Twists, Turns and Red Herrings
This week I am a Guest Contributor on Crime Traveller. Please check it out!
This January, I’ve decided I’m going to try to abstain from alcohol and participate in “Dry January.” In case you are not familiar, Dry January started in the United Kingdom in 2013. It was inspired by a marathon runner, Emily Robinson, who had given up drinking in January of 2011 to prepare for her upcoming run. What surprised her the most was the overall interest in her month-long sobriety from her friends and colleagues. According to Alcoholchange.org.uk by 2017, a “YouGov survey showed that over four million Britons.”
What are the Benefits of Dry January?
There are proven health benefits to drinking in moderation. In fact, according to A 2016 British study, found that “research suggests that temporary abstinence from alcohol may convey physiological benefits and enhance well-being.” They showed that a short break from alcohol could significantly improve everything from liver function to sleep quality.
Wait, it gets better!
Does short term drinking in moderation or abstention result in a rebound effect? Perhaps down the road, the participant would drink more. The opposite happened.
A recent study proved that this month-long break correlated with better relationships with alcohol after a dry January. Furthermore, participants were not likely to experience a rebound effect nor drink as much as they previously did.
But wait I’m a mom and mom’s LOVE wine
I agree that we need to relax about mommy wine culture. It’s time to acknowledging that mothering is hard, and wine is one thing that forces us to take time for ourselves and relax. So although I still enjoy a glass of wine, lately, I’ve been examining my relationship with wine and what I’m looking to achieve by drinking it. Could I replace that glass of wine and give myself something else.
SOBER CURIOUS YET?
Ruby Warrington coined the term, “Sober Curious” in the 2018 book Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. In this, she explores a different view on sobriety that has dramatically appealed to readers. A myriad of causes has added the appeal of this trend to Millennials and Generation Z and has encouraged them to rethink their relationship with alcohol.
There has been an influx of booze-free bars and fancy mocktails blended with relaxing herbs and adaptogens replacing alcoholic cocktails. This sobriety movement looks much different than those of past generations. “For these New Abstainers, sobriety is a thing to be, yes, toasted over $15 artisanal mocktails at alcohol-free nights at chic bars around the country, or at “sober-curious” yoga retreats.” This New Sobriety is becoming a marketing niche just as the mommy wine culture has. Marketing niches provide consumers with choices to give themselves something while they are simultaneously taking something away.
What can you give yourself this January
I recommend browsing this list from Refiner29.com’s best non-alcoholic drinks to buy. It’s full of fun non-alcoholic drinks to try, some with adaptogens and CBD to help you relax without alcohol. I like to brew a pot of Hibiscus tea, let it cool overnight and then make cocktails with it. Mix one part tea and one part adaptogens rich drink of choice. Then I add a splash of sparkling orange juice. Pour over ice, and I’m ready to zen out. The hibiscus tea has tannins in them that gives your palette the same tingle as wine. But instead of liver-damaging wine, you get all the health benefits of hibiscus, including increased liver function and lower blood pressure.
You could reach for the tried and true cup of hot tea as well. It’s all about taking that time for self-care and realizing it’s not really about the wine, it is about the ritual, and this is an essential reason moms like wine. It is a forced moment to fill our cup; this January, I’m just going to fill it with something else.
My older son was always interested in his baby brother. He wanted to be by him and play with him. He never was that toddler or preschooler to fawn over his little brother, though, and that, of course, is fine, not everyone is a baby person. However, I realized by the time the little one was 18 months, I wasn’t doing anything to encourage a bond between them.
I came into motherhood during the age we are supposed to trust out baby, toddler, preschooler. Telling my older son how to feel about babies seemed wrong. Then it dawned on me there is a big difference between forcing and modeling.
Here is how I fostered their already existing love for each other in three steps:
Step One: I started small, pointing out cute babies when we were in a restaurant. Saying things like, “Oh, look at that cute baby, squishy squish face.” Mixing humor with the observations delighted my son and piqued his interest.
Step Two: Then, I concentrated on making my older son feel secure and loved. When I felt gratitude for having a four-year-old, I would tell him. For example, when we went for a walk together, I would say to him how glad I was to have a big four-year-old who can go for walks on, or who can wash his own hands, or climb into his car seat, etc. It also helped me realize how grateful I was to have a big four-year-old and not just a cute 18-month-old.
Step Three: Telling my younger son when I was grateful that he had such a loving, helpful big brother. Anytime I caught my older son helping his little brother I would say, “oh wow, you have such a kind brother, we are so lucky to have him, I wish I had a brother like that.” It did feel a little like pandering, but it was true, we were lucky, and I did wish I had a brother like him. What was the harm in saying it out loud? Likewise, I would say similar things about the little brother.
Now is their relationship perfect? No. According to the psychologist and parenting expert Maureen Campion, the sibling relationship is the most dynamic relationship most people will ever experience. A lot of times, I will tell them they are too loud in my living room and need to leave (also advise thanks to Maureen Campion). Sometimes I will say I am not going to referee them, so either find a way to play together or do something else and try to give them the space to figure it out.
I am, however, always trying to continually model respectful behavior, love, and gratitude for each other to foster their natural sibling love.
I remember a very stressful shopping trip with my toddler and 2-month-old. I realized after it was too late how hard it was to reach in the cart while wearing a baby carrier. Compounding, this was trying to keep my toddler’s demands about pushing credit and scanner buttons to a minimum. I started to feel sweaty and anxious about the whole experience.
At this moment, I was surprised when the elderly couple behind me offered to unload the cart for me. Pausing for some context, I’m from Minnesota, and we have a specific set of norms on how you respond to an offer of help. First, you say, “Oh no, I’m fine, thanks.” Then the offeree says, “No, I don’t mind.” After this goes on for a painfully long period, you eventually say: “Okay, your right, thank you, that is so kind,” and except said help. This scenario also works when someone offers you a bagel or brownie. Except, of course, if it is the last or only piece, then you better make sure you accept and cut it in half.
Moving on, I remember thinking how nice and helpful this was and felt so grateful. There were many instances like this when I was out and about with an infant that made me feel good about people. Since I started having these pleasant feelings, I aggressively offer help to new or pregnant moms. The question I would like to answer is:
“Why do babies bring out the best in people?”
Well, as it happens, several biological, hormonal, and psychological theories help explain this behavior. Three being: altruism, allomaternal caregiving, and empathy. But could it be something else?
Maybe, people don’t suck. Let’s explore.
I admit it. I love to fall right into a YouTube rabbit hole of heartwarming animal videos. I can’t look away from a whale saving a sea lion from orcas, a leopard adopting a baby baboon, or an elephant attempting to get a baby rhino out of the mud.
There is one adorable thing these examples point out, altruism in the animal kingdom. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves.” So, one key characteristic of altruism is the individual receiving help is the sole beneficiary. Not only this, but in doing altruistic behavior, the helper is possibly putting themselves in peril.
In my shopping example, the couple helping me is not benefiting at all by helping me. This couple was wasting precious energy. The couple should preserve energy in case a velociraptor is waiting in the parking lot. When looked at, without the rose-colored glasses I tend to wear, a lot of altruistic behavior can be explained away by some selfish goals.
For example, maybe the elderly couple just wanted to hurry the checkout process along and helping me ultimately benefited them by getting them to their next destination on time. Regardless altruism is a well-documented behavior in mammals like primates, whales as well as birds.
The other animal behavior that helps explains some of my experiences is allomaternal caregiving. In the article “Who Cares? Between-group variation in alloparental caregiving in sperm whales,” the authors Shane Gero, Dan Engelhaupt, Luke Rendell, and Hal Whitehead explore this behavior in whales. They explain, “Alloparental care can be defined as any behavior by a nonparent which benefits the young and which would not be performed outside the presence of the young.” It is altruistic behavior that relates to especially caregiving. It is used by researchers to understand adoption and even fatherhood.
For example, according to Marianne L. Riedman in “The Evolution of Alloparental Care and Adoption in Mammals and Birds,” scientists have repeatedly observed orphaned penguin chicks as being adopted by other adult penguins with no genetic relationship. Without this genetic bond, there is no apparent evolutionary answer for such behavior.
Back to my example, the elderly couple is investing in the survival of my children. Most likely, because of humans’ highly social or cooperative group structure.
Now, of course, we would be missing the more significant point if we didn’t point out the elephant in the room, empathy. From personal experience, this is, of course, one reason I help out parents in the store, especially with young children, I empathize.
Being a parent is hard. There are hormones and anxiety that can make the time right after the birth of a new child just hard.
In this way, I feel what this other parent feels. I can recognize the signs of distress from another mom. I can realize the disheveled appearance, the clenched teeth, the exhausted tones. The helper handles this and wants to do whatever they can to relieve these parents’ stress.
There is one other idea that I couldn’t correctly categorize but combines all of the above and includes one hopeful design about people. Maybe the baby breaks down the barrier that allows this empathy and helpfulness to shine through?
Perhaps it is more socially acceptable to help new moms for the reasons explained above, and that allows the stranger to offer help and kindness as they always wished to do.
In other words, people are just walking around unconsciously looking for nice things to do, and a baby is just the excuse that our complex social structure offers. In this way, motherhood has helped change my view of people entirely.
The majority are kind, and I am not sure I would have come to this realization if I never had babies. In this way, motherhood has given me tremendous insight into people I never expected.