The 7 Stages of a Parent-Coffee Split

by Mandy Lange
Originally Published: 
quitting coffee
RyersonClark / iStock

Coffee has a reputation of being as vital to parenting as carrying a spare diaper. There are even instances in the wee hours of morning when we view it with higher regard than our own children. So what happens when for some reason, health-related or otherwise, we decide to stop drinking the brown blend of bliss we’ve become so dependent upon?

Quitting coffee is quite possible even as a parent of little ones who look to you for their basic needs. If you’re staring down the dark tunnel of a coffee breakup, allow me to shed some light on what you can expect.

1. Confidence

The first morning you choose to go without caffeine is undoubtably the best. Your resolve is at its peak. Looking in the mirror, you smile smugly as you acknowledge your invincibility to coffee’s allure. There is an astounding amount of pride in completing the most menial tasks without coffee. “Brushed my teeth without it—on a roll!” Similar to a runner’s high, Coffee Quitters High is the motivation that will carry you through the next 15 minutes of feeling ready to take on the day.

2. Headache

Your body fights back, demanding coffee in a way that strongly resembles a toddler demanding dessert. The headache starts small, like the vague awareness of a jingle from a musical toy, then explodes, by which time you realize you’ve been listening to the same 15-second song over and over for an hour. Suddenly, stopping the steady flow of coffee into your bloodstream seems to be a very ludicrous idea. Everything happening around you makes your headache worse, so you find yourself getting angry about things like dropped toys, or the sound of the microwave, or the words “I love you.” At this point, many people retreat immediately to the Keurig, but with iron will, you can handle it.

3. Crazy

At this point, you make Miss Trunchbull seem like a soft-spoken schoolgirl. You discover that every drop of patience you possess must have been imported from coffee, because coffee withdrawal has made you a teeth-gnashing, eye-popping, downright scary figure. With your body screaming for espresso, your reactions become overreactions. Your emotions regress to those of a toddler. Cereal gone? Tears. Step on a Lego? Rage. Mysterious poop stain on the carpet? Yelling, then feeling bad about it, and crying all over again. You begin to wonder if you’re even a good person. Was the coffee behind every act of kindness and self-sacrifice? Are you even capable of rational thinking without it? It’s best to keep a low profile until you stop sobbing over Legos.

4. Exhaustion

This stage introduces the familiar sensation of “hit by a truck.” You’re hungover without any of the alcohol. Bed, the lover you’ve swapped with coffee, has never felt more impossible to leave. Errands, projects, and playdates are cancelled. You either force your zombified body out of bed to perform your daily tasks with the banality of the undead or let your kids run through a season of Daniel Tiger on Netflix while you feign a nap. Of course, everything you have ever read about the danger of screen time circulates through your head as you rest, prohibiting you from getting any real sleep.

5. Brain Intern

Today is the day the baby’s pants are on backwards, you unintentionally buy two bottles of body wash instead of conditioner and shampoo, and you respond to “Hello” with “Awesome, thanks.” Your body is beginning to pick up the pieces left from coffee’s wake and is awkwardly trying to move on. It takes some time to get things running smoothly again. Your brain has lost the dark, smooth, level-headed CEO and put an intern in charge. “Um, right. Milk goes…in the cupboard? You sure you aren’t pregnant?”

6. Seeing Other People

You’re ready to start dating again and willing to try new things. After a sordid romance with chai tea, an embarrassing episode with an “all-natural” energy drink, and a delicious rendezvous with hot chocolate, you find that none can satisfy your longing for coffee’s warm embrace. It’s best to just keep calm, take a swig from a juice box, and carry on.

7. Freedom

When you’re moving on from the luxury of coffee, you visit places you probably never expected to go, like the dark areas of your soul and the tea aisle of Whole Foods. You are free now—enslaved by the bean no longer! You will of course miss coffee after night feedings. Maybe you’ll hook up with it on occasion. There is even a chance you will fall back into your old morning ritual again, all the wiser from your solo experience. In any case, if you decide to take the oath of coffee abstinence, you can only emerge stronger for your efforts.

And with that newfound inner strength, perhaps you’ll actually remember to pack that spare diaper.

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