These past couple of months, while in lockdown, I’ve been getting intimately acquainted with a new friend. She loves to dance around the kitchen, sleep in, and doesn’t seem to care that her nails are a mess or that her grey roots are showing for the first time in 10 years. She lets her four teenagers stay up way too late and eats snacks at all hours of the night. Who’s my new friend? It’s me. More specifically, it’s quarantine me. And I’ve noticed that the quarantine me drinks more than the pre-pandemic me.
I’ve been a social drinker for much of my 18-year parenting career. A few glasses of red on the weekend, some cocktails at a party. A few years ago, I started to enjoy a glass or two with dinner on some weeknights, but only on the nights when I didn’t have to drive anyone to or from an after-school activity or a friend’s house. Responsibility and obligation always trumped my desire to chill out at the end of another day of raising teens.
Since shelter in place orders went into effect, however, I’ve noticed a slow but steady uptick in the amount of alcohol I’m consuming. Wondering if I was alone in this, I broached the subject with my close friends and family and no matter where in the world they were, regardless of the ages of their kids, the overwhelming majority of them reported that they, too, were noticing more bottles of wine, whisky, and vodka in the recycling bin.
Some of the obvious reasons for increased consumption included our need to soothe our frayed nerves as well as a treat to look forward to at the end of each day. Economic uncertainty plus working from home plus kids home all day plus distance learning (possibly the 2 most nausea-inducing words in the English language) equal stressful days that seem to drag on forever. A quick and effective way to melt the tensions of the day away is to have a nice dry martini. Maybe a perfectly chilled glass of Chardonnay.
A close friend of mine said that she, too, would wait until the last carpool of the evening was done before she could enjoy some gin and that sometimes that meant waiting until 10 PM or later at which point she’d have to get to bed in anticipation of another 6 AM wakeup to get the kids off to school. Now that she didn’t have to drive anywhere at all and could wake up later because schools were closed, she was free to enjoy her gin much earlier in the evening and that she was less careful about her stop time because with schools closed, she could sleep later.
Not having to drive anywhere was the most common reason cited by anyone I spoke to about this.
Some also said that in a world turned upside down where the schedules and conventions we’d lived by seemed to no longer apply, day drinking offered a sense of adventure, a once in a lifetime opportunity to try something they never would have done before the lockdown. And something they’d likely never get to do again once our schedules was back on track. I know a guy who has his first scotch of the day at around 11 while he’s preparing lunch for his three toddlers and makes his way through the rest of the bottle by dinner time. Why? Because he can. And because he needs something comforting to temper the parenting Olympics he and his wife have been participating in.
Another friend pointed out that a glass is the easiest way to transition from the work/school day into the evening, relaxing part of the day. “It’s a diffuser.” Prior to quarantine, she saved her drinking for a weekend treat. Now she’s been having two glasses at the end of each day. Wine marks the end of the day, offering a semblance of structure, which has been sorely lacking.
The crippling uncertainty around when lockdown will end, what life will look like when it does, and how we will manage economically also makes us answer the beck and call of our bar carts each day. Parenting was challenging enough before all of this landed in our laps but we are now living through a moment in history for which there is no playbook. We do the best we can to keep our kids safe and ourselves sane.
And that often means having a glass (or a bottle) of Shiraz. Which is what I’m going to do as soon as I finish writing this.