Tuesday 12 January 2016

Reasons to Quit Drinking #6: Because You're a Parent

You might not actually be a parent. You might be a step-parent, a Godparent, or planning to be a parent someday. Maybe you're looking after your own aged parents. The principle is the same.

Drinking (a lot) makes us rubbish parents.

For a start, there's the physical stuff. Good parenting requires really high energy. Which is not at all compatible with several hours a day spent hungover. Or drunk.

Also, you really need to be present. And I don't mean just in the room (although that helps too, obviously), I mean paying attention.

Even sober I have to confess to frequently checking my mobile in mid conversation with my children, and answering uh huh to any question they ask (which doesn't fool them for a instant).

But when I was drinking I was a lot worse.

Far too much of my head space was taken up with thinking about booze.

In the morning I'd be thinking about how much I (shouldn't have) drunk the night before, and how to get through the day feeing under par.

In the afternoon I'd move onto when I could poor the next glass of wine, which shop I could duck into on the way to the school run, and so on.

(See my post: The Wine Witch for more on those infernal internal dialogues)

Plus, alcohol makes us miserable (if you don't believe me, read my post: Reasons to Quit #4). It leaches the colour out of life, and makes it difficult to appreciate the little things.

And being with children is all about the little things: discussing the smell of PlayDoh, playing Pooh Sticks, kicking leaves, drawing smiley faces in the fog on the car windows - you know what I mean.

Once you quit, you'll find yourself much more able to be in the moment, and to see things through the eyes of your children.

(See my post: 7 Months Sober, for more on this).

And, you know what? Our drinking doesn't just affect their childhoods - it affects their adulthood too.

I'm sure that part of the reason I was so comfortable with drinking every day, was that I grew up in a family where drinking gin and tonic before dinner and wine with dinner every night was normal. I never questioned it. It was just what (sophisticated) adults did.

Christmas 2014 I realised that all my Christmas presents from my children were wine related! A bottle stopper (as if there'd ever be anything left in the bottle!), a corkscrew, and a mug with the caption I wish it were wine o'clock.

Now my kids LOVE the fact that 'Mummy doesn't drink.' They boast about it. And, I hope, I'm showing them that you can be a normal, fun, sociable adult without the constant prop of booze.

BUT, for me, the biggie, the main reason why quitting drinking is a no brainer if you are a parent is this:

What happens when the s**t hits the fan?

We may not have been brilliant parents when we drank, but we kept it all together, didn't we? Our kids were happy, well adjusted, well turned out, achieving..... Because we put them first. Always.

Well, sure. And that's all fine when life is going okay. But, here's the bad news: it doesn't always go okay.

Sometimes kids get dangerously ill in the middle of the night. Someone (capable) has to take them to A&E.

Sometimes parents get divorced and someone needs to hold it all together, and be civil to the utter bastard (their father).

Or....as happened to me.... sometimes Mummy gets cancer and has to put her children first when her world is falling apart.

If those things happen when you're drinking, all the wheels come off.

(See my post: When Life Throws You Lemons).

Stop drinking now and, baby step by baby step, you'll find yourself being a better and better Mum (Dad). Without faking it!

And, if life does throw you lemons, you won't be running and ducking, you'll be running a lemonade stand, baby.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. So true.. I got to the point where I hated the sound of my nagging/frustrated/tired/vaguely sarcastic/impatient tones... I kept wondering when motherhood would be fun again..

    Recently I've come to realise the kids were always fun - yes, exhausting,exasperating and downright naughty at times - but always fun... it was just that I had ceased to be.

  2. I remember getting a call from the school (while sitting at lunch with some girlfriends) to tell me my son was ill and could I come to collect him. I was the only one not drinking and hate to admit that the relief was tinged with more than a hint of smugness.

    I also give the lifts to their music lessons on cold, wet evenings - instead of making them cycle because it teaches independence and is character building (euphemism for mum wants wine)

  3. Yes and sometimes your older kid Might get into trouble. Bad choices, dares, 'not thinking through to the consequence' type of actions - expensive, possibly legal issues. You will be able to handle it with your head held high, and work through it together. And your wonderful, smart kid will be ok, in part because you didn't freak out (as much, hey we are all human). And so will you be ok. TMary

  4. I often wonder now how the hell I managed to parent my kids when I was drinking. It's a tough job sober, even tougher drunk/hungover. I love now that my conscience is clear (as clear as any parents can be..) and I know I'm able to do my best (phone use excluded) and be a better example to them. x Mtts.

  5. Not to mention the horrible example......at least I can impart honest advice now, before it was "just do as I say, not do as I do"...xx

  6. Yes! My biggest incentive (and not wanting to get an alcohol related illness) is not wanting my kids to see me drunk or growing up thinking every day drinking is normal. My eldest will be 12 soon and already has a few evening things on which require lifts here there and everywhere. Didn't want to be constantly annoyed that I was having to stay sober to pick him up. How ridiculous does that sound!!!!!! Laterly i always fell asleep after a few glasses of wine so sometimes missed out on bedtimes etc. I think the older they get the more they need you to be there and aware and willing to listen to them if they want or need to talk. Whew I feel relieved today to be still off it!

  7. Hi SM - Lurve this post. Our kids are the most important precious thing in our worlds. There are a gazillion reasons why I am a better mummy without the vino. Have so much guilt over how much I may have 'damaged' them up until now (even though as with so many of us on these blogs, we were all highly functioning alcohol dependent mummy's, so on the face of it our kids were all unbelievably well parented!!). Anyway I'm starting to realise that part of this road to recovery is being kind to oneself and not beating oneself up about everything. We must live in the present and look forward to the future - not dwell on regrets of the past. So I am so eternally grateful to you SM (and although my kids do not know this - they as a consequence are too)because you have helped me so much on this road to being AF and due to this I am a much better Mama. Lots of love - SFM xxx

    1. No beating up of selves allowed! What you're doing now makes up for all of that in spades xxx

  8. I just found this blog, it is just what I needed! I had 3 days sober which is unfathomable to me! Then, I cheated 3 days in a row because I was with other people, and don't know how to navigate that yet. I am 2 days sober again.. My son will be 18, I might be too late to make any significant impact on him but I am trying. I know I can do this! Thank you.

    1. Hi meanie beanie and welcome! I generally recommend not 'coming out' to friends to soon, as you're far too raw to have to explain ad defend yourself! Why not tell people you're doing Dry January. Everybody seems to be - yay! big hugs xxx

  9. It's so good not to feel the guilt any more - about being hungover and snappy with my little ones, about not being bothered to play with them or take them out, and about passing out cold and worrying what'd happen of they needed me in the night. Ouch. Great post, SM, am loving this "reasons" series. Red xx

  10. No one wants to be a crappy parent. And most drinkers will argue they are doing it all still. But I know my family life improved dramatically with sobriety.

    A cranky, hungover, anxious, defensive mom is not a pretty thing.
    I know, it used to be me.

  11. SM, This is an awesome reason - and the one that finally got me to act. You covered so well about being present while they are growing up. Another thing that I want to do is be here as a parent as my child becomes and adult - to see the major events in their lives - and be a healthy grandparent (hopefully). This journey we're taking is increasing my chances of doing that - thanks again. E

  12. I starting drinking excessively when I realized it was easier to parent my challenging older son with a little helper. That was 3 years ago. What was once helpful has become a long journey to realization that moderation won't work for me. I'm on my third attempt in two months to quit. Day 3 and going well! Thank you for this blog. I'm so glad that I found it!

    1. Glad you're here, Luci-loo! And you're so right - alcohol makes everything better....until it doesn't! xx

  13. This blog was very hard to read....oh the guilt. Top that off with Jason Vale's chapter, "Passive Drinking" and I really wanted to crawl in a hole. I can only think that alcohol takes away the authentic you, who you were meant to be in all the various roles in your life.

  14. I didn't think my kids had really noticed I'd stopped drinking. I haven't talked to them about it but a couple of days ago my nine year old asked how long I hadn't drunk for. I had to tell him that although I hadn't drunk for 3 months I had had some wine over the bank holiday. He said "I think it's really great you not drinking, don't worry about having some wine last week but see how many years you can go without it now" - pretty strong motivation!