Editor’s Note: This is one of Amy Grace’s first blogs ever posted on the site. Enjoy!
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On two separate occasions, someone I know has confided in me that they know mothers who spend their daytime hours drinking in the company of their children. I replied to the most recent story by saying, “Fingers crossed, it’s during nap times or when the children are at preschool.”
But my acquaintances have insisted there have been instances where these mothers have driven kids to and from school, play dates or daily errands while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
It occurred to me that it was silly to assume that if a child doesn’t see the behavior take place, that they aren’t directly affected by it. I was wrong on so many levels.
Recently on Oprah, there was a mother of three beautiful children. She is a recovering alcoholic who lost her marriage, her family and, ironically, her profession as a community counselor who teaches children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, due to her addiction.
Her children said they were embarrassed and ashamed. They were scared of her mood swings and frightened for her life as she incoherently dug almost-empty vodka bottles out of the trash for a last drop.
I’ve been considering how it might be far more difficult for some mothers. Some women’s identities, including my own, are tied to what was outside the home for so long that once they are finally raising families, they may lose a bit of who they were as an individual. It can be very isolating and frustrating.
I don’t even begin to judge. It seems a given that there are many parents out there who self-medicate. After being a mother for three years myself, I’m actually surprised that more don’t. It made me wonder, however, what the current statistics are.
A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that almost 5 million alcohol-dependent or alcohol-abusing parents have at least one child living at home with them. (From SAMSHA News Release, updated June 19, 2009)
Why is it that most parents would never consider drinking on the job, but at home — when there is arguably more responsibility involved — they give themselves a pass and make excuses as to why they should be allowed a midday cocktail?
Is the boredom of the daily routine or the stress of raising children becoming more than some parents can handle? Is the shift in roles or the expectations of being “super mom” or “super dad” the reason that so many are mixing play dates with happy hour?
How many of us have been to children’s birthday parties where the cooler is fully stocked with alcoholic beverages for the parents?
What is it about our current culture that makes alcohol the epicenter of all social activities, primarily the ones that include children? It’s as if there’s a little wink, wink, nod, nod going on when you crack open a cold one at your child’s soccer game. … See, we’re still cool. We can still have fun. We can still be a little on the edge even though we are now parents.
What do you think? Is it OK to imbibe a little at parties and play dates? Can you drink responsibly and still set a good example for your children?
Amy Grace is married with two children. You can read her every Friday on momaha.
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