The Mother of all Hangovers

By Victoria Vanstone

Parenting is the equivalent of having an 18-year hangover. The symptoms are the same.  

There’s vomit, there’s anxiety and you can’t wait for it to be over. 

My hangovers were terrible. I drank heavy and fast, consuming more than most people, so I suffered. I’d lie in bed unable to move my head and I would spend my recovery trying to talk myself out of panic. I’d pad around the house in grubby tracksuit bottoms willing the sun to go down so I could sleep the pain away. I’d shut the blinds and hope to do better next time.

I feel the same way about parenting. It’s as relentless as a hangover. It drags, on and on. There is no sign of a pretty sunset here. In fact, I forecast rain, especially as the dark cloud of the teenage years floats nearby.

If I could shut the blind on parenting, I would, just for a few hours. Just to get a bit of kip and a facial.

Just so I can pop to the plaza to buy some new clothes. My tracksuit pants, the ones that were saved for hangovers, have now become my daily wear. Their soft lining and holey crutch comfort me in the same way wine used to. Being comfortable has overtaken my need to be cool. I’m functional… but catwalk ready? Perhaps if ‘dog walk prepared’ becomes a trend, then I’m ahead of the game.

When I drank, I was always trying new drinking techniques: water between wines, lining my stomach with carbohydrate-filled meals before sessions, never mixing the grape and the grain. I was hoping I’d find the perfect formula so that I could become a better drinker. A drinker that didn’t suffer.

“I will get better at this. I will find a way to be a good drinker, a controlled boozer that can party all night and never feel hungover!” 

Of course, I never succeeded. 

I’d try moderation, only to overdo it. I’d be at the bar getting into the vodka jellies while my friends were still staring at the wine list. If I promised to slow down, just have two. I’d find myself making excuses as to why ‘I deserved’ a third. And we all know what happens after a third….. total annihilation. Inhibition lost, self-care exterminated, and my knickers end up hanging off a chandelier somewhere near Piccadilly Circus. 

I repeated the same mistakes for years. 

My moderation challenges have spewed over into my mothering. I try moderating my anger and fail as soon as the TV is too loud. I try moderating my voice but growl when they discard the veg and are then demanding cola icy poles.

I can’t moderate my love either. I’m overbearing. I want kisses often and I squeeze them so hard sometimes that I feel like their eyeballs might just pop out of their tiny heads.

I love them more than I loved booze, it’s a different love, it’s real but these relationships have similarities.

My children make me happy like vodka did and sad like gin. 

They make me feel joy like the perfect peak after two cold chardonnays and emotional, like too much red. 

My love for my children makes the reigns tight. I’m over protective. I want them to live at home with me forever…My love for them is overwhelming. It hurts  

When I think about it too much, anxiety kicks in. Just like it used to on a dusty Sunday morning. 

Being a parent is as frightening as a blackout. Motherhood makes me scared. I’m in a constant state of fear. 

That fear triggers self doubt and not only does my brain jump to worst case scenario about my children… I also think about death more.  

It stops me doing things I used to enjoy. I can’t go on rollercoasters, I don’t like boats that much, I can’t watch films in which children get kidnapped and I certainly wouldn’t go camping – too many snakes, fires and other weird antipodean deathtraps. 

The children get confused about my love and my anxiety. The two are blurred. They can’t differentiate between me telling them off because I care or as they would put it, being “a mean mummy.” 

“I’m not mean, I just love you so much.”

My love shows in anger – I hear my voice echoing words from my own childhood. 

“Don’t jump off the couch, it’s dangerous.” 

“Sit up when you’re eating, you’re going to choke to death.” 

“You didn’t look when you crossed the road just then. You’re going to get run over!” 

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