Monday, July 29, 2013

...but I'm a good mother...

Note:  the following is a rant and nothing more.  It comes from my experiences as both the child of an alcoholic and as an alcoholic myself.  There is no judgement in this post...only my truth.

I'm sorry, but you are not a good mother.    If you're still drinking and it's so much of a problem that you're out here either lurking, or commenting or maybe blogging on your own then you are not a good mother.  But you can be.

If you stay up late googling information about drinking and how much is too much and what are the signs and how to quit then you are not a good mother.  But you can be.

Whether you are drinking all day or wait until they are tucked in tight, or whether you are up at the crack of dawn, nursing your hangover but getting things done or in bed all day and letting them fend for themselves, you are not a good mother.

But you can be.

I'm not writing this to be a bitch or to jam my sobriety up your ass.  I'm writing this because I met someone this weekend who is like this and she believes herself to be a good mother.  She is not a good mother.  She is a good person.  She has a beautiful heart.  She is a good friend...but she is not a good mother.  

She used to be, she could be again.  But she has to make a choice.

Her children are bathed, fed, clothed, read to, played with, sent to good schools.  She volunteers when possible in their schools, never misses a soccer or little league game, packs lunches and makes sure they have breakfast.  She helps with homework, is there with them for dinner...but she is not a good mother.

She spends all day waiting for that first drink.  She is only half present at any moment in any day.  Her brain is busy, busy, busy.  Busy rationalizing why it's okay that she drinks today.  Busy calculating when she can actually have that first drink.  Busy planning play dates and night dates with parents who drink so that she can both parent and drink.  Busy wondering if she's a good mother.  Busy wondering how come she's letting it all turn to shit.

She spends every evening drinking the night away.  Sometimes the kids have gone to bed and sometimes they are still awake.  If it's late and one of them needs something for school, she may fly into a rage because they forgot when really she's angry because she knows she can't drive to get them what they need.  Should one of them become ill in the night and need emergency care, she'll have to call 911 because she won't be able to drive them to the ER.  If someone has a bad dream and she can actually be roused from her drunken slumber, she'll stroke their hair and drunkenly mumble that it's all right and wake up not remembering how she got in her daughter's bed.

She spends every morning dreading the day.  The hangover.  The headache.  Her nerves are shot and she's on edge all the time.  She consumed with guilt and swings between crying and telling them how much she loves them or pretending that everything is fine when clearly it's not.

She's not a good mother.  But she was once and she can be again.  She just needs to make a choice.

Her children walk on eggshells because they never know what mood their mother will be in.   Soon it becomes second nature and they can change their behavior based on her mood.  They know whether or not the hangover is a bad one or a not so bad one.  They've learned not to ask for much because she's really not listening anyway.  They've learned to say yes when she asks if they want candy, or sodas or a treat from the grocery store because they're going anyway...that's where the wine aisle is. 

They've learned to play dumb.  To tell her that everything is fine when it's not because that makes her happy and all they want is a happy mommy.  All they want is a mommy who loves them as much as she loves her wine.  They want a mommy who wants to spend time with them and doesn't rush them through dinner and story time so that she can get to that bottle of wine.

They don't get up anymore after a bad dream because they know she won't wake up and even if she does...she's not much comfort and won't remember it anyway.  They suffer through tummy aches or headaches or hunger pangs because they don't want to disturb her...don't want to see that look in her eyes, that slurring speech, that flaring anger at the slightest provocation.

They don't ask her to play anymore.  Sometimes she insists but then they overhear her tell her friends that she plays with them ALL the time when really it's not that much.  And she really doesn't know how to play anymore - she always seems so distracted - she's not really with them even when she's with them.

So to this woman and to all you women out there who are still drinking too much and you know who you are, you may be a fair mother, you may be an adequate mother, you may be mother of the fucking year...

...but you are not a good mother.

But you can be...just make your choice.  It's worth whatever it takes.

Just ask my kids.



  1. Ouch... Memories. I used to sit in my local pub (bar) telling anyone who'd listen what a great Dad I was. I was on the school governing committee, my kids went on all the trips, they went to scouts, swimming club, dance lessons etc. But of course I was in the pub telling you all this just to impress you - the question never asked was "Why are you here then - not at home with them?"

    My wife would usher the kids to bed based on the time of my arrival home, as past a certain time she didn't want them to see me.

    Oh so horrible... When I was about 8 years sober my daughter was by then 16. We spoke about my alcoholism and she said "You weren't a bad Dad". My ego swelled, my pride took over and inside I felt golden my head of course saying "See you were the best even when drinking"... She then told me how she used to lock herself in the bathroom if I was in a drunken rage shaking with fear. Some great Dad I was...

    Your kids can't get you sober - only you can do that. But once there they are one of the powerful reasons not to go back, I'm so so fortunate to have not lost the relationship totally and to have them so close in my life now - but only because I'm sober.

  2. Yep, ouch. I never thought I was a good mother, but I hadn't realized how much I'd checked out when I was drinking. I still tend to check out in other ways when I'm feeling stressed, but I am aware and working on it. Staying in the moment is hard at times, but kids need and deserve that. They eat up the attention and affection and stability that a sober (formerly drunk) parent can provide. It's so rewarding watching them open up with love and vulnerability and know that all you have to do is be there and listen and love them back. And also maybe fix dinner and lunches and bathe them and run out late at night for school supplies, which indeed is much easier without being drunk or hungover. Thank you for this powerful reminder of why I am sober.

  3. Some of the best sober mom words I've ever read. Glad to be following. Inspiring thought provoking and true, true, true. At least to me. Lisa

  4. wonderful stuff, Sherry - you really know how to get down to it and yet still come at us with beauty and truth within the pain. It's part of our path, and you have certainly gone down that road...and inspire so many of us.

    I am a better father because of my recovery, and hope to never fail my children in my journey. I will make mistakes - what parents don't? But I am present and understanding of them.

    Thank you for this.


  5. I would like to add:
    If you are a single mom who is dating and drinking too much, you are probably not making good choices in the men you introduce to your children. It is awkward for them at best and traumatic at worst. (Just ask my kids). You are not a good mom.

    But you can be.

  6. Wow, Sherry. Great post. I always felt like a skank masquerading as a mom when I was drinking. It was an awful double life.


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