When martinis and mothers don’t mix

Drinking and mothering is an uncomfortable subject for many adults who struggle with the issue of whether drinking, even in moderation, is a good example for impressionable children growing up in a home where alcohol is readily available. Some parents believe that if a child grows up in an environment where social drinking is done in a controlled manner that children can be raised to be responsible adult drinkers. This raises the important question, however, of what constitutes “controlled?” Unfortunately, drinking alcoholic beverages is no longer an activity that only happens at “grown-up” parties after children have been put to bed. Play dates, mommies, and mixed drinks have become the latest disturbing trend that is viewed by mothers who disagree with the behavior as alcohol abuse and child neglect.

Mothers with young children often feel cut off from female friendships that are more than just casual meetings at the local park or playground. “It’s enough to drive you to drink,” is a common enough adage often spoken as a “tongue-in-cheek” response by harried moms at the end of a very difficult and draining day.  Many mothers are choosing to raise their families later in life and either giving up careers or putting them on hold for the future. The child-bearing years can be lonely ones when you have been accustomed to daily interaction with co-workers and business associates, or have had the freedom to just hang out whenever you felt like it.

To ease the loneliness and occasionally escape into an atmosphere that is normally considered “adult only,” trendy moms have invented a new kind of play group. It’s a place where mothers can exchange their sweats for designer jeans and discuss all the latest gossip while leaving just the smallest trace of a favorite lipstick on the rim of a martini glass. Before you go wishing for this kind of play group, let’s look at the big picture. Is mixing drinking with mothering a good thing?

Here’s one mother’s story about how she was jolted into the realization that, for her, alcohol and play group just wasn’t a good mix.

Sara was waiting in the pharmacy line to pick up her son’s cold medicine when she bumped into one of the mothers from her “Baby and Me” Class. After exchanging names and commiserating about the nasty virus that both of their kids were sick with, Sara impulsively shared her private frustration of feeling like her whole identity was wrapped up in being a mommy. “What I wouldn’t give for some stimulating female conversation!” she confided.

Her new friend, Jess, invited Sara to her “Mommies, Munchkins, and Martinis Group” that met every week to socialize and be pampered while the children played. She mentioned the word, “facial,” in connection with the next get-together and Sara was practically drooling at the thought of how much she wanted to be a part of a group like that.

Her first day, she was impressed to see the other moms wearing make-up and trendy clothes. A couple of them even had manicured nails. Embarrassed by her sweats and pony tail, Sara told herself that her designer jeans were “so coming out” for the next meeting. One of the moms handed her a glass of white chardonnay and told her to “enjoy” as she hustled her kids away to the play yard. While Sara relaxed and just mingled, her three boys were involved in supervised activities run by two college-age girls. Two hours later, she went home feeling like a new woman, and she liked it.

Before Sara knew it, she was a regular member of the group. Every week, for two hours, she would hang out with her new friends while sipping wine or a martini. Each time she left, she could hardly wait for the next play date.

A couple months down the road, however, Sara had a rude awakening. She had just gotten home from the “Mommies, Munchkins, and Martinis Group” when she received a phone call from one of the other moms. Bad news was traveling fast as word of Jess’s DUI spread throughout the whole group. To make matters worse, Jess was also faced with a reckless endangerment charge because she had been enroute from the weekly play date with her kids in the car when she was stopped for speeding.. Sara felt like she’d had cold water thrown in her face.

She thought a lot how much the regular play dates had come to mean in her life. Sara also admitted to herself for the first time that she had been enjoying those weekly cocktails a little too much. In the beginning, it had all seemed both glamorous and fun; a chance to let the kids play while the moms got to feel like cosmopolitan women enjoying each other’s company, if only for a couple of hours.

But, what if what happened to Jess had happened to her? Sara wondered how many times she had driven home with her kids without thinking about the affects of those two or three drinks she’d had. With a sinking heart, she realized that mixing alcohol with play dates could be a lethal combination. Sara was horrified to realize that, what had started out as a simple play date mixed with social time for the moms, had gotten way out of control. Sadly, she realized that for her, drinking and mothering just didn’t mix.

There are many moms out there that regularly drink socially during their children’s play dates without considering the possible consequences. Like Jess and Sara, they haven’t stopped to ask themselves some very difficult questions. If you’ve been drinking and mothering at the same time, use the following checklist to look honestly at whether you might be on the verge of developing a drinking problem.

• Am I  drinking more than I used to?

• Do I need a drink to let my hair down?

• Am I hiding the fact that I drink from friends who don’t?

• Have any of my loved ones expressed concern about how much I am drinking?

• Do I refill my glass when I think no one is looking?

• Do I find myself isolating from old friends and preferring my new drinking friends?

• Do I sometimes promise myself that I will cut down on how much I am drinking, but   later decide I’m really okay?

• Do I find that I am drinking more frequently when I feel stressed?

• Have I started drinking at home during the day?

• Has answering these questions caused me to feel uncomfortable or defensive?

Being a mom is a twenty-four hour a day job. But moms have needs too. They aren’t just mothers; they’re women. They need adult relationships and female friendships. They need ways to stay in touch with the world outside of diapers and runny noses. Most of all, they deserve to relax and have some fun. Play dates offer mothers the opportunity to enjoy being with their kids while hanging out with other mothers who are in the same stage of life. But is becoming a “munchkin and martini mommy” the best way to accomplish that? If you are concerned that you may be abusing alcohol, consider getting help from an organization that specializes in alcohol abuse such as Alcoholic Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery.

Aside from the potential for creating an unsafe environment for your child when mixing social drinking with mothering, developing a habit of mixing the two can lead to unhealthy dependence on alcohol for relaxation. You may be a woman who enjoys a social drink on occasion.  You may also be a really great mother. But drinking and mothering may not be activities that it is ever wise to simultaneously mix.