Yesterday morning, I spent a few hours with a group of moms in a very strange gathering. We were surrounded by a selection of fresh-squeezed juices, high-end teas and a platter of something called smoothie shooters, but no wine in sight. Not even a mimosa.
These days that qualifies as a rare event. Wine, preferably white, sometimes sparkling, is something of a given when mothers get together these days. If not always in reality, it certainly seems so from blogs devoted to mommy drinking, to television shows that play off drunken mothering as a joke, to the regular Facebook and Twitter updates about using wine as a crutch until daddy arrives home.
That was exactly the point of the gathering: to talk about the consequences of modern parents’ embrace of wine-accompanied playdates and the jokey culture around needing wine to deal with kids.
“So many women I know started drinking more after they have kids,” said Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, the blogger and author who has admitted publicly to an alcohol addiction. She was the unofficial keynote of the event, hosted by The Century Council to discuss their new report on women and drunken-driving.
The study found that the number of women arrested for impaired driving jumped 36 percent in the last decade. Women now account for almost a quarter of drunken driving arrests.
The report does not delve much into the current climate of drinking while parenting beyond noting that the profile of the “average” female arrestee is in her 30s, better educated and more likely than male drunken drivers (or the general population) to suffer from anxiety and/or depression. In other words, she looks like many mothers.
“It’s the ‘mommy culture’ now. It’s dropping the kids off at ballet to go across the street to meet a friend for a few glasses of wine… It reconnects us to our fun old selves and it’s how we deal with the stress,” said the Los Angeles-based Wilder-Taylor.
Beyond the social aspect, there’s also the fact that “moms put so much pressure on themselves to be there for the kids, to be uber-patient, they think they’ll be irritable or angry without wine,” she said. “Before you know it, it’s become a habit.”
The author of “Naptime Is The New Happy Hour,” (Gallery, 2008 ) said she suspected she might have had a drinking problem when her daughter was young and she found herself drinking nightly. “At the end of the day, I had had three glasses of wine and a Xanax. My husband was doing the middle of the night duty.”
After some prodding, she gave it up for a while, including during her pregnancy with twins. After the twins were born, though, she started drinking wine again.
One evening, when her twins were toddlers, she drove to a playdate with some friends. The mothers drank martinis. She had two, including one that was “topped off” before piling the kids back in the car and driving five minutes back home. She thought she was fine. (As it happens, the more people drink, the less likely they can adequately judge their abilities.)
The next morning, Wilder-Taylor awoke with a nasty hangover. She realized she had been drunk and that her decision to drive had been a dangerous one. That day she decided to quit drinking.
Wilder-Taylor now hosts on her blog the stories of other mothers who have also decided to give up drinking.
What’s so remarkable about her story and the stories on her blog is that they are voiced at all. Many of us might readily laugh about our nightly need for wine, but few of us would admit that it might tip over into problem territory.
But it’s a slippery slope between that first glass of white wine and the third.
What do you think? Is the current culture of drinking while parenting encouraging problem drinking?