Mum’s the Word – Whine o-clock

Massive columnist Taryn Dryfhout looks at how to juggle a ‘study mummy’ life, at the same time as working, raising children, volunteering and maintaining her sanity throughout.

Being a non-drinker at any kind of social function is often a strange encounter. When I turn down alcoholic drinks, confused looks immediately cross everyone’s face. Being a woman, of child-bearing age, you already know what the first question will be.

“No, I’m not pregnant.”

“No, I’m not breastfeeding. My son is nine.”

“No, I’m not operating heavy machinery tonight or driving.”

When those natural conclusions have been ruled out, a bizarre string of questions are normally thrown in my direction.

“No, I’m not doing Dry July. I’m also not Mormon or giving it up for Lent. I’m not a recovering alcoholic or taking anti-depressants, I just don’t drink alcohol.”

As the realisation washes across everyone’s baffled faces, I realise that being a teetotaller is a bit of a social anomaly, especially among mothers (study ones at that!).

If I didn’t feel the isolation at social gatherings, I certainly would on social media. My Facebook feed is constantly full of hashtags such as #wineoclock and #drinking and it seems like every day brings a new meme celebrating booze in some form or another. Despite the hard-hitting campaigns to reduce the drinking culture in New Zealand, the reality is, those who choose to abstain from alcohol are still in the minority – and apparently, a boring one. I can’t count the amount of times I have been told that I must be very serious and not know how to have fun. I’d like to take this moment to point out that some cool, famous people also abstained from alcohol: Buzz Aldron, Malcolm X and Abraham Lincoln to name a few. Were they boring? Maybe, but they also got shit done.

Though I don’t drink myself, a lot of parents do, and I can certainly see why it’s a popular way for study mummies to relax and unwind. Parenting can be a nightmarish cocktail of sleep deprivation, social isolation, anxiety and mess. Throw in university study and you may as well order your strait jacket now.

Children turn your whole life (and house) upside down so it’s no wonder that mums who brave the hallowed halls of the ivory tower take a minute to unwind with a glass at the end of a long day. When the kids are finally asleep, the kitchen is clean, your essay has been submitted and the television is all yours, there will be the wine, calling out to you like a love song. Alcohol is known for relieving stress and it’s fast, cheap and easily accessible – for around $2 a glass the endless Groundhog Day cycle of parenting can be made just that little bit easier. Of course, there are also benefits to drinking alcohol (or so I am told). It can reduce the chance of having a heart attack (always good if you have children relying on you), the more you drink the cleaner your house will look and it enhances your mood – taking you from Momster to Happy Mama.

I wasn’t always alcohol free. When I was a teenager I drank – though not to a huge extent. Despite being happy not having drank in eight years, it’s hard to avoid the sense that I’m somewhat of a social pariah for my choice. So, for now, I will have to accept that people see me as a buzzkill, and take comfort in the fact that I never have to suffer self-inflicted illness on a Sunday morning, or have to organise a ride home when I’ve had too much. I also save money when I go out to eat (Diet Coke is around three bucks) and have plenty of room for the important stuff.

Yes…I’m talking about coffee.

Trust me. It’s the drink of the gods.

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