Should Cocktail Moms Get Sober?

Filed under: In The News, Alcohol & Drugs

cocktail mommy

Drinking and parenting don't mix -- or do they? Credit: The Way You Do Everything, Flickr

Earlier this year, author Stefanie Wilder-Taylor admitted in a now famous post on her Baby on Bored blog that wine had become a crutch and she decided to stop drinking. Known for her cutting wit and creating the chic image of a mom carrying her baby in one hand, cocktail in the other, the blogger's about-face stunned fans. Her 2006 best-selling book, "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay," spoke to mothers who couldn't be perfect and didn't necessarily want to live up to that impossible standard. She was considered, by The New York Times' estimation, a heroine of cocktail moms.

More surprising than Wilder-Taylor's revelation to become a teetotaler, was the fact that it was not unique.

Stories of reformed cocktail moms have brought the social drinking habits of mothers under scrutiny. The tragic accident on New York's Taconic State Parkway in July, in which a mother named Diane Schuler killed eight people because she was allegedly drunk and stoned, caused a backlash against the idea that cocktail moms are a harmless extension of the "Sex & the City" female archetypes.

And now, the United States Department of Transportation released FBI statistics showing the number of women arrested for driving under the influence has increased by nearly 30 percent from 1998 to 2007. Time.com declared the end of the cocktail mom because of this perfect storm of tragedy, but women on both sides of the issue believe it's not that simple.

Rachael Brownell, who promoted the cocktail mom lifestyle as a writer for Babble, just published "Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore," an account of her first year parenting her three children sober. In an email interview with ParentDish, Brownell explained that cocktail moms are not a new phenomenon.

"Women in my mother's generation had cocktail hours, for heaven's sake," she wrote. "There was a stronger delineation between adult and child space and time. Parents need that space and now we call it 'cocktail moms' or 'cocktail parents.'"

While the desire for a cocktail remains universal, mothers today have their own demons that complicate the drinking issue. Uppercase Woman blogger Cecily Kellogg, who got sober before becoming a mother, pointed to the parental commitment to children's safety; drinking, for women, can be perceived as a compromise of that mission, which explains why the public had such low tolerance for Diane Schuler's case.

Then, there's the very public face of drinking that exists because of blog and social networking sites, which inevitably draw more attention to the act and create an image bigger than the writer. Wilder-Taylor's widely lauded Make Mine a Double column was a joyful celebration of imperfect parenting before she became sober.

Now, the writer trolls her past columns for signs of the moment she went overboard with drinking. Dredging up an old post where drinking is mentioned with reckless abandon, she wrote to her audience: "Enjoy or judge. Whatever ..."

Sober Mommy blogger Amanda Griffin is a fan of Wilder-Taylor's, but won't be reading her own internet journal from the days when she drank anytime soon. Sober for nearly five years, Griffin's drinking problem reached its height when she, "began to find ways to hide the number of wine bottles that were in the recycling bin," she explained in an email to ParentDish.

Now, the mother of three girls admits that cocktail-mom literature might have made her feel "validated" in choosing alcohol to cope with life, but like her fellow newly sober moms, Griffin does not believe it was a driving force in turning her into an alcoholic.

Nor do the women who have given up alcohol believe the alleged end of the cocktail mom culture will change actual drinking habits. Griffin feels the "vilification" of Diane Schuler will only send alcoholics underground. "There is always a place for blogs and playdates with cocktails," wrote Brownell.

Such a sentiment is supported by the larger blogging community. Devra Renner, co-author of the Parentopia blog and the best-selling book, "Mommy Guilt," with Aviva Pflock, said that Wilder-Taylor should be commended for battling her addiction, but she does not think one woman's personal experience should affect women who can manage their alcohol intake.

"If your gut says have a glass of wine, have a glass of wine. Just don't drink the whole bottle," she told ParentDish.

Mommy Needs a Cocktail blogger Kristen Hammond believes cocktail-mom culture transcends a catch phrase and she has no plans to change the name of her blog.

"[It] is not about needing a bottle of scotch to get you through the day. ... It is the moment that you realize that only humor is going to get you to bedtime," Hammond wrote to ParentDish.

That's not too different from what Dads have been doing for a long time. "Newsflash: Dads drink. Dads are not held to the same standard of perfection that mothers are," Brownell wrote.

Instead of the cocktail-dads label, we call the image of a suburban backyard full of kids with Dad flipping burgers on the grill, beer in hand, the American Dream.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.