The Today Show Said My Mom’s A Drunk

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?

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  1. I wrote a post on this today, too. We make a lot of the same points (GMTA?)and yes, in the seventies, when I was a little kid, EVERYBODY drank. This hyper PC, moms-but be-saints crap is just that. CRAP!

  2. I must say that the segment was a really touchy subject – that of mothering skills. You’ll never get people to agree 100%, but the fact that these were at home moms was the clincher for the story. They were trying to turn it into an escape from loneliness and into alcoholism. Pretty pathetic. I rarely drink when I’m the only adult around, or if my husband is out of the house for the night as I would feel strange being the only driver for emergencies, but that’s me. I HAVE (eeekkk!!!) indulged a bit too much in front of my kids, and I have had wine, coffee, and tylenol while pregnant and nursing. (In MODERATION).

  3. The more I think about that segment, the more steamed I get. The whole thing smacked of a set-up. And yes, there are other ways to unwind but occasionally I like to act like an adult and have an adult beverage. I guess I won’t be up for sainthood any time soon, according to the Today Show.

  4. I had great friday happy hour plyadates, and no one got naked and danced on a table. We shared a glass of wine and enjoyed one anothers company with the kids. Give me a break, or should I say give Moms a break.I think the media always needs a way to crucify us.

  5. THANK YOU for bringing up the gender issue. I totally agree that men aren’t under the same scrutiny as women are.

    Meanwhile, this is a non-issue. Slow newsweek.

  6. What you said … ditto.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That show made me so mad. My kids were home sick and they even thought it was stupid. If we can’t have a drink durning a play date then when can we? It’s not as if we get time off. Why don’t they do a story about the harm Dads do when they are sitting on the couch watching football yelling for ANOTHER BEER.

  8. Thanks for your support. Personally, I think the whole thing is overblown and women are getting their panties in a bunch for no reason. A lot of us drink. Some to excess and they have a problem. Some to let off a little steam (nothing wrong with that). There are much bigger problems to worry about. Plus, I don’t even think the piece on Today Show was that slanted. I just felt they needed to have a foil and they made it the mom who has a drink. By tomorrow it will be forgotten. Hopefully I’ll have sold more books by then! Anyway, thanks for your support!

  9. I saw the show and it made me laugh. How ridiculous was that show?

  10. Her Bad Mother says:

    I missed that, but I’m glad that I did. And as Liz said, you’re so right to bring up the gender issue. This is WOMEN being judged. By each other.

  11. Christina, this is a great post. What great points you make. Honestly, my husband and I drink wine around our kids almost nightly at dinner. Am I drunk? No. Have I ever been drunk before? Yes, but not in front of my kids since one glass of wine isn’t gong to get me drunk.

    It has certainly rubbed off on my son, who mentioned to a family member at Christmas-time that the “grape juice” was only for grown-ups!

    But better he sees that we drink moderately and responsibly than making it out to be something wose than what it is. Like just what the Today did. But not that I trust the Today show as a benchmark of important news segments.

  12. Domestic Slackstress says:

    I blogged about this Today Show segment the morning it aired. I made fun of the whole thing and felt pretty smug about it … until one of the ladies/cocktail mommies featured in the segment left me a comment on my post. I feel kinda crappy about what I said now. Like I didn’t look out for my fellow female/mama. I should have cut her a little slack. I even dissed her book without reading it. As a writer, that would have pissed me off. Check it out if you want:
    Not to toot my own horn or anything.

  13. Julie Pippert says:

    Oh yeah yeah yeah. I just got my post about this up too.

    It’s actually interesting when a number of bloggers go after the same topic. Everyone has a slightly different take on it, although so far I think every one I have read comes home to the same point line: ease up guys or you’ll start squeaking when you walk!

    Great point about the 70s.

    Lots of moms were doped up in the 50s.

    And I know more than one 60s/70s kid whose mom has said, “Oh dear, maybe it was all the mary-jane I smoked when you were little…”

    My mom was also divorced and dating in the 70s.

  14. i’d love to be a party-it-up mama. problem is, these days, i nurse a beer for two hours and then fall asleep. yee haw!

  15. Wow, that’s pathetic, I hate the Today show, seriously. They have to sensationalize for ratings, I guess, but they seem to want to get all up in moms’ faces … I can’t believe I missed Stefanie on there though!

  16. Yes I agree with mrsfortune, these shows are made sensational to improve the ratings. And of course you are right. Too bad for those who watched and didn’t get it.

  17. I will never watch the today show after that (not that I did much before).
    It seems the best way to actually get something out of this is to look at why mommy-bashing is such a popular sport, and why do mothers themselves seem to be the biggest bullies?

    It’s based on deep rooted insecurity which stems from a total lack of institutionalized support for mothers. That leads to isolation which leads to a lot of icky projection of negative energy. There is no grey ares (like drinking in moderation) only “good” (breast feeding, staying at home, teetotalling etc..) and “Bad” (Bottle feeding, having a glass of wine, letting them eat hot dogs, whathaveyou).

  18. A-MEN, sister, you said it!! I’m so SICK of the double standard….dads are allowed — even expected — to have a guy’s night out, but when moms do it, they should be tsk-tsked. Why do we as a society do this to mothers? Like you said, we really can’t win, no matter what.

    Thanks for making some damn sense! 🙂

  19. I think that the worst is all this controversy and ‘mommy war’ thing comes from outside sources….and feeds upon our insecurities as parents.
    We are constantly looking around at other moms to judge our own parenting.
    You are not supposed to feel confident in your parenting….that would be boring.

    The other issue is and I am just as guilty as the next one is that when you look and compare yourself with others…you find people who are NOT like you, who HAVE different values, lifestyles etc…so then YES YOUR views may not jive at all with their views.

    Age, culture, religion are all part of this…..we are all different.

    We are not the same.

    So if some people don’t drink…great.
    If others do…great.

    To each their own….

  20. i’m from England and my parents used to drink at home and let us had spritzer and a taste of what evr we fancied and now both my borther and i are completly comfortable knowing our limits neither of us have ever been drunk to the point wher we could do our selves any harm but we both go out at weekends and sometimes have a drink sometimes a few (i am 22 and he is 18) M partners family DONT drink (drink is evil) and his brothers get absolutly drunk every week and usually pass out somewhere. My general theory on alchohol is that if its not a big deal you learn faster what your limits are etc. (sorry this has rambled on a bit.)

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’m a first time mom and I must say at lunches with other mothers after 4 hours of sleep, we were all looking at the cocktail menu before the lunch menu. I think what upsets me most about the Today show segment is that is was not realistic, if you really want to debate the subject, how two stay-at-home moms discuss it, not a working mother who is not at home with her kids and therefore has no idea how frustrating and difficult it can be and why one drink during an afternoon playdate is helpful not hurtful. If I cared enough to leave my career to stay at home with my son, why I would I put him in a harmful situation by drinking past my limit- obviously I wouldn’t!

  22. Thank you for such an insightful blog. I couldn’t agree more. It is infuriating that moms are now being held to this puritanical, impossibly high standard of behavior, to which no other generation in at least 200 years has been subjected. It is so paradoxical, in a time when women make more and more contributions to households, in terms of money and time, while on the other hand, we’re being scrutinized like delinquent children when we engage in responsible, adult behavior in our free time. I am raising my children to teach them how to be responsible, contributing members of society some day; the fact that people can have social lives, and have a few drinks with their friends is, to me, normal message to send.

    What do these people want moms to do? Either never drink, or hide in the basement after their kids go to bed, just to have a glass of wine, in fear that someone might actually witness them being (dare I say) a grown-up? Wow, that sure seems to send a weird message….

  23. Anonymous says:

    wow i wish my mom understood that.. im 16 now and she has been a drunk my whole life. There are 5 of us, and the oldest is 32 or 35 now. My mom has been a neglectful parent through put all of our livees but still tries to pul the oh im a good monny kinda stuff.. She doenst realize how severre her addiction is. I have lost sooo much respect for her cause of her drinking and other habits. She is going ot drink her self to death.. and i dont want to see that.. i just want my mom to get better so i can have a real mom

  24. Anonymous says:

    wow i wish my mom understood that.. im 16 now and she has been a drunk my whole life. There are 5 of us, and the oldest is 32 or 35 now. My mom has been a neglectful parent through put all of our livees but still tries to pul the oh im a good monny kinda stuff.. She doenst realize how severre her addiction is. I have lost sooo much respect for her cause of her drinking and other habits. She is going ot drink her self to death.. and i dont want to see that.. i just want my mom to get better so i can have a real mom