil Connors eventually finds a way to take advantage of his situation to improve himself. He throws himself into his day, befriending almost everyone he meets, saving lives and issuing a Groundhog’s Day report that is so eloquent that all the other stations turn their microphones on him. When he wakes up the next day, he’s a different person, and it is, in fact, a new day.
Groundhog Day has been considered a tale of self-improvement which emphasizes the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes from turning outward and concerning oneself with others rather than concentrating solely on one’s own wants and desires. The phrase also has become a shorthand illustration for the concept of spiritual transcendence.As such, the film has become a favorite of Buddhists because they see its themes of selflessness and rebirth as a reflection of their own spiritual messages. It has also, in the Catholic tradition, been seen as a representation of Purgatory. It has even been dubbed by some religious leaders as the “most spiritual film of our time.”
So, this February 2nd, if I find myself stuck in the rut of feeling more like a janitor and less like a parent, I will remind myself that each and every one of the monotonous, mind-numbing tasks I do all day are for my family’s well-being. Not for my own happiness and not for my own fulfillment, but for the sake of my family. I will transcend the dirty dishes and loads of laundry. I will make peace with the piles of toys. I will someday graduate from the Purgatory of pungent diaper bins to the paradise of the potty-trained. I will throw myself into my days with gusto and a rousing chorus of “I Got You, Babe.” Because the truth is, if it weren’t for these babes and all that comes with them—the 6 a.m. wake-up calls, the messes, the spills, the runny noses, the diapers, the food mill, the obstacle course that is our house—my days really would just blur together.