The New York Times published an article entitled “A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up” on August 14th, highlighting the recent about-face of mommy-blogger Stefanie Wilder-Taylor when she declared she had had her last drink. After writing two books about mixing cocktails with play dates, her public admission that she was overdoing it caused many of her readers to feel that their own drinking habits had been brought into question. Is it a problem or does it have more to do with what we expect culturally of mothers and women and the ease with which we revert to a type – i.e. soccer mom, cocktail mom, etc. – rather than acknowledging nuances, assumptions, presuppositions, etc.?
Here are some insightful thoughts from NAMC members and volunteers:
I don’t like the word “cocktail moms” for one. Like “soccer moms” it characterizes a whole group with a word that avoids complexity. As a one-glass-of-wine drinker much of my adult life, including many days even when the kids were younger, the drinks aren’t the issue.
Addiction is one issue – and loneliness is a terrible thing and would make someone prone to addictions more vulnerable. I see women in my practice addicted with young children addicted to e-bay and other forms of spending money. True addictions. The added problem with drinking is it puts others at risk – especially when you add the car to the mixture.
I see many people whose mothers and/or fathers were alcoholics and the psychological damage is very great. Not to mention the fact those kids are probably at higher risk for trauma because they aren’t being watched in the same way.
But I think having a glass of wine when the kids are asleep or a glass in the afternoon is fine unless it’s not fine. I mean to say that if one doesn’t have a problem with alcohol and has a drink of course it’s OK. But when a family is in trouble we don’t have a great way of identifying it and then helping.
We, as a nation, encourage certain kinds of addiction. We measure our economic well-being by an indicator of how much people are spending on things they don’t need. We don’t do much to help families feel less isolated. We don’t offer intense drug and alcohol addiction prevention programs. We don’t teach emotional intelligence in our schools. We don’t teach parenting. This article strikes me as one of those “sexy” topics. It will play for a while but no programs will come about, no funding for treatment, no additional spaces in every community where mothers can break the isolation.
If there is a blog that helps people identify when they have to pay attention to increasing addictive behavior, great. Will there also be a place for people to go once they see they have a problem? No insurance, no treatment. And even if they have insurance, who watches the kids?
You make a very important point that the isolation moms face can exacerbate the problem. The two recent drinking & driving moms stories in NY [the well publicized tragedy of the wrong-way driver on the Taconic and another from the Hamptons where a woman hit & killed a 15 yr old on his bike while driving drunk with her own 6 yr. old in the car] has made this piece all the more timely.
We know what is needed. How to get it done sooner is the question. A network of places – maybe cyber and virtual – safe places to talk, break the isolation, offer services and referrals, a respite from childcare, work opportunities and skill building, validation and positive regard. A Mothers Movement where the voices and needs of mothers are amplified AND accommodated. A loud and large maternal voice will make changes that benefit humanity.
There are so many issues involved. Having a glass of wine is not a problem unless, as you say, it is a problem. There are certain people who should not be drinking, period, whether or not they are mothers. I don’t want to see this framed as another “problem with mothers” issue.
I worked as a psychotherapist who also was a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor. Women were always under-identified as problem drinkers. The isolation was one reason. Also, there was a belief that women were not as problematic in this area as were men. For example, if a woman was stopped for drunk driving, she was more often told that, if she were close to her home, to just get there carefully and not drink and drive again. It was a stereotype. (Men, on the other hand, were more often arrested and, for first timers, referred to mandatory treatment.) People did not want to think of women as alcoholics, certainly not the working- and middle-class suburban wives and mothers who I saw in my practice. Substance abuse was a problem for those “other” people, or so the thinking went. Very wrong. I recall being at an early talk by people setting up the Women’s Liberation Center on Long Island. They told how they went door to door during the day, when kids were in school and men at work. They came upon an unexpectedly high number of obviously drunk women answering the door. Women drank and sobered up by the time the kids got home from school, thus hiding a problem for a long time.
So it’s a lot of things — societal attitudes toward women, isolation, the ability to hide a problem until it emerges in some disastrous form, and a misunderstanding of the disease of substance abuse. There is also a lack of education. Many people think that if you are not falling under the table then you are pretty much OK. But the first things affected, before you feel tipsy, are judgment and peripheral vision. These are two functions that need to be working full throttle when caring for kids and/or driving. You are right — we need better tools to identify and intervene and more ways to counter the stress, isolation and loneliness that often accompany being a SAHM and the conflicts and guilt often associated with juggling work inside and outside the home. Both can push people with a predisposition into a full-blown problem of abuse.
I don’t want people turning a judgmental eye on the non-problem-drinking women who have a glass or two of wine with family and friends or some beer at a picnic. The occasional fun time with friends is fine. Most of us have enjoyed those. Some of us reading this have enjoyed them with each other, in settings where we would not be behind the wheel or responsible for a child. But I think anyone –male or female, parent or not — who can always be counted on to be the “life of the party” should be considered at risk, no matter how ordinary they seem in the rest of their lives.
Also, in the follow up Washington Post article – “Rise in Drunk-Driving Arrests of Women Deplored” – – the author says “more women than ever” are being arrested on DUI charges – but men are arrested at FOUR TIMES THE RATE of women. So how much of a “problem” can this be?? It seems alarmist to me – and at the end of the article, the author notes that women in DC, MD and VA have either fewer fatalities while intoxicated or the same as last year – which undercuts the whole premise of the article, as least as it regards these three jurisdictions.