The first time I got asked why I don’t drink was at my son’s first birthday party. We had a celebration for him in the backyard, and I remember I was so excited about the apple pie and pumpkin cake I’d made. It was late September; we had started a fire out back.
We invited family, friends, and their spouses. A few minutes into the party, one of my husband's friends asked him where the drinks were. I pointed to the table that displayed apple cider, water, soda, and coffee. That’s not what he meant, though. He wanted the hard stuff. When I told him I didn’t really have anything, he asked who would throw a kids’ birthday party without alcohol.
The truth was, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was my son’s first birthday party, we were trying to get pregnant again, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had a drink. I went to bed that night wondering if there was something wrong with me because I had forgotten to supply alcohol at my son’s birthday party. But then I realized there wasn’t — it was a Sunday evening. The kid was one. I didn’t need to worry about whether others thought I was a bad host because we didn’t have alcohol there.
As the years passed and I had two more children, I never really had the urge to drink other than the occasional glass of wine when I was making dinner or my ex-husband and I went out. The older I got, the more it seemed like having a drink affected me a lot more than it affected others. One drink would leave me awake at night and I wouldn’t get much sleep. The next day, I felt like I had a horrible hangover. I’d be groggy, tired, and unmotivated. I had little patience with my kids and soon realized I didn’t even like wine (or any kind of alcohol) enough to sacrifice a good night’s sleep and the entire next day.
It wasn’t an announcement I felt I had to make. I didn’t feel like explaining myself to anyone when I’d refuse a drink at get-togethers, kids’ birthday parties, or a girls’ night out. But I was often the only one who wasn’t drinking at these events and everyone wanted to know why.
I got asked if maybe I had a drinking problem once. I was asked if I was allergic to alcohol. People wanted to know why I wasn’t drinking and my answer of “I just don’t want to because I don’t like how it makes me feel,” wasn’t good enough for them.
Some of my friends would make suggestions: “Well, have you tried vodka, soda water, with a splash of cranberry? You won’t get a hangover from that!”
I’d respond by saying, “No thank you.” But they’d push more.
“You should just try it!”
The truth is, I don’t like the taste of most alcohol and it’s not worth the money to me. I’d much rather sip on something I actually like the taste of, like a Diet Coke. Lo and behold, this answer wasn’t good enough for anyone either. It seemed like they had never heard of such a thing.
Now that my kids are older and I’m going through perimenopause, feeling my best is even more important to me. I want to keep up with my teenagers and feel as good and rested as I can when I wake up in the morning. I know my body and I can’t do that if I have a few or even one drink. Most people who know me know I don’t drink, and I still hear comments like, “Oh, she’s a crazy one!” Or “Watch out, she’s a lush!” when I grab a water or diet soda while everyone else is enjoying a drink.
I don’t judge anyone who drinks. I used to have fun and loved to drink wine or margaritas with my girlfriends. That’s not the case for me any longer, and I constantly feel like the odd person out since everyone is comfortable enough to draw attention to, and comment on the fact I don’t drink.
So, if you see a mom who isn’t drinking alcohol, don't ask her why. Do not tell her she needs to loosen up, and don’t try to talk her into having a drink. You do what you want and don’t draw attention to the fact she doesn’t want to drink. Chances are, she doesn’t have the energy to explain it to you.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.