Search Google for the term "mommy drinks" and you'll get over 4 million hits, mostly linking to humorous books and blogs. Searching "daddy drinks" yields even more results. And if you run in social media circles with other parents, you've no doubt engaged in humorous banter related to drinking - memes, emojis and hashtags fill the ethernet.
When I or my friends post parenting fails and disasters on Facebook, we're met with sympathy and advice. And of course, encouragement to go grab ourselves a much needed drink. I've been known to post one simple comment in response to a friend's plea for help with lice, children-turned vomit comets, sick dogs, and flooded basements: "wine."
What's interesting is how subtle and sneaky the culture of "mommy drinks" (or Daddy too) can be. How can it be wrong when everybody does it? We make it through each day, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done and declaring "I DESERVE a drink!"
It's funny, right?
Several months ago, I began to ask myself: "when did I start drinking so much?"
I'm sure I drank a lot in my twenties, but it was always related to an event or an outing. University parties, dinners out with friends, or family functions usually meant that I was indulging in something alcoholic. I never recall coming home from school or work and reaching for a bottle of wine. And given that I don't hold my alcohol very well, binge drinking was never an issue for me.
Then the kids came along, and something changed. I was getting broken sleep, dealing with virus upon virus, and trying to manage tight finances. My husband and I both found ourselves reaching for a drink each and every night. The first sip filled me with a sense of calm, and I knew that I'd make it through the evening. I could mentally check out of my whirling mind for a few hours, and attend to the physical needs of my family - feeding dinner, bathing, and bedtime.
There was no reason to feel embarrassed about this habit, because almost every other parent I knew was doing the same. "Guess it's time for a drink," I'd joke, as both kids would descend into hangry puddles on the kitchen floor. I would virtually cheers other moms, or ask "is it #wineoclock yet?" over social media. The responses were encouraging..."it's ALWAYS #wineoclock!" they cried.
Although my drinking never became a "problem" (I could stop after one or two, and it certainly didn't interfere with my day-to-day life), little signs that my crutch wasn't doing it for me anymore began to show themselves. I began to have an allergic reaction to red wine, and noticed symptoms of asthma, headaches and skin problems (remember my Mommy Disease post?) I tried switching over to white wine or beer, but I still felt rotten the following morning, even if I'd only had two drinks.
And suddenly, the one thing that I thought was effective in getting me to "calm down," was leaving me more anxious, tired and short-tempered than I had ever been. Furthermore, drinking is an expensive habit to continue when it's not serving its purpose.
When I finally slowed down, and started to question this habit I had developed, I knew it was time to stop. Let me be clear, though - I didn't stop DRINKING, but I stopped treating each drink as a cure for my messy life. Because we all lead messy lives, don't we?
I had started to use my relatively mundane, first-world problems as a reason to check out. I had become the "tortured Mommy," convinced that parenting was so damn hard that I needed something to get me through it. Well duh, of course parenting is hard!! It's the hardest job in the world. But what would happen if we started to fill our emotional cups, instead of our wine glasses? I suspect many of our "problems" would slowly disappear.
And here's the other thing: I don't think our world can afford for me to check out. I feel like I have a lot of work to do. I want to raise strong kids who know how to take care of themselves - who don't need to rely on food, alcohol, smoking (or whatever vice you may have) just to "get through." I have so many ideas and hobbies I want to explore, and I can't do it when I'm functioning through a wine haze. A glass of wine in the evening means I'm zoning out for the night.
But listen, I didn't write this post to judge you or judge myself. If you need a night on the couch drinking wine, I will happily support you. In fact, I may toast you occasionally, because there are some nights where "checking out" is necessary for the mind, body and soul. What I will not support is when YOU feel bad about the drinking. I wrote this post to call out the culture of "mommy drinks" and name it for what it is - a cop-out. It's an easy way out of a tough situation.
These days, if you visit my house in the evenings, you will often find me banging away on the keyboard, reading a good book or doing a sun salutation on my yoga mat (ok fine, and watching the Mindy Project.) I still love the occasional glass of wine, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. But instead of nightly drinking, I'm rewarding myself with compassion and time - time to just sit with myself, for better or for worse.
Because Mommy doesn't need a drink.
Misty Pratt is the Community Manager for this here blog. She is mom to two girls, and wife to Tom of All Trades (the man, and not the business.) When she's not working for Kids in the Capital, she can be found managing giant spreadsheets as a health researcher.