Spoiler: I didn’t get divorced or try to sell my kid on Gumtree – a miracle.
Words by Melissa Shedden
A week without wine for a parent is like Andy without Hamish, or fairy bread without sprinkles – it simply doesn’t work.
Hold your “feedback” please parenting police but I’m one of those wine mums who likes to share a glass or two with my husband at the end of a long day to take the edge off. But when we realised every day had become a long day after having our first baby, we made the decision to reserve opening a bottle until the weekend.
Yes, like memes suggest, like it or not, wine is often to mums what duct tape is to dads – it fixes everything. At least I thought so – until one glass too many combined with a 5.30am alarm (in the shape of a chubby baby) made me question if it was really worth it? As any parent knows deep within their tired bones, you drink less yet the hangovers are worse – because life is just too relentless for recovery.
With that in mind, I decided to experiment with swapping my wine crutch for a much healthier alternative – kombucha – to see the difference. Welcome to my diary.
Ah Monday – the day of fresh starts and hope. The truth is I’m a tea, water, beer or wine girl. I don’t drink soft drinks. I’m not here for cocktails. I gave up coffee over a year ago when I went to a health retreat and after a decade drinking the black stuff, never got back on it. I’ve dabbled with kombucha but not with regularity.
So once I did the bedtime routine with our baby, I sat down to dinner and our nighttime routine – a beverage. Instead of twisting the top on a pinot grigio I opted for Remedy’s ginger and lemon kombucha – I mean the combination practically screams health. Hot and sour, fiery and tangy – it sounds like me on three hours sleep TBH. Surprisingly, I could only do half a bottle but it was nice to nurse something a little more special than water (or my child) on day one.
Day two and I was considering kombucha an addition to my cache of healthy-girl tools. This time though, I used a wild berry to bridge the window between lunch and dinner (which conveniently coincides with my urge to nap). I’d like to note this wasn’t a straight-up hour for hour wine swap per say, but it gave me the pep I needed to bring my A-game to another awake period – and I was able to pass on the chocolate I’d usually mindlessly inhale without having to flex any willpower.
I aspire to practice hands-on parenting, aka enriching playtime, frequent conversations about thoughts and feelings, patient well-reasoned explanations and extracurriculars like swimming and music. Mind you, I said aspire, not achieve 100% of the time (more like 62% if I’m generous) because childrearing in this style takes tons of time, patience and energy, which I have depleted levels of already – especially by a Wednesday.
I take the edge off hump day with a Mango Passion, the taste equivalent of tropical holidays, and realise we’ve been going to bed earlier because I’ve not had a wine and then sat on the couch in a phone scroll-hole. An unexpected side effect I think as I turn the lights out at 8.30pm.
After a 5am wake up from our daughter (not as rude when I’ve been in bed for 8.5 hours) it’s a parent’s group meetup at the local club. Our offshoot group basically formed around an appreciation for sharing mishaps over a French rose. Instead of joining them in a glass, I order a raspberry lemonade kombucha, which basically looks like some type of sparkling anyway. No one even asks about it.
I double up at night and have another. Now if you’re worrying about saving your daily kombucha for unwinding in the evening, there's only a potential problem if you’re uber caffeine sensitive. Fermenting reduces the amount of caffeine, but it does still contain 10 milligrams or less – the equivalent of a cup of decaf coffee or tea. Me? I’m one of those weirdos who could have an espresso before bed and still sleep so no troubles here.
Jesus might have turned water to wine, but by Friday I can turn wine into thin air because it tends to disappear at an alarming rate. I can’t be alone in thinking wine is simply a shorthand for relaxation for any exhausted human. I have to admit though, Friday was probably the moment I missed my chilled chardy the most, but that’s the autopilot talking. My husband and I instead sat down for a game of Sequence (yes, I’m a major boardgame nerd) and a wild berry kombucha. Wholesome – and again, we rolled into bed earlier than usual.
I thought I knew what a hangover was. I’d splashed vomit down the side of enough nightclub toilet cubicles. I’d eaten McDonald's drive-thru at 10am. I once knew the delight of falling asleep in a Paris park in broad daylight using my handbag as a pillow. But that was before. Before I experienced what I now know as a hangover. Only once you’ve allowed a baby to clamber over you through waves of nausea do you understand the anguish of a real hangover – the parent hangover. The best thing about this kombucha switch is waking up every morning less dehydrated and more clear-minded and Saturday left me feeling level 10 smug for a fun family day.
The final day of my wine swap experiment and I did use a wild berry as a mixer with my G&T to toast my success (I said I’d swapped wine not booze all together and I was intrigued if they’d work together. Surprise: they do!). As I sipped the jammy delight, I realised I’d stopped craving dessert each night. It just happened, with zero effort on my part. Maybe it was because with the ritual of having a kombucha it didn’t seem necessary. Or maybe it was because my energy levels felt perfectly perky without it (Remedy is the I Quit Sugar approved kombucha for those playing at home). Reflecting on the week, I preferred the parent, wife and human I was – more present thanks to the extra sleep and peppier than usual – thanks to the lack of wine-related fuzziness. And rather than feeling deprived, a kombucha a day was a pleasant way to do it.