By Jenni Deming
If motherhood had an instruction manual, we’re pretty sure it would take up the entire Library of Congress. We’re talking rows upon rows of parenting tips and tricks. And it still wouldn’t be enough.
Let’s be honest: Nothing can prepare you for having kids.
That’s because there are millions of combinations of kids and moms in the world. No two families are exactly alike. And bless all the well-meaning authors out there, but keeping your kids safe and healthy requires a lot of on-the-fly adjustments. This stuff can’t fit into a book — not even a ridiculously large one.
Moms know that. And they also know that nothing brings more happiness (or more stress) into your life than kids.
The early years of parenting are all about keeping your child safe, like locking up the knife drawer and baby-proofing the outlets. Then you graduate to keeping him or her emotionally healthy. Think teaching them about teamwork and sharing and forgiveness. Then there’s all the crazy hormonal phases in between. Think, “Who are you and what have you done with my formerly loving child?”
You get the idea.
As if parenting weren’t challenging enough, you’re also more than just a mom. You’re a person too (don’t tell your kids — they have no idea). That means you have your own stressors revolving around work, marriage, body image and even your own childhood traumas.
The point is: We all look for ways to ease some of this near-constant pressure. And society likes to chime in with an easy answer: “Have a bottle of wine, tired mom. You deserve it.”
It’s even become a popular meme: Wine moms. The internet is full of jokes about them, and TV shows are rife with moms unwinding around a bottle of merlot. One mom writer summed it up in a humorous (and harrowing) essay on ScaryMommy:
“I drink because one time my toddler rolled across the grocery store parking lot in a shopping cart while I was loading the baby into the van. People were leaping out of their cars to catch him as he picked up speed, heading toward a busy road. We caught him in time, but unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a chance to recover from the trauma before the baby had a massive blowout — yes, in the car seat. That’s motherhood, and it can be a real bi***.”1
Enjoying a glass of your favorite red or white at the end of the day can be perfectly healthy, but not when that generous pour becomes two … and then three … and then a cloudy haze of semi-consciousness every night.
So how much is too much? When does drinking go from “taking the edge off” to “I can’t function without my magical happy serum”?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women. That’s the equivalent of five ounces of wine (at 12 percent alcohol content) or 12 ounces of beer (at five percent alcohol content).2
If you tend to drink much more than that on a regular basis, you could be growing dependent. It’s nothing to feel bad about. All the moms of the world understand. But it is worth asking yourself, “Why do I need this every night to feel better?”
In addition to raising children, women are expected to “do it all” in today’s culture. In fact, women have higher instances of depression and anxiety than men, according to research by Oxford professor Daniel Freeman, PhD, and writer Jason Freeman. Women are “expected to function as carer, homemaker and breadwinner — all while being perfectly shaped and impeccably dressed.”3
It’s no wonder moms look for ways to check out at the end of day (or end of the morning or afternoon). They just want to be “off” for a few hours. They want to stop thinking about diapers and soccer and college applications and meal planning. They want to stop thinking, period.
And while alcohol may temporarily relieve the stress of daily life, no amount of “mommy juice” is going deal with your problems for you. That’s got to be done with a clear head, even though it’s difficult work.
Self-care involves hitting the brakes and asking yourself, “How can I remove or address some of the stress in my life?”
Kids are always going to be a challenge — that’s a given. But they don’t have to play six different sports, and you don’t have to be the one to take them to every dentist appointment and doctor visit. Let others help. And give yourself a few dates on the calendar that are just for you.
In the meantime, try to limit your alcohol intake to one glass per night or maybe every other night. And ask someone to hold you accountable or to back off the booze with you. Look for healthy ways to replace that desire, like chamomile tea or restorative yoga. Find what works for you.
If you can’t break away from alcohol on your own, don’t beat yourself up. Talk to your doctor or a counselor about treatment options specifically designed to guide you through this process.
There’s no reason to let the stress of having a child rob you of the joy of bringing them up. Remember, you are a great mom. Love yourself as much as you love those amazing kids. You deserve it.
1 Hobbs, Harmony. “This Is Why a Mom Needs Wine.” ScaryMommy.com, Accessed September 2017.
3 Freeman, Daniel, and Jason Freeman. “The Stressed Sex: Are Rates of Psychological Disorder Different for Men and Women?” Psychology Today, June 2013.