Adelaide psychologist and mother of three boys, aged ten, seven and two, Hanna Beaven, specialises in families’ emotional wellbeing in the stages of trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth and parenting babies and young children.
Eat, sleep, repeat
I didn’t think a new mum and Bill Murray would have anything in common, but I was wrong!
Do a Google search of “groundhog day mum” and you’ll find at least 10 listings. The reason being, new mums can feel like they’re trapped. Like it’s Bill Murray in the famous movie, day after day. The Oxford Dictionary describes groundhog as: “(a) situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events appear to be recurring in exactly the same way”. While Phil (Bill Murray) is stuck, repeatedly reporting on the annual emergence of the groundhog in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, new mothers can feel like they’re in a time loop of monotonous care for their baby, having to relive the same day over and over again. For example, repeatedly changing nappies. ‘In the first few years of your child’s life you’re going to change around 6,000 nappies,’ says the book, Raising Children. I’ve chalked up two nappy changes of the stinky variety just while writing this article!
It is only through the lived experience of keeping a tiny human alive – one that we love with all our heart – that the enormity of the 24/7 task sinks in. I think we could better support women to create a more realistic picture of how life changes after having a baby. Instead of flooding expectant mothers with images that portray motherhood as glamorous and serene, with settled babies and coffee dates, we should be open and honest. While parenting can bring us immense joy it can also be lonely, and at times boring. Becoming a mother is one of life’s biggest and most significant event in a woman’s life. Changes occur to many areas including: sense of self, relationship with partner, body, hormone levels, social life, sleep (or lack thereof), work and day to day activities.
Once the birth is over (which we can prepare for by taking various courses) we are literally left holding the baby, and then the feeding, settling, changing, on repeat begins. Unfortunately, many new mums don’t have a safe and supported environment to share not
only their joys, but also their challenges of caring for their baby. This can lead to new mums feeling alone and guilty, despite loving their babies.
Karen Kleiman and Valerie Raskin have it spot in their book, This Isn’t What I Expected. “(W)e can feel good and bad at once. We can love our baby and feel angry at the same time. We can love being a mother and resent giving up our free time…To acknowledge ambivalence is not an expression of failure. Nor does it challenge the investment we all have in being the best mother we can…Though we are taught to search for and embrace the positive feelings that prevail, every mother has experienced these ambivalent feelings at one time or another.”
How to thrive as a new mum while experiencing groundhog day:
Allow yourself to face, feel and process your grief & loss about your pre-baby life
Notice the critical things you say to yourself – we can be our own worst enemies
Increase the self-compassionate things you say to yourself – talk to yourself the way
you would to a friend
Try to build in some alone time – even if it’s just to have a shower
Establish a flexible flow to your day that works for you and your baby
Spend time with supportive and non-judgemental people – out of the house if
Accept or ask for assistance when needed
Take regular exercise such as walking around the block with your baby in the pram
Re-introduce parts of your pre-baby life when and wherever possible
Work towards accepting how your life has changed in both positive and negative
Try to trust that your life is going to constantly change as a parent alongside your
child’s growth and development – therefore this is a temporary stage
Balance the housework and parenting tasks with parenting fun and joy
Spend some time being intentionally in the present moment with your baby
Have open and honest communication with your partner
Try not label a whole day as “bad” rather reflect on parts of the day that were easy /
fun (no matter how small) and the parts that were challenging
Unlike Phil (Bill Murray), new mothers are not alone in their experience of groundhog day. The more we can open up about both the joys and challenges of motherhood the more we can support each other when it’s hard. However, like Phil, mums are on a journey of self-discovery, growth and acceptance in their new and important role in life.
As a new mum it can feel like days last forever when you’re doing the same things over and over again. But parenting happens in each tiny ordinary moment of every day. It is through the process of sharing the repeated loop of life’s ordinary moments that the extraordinary occurs – our babies feel safe and loved by us, which is the greatest gift we can give them. When we feel like the monotony is dragging us down, we can try to see it as an opportunity to press the reset button and welcome Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe playing from your clock radio the next morning.