Drinking, Parenting and rubber ducks

I’ve never been the kind of person to give something up, either in the post-Christmas ‘flabby phase’ or for Lent.

I’m more of the ‘eat what you like and pretend that running after a one and four-year-old equates to proper exercise’ camp. But this year I decided to put the plonk on hold, not as some smug convert to Dry January you understand but really to see how long I could last without it.

(Besides I had a glass or two on my birthday at the start of the month and a small serving at lunch out this past weekend so I wouldn’t fit the proper criteria anyway!)

The result so far is that I’ve managed to pretty much go without my usual nightly glass of wine for more than three weeks. Pretty astounding for me…

One of my early memories back at home from the hospital with Blue-eyed boy is the visit we were paid by our health visitor.

Amongst asking questions about jaundice and feeding she also quizzed us about our drinking habits and how many units of alcohol we consumed on a weekly basis.

We looked at her like she was a bit mad, after all we now had two children under the age of three. Shouldn’t it be obvious then, we thought, that having ‘the odd glass to take the edge off’ was probably going to become a therapeutic – if not medicinal – necessity?

And unlike with Mini-me, I had absolutely no shame second time around in working out exactly how long it takes for a small glass of white wine to work its way out of your system so I could factor this into the feeding schedule. I know, Mother of the Year!

I’ve never really thought much about how becoming a parent has affected my drinking habits. Apart from making the connection that it’s probably gone up as a result.

But when Mini-me started school in September I started to notice that the occasions on which I’d pour myself a glass ‘a little earlier than usual’ were becoming more frequent. Let’s face it sometimes you need a little pick-me up to get through a whingeing bath time episode.

And as one friend said this week, it’s not like we’re out at the pub every other night any more. Vino in the company of rubber ducks can actually constitute a ‘good night’ these days.

Something about juggling even more than I’d been used to in the past though – homework, PTA bits and pieces, reading all the school paperwork, trying to organise regular playdates for Mini-me – with work and, well, just life, meant I’d started to rely on wine perhaps a little more than I should to help me relax of an evening.

Don’t get me wrong. The most I ever drink is a couple of glasses, even on the rare occasions when I am out. And I can’t even remember the last time I had a hangover because, frankly, it’s just not worth it. (God I sound boring!)

I once edited a story at the women’s magazine where I used to work about a mum who hid neat vodka in the iron. If I’d reached this stage I would be worried!

But what’s been nice over the past few weeks is realising that if I can push through the 6pm slump, I’m usually fine with a cuppa come 8.30pm.

(The fact that I seem to have filled the alcohol void with more chocolate and cake-type treats is by the by!)

How long my uncharacteristic drinking behaviour continues for remains to be seen.

We’re moving house in a few weeks so all that lovely packing will probably drive me to drink.

But honestly if I can get through some evenings without reaching for the corkscrew (or more often these days the screw top!) then I’m not going to worry about those days when I text my friends asking whether it’s ‘wine o’clock’ yet.

Because I’m only human – and the fact remains that I have absolutely no desire to become Gwyneth Paltrow.

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Back to ‘normal’ – whatever that is…

I took the Christmas tree down this morning. Cut the wreath off the door, packed away the decorations for another year, then lugged the tree to the back door almost breaking something in the process.

I always find this annual tradition mildly depressing, like most people I suppose – but being a self-confessed Neat Freak I do quite enjoy hoovering up all those pesky pine needles afterwards.

And yes of course you don’t have to tell me I should get out more – I’ve got two children under five and several hundred pounds of leftover festive chocolate taunting me!

Anyway that aside, at this time of year, once Christmas, New Year and my birthday are behind us, although I hate the cold, dark mornings that will hang around for several more months, I do like pretending that I’m going to turn over several new leaves.

I always like to order a fitness video that I’ll use, ooh at least three times. This year it’s a Bollywood dance one.

I like to chat about converting to a healthier, leaner, more carb-free diet and cooking everything from scratch. Tonight I’m making stir fry, but don’t worry normal service and ready meals at least a couple of nights a week should be back on the menu by the weekend.

I like to ponder over which new hobby I should take up. Should it be running I wonder, perhaps tennis or photography? Or will it actually be sitting on my arse desperately trying to read more than a couple of pages of the books I got for Christmas – who can tell.

Anyway one thing I am definitely going to try and stick to in 2016 is feeling less guilty about things I can’t change/ haven’t done but should/ will never realistically get around to.

As a mum I really do think it’s ingrained in us to beat ourselves up mentally on a daily basis about anything, everything and the frankly ridiculous and it’s exhausting!

In just the past few days since the new year dawned I’ve had a sleepless night over all the things I’m ‘not doing’ with my career, felt terrible about how much more I could be helping out at Mini-me’s school and also how I should be helping Blue-eyed boy to socialise more and become less shy.

Whenever I think about work stuff in particular it’s always in the context of comparing myself unfavourably to others with freelance writing careers. I stew over areas that I haven’t managed to break into yet, rather than patting myself on the back for things that I have achieved.

In the last six months of last year for example I completed a non-fiction writing course, wrote a book pitch and first chapter on a subject I’ve been passionate about for half a decade and submitted it to a publisher.

I started taking on PR clients based purely on a little bit of email and social media networking and expanding this area of my business.

I held down two regular writing gigs and pitched and published various other features with half the amount of childcare I used to have.

But most often I can be found lamenting all the other things I should (at least inside my scrambled brain) be doing – such as finishing a novel, taking on loads of new copywriting clients, pitching a weekly column etc. etc. etc.

And of course this isn’t just limited to me. Every mum I know, whether full-time parent, full-time employee or small business owner, plays the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ game frequently.

All of which brings me in a round-about sort of fashion to the late, great Nora Ephron.

Nora penned my two favourite film of all time, Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, and she also worked as a journalist, food writer, movie director, playwright, blogger, novelist, and probably many other things as well.

She also had brilliant pearls of advice to offer such as: ‘Everything is copy’, and: ‘Be the heroine of your life not the victim.’

So when I’m next feeling down on myself I’m going to pick up the book of some of her works hubby bought for my birthday and try and big up what I have achieved a little bit more.

Without getting too pretentious, writer and journalist India Knight has described Nora as the ‘imaginary fairy godmother of all women who choose to make a living by the pen and their wits,’ and I’d like to think that’s me.

And that’s a pretty lucky thing to be able to say – whether I balance the books or not!