Jessica Lange’s character sums it up best in Tootsie when she’s asked why she drinks so much: “It’s not fattening and it’s not good for me,” she says without missing a beat.
Lange plays a single mom to a baby girl and a soap opera actress dating a high-powered misogynist who habitually treats her with only slightly more esteem than a tired accessory. She juggles everything as best she can, but the anxiety of doing it all just so-so leaves her frazzled and insecure. White wine is the earned treat, much-needed mood stabilizer, and consistent friend in her otherwise functional life, just as red wine is in mine.
My relationship with my family is abundantly healthy; my husband adores me and my kids idolize me. But they — along with much of the rest of my life — also drive me to drink. I could live without red wine; I just don’t want to.
Despite raised eyebrows from more than a few teetotalers, I’m quite comfortable with the amount that I drink (which is more than a glass, and pretty much every night). It’s not an addiction, but a reward — because I made it through another day holding together a home, family, and job. I do get out to exercise, but I don’t get much babysitting help, which means I’m with my kids nearly every moment that they’re not in school. This is mostly by choice, but that doesn’t always make it easier or more fun. And, frankly, I parent better after a glass or three of wine. Despite the articles available practically every week about how red wine is basically good for your health, I recognize that in actuality, it’s probably not. But after so many 16-18-hour days of doing everything I’m supposed to, something wrong just feels right.
At the time of day when my daughters are inexplicably energetic and astonishingly difficult — which is precisely and unfortunately the exact moment when I’m the most enervated and easily agitated — red wine gives me more patience and good cheer. In an ideal world, I’d channel Susie Sunshine even after dark, but in the real world (which is where I live), doing battle over teeth brushing and bed time makes me more King Kong than Mary Poppins.
Parenting young children — my daughters are now 3 and 6 — is no small thing. I’m well past expecting that every moment with my kids can and should be cherished (which is to say I’ve been a mom long enough to know better than to feel bad about all the inane and impractical mom advice doled out left and right). I wanted to become a mom and worked hard to do it. I love my kids and being a mom, but not every moment is Pinterest-y.
I’m easily a mom before anything else, but that doesn’t mean I’m nothing else. Sometimes it feels that way, though. My girls don’t want to know that I have a life outside of them, which means they are more demanding of my time and attention than I’d prefer, and more often than I’d like. I will myself to be patient all the time with varying success. Give me some wine, however, and my tone is generally more gentle and my volume lower. I could see wine as a problem if the opposite were true, but it’s not.
Of course moderation is good and excess is not. But is excess really all that bad? I sleep better with wine, and who will question that a well-rested mom is a better mom? I’d like nothing more than to buy into the studies that claim:
Unfortunately, though, I’m just smart enough to know that this headline is probably more likely the case: That glass of red wine may not be as good for your health as you think.
The fact is that I don’t need a study to tell me what and how much I drink is good or bad, because the only effect red wine has on my family is positive: My daughters are delightful and cheerful (you know, except when they’re not). I work full time, with much success. I’m not shoveling mini Milky Way bars in my mouth. I’m not addicted to Internet porn. I don’t go on shopping sprees with money I don’t have. I volunteer in my older daughter’s class. I’m there for both girls after school each day. We read, paint, cuddle, walk, talk, and sing. Sometimes I sip wine when we do some or all of that. I see plenty of doctors, and regularly. My blood pressure is healthy, as are my liver functions. The thing I could use in my life is a little less of everything, but the wine bottle is hardly where I’m inclined to start cutting.
I think the only problem with my consumption is the shame that others project on it. If my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indication, I’m hardly the only mom who indulges every day. But while people will write and post about it, fewer are happy to discuss it offline. The only dishonor in a mom who enjoys wine is that there are those who try and make us feel as if there’s a problem with needing or wanting something that’s just for us, especially if it’s something not good for us. Just as not everyone who has two slices of chocolate cake after dinner is obese or has an eating disorder, a few glasses of wine at the end of the day does not necessarily make me an alcoholic or bad mother — just human.
When Mommy is happy, everyone else might not be happy, but there’s a much better chance of it then when I’m not.