What Happened When I Started Parenting Without Booze
Drinking robbed me of my ability to truly see and feel my children
I remember when I asked my very pregnant friend, Molly, if she was going to take drugs during her delivery. She balked: “Are you kidding? Of course I am! Would you have open heart surgery without anesthetic just to say you could? Who would do that?”
At the time, Molly was in the throes of new motherhood while I was in the throes of a divorce, mourning the babies I wouldn’t have with or without an epidural. This was also the year I started leaning heavily on my own brand of anesthetic: booze.
Now, 25 years later, it’s early on a Wednesday morning and I laugh a little to myself as I think about Molly’s comment. My second husband is heading off to work, my 13-year-old is sleeping late, and my 16-year-old is making toast for himself. Beyond just the delivery, doing the whole parenting thing without booze is kind of like having open heart surgery without anesthetic. At least that’s what it feels like: You’re dropping off and picking up, doing the dishes, crushing the meeting, wiping up spills (or worse), taping the batteries back into the broken TV remote, and generally helping everyone make nice while also trying not to worry yourself to death over those teeny, tiny, fragile people. Your heart is splayed wide open on the operating table and you feel just as vulnerable as they are. So trying to parent without fountains of wine? Who would do that?
Doing the whole parenting thing without booze is kind of like having open heart surgery without anesthetic.
Yes, the booze helps with the edginess, the sleeplessness, the schedule, and the tangled-up tape dispenser. And we all know that dinner time is the hardest. (Of course, my 30-year habit of drinking and cooking started way before kids came along.) But 5 p.m. is when all the other drugs — like avoidance and stimulants — wear off. The kids come home from school, it’s too late for a coffee pick-me-up, and everyone is needy and asking for more of you. Downing a bottle of Chardonnay while whipping up chili mac feels like it could seriously save you. Things are a little softer in the boozy glow, more manageable.