November 20, 2009

Why the Double Standard?

When this issue first came to light over the summer, I debated whether I really wanted to open the topic up for debate on my blog. But a new article in a parenting magazine has me ready to start a discussion.
I'm talking about women, specifically moms, who drink. In July, a New York woman died in a crash that also killed four children and three other adults. Apparently the woman was legally drunk and impaired by marijuana. There is no excuse for what she did, no justification. But after this case made the news, suddenly various media outlets pounced on the trend of moms who drink. Moms. Not parents. Moms.
I sat down yesterday to read my latest issue of Parents magazine and found myself staring at an article titled "Playdates with Cocktails." The article highlights women who get together and consume alcoholic beverages while their children play. First of all, who are these moms and where do they live? During the playdates I've attended we barely have time to use the bathroom, let alone toss back a few cold ones. I'm not saying that there aren't moms out there who don't crack open a bottle of wine while they're all hanging out, but I have a hard time believing this happens on a daily basis in every suburb of America.
The thing that bothered me most about this article is that there are pages devoted specifically to women who drink. At the end of the article there is a small blurb about the message dads who binge drink send to their children. The message I'm receiving? It's OK for dads to crack open a beer, or two or more but the second mom does it we need to be outraged. Think about football Sunday. The stereotype is a "family man" blowing off steam with his buddies by sharing a few beers (or in the case of my neighbor, opening up the kegerator to the men in the neighborhood). But if moms take a night to share Cosmos with friends, they should be chastised.
I'm well aware that alcohol abuse is a serious problem. I don't condone drinking and driving. I don't think it's a good idea for parents, well, really anyone for that matter, to drink themselves to oblivion. But I also don't think there's anything wrong with enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day or having a cold beer with your dinner, whether you're male or female.
Everything we do as parents influences the decisions our children will make later in life. Whether you binge eat, smoke, swear, speed... and, yes, drink. It is all absorbed by our children.
Clearly I am one of the moms who partakes in a glass of wine on occaision. I drink in moderation and I don't hide it from my daughters. One of them asked me once if she could have a sip of my juice (they drink a lot of white grape juice, I was drinking a Chardonnay). I explained to her that I was drinking wine and wine is for adults. Case closed... for now. Perhaps by not making alcohol taboo, I'll have opened up a better line of communication when I need to start having "those" talks with my girls. So, let the discussion begin....


LauraC said...

This has made me mad too! I hate all the judgement - you must be "this type" of parent around your children.

Quadmama said...

Or "this type" of mom. I just don't get why it seems as though if dads do something, well, that's expected because they're men. But if moms do the same thing then shame on them because there are higher standards for them.

Stephanie B said...

I don't care for alcohol myself, but that's a personal taste thing. My husband does drink beer and he doesn't try to hide it. He also doesn't drink to excess or EVER drink and drive.

I have no problem with that and wouldn't if we were talking about a mother instead of a father. The rules should be the same.

Alcohol is legal for adults; that should not change per parenthood or gender. What is illegal is injuring or neglecting your child - whether alcohol related or not. It's not an excuse. And that goes equally well for drinking and driving - putting yourself, your passengers and other motorists at risk is illegal for a very good reason and I, for one, don't have any sympathy.

But it shouldn't be a gender thing. A drunk driver is just as destructive, whether male or female. Ditto for the examples set. If you can't be a good parent while drinking (and that's either father or mother), don't do it.

Same rules for everyone.

Quadmama said...

You raise excellent points, Stephanie. Whether you're a mom or a dad who drinks shouldn't matter... it's the choices you make about your drinking and while you're drinking that make a difference.

maryanne said...

I also found that "Playdates with Cocktails" article odd. I host and take my kids to playdates several times a week, and the strongest beverage I've ever seen anyone offer or consume was a coffee.

HST said...

I don't think you should be drinking when you know you are going to be driving....period.

If you are home and want to enjoy A glass of wine or A beer with dinner that is OK with me.

If you finish a six pack by yourself it is not OK with me. You are impaired and cannot supervise your kids properly. It should not matter if you are male or female.

I sometimes think women are held to a higher standard because they are still seen by most in society to be the primary caregivers who have to set an example and watch over the kids, while dad is allowed to behave like a kid himself. That is not the case in our household, but I think it is the case in many households.

Another point I want to make is, when you drink too much, it affects your personality. People can get aggressive and irrational and do things they will never do when not under the influence. Perfect example is a mom driving with four kids, while impaired.

If you cannot drink responsibly you should not be drinking at all!

Quadmama said...

Maryanne, I'm glad I'm not the only who read the article and had some misgivings about the portrayal of moms and playdates.
HST: you're right... drinking is one thing, but becoming drunk around your children is not cool, especially if you are the only parent in the home during that time.
And let me just point out again: I don't condone drinking and driving. Not that anyone questioned that, but I just wanted to restate it.

Losing My Lap said...

I agree with everyone else's comments on this. I certainly do unwind with a glass of wine or a margarita or a beer or whatever at the end of the day sometimes. In fact, in our house, my husband is the one who NEVER drinks.

But, I also have 3 under the age of 3 so I never drink much more than one glass or so because if anyone gets up at night, I need to still be able to deal with the issues. And, duh, never when I drive.

On the play date thing, all I can manage to consume is maybe water or a sip of coffee. I still need to supervise too much and so I don't have hands free :) I would drink in front of the kids if the occasion called for it. I don't feel drinking should be taboo - otherwise it just piques curiousity.

Good topic, Quadmama!

Quadmama said...

Losing My Lap raises a good point about what happens if someone gets up at night. My concern is always this: if there's an emergency at night someone needs to have their wits about them to either drive to a hospital or call 911 or whatever is needed.

Janel said...

I've seriously been given a hard time if I've cracked open a beer (*A* beer) after the kids go to sleep by non parental types.

My husband has never been given the same judgement. All the way down to people *offering* him drinks after finding out he's a dad of twin infants.

If that's not a double standard, I don't know what is.

The weird idea we have in our culture that all things must be done in excess, from sobriety to drunkenness is unhealthy. A middle road is healthier and happier for everyone, including the kids.

The idea that life is over after kids is whacked out. It also seems sort of new. When I grew up in the 70's (and I grew up in the new age health conscious granola sf bay area) our parents absolutely were adults. They had cocktails, they hung out with other adults, they had dinner parties. The kids ran somewhat free with much lighter supervision. We went to bed on time, we played outside, we were known to all the adults in our neighborhood (and minded them). Etc. Etc. Etc.

There's this line being drawn in the sand, nowadays, between young adulthood and parenthood. You get a job, a spouse, a family, and then you drop out from your lives and join up with other friends (other mommies and daddies only need apply, thank you). You go to work and come home, you stay at home and go to playgroups. These are the only options for parents nowadays. There's no middle ground. No place for adults with children. Having children changed my life, but I don't subscribe to the belief that it turned off some part of me that allowed me to continue to exist aside from the Mommy I am now.

I'll always be responsible for my children. I would never drive with them after drinking (as a matter of fact, one parent is always on duty, even with the kids asleep, and that parent is only allowed one adult beverage for the night so they can deal with the bumps in the night that occur), I would never try to take care of them while intoxicated, but when did a beer or glass of wine turn into an automatic drunkfest? When did things change?

Quadmama said...

Janel, I had wanted to mention something about the 70's and cocktails, etc but didn't know how to bring it up, so I'm glad you did. And I think it's crazy that people would offer your husband a beer but look down their nose at you for having one.

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