When I was pregnant with my daughter, we moved to a new neighborhood. She was my first child, and I was the first of my friends to have kids. I was desperate for mom friends, particularly ones who lived close and stayed home with their kids, like me.
Then, when my daughter was a few months old, I met another mother who was home with a toddler during the days. We exchanged numbers and she texted me to ask if I wanted to come over and go through all the clothing her daughter had outgrown that they were going to donate. And then she added, “It will be great! We can hang out with the kids and have a few beers.”
In that moment, I knew that my dreams of having a close mommy-friendship with her were not to be.
I’m an alcoholic in recovery, which means that I can’t drink. Since I’ve been sober for about four years, it doesn’t bother me when other people drink, but I have no desire to attend an event that centers on drinking.
I found a time to look through the clothing — but made sure I had somewhere to be shortly afterwards so that I had an excuse not to stay and hang out. I felt insecure, isolated and decidedly uncool.
As a new mom who doesn’t drink, it can be surprisingly hard to find your place. Websites and blogs for new moms post endless memes about waiting for “wine o’clock.” It makes me unlikely to follow them because I don’t need images that romanticize drinking coming through my newsfeed every day — particularly on days when my kid has had a meltdown, hasn’t stopped crying and I’m at my wit’s end. In fact, on those days, posts about having wine after the baby goes down start to seem incredibly reasonable. And for someone like me, whom alcohol brought to the point of losing everything and sitting in rehab, a glass of wine will never be reasonable.
Not only that, these memes send a damaging message about parenting. Is it really only worth it because of the wine at the end of the day? Is drinking really the only thing that gets you through being a mom? Yes, motherhood is hard, but what kind of message are we sending about it if we imply the only way to cope with the stress is with booze?
Being a new mom is already a very isolating experience. Often, you’re home alone all day with a little person who depends on you for everything. For me, it was hard to get out of the house to go anywhere, my husband was working long hours and I longed for human connection. In those times of loneliness, my urge to drink is strongest. And when I would see so many other new moms talking about drinking with impunity, I felt a mix of emotions — none of them good. I’d find myself envious, resentful and full of self-pity.
Turning to my recovery community wasn’t any more helpful. Most of them worked regular schedules and weren’t around during the days; bringing my crying baby to meetings proved a nearly impossible task, one that was met with judgmental glares whenever she made a peep. Everywhere I turned, I simply felt alone. And while I had never been ashamed of my status as an alcoholic in recovery, I suddenly felt like I was carrying this big secret around with me.
Desperate to be liked by the mothers I was meeting at breastfeeding support groups, the playground, swim class and baby music class, I neglected to mention the fact that I didn’t drink and prayed that it would never come up. I always worried I would be “found out,” and I felt ashamed in ways I hadn’t since I was very newly sober. I found myself feeling like I was adrift at sea without a life raft, wondering how it was possible to be both a mom and a sober person. Surely there’s a way to unwind after the baby goes down that doesn’t involve drinking like a college student?
It turns out that there are, it’s just hard to find the people who are talking about them. Eventually I found a great network of moms. Many of them drink, but very rarely, and it’s never something that’s brought up at the play dates we set up. I also found a bunch of moms of young kids who are also sober, who I see weekly. They help me feel like less of an outlier, less of a freak. But it took almost a year for me to be able to establish that kind of support, when I really needed it much sooner than that.
There’s nothing wrong with having some wine after a long day with the kids, but when we forget that not everyone has the option, it isolates the moms that need support the most.