At 3 o’clock, after a long day of rule policing and laundry folding, I feel its familiar pull. As the day begins to fade and beams of late evening sun filter through my kitchen windows, I start to feel antsy.
No, I tell myself. Not yet. It’s too early. You should wait.
I busy myself with the mundane tasks of stay-at-home parenting that I’ve performed a thousand times before as I resist the urge. I watch the clock tick, tick, tick, slowly marching towards the arbitrary time I’ve set as acceptable. The kids clamor around, demanding to know what I’m serving for dinner, as the TV blares with the sounds of today’s news. My kitchen is a wasteland of backpacks, discarded homework, and the beginnings of a family meal.
Laundry has gone unfolded, yet again. The demands of a busy freelancing schedule and juggling the responsibilities of being the “at-home” parent are heavy on my mind. I empty the dishwasher for the second time in a day as I gaze out the window over the sink and feel like I’m drowning in a sea of messes that I can’t control. My life is not my own, it hasn’t been for a very long time, and I am weary from being everything to everyone in my house.
I am tired.
Mothering is hard.
The wine bottle stands at the ready on my counter, waiting like a patient companion. Like a beacon, it stands tall, half full from last night’s consumption, and it patiently waits for me to wander over and caress it. As I reach for the wine glass in my cabinet, I can already taste the sweetness of the red wine and the smell of the tannins that will be heavy in my nose in a few short moments.
I feel the cool glass bottle in my hands and hear the pop of the cork as I tilt the bottle to pour my daily dose of sanity. The sounds of the chaos in my house fade a little as I focus on the swirl of the sanguine flow out of the bottle.
The sound of the liquid splashing into the crystal goblet, filling up the glass as if it’s filling my soul. As I bring the glass to my lips, I can feel my shoulders relax, and I take a long, delicious drink. I feel replenished and rejuvenated by the old friend in my glass. Happy hour has begun.
And it is the same most days.
I have come to look forward to a daily glass of wine, and sometimes, it makes me nervous. I laugh at the jokes my friends make about needing to suck down a bottle of wine after a stressful day with kids. I share memes on Facebook with quips about mothers surviving with booze by their side. As I sip wine at a party, I look around and wonder if there are other moms there who feel as I do.
Do they worry about alcohol dependence?
Are they concerned they have a problem?
I am a nurse, and I’ve cared for alcoholics. I know the signs, the telltale hallmarks of a person who can’t handle their alcohol. I’ve seen the slurring drunken uncle at friends’ weddings and the always-buzzed friend at neighborhood functions. I have held the hands of patients, yellowed and with bellies swollen from a failing liver, as they’ve drifted in and out of consciousness while their loved ones cry and wish they’d done more to stop the drinking.
That’s not me.
I drink the expensive stuff. Out of crystal. Like a civilized grown-up.
But I allow myself wine more days than I don’t. Sometimes, it’s not just one glass. I drink at social functions to ease social anxiety. I drink at girls’ night out. I drink because my husband has come home on a glorious Friday evening and we stretch out on our chaise longues while the kids run barefoot in the grass. Sometimes, I drink because it’s Tuesday.
My kids have seen me drunk a few times and the shame has weighed heavy as I nursed a hangover headache and cottonmouth on the morning afterward. Adults make mistakes sometimes, I tell them. Mommy overdid it. I tell them it won’t happen again. As I sip seltzer and pray that I won’t vomit, I tell myself I’ll just stick to my daily glass of wine.
Because mothering is hard. And wine helps.
I ask my friends about their alcohol consumption, comparing notes to see if I’m “normal.” As I lie to them about how many glasses of wine I have in a week, I suspect they lie to me as well. We talk about how motherhood is stressful, demanding, and exhausting. We lament that we don’t have the time we’d like to really relax and alcohol allows us a brief reprieve from the daily shitshow our lives have become. We clink glasses full of rosé and sip, smug in our knowledge that we don’t have a problem.
We are just moms who drink.