When I became a mom 15 years ago, I knew it would be hard but I never expected it to be as hard as it was and that was without the added stress and fear of parenting in a pandemic. As a mom of two under 5, I was exhausted trying to be the perfect parent. I had a loving partner but wasn’t always communicating what I needed because I was weighed down by unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a good mother. I felt guilty leaving the kids and had ideas of what I wanted but felt like I had no time to pursue my dreams. My life and relationship began to change for the better after I made the decision to give up alcohol and mindfully be present with all of my emotions.
Laughter is good medicine but the maternal mental health crisis exasperated by the pandemic is no laughing matter. I cringe when I see women, especially mothers being bombarded with messages to swallow their pain with that coveted glass or two or more of wine.
According to this 2021 survey, “since the pandemic, 20% of mothers report beginning or increasing their use of alcohol as a means of coping.”
There’s nothing wrong with casual drinking in moderation. But drinking as a means of coping may be making things worse, instead of better.
In the same survey, the rate of burnout and mothers reporting carrying the burden of childcare and housework responsibilities also increased from the previous year. Despite how far we’ve come, mothers are still trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. But we can’t truly free ourselves if we are only temporarily escaping our reality rather than making real changes.
As a therapist for the past twenty years and a highly sensitive person, I know it's not easy to sit with painful emotions and memories. I know it's not easy to change old adaptive patterns that are holding us back or keeping us stuck, especially when our capacity is so low as it’s been throughout this Pandemic. Trust me, I know it’s not easy to take risks to step outside of our comfort zone and pursue our desires. But we can’t disconnect from our dreams forever, nor can we stuff down the legitimate anger and resentment we feel in unequal or unhealthy relationships without consequences to ourselves and others.
Our emotions give us vital information about what we need and what is not okay. We can’t communicate our needs and boundaries effectively if we’re swallowing them.
And I can’t help but wonder, the more the use of alcohol and cannabis is normalized and even sensationalized, what the consequences will be on this next generation. Their mental health is already so fragile from this Pandemic. They need to learn life-saving healthy coping and resilience-building strategies from us. How can we teach them if we are stuck in a pattern of distracting, avoiding or numbing out?
I know challenging the status quo and breaking free from the pressure to be perfect isn’t easy but it’s truly liberating. I know having crucial conversations about privilege or racism can be so uncomfortable but it’s essential if we want to create a better world for our children and our children’s children. As long-time recovery advocate, best-selling author, social activist and philanthropist, Glennon Doyle reminds us "we can do hard things” together.
I can't speak for everyone but ever since my husband decided to give up alcohol alongside me our relationship has only gotten stronger.
I know there’s so much outside of our control right now and you are just trying to survive. But if you’re tired of being tired and resentful or worried about what you might be modeling for your children, why not start the year off like so many others participating in Dry January? Check out this article for everything you need to know including cautions, signs that your drinking has become a concern, the health benefits of sobriety and how to set yourself up for success and in the months to follow. You can also find tips for how to choose sobriety as a couple and navigate social situations here.
I know 2021 was a depressing year and with school closures and more lockdowns, 2022 isn’t feeling much better. But remember alcohol is a depressant so it may actually be making you feel worse. You are worthy of someone holding space for your pain and helping you work on the underlying issues so you can speak your truth and thrive.