March 24, 2014 at 8:26 AM ET
It’s four in the afternoon and I’m at a play date with all three of my kids at the home of “a fun mom” I haven’t hung out with in quite a long time. A couple of other moms and their kids are here trying to burn off the long march from late afternoon to bedtime known by parents as “the witching hour.” When the inevitable bottles of chilled white wine come out, they’re met with audible groans of relief. I pass, with a smile and a simple, “Not today, thanks,” like I’m just not in the mood.
I’m a mom who doesn’t drink anymore. And although I’ve been quite public about it, none of these ladies seem to know I’m in recovery.
One of the moms gives me a sideways glance as I sip my Diet Coke — which I completely understand. Five years ago, this was totally my scene! A couple of kids and a bottle of wine sounded like the perfect recipe for fun, and I had no trouble finding other mothers who shared my enthusiasm for better parenting through Chardonnay.
Drinking worked for me. It worked to lessen the anxiety, the fear, and yes, the boredom I felt as a new mother. It also helped me bond with other parents who still, thankfully, enjoyed an adult pastime like wine. But now that I don’t drink anymore and a whole lotta moms still do, I have found myself on the outside of the trend a few times.
There was the awkward situation when I found out I hadn’t been invited to a get-together of moms from my daughter’s school. The host of the event called to explain: “The thing is, we’re getting together just to drink margaritas and since I know you don’t drink, I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” That stung. I mean, we’re fellow moms, not sorority sisters, right? Just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I’m a drag! I still know how to have conversations! I knew the truth was not that they didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable but that they didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, which played right into one of my fears about quitting. My sobriety made some people uneasy. I was “the sober mom,” a literal buzz kill. I had become the mom I thought of as boring when I was a drinker.
But thankfully, this is the exception rather than the rule. In recovery I have made so many new friends who share my straight-up enthusiasm for not drinking. We have an easy companionship, never having to explain. Not drinking bonds us in a way I never thought possible. I feel like the member of a secret society. I belong. We laugh a lot.
And then I have my mom friends who were there from the beginning but were never big drinkers in the first place. I can relax with them now, without persuading them to join me in glass of wine or explaining why I’m so eager to pop a cork.
So yes, drinking worked for me but now not drinking is what works for me. Not drinking is what quells my anxiety, keeps me even and in control and gives me the knowledge that I am a great mom and I’m enough. And when it comes to socializing, I agree with a mom from my online support group who said, “I don’t feel left out, I feel enlightened!” Yeah! I’ll drink to that! Sparkling water OK?
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is the mother of three and author of four books, including "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom" and her most recent, "I'm Kind of a Big Deal: And Other Delusions of Adequacy."
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