Thanks a lot, Today Show. After watching your segment on cocktail playdates, I called my mom and discussed the topic with her. During this discussion, mom said, “Well, when you were little, I’d have a wine cooler or two with my friends while you were playing with the other kids.”
Wow. After all these years, I find out that when we went over to her friends’ houses so I could play with their kids, turns out she was drinking alcohol with her friends. I never knew, and now the saintly image of my mother has been turned upside down, as I now see she was nothing more than a normal human being with a taste for alcohol and a desire to relax after working 40 hours a week, and parenting me on her own the other 138 hours. My childhood memories are shattered now that the truth has come out that my mom was a bad parent.
OK, all sarcasm aside now, WTF was up with this segment? For those who missed it, the video can be viewed at the link above. They did a short video piece, with the most sensational cutting I have ever seen (the kids were always shown with wine bottles or glasses near them), and they interviewed two blogger/writer moms who believe in the concept of cocktail playdates, while also bringing on an expert with the intention of slamming these moms, while not actually addressing what they said.
I give all the props in the world to Melissa Summers and Stefanie Wilder-Taylor for going on that show and fighting to get their (very valid and sensible) points across, despite the show’s attempts to make moms who happen to have a drink around their kids come across as nothing less than crack whores. The show tried to lump social drinking – having a glass or two over a period of time, possibly with food – in with college fraternity/sorority keg-stand binge drinking. While both Melissa and Stefanie emphasized that they were talking about one or two drinks, Meredith and Dr. Janet continued harping on the aspects of being legally impaired. Two totally different topics.
Drinking around kids is nothing new. My mom, along with others of her generation and generations before her, would occasionally have a drink while socializing with friends, all while the kids played nearby. And while I could have guessed that was going on, until she told me today, I had no idea. (It clearly left an impression, eh?) Mom also used to leave me with the babysitter so she could go out drinking at bars with her non-parent friends, too. She was 24, newly divorced, and struggling with being a single parent. I can’t blame her at all for that – I’d want a drink, too.
This piece only reinforced the belief that mothers should be held to higher standards than non-parents, fathers, or any other human beings, while at the same time also suggesting the moms are complete idiots who could never know when “enough is enough” when it comes to drinking. So we’re supposed to be holier than the Virgin Mary, yet we’re not intelligent enough to know how to stop if given a little alcohol? It’s no wonder we can’t win.
The truth is, American culture is filled with puritanical notions of right and wrong, and alcohol happens to be one of the hot buttons, especially when paired with the hot button of mothering. Many here don’t understand the word moderation, how to apply it, or how others could possibly know what it means. The Europeans are probably laughing themselves silly at us, and we deserve it. Social drinking, especially at meal time, is much more common in Europe, where even a pregnant woman can have an occasional glass of wine without being shunned. Yet their kids don’t seem to have higher levels of alcoholism, and I do believe their kids are still beating the pants off of us in standardized tests.
And this segment also suggested that it is OK for parents to drink if it’s a mixed event, like a BBQ or family gathering. (I guess it’s OK then because the men are there to stop us crazy, unintelligent women from drinking too much, right?) And nothing was mentioned about dads drinking in front of their kids. Do they get a free pass?
Moms, especially stay at home moms, don’t often get the chance to socialize with friends without their kids. If everyone else is allowed to have a drink to relax, why can’t moms? Dr. Janet kept saying that there had to be “healthier” ways to relax, but come on – these women aren’t getting drunk everyday, they’re having an occasional glass of wine now and then. And isn’t it healthier to have a glass with friends while sharing your frustrations, than to sit at home and drink alone to drown your misery?
Would I drink around my children? Yes. Would I get drunk around my children? No. Do I know my limits? Absolutely. Believe me, I drank enough in college to know my limits very well. One glass of wine would barely have any effect on me, and if I drink it over the course of an hour or more, would probably have no effects on my judgment or ability. And as I get older, I find one glass of wine is just the right amount for a social setting.
And it’s not like I drink every day. Or every week for that matter. I happen to like good wine (especially a good German Riesling…yum), and when at a social function, I enjoy having a glass. Big shocker of the day: I’ve even had a glass of wine while pregnant. Again, it’s all about moderation, people. My OB leveled with me and said the only reason doctors don’t tell patients it’s OK to drink while pregnant is because some people don’t understand moderation. She had no problems with me having a glass of wine.
I see nothing wrong with modeling responsible drinking around my kids. Keeping alcohol a big secret from them will only cause them to find out about it later, possibly from someone who doesn’t share my belief on moderation. I’d rather be the one teaching the lesson on what is proper alcohol consumption and when it is appropriate.
Stefanie said it best, and Melissa echoed it, when she said this is simply one more way that women judge each other in the quest to think themselves better than other mothers. Most moms are intelligent human beings who are simply trying to find the balance between being the best possible mother while also not losing our own sense of self in the mountain of sippy cups, Dora videos, and diapers. I’m pretty sure that when I left the hospital with my daughter, I didn’t have to sign any legal statements swearing to give up my entire life as I know it, and never do anything to ruin my child’s image of me, like drinking, watching TV, eating anything but healthy foods, and having sex.
I am a mom, but I’m also a woman, a wife, a daughter, a writer, a student, and a friend, and for my own sanity I have to be allowed to continue to develop the other roles in my life, and not just the one of mommy. Because if I shut off all other areas of my life, deny that I am anything but a mother, what kind of role model am I being to my daughter?