It’s wine o’clock somewhere. At least, that’s what many tired mamas are saying these days. Moms of children under five have increased their alcohol consumption by a whopping 323% since the start of the pandemic. Many women also reported exceeding drinking guidelines between April and November of last year as they sought to cope with stress and tension.
Busy and exhausted, these moms are turning to alcohol to take the edge off parenting, and, for a long time, I did, too. Like many of my friends, I bought into the mommy wine culture that’s become so prevalent in recent years. Every night, I’d guzzle down a glass of wine and, when the weekend rolled around, I’d drink enough to stay buzzed all day. Little did I know just how quickly this seemingly innocent habit would spiral out of control.
Now, I choose not to drink. Here’s why.
1. Sometimes to Never
Before I decided to give up alcohol completely, I tried to moderate my drinking. For days, I mulled over which rules I would create for myself and how I might limit my alcohol consumption. It wasn’t very long before I started bargaining with myself. If I only drank on weekends, Friday night was fair game, right? It wasn’t a huge deal if I bent — or blatantly broke — every rule I had created for myself because there was no one else to help keep me accountable.
Long story short, alcohol had taken over my life and no self-imposed rules were going to change that. I had to give it up completely to regain control, so I quit cold turkey. Sure, it was hard, but after those withdrawal symptoms finally passed, I knew saying “never” was easier than saying “sometimes” when it came to drinking. At least, that’s how it was for me.
2. Parenting with a Hangover
At some point or another, I also grew tired of dealing with hangovers. The older you get, the worse they are, right? Eventually, a few feel-good hours weren’t worth a whole day of feeling sick and tired, so I nipped those nighttime binges and said good-bye to hangovers for good.
And what a game-changer that was. My kids are early risers, which forces me to be one too. Of course, I’d still rather they sleep until 6 a.m., but now I’m not so grumpy about it. Instead of waking up fatigued, nauseous and irritable, I open my eyes and feel refreshed, ready to embrace the day and my children with all the love and excitement they deserve.
3. Lifelong Health
Hangovers may be awful, but they’re nothing compared to what alcohol can do over time.
Each year, excessive alcohol consumption kills over 95,000 Americans. More than half of these deaths are due to the long-term health effects of drinking too much for too long. Cancer, liver disease, heart disease and other alcohol-attributable conditions cut their lives short. Well, I wasn’t about to be another statistic.
I knew that women are more likely than men to experience liver damage, develop breast cancer and suffer heart damage when long-term consumption comes into play. I also knew that my chronic drinking could disrupt my menstrual cycle, libido and hormone levels. If I wanted to have more kids or live long enough to meet grandkids, I had to ditch drinking, so I did.
4. Staying Present
Alcohol has a way of making you forget and, sometimes, that’s for the best. However, when you become a mom, you realize you want to remember time spent with your kids. After all, you only have so long until they’re full-grown and off on their own. Why not be fully present and here for this special season of life?
I asked myself the same question when I chose to give up alcohol. Of course, I wanted to give my kids the mom they deserved. But I also wanted to give myself a happy, memorable motherhood, and I couldn’t do that with a drink in my hand. So, while wine did make the hard parts a bit more bearable, I’ve never regretted being sober. The craziest days often make for the best memories, and I don’t want to forget them any longer.
5. Self-Medicating vs. Self Care
Thanks to mommy wine culture, many women confuse self-care with self-medication. Instead of — or even in spite of — going to a yoga class or indulging in a good book, they reach for the bottle and “take care of themselves” by drinking one too many. Yet, alcohol is only a band-aid. While a few beers or glasses of wine may relieve stress in the moment, you’re bound to feel even worse once you start sobering up.
Nowadays, I avoid the letdown altogether and invest in self-care rather than self-medication. With so many fun activities and ideas to choose from, there have never been more ways to treat yourself. Take a bath, meditate, journal or enjoy a cup of tea. Observe your thoughts, sit with difficult emotions and lean into your creative side. Odds are you’ll feel much better after implementing these self-care strategies, especially if alcohol has nothing to do with them.
Ending the Sober Stigma
Alcohol has the potential to ruin your life or, at the very least, interfere with your parenting style. Yet, if you tried to quit drinking, your friends and family would probably want to know why. Some might even assume that something bad happened.
This stigma surrounding sobriety can keep even the most strong-willed moms from taking the leap and giving up alcohol for good. Well, I say that if you want to live sober, you should be allowed to do so without the endless barrage of questions, worried looks and sarcastic comments. If you want to drink that’s alright. You do you, girlfriend. Just don’t make me feel bad for trying to be the best mom I can be.