Throughout my 20s, it’s fair to say that I “partied hard”.
Sure, I also found time to complete a university degree, establish a career and buy my first apartment, but I was very often the instigator of big nights out amongst my friends and found it hard to call it a night when it was time for the evening to wrap up.
By the time I hit my 30s though, I was well and truly ready to hang up my dancing shoes and become a bona fide “nana”. Now I was all about early nights and a good book over tequila shots and barhopping.
But let’s be real, I was still partial to a few mid-week glasses of wine. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that nothing helps you unwind after a pressure-filled workday quite like a nice cold glass of Sav Blanc!
When I fell pregnant though, booze was obviously the first thing to go. Now I was growing a teeny, tiny human I was very aware every choice I made about what I ate and drank could have ramifications for the life I was supporting.
When my son was born nine months later I chose to exclusively breastfeed, and so I continued to stick to a healthy, alcohol-free diet (okay sure, with a bit of chocolate thrown in the mix).
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Mamas gettin’ their groove back
It was around the eight-month mark into parenthood that I noticed the fellow mums in my mother’s group talking about having the odd glass of wine in the evenings and even heading out for a boozy night. (Disclaimer: when you’re a mum in your first year of parenting “boozy night” is usually two to three glasses tops, as your tolerance is so low!).
Some of the mothers were expressing and bottle-feeding, others formula feeding, while some simply timed their nightly vino for after their little one had gone to bed.
Around this time though my son, previously a good sleeper, had started to become, well, a problem sleeper, which lasted for about four months. I refer to this period as “The Dark Time”… constant night wakings, early mornings (we’re talking 4am to 5am) and ravenous overnight feeds.
So while the other mums – who to be fair, did have some of their own sleep challenges – talked of the odd night off from mum duties and heading out, all I could think about was the sleep I’d be missing if I decided to join them.
Not to mention, the idea of a hangover the next day filled me with dread. My mind was already fuzzy from lack of sleep; a couple of glasses of wine would only compound this.
Time for happy hour?
At 12 months and with a bit of sleep training under our belt our routine was back on track. My son was sleeping through the night (for the most part) and I felt as though I’d gained my life (and sanity) back.
Having been booze-free for nearly two years though, I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to break my self-imposed sobriety.
I couldn’t deny that a life without alcohol afforded a heap of benefits. Clearer skin, better sleep (when my toddler wasn’t messing with it), more money in the bank (those bottles of wine add up) and an overall feeling of clarity.
Furthermore, the idea of parenting while having even one glass of wine scared me. With zero tolerance, if I chose to have a drink over dinner, I wondered if something were to go wrong (a slip in the bath, choking), would I be able to react as quickly as I would if I were stone cold sober?
I’d given up alcohol initially as that’s simply what pregnant women do, and then as a breastfeeding mum, especially in the early days of demand feeding, having a drink just wasn’t something I could or even felt like doing.
Now though, I knew that drinking – even if it was just one glass of wine on the odd night – didn’t serve a purpose in my new life as a mum.
But isn’t a glass a night good for you?!
We’ve all heard that a glass of red wine a few times a week is meant to be good for the cardiovascular system, right? Well, it turns out experts have now revoked this advice.
A recent comprehensive worldwide study of alcohol use and its impact on health has concluded that the safest level of consumption is actually a big fat zero.
Dr Emmanuela Gakidou of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and the senior author of the study says, “The myth that one or two drinks a day are good for you is just that – a myth. This study shatters that myth.”
Gakidou goes onto say, “There is a compelling and urgent need to overhaul policies to encourage either lowering people’s levels of alcohol consumption or abstaining entirely.”
Just water for me, thanks!
As well as the health repercussions of drinking, there’s also the larger issue of whether your alcohol intake can have an effect on your children.
Obviously, in large amounts, this is a no-brainer, but a recent report by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has revealed even low to moderate alcohol consumption in front of little ones can have an impact.
The report found that children who witness “low-level parental drinking” – that is, no more than the Government guidelines of 14 units a week – can find the experience unsettling, leaving them feeling anxious and embarrassed, and can even disrupt their bedtime.
Ultimately, I’m sure there will come a time in my life when enjoying a glass of wine with friends becomes more of a priority, or perhaps not.
For now, being a teetotaller suits my life as a mum to an energetic, always-on-the-go toddler and not only am I more present, I’m happier as a Sober Sally!