It was a random night in January, and on my drive home from the office I was feeling excited to see the kids. I was looking forward to hearing about their school day and having a low-key evening-a welcomed break from the holiday craze. We were going to make breakfast for dinner (something we love to do when dad is at the firehouse), and I was going to practice my best gentle parenting- but then, as they do, the evening took a hard left.
As soon as I opened the door, things went south…fast. I gave my kids big hugs and greeted them with a smile, which feels easy to do after a long day of being apart. After the hugs, I immediately got the report that my youngest had been throwing tantrums left and right, hitting, and not listening. He’s five, deeply feeling, and this kind of behavior isn’t unusual. I love my mom, but she has a really hard time hiding her true feelings about…well pretty much anything, and I could have used a minute before being bombarded with the bad news. She was obviously frustrated and feeling defeated, and as much work as I’ve done to let go of my inner people pleaser, in that moment it proved to be alive and well. I felt that old familiar feeling of self-doubt come to the surface. When I’m unable to ward off the doubt, I revert to thinking about all the ways I’m failing my kids, and how likely it is that they’ll end up in therapy one day talking about how horrible I was. I know this sounds dramatic, but being a therapist myself, is a double edge sword.
Minutes later I found myself sitting outside of his door holding my boob that (I think) he accidentally kicked in the throes of his anger. I managed to say something along the lines of “I am right here when you’re ready.” What I really wanted to do was let out a primal scream. After a long day of walking my clients through their own issues, and then coming home to what felt like a dumpster fire of my own, I thought to myself, “not one more problem, not one more thing,”
And then, I considered having a glass of wine. Maybe that would help? But Dry January inspired me to continue cutting back on alcohol, and I committed to not drinking wine during the week. It was alarming how quickly my brain turned on me – reasoning with me, reminding me that there was a cold bottle in the outside fridge, and it was totally justified to have a drink because…three kids are hard! But instead, I let the craving wash over me like a wave, knowing that it was temporary and eventually it would wash away. At the end of the night, when the kids were finally asleep and it was just me, my sleepy time tea and Netflix- I felt good. I felt proud for choosing to love myself differently- to choose feeling and dealing over numbing and avoiding.
That evening, while challenging, was the beginning of a new chapter. A time in which I am choosing to change my own narrative around how I cope with the many highs and lows of parenting, and how I choose to show up for myself and my kids. I don’t know where my cut back journey will take me, or how I’ll feel about a year from now (or hell, even tomorrow) but I do know a few things for sure. I know that when I go to sip a glass of wine, or enjoy a margarita, I want it to come from a place of intention – a place of want, not need. I know that there is a TON of really yummy non-alcoholic options beyond bubbly waters, even ones that make you feel strangely relaxed. I know that parenting without a hangover in the morning feels so much better. I know that I’m continuing to find power in joining so many women in questioning what the world has packaged to us as “self-care.” I am tired of belonging to everyone and everything besides myself- and choosing to be alcohol free more often is giving me a clearer mind, and a more energetic body to take on all the things (beautiful and hard) that life, work, and parenting, throws my way.
-Kaitlin Soule, Therapist and Author of A Little Less of A Hot Mess
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