I’m standing outside on a planter box peering through the living room window so that I can keep an eye on my 8-month old baby girl as she sits in front of the TV. I am outside because I am smoking cigarettes and drinking white wine; it’s ‘mummy wine-time’ you see.
My life is so stressful, I am a multi-tasking, busy working-mum, managing all of the things that busy-working-mums do, I deserve this mummy-time. I can see my baby through the window, she is fine. I, on the other hand, am slowly getting more and more shit-faced.
These memories often come rushing back to me. Looking back, it is now so clear that I truly expected that being pregnant and becoming a mother would remove the sadness I had inside of me. I believed I would no longer struggle with the feelings of loneliness and anxiety simply because I was now going to be responsible for another human, and therefore I wouldn’t have time nor want to be sad. My unhealthy relationship with alcohol would vanish because I was going to be a ‘mum’. Everything would be amazing, I would be miraculously healed and happy after I had my baby.
Oh dear, how did I get that so wrong? This was so not the case.
Instead of my relationship with alcohol getting better, it got worse and I had even more intense emotions to numb. I suffered mild PND and really struggled to enjoy what I had been expecting to be the happiest time of my life. I felt anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed, lonely and sad. And I used wine to make me feel better and to bring me a moment of calm, relief and to feel like my old self again.
Why women with alcohol use disorders drink more after having children.
What I have learnt since becoming a Life & Sobriety Coach and working with so many mums is that this is a really common pattern with new mums. In fact, many new mums find that they are drinking more than ever before having their baby. During the period of pregnancy and breastfeeding most mothers take a break from alcohol, however after this phase has finished, it can very quickly slide back into their lives especially if they haven’t dealt with their drinking problem or root causes for drinking before getting pregnant.
Alcohol Use Disorder is something that has a lot of shame attached to it, especially for new mums who want to portray a healthy happy home life. It’s stigmatised to have a drinking problem and women are embarrassed to admit they need help, let alone get the help they need. Our mum students tell us that they drink to cope with their lives, the stress, overwhelm, the loud noises and sleepless nights. They drink to numb the sounds of kids fighting, the mundane cycle of dinner bath bedtime routine and to feel like they are returning to their old self, or escaping reality.
We live in a society where we are brainwashed and conditioned to believe that alcohol equals fun, celebration, reward and relaxation so it makes perfect sense as to why mums would automatically reach for alcohol to feel better.
Our society (and social media!) also tells us that being a mum goes hand in hand with needing and deserving alcohol. The waiter at the restaurant tells us that we deserve the wine at brunch (this happened to me only last week), to the champagne mothers group catch ups just because it’s fun. If everyone else is doing it, is it really a problem? If social media memes such as the below are telling us it’s OK, then it must be right?
“I can’t wait for the day when I can drink with my kids instead of because of them.”
“I want my kids to be good at math but not so good that they can count how many glasses of wine I’ve had.”
“Technically, you’re not drinking alone if your kids are home.”
How does our drinking affect our ability to be a good parent?
Yes I drank too much when my kids were little but I wouldn’t say I was a bad mum, I just wasn’t an excellent mum. How could I be when I was distracted by my drinking, hangovers and feeling anxious most of the time? A very common theme for mums who drink too much is that they find that they rush the bed, bath story routine just so they can get to their wine. I certainly did this. When drinking, I was less present with my kids, more distracted, and with a hangover I suffered tremendously with being tired, anxious, irritable and having low-vibe energy. I wasn’t fun to be around for anyone, especially my darling children.
I am lucky that my eldest child was only four and a half years old when I stopped drinking. I doubt she will have any memories of me with a drink in my hand, however this is not the case for many mums. Unfortunately, by drinking unhealthily in front of our children, we are modelling to them that this is normal and as a result continuing the cycle of conditioning them to believe that alcohol use is a healthy, important and even required part of life.
The most beautiful mothers day gift to yourself is to be happy and healthy.
I often feel so overwhelmed with pride for my clients and our students who quit drinking and share how their relationships with their children have dramatically improved. They are more present with and connected to them and look forward to story time, they suddenly have a new-found love for arts and craft, their stress levels are lowered and the way they respond to the craziness of family life is so much calmer.
When we quit drinking and begin to focus on improving our own well-being, building healthy self-care routines, learning to trust and love ourselves again, raising our vibrational frequency and improving our mental health, we model to our children that life isn’t about seeking artificial highs, or numbing stress and overwhelm with a substance. We demonstrate that having fun, celebrating and rewarding ourselves doesn’t come from a bottle.
What a wonderful gift to give our children, and also our selves this mothers day.