Tech + Health

05.11.14

Mommy’s Little Secret? Coffee And Booze.

Caffeine and alcohol were sweet at 21—but they’re downright lifesavers (in moderation, of course) in the parenting years.

Since becoming a mom, I've learned the importance of drinking.

Being a parent is hard. So hard that it makes me question evolution. If reproduction is a biological necessity for our species, then why is parenting so damn hard? Darwin has some explaining to do. Or maybe Freud.

I have a five-year-old daughter named Willa. She's wonderful but she gets up entirely too early every morning and is way too resistant to going to bed at night. The result is that I and my partner are basically constantly exhausted. And so although for the first 31 years of my life I never really relied on caffeine, I now consume it like a necessary fuel to propel my day. I'm kind of afraid of needles, but if there were a personal intravenous caffeine drip, I would seriously consider it. Similarly, while I wasn't much of booze hound for most of my life, now I crawl toward that glass of wine (or more) at the end of the day like a man in the desert crawling toward a watery mirage. Except it's not a mirage. It is real and good and numbing.

From time to time I quit both caffeine and alcohol. This is part the judgmental aestheticism of my mother hovering in my consciousness like a vengeful Jewish Yoda. And part reading too much about Gwyneth Paltrow's cleanses, as though if I deny myself enough I will get her thighs. It's nice to know I'm not an alcoholic or a caffeine addict; here I should note that being so would be very bad for my child or any child. At any rate, inevitably I survive a day or two of withdrawal and morph into cranky mom—or, to be fair, I should say crankier mom—an even more tired and prickly shell of my otherwise happily buzzed self. And then, just before I presumably achieve the waist-size benefits of the fast, I give in. I blame a sleepless night or free drinks at a cocktail party. But the truth is, in moderation, I'm happier drinking.

Parenting is all about denial. I don't get to sleep in on weekends anymore. I don't get to go on vacation and read a book and just relax. I don't get to spend my money or my time with utmost selfishness. It's worth it. Those moments when my daughter catches a ball for the first time with one hand or sounds out a big word or simply turns to me and gives me a hug for no reason whatsoever are the most sweet and stunning moments of my life. So I try and tell myself that all those moments are worth not only the hard parts but the denial, the abstaining from everything my life was once was pre-motherhood. Which is true. I think. But even still, that little sip of indulgence from a mug or a glass tastes almost just as sweet.

For mother's day, the mom-led political action group Mom's Rising asked Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn what's she's learned from being a mother.  This was her reply, originally printed on the Mom's Rising website and re-printed here with permission.