I was sitting on the couch—glass of wine in hand—my four kids with me. It was a Friday night in November last year, movie night in our house. I can’t remember what we were watching because I was never really paying attention. Also, I can’t remember how much I’d been drinking. It might have been my second glass or it could have been my third. Out of nowhere my four-year-old son turned to me and said “You’re boring now mummy. You don’t have fun with us anymore.”.
Kids say random things like that all the time but this time kicked me in my guts because it wasn’t random—it was true. For too long my days had revolved around wine. If I wasn’t drinking I was counting down the hours until I would be. Wine was the thing getting me through long days of work and long nights of kids—that’s what I told myself.
When my son said those words—they broke me. Guilt and shame filled me up because I knew, I knew, I was acting like a shit mother. I could have been a lot worse but I also could have been a lot better.
Normal adult humans don’t drink alone. When I was younger and I was setting my barometer for what was normal drinking and what was not normal drinking—drinking alone was abnormal. Drinking is supposed to be a social thing.
Then I became a mother and got handed a whole new rule book. Drinking alone (kids do not count as drinking buddies) is acceptable, encouraged and applauded—by other mothers, by the media. A wine at the end of the day is a reward for being a good Mummy, for getting things done, for keeping little people alive all day long. When I became a mother I adjusted my barometer accordingly: drinking alone became a thing.
Listen to This Glorious Mess: Should you have alcohol at kids’ parties? Post continues after audio.
There’s a sense of comradery when mummies drink alone. We’re part of a community. The wine connects us. First sips are taken ceremoniously and the frenetic pace of the witching hour is soothed and settled in seconds as mummy gears down for the night. You want to know how I felt when I took those first sips? I felt like my baby son looks when he’s been crying and I start running my hand softly down the side of his face saying shhh, shhh, mummy’s here. When I first sip wine the warm calm washes over me and caresses my face whispering shhh, shhh, wine is here. Suddenly I can ignore all the chaos around me and I called this feeling of calm “coping’. Now I call it tipsy, and bullshit.
To fuel the fire, at wine time, wine memes are shared on Facebook and on Instagram pictures of long-stemmed glasses of chardonnay standing next to a bunch of peonies on a marble bench top start pouring onto news feeds.
If you’re one of those relatable mums you’ll post a selfie—with your wine glass—sitting on the bathroom floor captured right at the moment little Harriette piffs the rubber ducky at your head and you’ll hashtag #keepingitreal #sendwine.
Yeah, I’ve done versions of those things.
The romanticism of the Mummy-Wine relationship is what gets us drinking and keeps us drinking.
So what’s my story around alcohol, other than the fact that for a while there I liked to drink a lot of wine, sit on the couch and ignore my kids?
Well, there’s no dramatic scene at rock bottom. Everything looked to be in pretty good shape on the outside – 30 years old, 4 gorgeous kids doing all the extra curricula activities, partner, inner city house, pets, and a company we started from scratch turning over 7 figures a year… but internally I felt inadequate, anxious and stressed. I felt like a human rubber band pulled tight. All the relationships in my life were suffering because the one that really counts the most—the one I have with myself— was rubbish. I was teetering right on the edge of miserable, really, and that misery was slowly seeping its way into and through all the good things in my life.