I quit my job 37 hours before my second child was born. It was supposed to be one whole week but things didn’t go as planned. I’d been working as a program developer and mental health counselor for the local community mental health center for the last 10 years.
On my last day of work, I collaborated with a school principal to develop specialty programming for the “bad kid” who was causing chaos in her school. I helped a mom and her suicidal teenager get crisis services. And, I linked a homeless man to a shelter. It was hard work that required me to think fast, respond calmly, and trust the process.
I loved my job and the people I worked with. But childcare was expensive, the work was unpredictable, and the travel was becoming tiring. So we decided I would stay at home when my second child was born.
When I agreed to be a stay-at-home parent, I thought it meant being off work. Heck yeah! I planned out the whole thing. I would get so much accomplished. I would meal prep like I had always wanted to do, we could go to baby/mama classes and learn sign language, and I was going to cloth diapers because I would have so much time on my hands. I couldn’t wait to join a board of directors for a non-profit, volunteer at the shelter, and take the kids to visit the elderly.
I soon learned there is no accomplishment with two babies.
I spent all day trying to get one of them to sleep. I would clean up the Cheerios just in time to clean up more Cheerios. I changed 609 diapers a day. I couldn’t find time to take a shower or get dressed because what do you do with two babies when you need to be alone in the bathroom?
Instead of accomplishing, I waited. I waited for my husband to come home so I could “have a minute.” I waited for him to bring me wine or beer and dinner because there was no chance I was making something. I waited to relax, or rest, or shower, or change out of my pajamas, or scream at him for “not helping with the babies.”
With two babies, no job, and big plate of what is happening . . . I started drinking regularly. Somehow the boredom and mundane created chaos in my head. I was used to fast-paced work with a high level of drama. Sitting around with two non-verbal humans all day was the complete opposite of that. My anxiety was suddenly worse than ever before (which is saying a lot because I had been dealing with anxiety my entire life).
Before I knew it, I was drinking every single night.
I told myself this was adulting. I said to myself it’s normal to have a few glasses of wine or beer with dinner (even though dinner was cold mac and cheese leftover from Max’s lunch). I thought by drinking I was doing something that would be a reward for a hard day’s parenting. The constant mom memes telling me that drinking and parenting were what moms do confirmed this. I found hope in the sayings “mommy’s sip cup” and “they whine, I wine.”
I didn’t realize it, but I was drinking my way through all of my children’s firsts—first steps, holidays, birthday parties, preschool graduations, bike rides, and more. I was missing all of the special moments, all of the cute little nuances that could only be noticed by someone who was paying attention. All the while feeling resentful because I didn’t feel good due to my mild hangover that left me tired, irritable, and edgy.
I would then suffocate myself with guilt. I would promise myself tomorrow would be better, and I would be the perfect mom. I would vow that we would spend our time crafting, eating healthy snacks, and playing creatively with wooden, organic toys. I would will myself to be 100 percent present and happy. But that was short-lived because honestly who could do that? So, the cycle started over . . . Anxiety=Drinking=Feeling Like Crap=Guilt=Anxiety=Drinking.
That is until the emotional and physical symptoms were finally so painful that I could no longer deny what was happening.
Now? I am nearly four years sober. I learned that those mommy wine memes were lying to me and that alcohol actually made parenting way harder than it needed to be. Waking up with a headache and a pounding chest didn’t support my parenting needs one bit. Drinking made me irritable and impatient. It made me resent being with my children.
Parenting hasn’t gotten easier. It’s the biggest challenge I have ever faced. It’s just that without alcohol running the show I’m much better at it. I am madly in love with my children, and I am no longer drinking away my time with them. I no longer need alcohol to take the edge off because ironically, with no alcohol, there is so much less edge.