Wine and Coffee and Parenthood

I was having a conversation with my coworker yesterday about parenting. We both work with parents on a daily basis and are parents ourselves. What came up was – why do parents (particularly moms) feel like it is acceptable to (at least post about) the use wine as coffee as a reward for dealing with parenting hardship? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of memes that play on the coffee, wine, mom theme. One’s text that I think sums it up is:

“Motherhood. Powered by Love, Fueled by Coffee, Sustained by Wine.”

This isn’t about shame, or even guilt, it’s about perspective and I want to show you a different perspective. Don’t get me wrong – I love coffee (caffeine makes me anxious so I only drink decaf) but I like it. I really don’t have a problem with wine either. The concern I have is how we view our job as parents. I want to change the conversation, to stop blaming children for our needs/desires and to make it easier to ask for support. Let’s look at coffee and wine from a nutritional perspective (do you need it?), and then more importantly a mindset perspective (do you feel you deserve it?) and then some unsolicited advice on all fronts.

Nutritional Status (If you might be of the “I need XYZ” Group)

Let’s start with coffee. Like I said, I love coffee, it’s delicious and an awesome treat. But what is your body telling you when you “need” coffee throughout the day? If you just want it, that’s different. But if you’re feeling like you can’t function without it? My guess is that your hormones are struggling, which is not uncommon as a postpartum, sleep deprived mama. Drinking coffee is masking you’re symptoms all day long but gradually going to tax your body more and more. Caffeine is a drug, it’s an upper. After coffee all day, what do you need to bring you down at night? A downer, alcohol.

Then, wine. Wine, particularly red wine, has some great antioxidants/health benefits. However, are you feeling like you need the alcohol to actually wind down at night? Or is it just a ritual you enjoy? If you are unable to wind down at the end of a day without your glass of wine, listen to your body, do some research, try to figure out what your body really needs.

If coffee and wine are not impacting you nutritionally, then you should be able to take a break from them without repercussions. For example, if you don’t drink coffee all of a sudden, you shouldn’t feel those caffeine headaches, or other ‘withdrawal’ symptoms. Test it, see what your body is really telling you.


Aside from listening what your body is trying to tell you, I want to make note of what you are telling your body. In my Psychology 101 class in college we learned that positive reenforcement is the most effective strategy to result in increasing positive behaviors. For instance, praising your child for something you like will result in more of that behavior than will reprimanding the opposite behavior. We are all creatures that respond, in one way or another, to reenforcement. In regards to the coffee and wine – they have become rewards for us to ‘deal’ with difficult days. If they are something that I enjoy and if I see them as a reward, where is the motivation to make the days less difficult?

You may think that’s a far stretch, but I don’t. I believe that our subconscious behaviors impact our children way more than our conscious actions. Daydreaming about our wine glass at the end of the day could be taking us away from the moment that our child is tantruming, but at what cost? Sometimes, I think kids can be a**holes, but most of the time, I believe that the tantrums and the crying and kicking and screaming is meant to tell us something.

How to Deal?

If you’re of the category that you NEED the coffee and the wine, I recommend that you first look at sleep. Depending on how your kid sleep, this can be a challenge. I would say, get your partner involved, but if you’re like me and my husband, I always hear the crying first. He would be more than happy to take care of it, but by the time I would wake him up and he would be alert enough to tend to our little, it would be done. I’m not bitter about it, I just know that I would rather one of us get sleep versus both of us awake. So how do I get more sleep? I go to bed early, like 9-9:30 early. My husband, who is better at night, helps when the little has trouble going to sleep. Then if she wakes up early, I take that shift. If it’s been a few rough nights in a row, I make him take her out and I take a nap. Setting a clear bed time and sticking to it has been essential for developing good circadian rhythms for me so I feel rested when I wake up and feel tired when it’s ‘bed time.’

(Upon editing, I realized that I am really out of the thick of the lack of sleep. Sometimes, you have no way to get more sleep in the season you are in. So drink your coffee but recognize that the reason is not because of your kids, but maybe you just drink it because it makes you feel good.)

If sleep isn’t the issue (or the only issue). Take a look at your fat intake. If you’re not eating enough healthy fats or your body has trouble digesting them, you might be sleeping poorly because your body doesn’t have sustainable energy sources overnight. We burn through carbs quickly and carbs are very important, but without fat, making it even 8 hours overnight without our body waking us up due to a hunger sensation (even if we don’t realize it) is the last thing we need when kids can disrupt our sleep all night long, too.

If you are just of the category that you feel you DESERVE the coffee and wine, try approaching it differently. I really respect Gretchen Rubin who states that you shouldn’t use rewards to create good habits but to also remember that it is important to treat yourself. She generally encourages non-food treats (think massage, mani/pedi, a special walk/event, etc) but if you want to treat yourself to wine and/or coffee from time to time, DO IT. Maybe you just enjoy the ritual of it, having a cup of coffee in the morning before the kids get up or sharing a glass of wine with your partner after they go to bed.

Make it about the ritual, not the beverage. “Enjoying my quiet coffee before a great day with my kids” instead of “SEND ALL THE COFFEE”

And how about getting through the day itself? I don’t know your kids, I don’t know how ‘hard’ or ‘easy’ they are. Only you know that. I know that we (in my family) have hard moments but they happen infrequently (1-2 times per day). When they do happen, I open up my senses, I become hyperaware of what my child might need – and no she doesn’t “need” the toys she is melting down about or the piece of candy or the TV show. What she really needs is sleep, or to use the bathroom, or she needs some love, or just some space. If my kid doesn’t have enough ‘alone time’ she never gets a chance to recharge. She is clearly an extroverted introvert. She loves being with people, being social, seeing friends, but man, after a full day of school with 20 classmates, she needs some time to herself (only she doesn’t quite realize it enough to ask for it yet). Sometimes, my kid just needs to cry. Crying is healthy when done in a safe space. It releases cortisol, the stress hormone. She doesn’t know how to “talk about it” and doesn’t even know that she had a stressful day but all of a sudden she starts ignoring everything we say and starts doing all the things she knows she isn’t supposed to. She is looking for the trigger, the trigger to allow those tears to flow – and that’s often discipline and kids CRAVE it. Once we re-set the boundaries, she cries. She might cry for 2 minutes or 15 minutes, but afterwards, it’s like magic. She returns to the independent, curious, loving child that I know is always there. Be mindful that crying, and even tantruming, is normal and necessary. It is not a sign of bad parenting or bad children. It is a way to release stress and kids use this method when they are in a safe space.

Once you realize how beneficial crying and tantruming is, you can understand that many kids act out because they need you to show them the boundaries and to allow them to trigger the tears. You can then see through the superficial actions and get some underlying understanding of what your child is truly about. And that, is the kid that you have always known is there. Sleep deprived, stressed and bouncing between upper and downers makes it really difficult to see through the fog.

Let’s be more willing to share our struggles and support our fellow parents through the tough times. Trading kids to get our own naps and sleep or a nutritious dinner cooked. Find a village or make your own. Whatever you do, don’t blame your kids for indulging in coffee and wine.

Final thought: If you’re just posting because you like the laugh and the high fives and the mom-bonding, re-read the mindset section. Thoughts are just thoughts, we can easily let them go. When we say them out loud or post them publicly, they become truths, whether we want them to be or not.

What do you think? Does this post make you angry or are you starting to see a different perspective? Share your thoughts!