Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Oh, Demon Alcohol!

by Christie Mellor


Recently I was asked, first for Babble.com [1] and then for Time magazine — if I had any thoughts on the “drinking mom” trend. Because apparently, in light of the tragic Diane Schuler drunken car crash, the era of the chardonnay-swilling mama is officially over. The nice lady from Time magazine asked if she was correct in “crediting” me with the trend. Of course, I told her. I love to be credited "with starting the phenomenon," except when it might imply that I'm somehow responsible for parents behaving irresponsibly and killing those in their charge.


I think the whole “saucy drinking mom” trend may have been--if not entirely fabricated-- then certainly ginned up by various media. After "The Three-Martini Playdate [2]" was published there suddenly appeared a slew of parenting books with alcohol-soaked titles. And much was made of the idea of groups of harried moms convening in backyards across the country to guzzle margaritas while the kiddies played. I was constantly asked how often I had my own “three-martini playdates,” as if I hosted scheduled, organized gatherings of drinking mothers every afternoon. But if you actually read my book, you might gather that the title was more metaphorical than literal. Despite the many enthusiastic references to smoking and drinking, the book wasn’t meant to encourage mommies to down a fifth of vodka at their toddler's playdates. It was meant to get frazzled parents to take a look at their over-scheduled, child-centric lives and reclaim their time. Perhaps with a chilled cocktail in hand. Oops! There I go again.


Yes, I do think that mommies and daddies should get to socialize with their friends and each other, without the mandatory addition of noisy and attention-grabbing children. I do think that parents should encourage their kids to be self-sufficient, so their children will learn to entertain themselves, so that they, the parents, might get to actually enjoy some occasional grown up time. Socializing sometimes involves alcohol. No, it doesn’t always have to involve alcohol. But I still think it’s possible to enjoy drinks with friends without everyone necessarily getting blotto and accidentally killing their children.


As horrible and tragic as the Schuler story is, I don’t know if this is quite in the same category as a few parents unwinding with a glass of wine at the end of the day. It happened at 9:30 in the morning? She’d just been smoking pot and had the equivalent of ten drinks in her system before driving her mini-van for two miles into oncoming traffic? Forgive me if I don’t think this can be characterized as a Three-Martini Playdate scenario gone awry.

Giving up drinking is a very personal choice. I’ve had friends who’ve quit drinking because they really felt that it affected their personalities. Other friends have quit because it simply doesn’t agree with them anymore. It’s good to know your own body, to know how much of anything you can and cannot have. I wish I could smoke pot, I really do. I have friends who swear by it as an aid to creativity, and I would love to be one of those smiling, pot-smokin’ artistes, like Louis Armstrong. But I discovered at age 19 that the pot affects me very badly. If you are easily affected by alcohol, then have a light wine spritzer, or a ginger ale. If you’re using a lot of alcohol to “unwind,” or if you find yourself feeling like you really “need a drink” to escape the burdens and stresses of your life, then you really ought to do something about the burdens and stresses of your life.


But mind-altering substances have been with us since the dawn of time. I think it’s a natural human tendency to want to heighten experiences, to loosen the tongue, to feel less constrained, to change the brainwaves. And one can only drink so much coffee. So I like to have a drink once in a while. I am a big fan of the cocktail. Specifically martinis. Or a nice glass of wine. A single malt scotch on occasion. I enjoy making cocktails, discussing cocktails; I love the whole cocktail culture. I grew up in San Francisco, which is the home of the three-martini lunch. Because of the number of neon martini glasses on the outside of bars, I like to say that it’s the only city where you can be illiterate and still find a drink. And I make a stellar martini.


I also believe in the mind-altering effects of a beautiful raw-milk Camembert, but my personal body-type won’t allow me to do much more than take a few bites and then glance at it longingly for the rest of the night. I’ve recently discovered the fabulous mind-altering effects of getting enough sleep at night. Wow! Who knew? And I know that when I peel my butt from my computer chair and go for a brisk walk, my mental state is greatly altered in a delightfully positive way.


But I guess I still just like the idea of drinking cocktails, even if I don’t literally chill the glasses at 5 o’clock sharp on a daily basis. The idea of a cocktail hour is so civilized, harkening back to a time when grownups were grownups, with their own mysterious world involving clinking ice-cubes in highball glasses, women in taffeta cocktail dresses and the sound of laughter that we could hear from our perch at the top of the stairs.


I know there are alcoholics and people from alcoholic families out there who probably think I have a very cavalier attitude; And honestly, I don’t mean to sound flippant about it. But for me personally, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Eating and drinking with friends is one of the joys of life. However, I really hate missing an entire day due to recovering from too-indulgent evening, so I don’t over-do it much anymore. And I stay away from steering wheels. And Karaoke bars.


Mommy Track'd columnist Stefanie Wilder-Taylor on drinking:
My Sobering Secret [2]
Hair of the Dog [2]

A Shot Glass of Truth [2]
Thank You Rachael Brownell [2]
A Look Back [2]

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