I'd Like to Live a Boring Day, Over and Over Again
"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
Tears pricked my eyes as my three-year-old, grinning, held out a piece of paper. On it was written half his name, written in shaky letters I didn't realize he knew. My husband was on the phone telling a funny anecdote from work that he hadn't told me. Or had he? My one-year-old twins were smearing their faces with food delightedly as I stared back at my phone. I couldn't remember what I was reading, or why it was important. In this profoundly ordinary moment, the unimportant had merged with the important: articles about how best to discipline your toddler, how to structure a screenplay, how to make the perfect Bolognese in a slow cooker, the emotional red flags of a relationship to send to a friend in need, a link to a lawyer because how have we not yet written a will.
My three-year-old is still standing in front of me with the paper, his face bright and hopeful.
"How do you know how to draw a ‘B’"? And then I burst into tears.
I felt almost out-of-body as I reflected that I knew I was living my life, but it all seemed to be passing me by so quickly. My toddler had begun his journey with written language and I had almost missed it. The moment made me pause to think: If, by some miracle, I was granted a choice to relive one day in my life, like a personal Groundhog Day, the day I’d choose wouldn't be a momentous occasion.
I wouldn't choose my wedding day. I wouldn't choose the births of my children. I wouldn't choose the day I got my degree, or the day I first got a literary agent or even my first book deal. They are all amazing days — I’m proud of so many of them and I loved the rush and excitement of those moments in my life. But if I had to live the same day over and over again, I wouldn't choose that rush, that excitement.
I would pluck out a day where our family did…nothing.
I imagine that might surprise people. Wouldn't you imagine you’d choose to relive a day in which you’d achieved something great? But after the grueling pandemic years, I have shifted my outlook on what matters most. I see now that my ordinary days are so often kind of extraordinary.
It's mid 2020 – remember it? I barely can. The pandemic was in full swing and my family life was bursting at the seams as we navigated life with 18-month-old twins, an inquisitive three-year-old, and no reprieve in sight. I was living my own personal Groundhog Day: get (woken) up, cook, wash up, wave husband off to work, attempt to entertain children for 10 hours while checking emails, tidy, cook, wash up, wash children, cook, work at night…and repeat. I knew time was moving forward but the days all became the same, very long, very tiring day.
I, like countless other working mothers, was precipitously balanced on a knife's edge trying to juggle overwhelming responsibilities—especially as my partner was an essential worker and was commuting for work every day. Domestic and workplace responsibilities warred against each other on my overflowing calendar: I was three weeks off a deadline for my latest novel while trying to promote my current novel. I was caught in the middle of endless chats from "bored" friends and family trying to set up Zoom trivia. That time was the starkest reminder that the juggle was so very real. Stressed women were everywhere, disproportionately taking on more of the domestic duties; the UK's Office of National Statistics stated that in some months of 2020, women spent 64% more time on unpaid household work than men, and 67% of women homeschooled a school-age child compared to 52% men.
Maybe Next Time: A Novel
Yet it was in that time the idea for my newest novel, Maybe Next Time, was born: a time loop love story between a married couple navigating life and all the accompanying stresses of work and children and committees and constant technological connectivity. Mirroring my own struggles, the idea quickly became a foil to explore how all these things can pull you away from what really matters. How your relationship can so often slip further down the priority list. How your partner, the person you have chosen to build this family with, can become an afterthought, just another person to organize.
In 2020, I realized that even within the frenetic "new normal" we were settling into and all the running around that came with it—the home-schooling ("No you’re not doing it right Mummy -it's Luuurrgggh not Luuurgh"), the twins "playing spinning" (goodbye lamp – you gave us a good few years!), the never-ending meal prep, and the endless conversations with my husband about who was doing what and when—I was so grateful for my life and the people in it.
The endless frustrations of life often get so busy, I forget to focus on what's really important. And during those early months of the pandemic, as I looked over at my husband playing with the kids, cooking meals between work and generally laughing and being uplifting, it clicked that it was these kinds of moments I’d happily re-live in an endless loop.
Maybe my personal groundhog day would include a crisp walk up to our local woods, the kids moaning before we take them because it's "boring" and they’d rather watch Bluey. We would go for "Babyccinos" so my husband and I could get much-needed coffee and a sugar hit. We would feed the ducks (avoiding the "scary geese") so that I could look at my favorite patch of river in the autumn sunlight. We would pick up food on the way home or I’d have something decent in the slow cooker the kids wouldn't complain about, we’d let the kids draw pictures and play while the adults read. And we would all be together in our house, feeling loved and warm and content.
I’d do THAT day again and again. And I’d try to notice and appreciate new things each time. I’d try to slow down and remind myself that this is it — I’m living in the moment and need to make sure I look around and notice it all. Ultimately, being able to spend time with the people who fill my heart with love truly does feel like a gift rather than a curse.
If you feel as if you’re being pulled in a million different directions, I hope you give yourself the chance to stop. To breathe. To allow yourself some grace. And remember that making the same decision over and over and over again that brings you joy is an excellent loop to be stuck in.
Cesca Major is a novelist and screenwriter. The author of several psychological thrillers under the name C.D. Major, including A Thin Place and The Other Girl, which was longlisted for a CWA Gold Dagger Award. She lives in Berkshire, England with her husband and three young children. This essay is part of a series highlighting the Good Housekeeping Book Club — you can join the conversation and check out more of our favorite book recommendations.
You Might Also Like
67 Best Gifts for Women That'll Make Her Smile
The Best Pillows for Every Type of SleeperWhen the pandemic hit, we longed for ‘ordinary’ It's easy to forget to appreciate the mundane You Might Also Like