Is Alcohol Affecting your Parenting?
During lockdown some parents have been reaching into the fridge for a cold beer or crisp bottle of wine more often than ever before. Happy hours seem to have morphed into Happy days and the number for the booze delivery company is on speed dial and with an extra bit of Christmas cheer dumped on top there is a high chance a lot of parent will be over indulging this festive season.
The pressure of being stuck at home with bored children, piles of washing and cleaning to do, plus trying to get work done while Peppa pig plays on repeat in the background has most parents daydreaming about that first drink before lunch.
We know alcohol is unhealthy and that those 'cheeky' weekend binges or that "go on' extra bottle on a Thursday night makes us feel fuzzy and unavailable the next day, so why do we lean into booze whenever things get tough? And how is this newfound Covid19 stress reliever having impact on our families?
"My mindset that ‘Drinking is the only way to relax or have fun’ needed to change. There had to be a better way of living."
The message that ‘Alcohol is always the answer’ is something I’ve been fighting against for the past 1000 days. That was the last time I reached for a beer. The Rockstar parent that partied at the weekends and inevitably ended playdates regurgitating Cheese and a fruity Chardonnay into the toilet, is now a sober parent.
For me, one was not enough and two was too many. Once I was ‘on it’ I couldn’t get ‘off it’, My excitement over drinking started young, as a shy teenager that needed to impress her peers but as I grew my drinking became how I represented myself. My entire persona was about being the one with the funniest dance moves and best hangover stories. But after my first child was born, my giggly hangovers changed. I had a baby crying in the room next to mine and for the first time ever there was a consequence to my drinking.
Yet, still, I ploughed on. I tried to moderate and parent, I tried to go out less and do better. Water between wines, Paracetamol before bed, but as we know, parenting is hard and honestly, this party parent, found it a bit boring. The change from being independent to being stuck at home all day, drowning under soiled nappies, had me gagging to go out and get extra wasted. So, even though I was full of guilt and shame that I couldn’t parent well the following day, I carried on.
I mean, how could someone like me stop drinking?
Each Sunday I listened from my bed as my husband zipped up coats and did up helmets, I cringed as the front door slammed closed and my family went out for the day without me and as time passed the more this happened the more fear crept into my bones. I knew I was failing my children by being hungover, I knew drinking was affecting my parenting.
"I think as parents we owe it to our kids to let them know that being their true selves is enough."
One morning, after a particularly regretful tequila/red wine combo, with my heart beating fast in my chest and feelings of shame rolling over my body in waves, I decided I’d had enough.
I plodded into the lounge and said to my husband,
‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t drink and be a good mum’
Drinking and parenting were no longer an option for me.
I had been relying on alcohol for far too long. My mindset that ‘Drinking is the only way to relax or have fun’ needed to change. There had to be a better way of living.
Even though imagining being that boring sober person stood at the end of the bar with a lemonade made me want to run to the hills and hide in a cave, I decided to give it a go. For the children, for my family and for me.
I went on a mission to find out who was underneath that thick layer of booze and bravado and get to know me without a plastic flute of cheap sparkly in hand.
After 12 weeks of therapy, I walked out from a small office into the sunshine feeling relieved. I made the hard choice to bid farewell to my reliable source of happiness, and I left my fear and anxiety behind me. In my past. The following Sunday morning instead of hiding in my pit of discontentment, I went to the park with my children.
My sobriety was undramatic, there were no rock bottoms, no men in white suits dragging me to rehab. It was just a decision that I couldn’t do this to my family anymore. Drinking had been getting all my attention, had been distracting me from my role of being a good parent.
Having children forced me to acknowledge that I had a problem.
Stopping drinking has definitely made me a better parent. I’m not a perfect one, but I’m happier. The biggest change is that I’m available, always. I’m not preoccupied with where my next top-up is coming from or who’s sending me a Facebook invite. I’m home and I’m not consumed with anxiety or regret. I choose happy days over messy nights and I look forward to going out for the first time in ages. I know I’m not going to make a fool of myself or vomit in a taxi, so I am free to enjoy social events rather than dread them. Its liberating being the boring sober person!
I realise now that my frivolous social drinking habit had huge impact on everyone around me, people expected me to drink and I had given my self-worth over to alcohol. Nowadays my kids have a mum that is not only sober but is also herself, a genuine human being that doesn’t fall over as much or have kebab meat stuck in her cardigan. A win/win.
I think as parents we owe it to our kids to let them know that being their true selves is enough. They shouldn’t have to drink to oblivion to be fun, or drink to hide insecurities, we need to teach them that being their authentic self is ok.
I hope my efforts, this decision to no longer partake in a tipple, will give my kids the opportunity to be free from the clutches of alcohol, I hope my legless legacy will be that they don’t pour alcohol over their stress like I did.
It’s worth a try.
So, when you’re reaching into the fridge a little earlier than normal or leaning too hard on those Daddy wines to get you through this pandemic, consider the consequences. Not just your hangover and missing being present for the children. Consider the long-term impact too, the message you’re giving. The kids will be soaking up your behaviours and habits like little sponges. If we change, then we are giving them a chance, the prospect of living life in a different way,
A sober way.
I know it’s hard to imagine an alcohol-free life but questioning my alcohol consumption, becoming a sober curious parent, taught me that alcohol was not the answer. It was how I numbed out the mundanity of motherhood and relieved boredom. Now, I have to face life head on, it has bumps and sharp edges, there are tears and tantrums, but being a sober parent is better,
Better for me and, even though they don’t know it, better for them too.
Victoria Vanstone lives in Australia with three uncontrollable children, a very patient husband and a confused dog. She has been writing about sobriety and motherhood for three years. You can read her story on her blog www.drunkmummysobermummy.com or follow her on Instagram @drunkmummysobermummy.
Or even join her sober social group. The Sober Social for Sober Curious Women (Sorry Gents, this one is just for the Mums!)