“The most expensive thing about having children is all the wine you have to drink!”
“You’re not really drinking alone if the kids are at home!”
Nowadays, this kind of messaging seems to be everywhere, from fridge magnets to cards and coffee cups.
There are Facebook pages called Moms Who Need Wine and mummy blogs with titles like ‘Hurrah For Gin’.
The message seems to be clear: in order to survive modern day motherhood, you need to drink. A lot.
I thought it was about time we heard the other side of the story.
As a sobriety coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of mums who’ve successfully stopped drinking and – to their surprise – have found parenting to be easier as a result.
I asked them to share their experience of sober motherhood with you:
“I have a 3 year old, and living alcohol-free is so much more rewarding with him now. I really spiralled when he was around two. I bought into the myth that every mom was cheering herself up at the end – and sometimes middle – of the day with a well earned drink.
The benefits are endless. I’m more patient (today has been a trying one with the Mom word said at least 150 times already but I just reply, ‘what is it?’ instead of snapping.) Sleep is so much better. I now wake up happy to start the day, and he’s an early riser. We go places. I used to work our days around when I could start drinking but now we do loads together.
Parenting is hard enough, even when you have an easy child. Doing it in a drunken or hungover haze makes it so much harder, and takes away so much of the amazing parts.”
“A glass of wine (or often many more) at the end of a busy, stressful day used to be my ‘reward’ but it was an illusion. It didn’t help me cope with motherhood or any other aspects of my life, quite the opposite. It left me more tired, more lost, less patient and less available for my children.
Changing your life takes effort and commitment and it’s difficult to find the energy and structure for that, particularly when you’re a busy mum with little time for yourself. I would have found it impossible without the Getting Unstuck course.
I now exercise regularly to deal with stress. I’ve started doing creative work, which I’ve always loved but hadn’t found the time (or inspiration for) in 20 years. Because I’m happier and more fulfilled, I am a better mother- not perfect by a long shot, but not lost and exhausted with just a glass of wine to look forward to.”
“No school run shame, worrying if you’re over the limit when you drop them off, wondering how hungover you look and could anyone smell booze on you 🙄 Getting ready to go anywhere is stress-free compared to my drinking days – I’m not shouting at my kids to hurry up because I couldn’t drag my sorry ass out of bed on time.
I have conversations with my children now that are meaningful and I remember them. No embarrassing them. There are still tough days but even these are easier without ethanol 😊 I finally feel like a good mum. After 20+ years of parenting, they got the mum they deserved.”
“I have less anxiety, I’m less depressed, there’s less wasted time, more money, I yell a lot less, I’m happier and I laugh more. I don’t get upset at the small stuff, I just appreciate my kids more. I’m also more available to drive them places.”
“Being a parent is never what you imagine it will be; it is NOT the social media, Instagram picture. I have a 15 year old daughter with autism and a 13 year old neurotypical daughter. Having a child with special needs increases the gulf between the original vision and reality.
As my daughter’s autism became evident I was engulfed with shame, pain and envy. I used alcohol to numb those feelings, going through the motions but not truly living. Being sober means I am aware and present for my children. I am clearly communicating with my husband. I am modeling a loving relationship and shoring up the foundation of our family.
I tear up when I think of how much was lost through the fog of wine. And I am so very grateful that I am sober now, while I still have a chance to influence my daughters’ teenage years.
“I have 4 children between the ages of 21 and 9. Being sober has certainly improved the relationship with my two eldest children. I think they lost a lot of trust and respect for me as my drinking escalated (or remained equally as destructive). With my younger two, I feel confident that if there were any emergency I’ll be fully present.
If they are ill during the night, I know I’ll be able to wake up. My relationship with them has no tinge of guilt or shame anymore so I feel more confident about my role as their parent. When drinking it felt as though I had no right to parent them because I felt such a mess.
It’s a lot easier to get them to school in the morning – my walks with my 9 year old are a joy and I treasure the time with him. Before, I would often feel so hungover that even talking was an effort. I’m sure he must notice a difference.”
“We still have our ups and downs because that’s life, but things are a lot calmer in our house. I feel a lot more confident in my parenting decisions and I’m more connected to their needs. Both my children are sensitive and on the anxious side (like me) and I’m so proud that I no longer model drinking as a way to ‘handle’ that.”
“I’m calmer, I try to breathe before reacting and I’m better able to let little things go. I’m better at helping with homework, I can drive them anywhere at any time, I enjoy being with them and enjoy attending their activities. I’m fully present. I can see that they like me better when I’m not drinking (especially my 14 year old daughter) and I am so darn grateful for them!”
“My children are teenagers now but when they were little I used to speed read their bedtime stories. Then they’d want to snuggle and chat for ages which annoyed me. I feel guilty about that now. I used to hate school events that happened in the evening. Fast forward to now and I spend lots of time with them, helping with school/college work.
I go out for evening walks with them rather than sitting on the sofa with my bottle of red. My mood is so much better. I’m more energetic and no longer feel overwhelmed by trivial things. Both daughters have said how proud they are that I no longer drink, and they like telling their friends too (not sure why 🤣). They really like the fact that I’m always fully present and my mood is no longer unpredictable!
I don’t forget important school things now, and I happily drive them around in the evenings even at weekends. Alcohol is such a time waster. My children have a much better mum, we are closer now than ever and they know they can depend on me. I will never go back to drinking.”
“I have two daughters – ages 15 and 17. Now that I don’t drink I am more patient and honest with the girls. I hope that I am setting a good example as well – they’ve seen how hard I’ve worked to finally get my sobriety to “click.” Hopefully I’m showing them that things worth having sometimes don’t come easily and can take a lot of perseverance and determination.”
“I have an 18 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. I used to think that they were really hard to manage and that being the mother of teenagers was so tough. Do you know what? It is tough but it’s far, far tougher when you’re tired and always waiting for the end of the day so that you can ‘relax’.
I genuinely believe that my children felt they weren’t my number one priority (not that they thought drink was, but that I was just too busy/tired/stressed for them). Now they know that I’m there for them. They might not want me to be, but they know that I am! They can trust me. I’m reliable, not unpredictable.
Oh god, I could go on and on as this is the biggest upside of not drinking – if I had only gained this one thing it would’ve been worth it!”
“Our entire house has a general feel of calm rather than stress and anxiety. When I was drinking more, I was always struggling to keep up. I was reactive rather than proactive. I think the entire family benefits from my clear headed, present and accounted for mode.”
“Teenage years are so difficult for kids – they’re learning how to be adults and how to trust and navigate the adult world. My son and I have always been very close and had many heart to heart talks about life, but what broke his heart is when I would drink too much and rage at his father.
I’d end up saying stupid, hurtful things at family gatherings. Since my sobriety, my son can relax around me, trusting I won’t rage anymore. I will never, ever give up that trust he has in me again. There is no wine that is worth losing my son’s trust or respect.”
“I discovered I had poor emotional coping mechanisms. Since I stopped drinking, I’ve been able to make better choices around my reactions to my son, who is struggling with depression. He is 17.
I used to find things burdensome, but now I feel able to cope with what comes my way. I feel I’m role modeling much better responses to stress. Also, my son told me he was worried about my drinking, so I have given him one less thing to worry about.”
“Motherhood is easier because my sleep is more restful, so I have more energy. No alcohol means that I’m healthier, so I feel better. I am SO much more effective at organising the household and there’s more time to get jobs done, which means more ‘me’ time.
I’m more present and patient with the kids because I’m looking after my own needs. We have money spare for cafe trips etc, which gives me a break from the washing up/food prep. But the biggest thing is knowing that my children are growing up in a house where the adults don’t numb out from life when it gets tough.”
“I have 3 children (19, 16, and 14). Since I quit drinking, I’m calmer with them and more patient. I listen better and enjoy them more. I really feel that every moment with them is precious, even the challenging ones.
I just got back from a mother-son trip to the American Southwest with my oldest to celebrate him finishing his first year of college. We had such an amazing time. I felt free and clear to be with him and enjoy each experience (even when we bickered about who was doing more work during our tandem kayak trip).
We talked about drinking and I told him why I quit and what I think about alcohol. I never would have broached that subject during my wino years.”
“I think a lot of it boils down to not having the constant anxiety and depression that drinking causes. It used to be a struggle to get up and face the kids’ schedules. Their constant needs were just irritating and made me think I needed a ‘break’. All I really needed was to be sober and happy. I realize how much less stress and how much more patience I have now – I could have really used that when the kids were younger.”
“Being a parent is by far the toughest job in the world. Children have the innate ability of pushing your buttons to the extreme, and can test your patience in ways you never realised were possible. It also adds a new level of self-depreciation that one already has in abundance when drinking.
Add to that already difficult mix: dealing with a loud, unforgiving, sometimes cranky or angry child is exhausting! So add MORE exhaustion, more guilt, more shame (because you are less patient and lose your temper easily), more anger to your hangover. You spend less quality time with your children and end up wishing for their bedtime (and feeling guilty for it).
I still feel far from an ideal parent (whatever that is), but at least I don’t dread the day ahead. I know I’m setting a better example, and I’m more present for my child. I don’t wake feeling like I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer. I’m more up for going out and doing something with the day, without worrying if I’m safe to drive. Plus my new addiction – going for coffee and cake – I can do with my child!!”
“Thanks to the opiate crisis, I’ve been raising my 7 year old granddaughter. Poor kid has addicted parents and grandmother (maternal). Since embracing the AF lifestyle, I am more present for her and can stay awake later to tuck her in properly and read her stories. I am no longer distracted by the wrestling match of how much and when I can start drinking.
Me and my man can drive her at any time to ballet, gymnastics, aftercare and playdates. We are not perfect, but we are less likely to miss school activities like crazy hair day, pajama day, or complete permission slips for field trips. Sober, I am better able to set limits with her father, my son.
AF living doesn’t mean my life is stress free, but it does make me a better role model to my granddaughter and a more present and pleasant grandmother. Despite the many obstacles in her life, she is a happy, well adjusted little girl. As she gets older, being AF means I can offer her a sober lifestyle that hopefully she’ll embrace.”
“Drinking was great to block out the noise, the messy house/car/garden and numb the pain of running the Lego minefield in bare feet. But it blocked out some of the good stuff too. Now the joys are so much easier to see. Little kind words they give me, hugs in abundance – before that would’ve irritated me if it was keeping me from my wine.
It’s their faces when I joke around and dance to music on the radio. I sing ditties to the dog & tell them stories of how we entertained ourselves back in the 70’s..they think it was the dark ages! 😆 I have two boys (11 & 12) They also seem quite proud that I don’t drink (oddly). But they also look relieved when I’m not the drunken mum rolling around at parties.
Honestly though, I think the advantages and benefits of me not drinking aren’t always measurable in this moment. I believe the benefits of me not drinking will be apparent in my children when they’re 20, 30, 40 and they’re not screwed up because their mum was an old lush.”
“I am present with my children. Not numbing from them. I can drive them out for ice cream or safely home from a play date, game or movie. I’m not packing a cooler of mommy juice hidden in a water bottle and having them ask me ‘what’s in the bottle?’”
“I am 54. My daughter is 30. In the two years I’ve been sober, I’ve become the mum I always wished I could be. Recently I became a grandmother too. My granddaughter is 7 weeks old. Over the past 7 weeks I’ve been able to show love and support to both my daughter and granddaughter, 24/7. I feel like I am a new woman.”
“I work full time and so the time I get to spend with my 7 year old son is so important – I want to remember it! Waking up and actually wanting to interact with him and be with him… we make each other laugh everyday. Life is so much easier when you’re not hungover.”
“Really, the biggest thing for me is not thinking I am a total loser all day. That just makes me a better parent. That guilt, that brain space taken up thinking about and regretting my drinking did not allow for me to be a confident, strong, joyful and able parent. It took away my pride in my ability to be a good mom (not perfect!). It makes a huge difference.”
“Since giving up wine, I no longer see every teenage grunt as a personal attack on me. Without wine, I can see their swinging moods for what they really are: hormones in full flow which do not require my intervention, do not need me to find out what’s wrong, do not need me to smother them with questions.
This new me has led to fewer arguments and door slamming, less conflict and a more steady flow. Why? Without wine, I no longer believe that their mood is based on my performance last night, their mood is not because I drank a bottle of wine over dinner. Because I no longer feel sick inside, guilty and ashamed, I no longer feel the need to forensically examine every human breath at breakfast.
Knowing what I did, and remembering what I said, is without question one of the greatest gifts of putting down the wine glass. It means I own my actions and parent with greater patience and less insecurity.”
If you need support to stop drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.