My play dates never looked anything like this. These women wore makeup, they were back in their skinny jeans and the house was immaculate. It was a sparkling day in Encino, California, and I was here for a Today Show story about the practice of serving alcohol alongside juice boxes at these gatherings. Wine is usually the beverage of choice, but martini's and cosmopolitans are not unheard of — depending on the assembled moms and what kind of a day they've had.
I spent the afternoon with Stephanie, Irene and Shannon — three smart and funny women I'd court as friends if I leaved nearby. They are career women turned full-time moms who bravely welcomed us and allowed a Today Show crew to trail them hanging with their kids and sipping Chardonnay. All three are still coming to terms with their new lives at home and they're learning that those days can be as lonely as they are rewarding. With nights out infrequent and time to themselves almost non-existent, this is how they and many moms socialize: a sandbox, the swing set and a backyard bar.
But is that okay, drinking while you're watching your kids? Well, 1,700 of you responded to an iVillage poll on the subject, and you're fairly divided:
Is it okay for moms to have cocktails at play dates?
- 57% No
- 43% Yes
This group was quick to point out that it's just a glass or two, but Stephanie (wearing the green shirt) still expected others to find fault. "I think it's just another way that women judge other women's parenting," she told me.
There are safety issues to consider. Who would drive to the hospital if a child were hurt? Unlikely, but it could happen. Then, there's the fine line between social and problem drinking. Psychologists suggest moms sometimes drink as a coping mechanism. Others say if you wouldn't allow a caretaker to drink while watching your children, why the double standard? I'll leave those debates to other moms (some who've blogged extensively on this) and the experts.
Beyond the beverage selection, there is, perhaps, a larger concern. How do we give our all to our kids and yet not lose ourselves? With five children, I was a stay-at-home mom for a time, and it was tough. I missed my work, my friends and most of all, adult conversation. The play group offers that — a chance to hang with the kids and feel like an adult — regardless of the strength of juice being served.
For more on this new parenting trend and to talk to other moms with the same "momtini" mentality, visit the Parenting Issues debate message board!