Being a mother, for me, means always being “on”. I am the lighthouse in the night and the horizon during the day. I am the mooring, ready and available to each of my four children, some more than others but ever present in my facilities. It is my duty and my desire to be these things for them, and I cannot imagine a day in which that will ever change. My mind is always with them and my body nearly the same. It’s this state of life that I’m in, with young children and babies who literally depend on me for their substance and wellbeing.
Lighthouses don’t take breaks, but they do get the warmth and presence of the sun during the day, allowing them to rest from their duties.
When I think about my life before having children, I can’t imagine a time when I had to actually force myself to wind down. I remember being in a perpetual resting state between moments of stress from school or work deadlines, but those instances were somewhat fleeting and the days always boasted the perk of a night in with my roommates or out on the town with friends. Life was a constant rotating wheel of self indulgence and self care. It’s what my early twenties was all about, getting through school or work and really focusing on what was important and in my own best interests mostly for the immediate future, sometimes for the extended. I spent quite a bit of my time exercising my body and mind, as well as my right to imbibe.
Maybe it was college or the group of friends I was hanging out with, or my age alone that presented the opportunity for alcohol to be involved in most of my extracurricular activities (and even many work functions at that time). I learned the importance of intention and building self-imposed guidelines for what my body and mind could handle and how to make good decisions by making not so great ones in between.
A glass of wine or a cocktail was the standard course for my personal social functions, and while I didn’t think much of it at the time it certainly crossed my mind after I became a mother. The chemistry of my body changed as much as my waistline; My tolerance and therefore taste for alcohol plummeted, yet my mind was focused on the old standard: “It’s been a challenging day, I should really have a beer tonight to relax.” It was all over my social feeds and in my text messages that wine was “Mommy’s way to wind down,” and while I do enjoy a beer on the occasional Friday night I certainly don’t drink to relax and I don’t want that message passed to my children. Not only are we (their parents) the ones that they are looking to for guidance, but they are learning how to gauge and assess their own needs and coping skills. Children are always watching, especially when we think they aren’t. For me, modeling the right behaviors for them is one of the most important things I can do as their parent, and that includes the language around simple behaviors that seem harmless, like drinking.
April is Alcohol Responsibility Month and I am proud to be on the #TalkEarly team this year for Responsibility.org. Part of parenting is finding the tools to raising children based on the principles that we believe in. Being mindful of the potential hazards of drinking alcohol and implementing the right language surrounding it as a part of our lifestyle is important to me. We occasionally enjoy a glass of wine or a beer. It’s a simple pleasure, like eating ice cream or reading celebrity magazines (ahem), but it packs a lot of consequence if not addressed or respected properly.
What works for some doesn’t work for others, of course. Admittedly, it’s been a challenge to find ways for me to unwind. Even at night after the kids are asleep, I’m compelled to write or work, send emails or respond to Facebook messages. Our taxes are breathing down my neck and there are bills that need to be paid. I check my emails three times during the course of the night when Evvie wakes up to nurse. My brain doesn’t shut off unless I literally remove myself from my home and the kids and force myself to go to acupuncture twice a month. Even then, my cell phone is on and ready to let me know if and when they need me: I am their guide and their home, after all. I also want to be a sound reference for responsible behaviors, and that’s why I’m happily a part of the #TalkEarly team (responsibility.org) this year. I am eager to start and be a part of the conversation both at home and online surrounding alcohol.