Christmas and drinking go together like cheese and pickle. Ant and Dec. Rip and Van Winkle. Everywhere you look people are quaffing champagne and Baileys. Even chocs and puddings are laced with the stuff. People debate the quickest and most effective ways to get rid of hangovers. Green-gilled commuters throw Beroccas down their throats, washing them down with gallons of water. I'm not being flippant but Christmas must be hell for alcoholics. It must be the most difficult time. But let's look at another demographic. What about Mums? What about Mums and all this festive booze?
'What about it?' you say.
Let's start with the basics. Christmas is a stressful time for everyone. And it's particularly stressful for Mums (and Dads though I don't think they pile quite as much pressure on themselves). It's the time of year when we struggle to create the perfect Christmas we never had. We bake cookies in the shape of reindeer. They turn out really shit. We make weird orange/clove decorations and then wonder how anyone had time to make more than one. We get glitter to make cards and then despair as our child deposits it all over the floor. We think about not buying presents and then log onto Amazon and get loads of stuff. This stuff look good until we realise we bought the same stuff last year for the same people. We have to rotate stuff around. This means everyone ends up with stuff they don't want.
We feel bad about all the excess consumerism around us. We like the idea of going back to a simpler Christmas with gingerbread houses, carol singing and people fighting over 'The Two Ronnie's Xmas Special'. The expectations mount. The season is full of conflict. And drinking is one of the things that makes it easier. So like most people at Christmas - we up our alcohol consumption.
But drinking and motherhood don't mix. And drinking with young children is frightening. And not for the reasons you might expect. I actually think I'm a good parent when I've had a couple of drinks. I laugh more. Loosen up a tad. Let my daughter eat lots of cocktail sausages. I construct creative meals out of buffet foods- piling up her plate with crisps and cake (so she has a good balance of savoury and sweet). And I have fond memories of my own Mum being pissed (we're not talking Oliver Reed but she's always liked the odd tipple). She laughed so hard at a party once that I thought she was having a heart attack. It made me hysterical seeing her like that... in a good way.
And I'm not advocating being properly drunk. It's not cool. But a bit of drunkenness is permissible. Parenting is so loaded and worthy and full of rules. We need to cut ourselves some slack now and then.
But it's the DAY AFTER drinking I really want to focus on. I've got friends without kids and they bend my ear about how bad their hangovers are. How they had to spend the whole day in bed watching a box set and then ordered pizza in. That even after a lovely bath with detoxifying aromatherapy oils they felt bad. And I want to slap them round the chops. People in their forties are the worst- 'Oh my hangovers are terrifying. I can't even open my eyes!'
Well imagine you're FORTY AND HAVE A CHILD. Imagine this child has its own agenda. It doesn't care that your tongue feels like a piece of parchment. Or notice your eyes are filled with tears. They don't care much for a boxset. They don't want to sit down and play quietly. They want to go nuts. Bang on stuff. Take all the decorations off the tree and break them.
THIS IS WHY MOTHERHOOD AND DRINKING DON'T MIX (okay, let's say parenthood). You feel awful. The same as the other forty year olds out there but they're watching a box set and eating cheese. Then another dimension comes in to amplify this terrible experience further. Fear. The natural bedfellow of the hangover. Now it's not just that everyone hates you and wants you to fail. There's another dimension. You're a bad parent. You shouldn't have drunk so much. You're irresponsible. Your skin has the same colour as a dead elephant. You try to get the glitter of the floor and race to the park for fresh air. You have a go at making a complicated pine cone table decoration. It's a massive fail. You're dying inside. And the festive pressure feels ominous... representing something truly dark - the disparity between what you aspire to be (a great Mum creating the ideal Christmas) and what you really are (a selfish, dead elephant).
So my advice? Well if you're a parent you probably know all of this and don't care. The joy of drinking outweighs the hangover. You just get on with it (which is what we all must do in the end).
But if any of you feel bad I just want to say ... don't beat yourself up. It's okay to loosen the reins. Your own parents survived terrible hangovers. They probably thought a night spent dancing to Dire Straits wearing a corduroy boilersuit was worth it. Try and enjoy Christmas. You'll romanticise these days when you're properly old. Hangovers will always be there waiting. In fact they'll get worse with every passing year.
But try not to think too hard about that (and what it means) if you can.