Raising Needham: Mixing Business with Pleasure

When is it OK to mix the business of parenting with the pleasure of a glass of wine?

It’s about time I write something to stir up the comment section. I usually stick to the less controversial issues and leave the hardcore topics to the more tough of skin. But I am done dodging the age-old question of whether or not it is OK to drink at kid’s birthday parties and play dates. I am here to say that (for me, anyway) it is OK.

Now I am not talking about binge parties and keggers. I am talking about hosts supplying some beers and some wine at their child’s birthday party or offering a glass of wine during a play date.

A lot has been written about this dilemma in the past few years, and there have even been books to address or mock the parenting quandary like "Nap Time Is The New Happy Hour" by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor and "The Three Martini Playdate" by Christie Mellor. Both of which I have read with a good laugh and zero seriousness.

Maybe that is the problem.

So much is written about how to raise kids these days that us parents are bombarded with articles (like mine), books and TV shows, and we just don’t know what to take as entertainment (like mine) and what to take as researched information. Maybe parents are just taking this parenting thing too seriously.

Don’t get me wrong—this can be serious stuff. One-hundred-four degree fevers in the middle of the night, stitches from backyard tomfoolery and tears from a school bully all need a clear-headed parent at the helm. But can one glass of wine at a play date or a beer at a birthday party really be the evil some are calling it? All you have to do is Google “drinking at play dates” and you will get a host of posts on the subject with a 50/50 mix of opinions. There are just as many parents who feel even one glass of wine while watching children is a no-no as feel it is not only OK but natural for kids to see their parents engaging in an adult activity in moderation.

Ah, moderation. A word we know well in my house. From sugary treats to TV to the wine Mom and Dad enjoy, it is all in moderation. I will admit that I can understand and respect those who feel drinking while parenting is a no go, but I would also hope that they can respect that not all parents who drink while parenting are budding alcoholics. Yes, that is the road many advocates of no alcohol at play dates go down, and that does bother me.

I know a recovering alcoholic and she never drank in front of her children. She wouldn’t dream of it, but she would drink when they were asleep or out of the house and eventually just hid it mixed in other drinks. I don’t think the two—drinking in front of your kids and “becoming” an alcoholic—go hand in hand. It may enable the dependency, but I don’t think it truly starts it. Though I am no expert, just a mom grappling with a topic that seems to come up again and again.

Back to my main point: Is it OK for parents to have a drink at a play date or kids birthday party? I think it depends on both you and the situation. I was at two children’s birthday parties this past weekend, and both served beer and wine. There wasn’t a bar set up, it was discreet, and nobody had more than two beers/glasses of wine. The kids were very well supervised at all times and there were no issues with those who drank. As for me, I didn’t have a beer at the first birthday party but did have a glass of wine at the second. (The father of that birthday boy is an ER physician, so maybe that helped my decision, too.) 

Bottom line on the whole drinking while parenting dilemma: If it is a real dilemma for you, then maybe you shouldn’t do it. If you think it is no big deal and that you can stay focused on your kids, then maybe it is OK. But remember, moderation is always the best recipe when mixing business with pleasure.


Lollie Davis Weeks September 19, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Last summer Elizabeth Hasselbeck did a piece on this topic on GMA, and I went off on a rant about it on my blog - http://www.fortuitoushousewife.com/2011/08/gma-on-alcohol-motherhood.html. Personally, I subscribe to Christie Mellor's approach, which describes in her book's chapter, The Three-Martini Playdate (from which the book gets its title) -- "When forced into a playdate situation, invite the parents over around the cocktail hour...at which time I suggest you noisily and with much gusto mix up a cold batch of martinis. This is a surefire method of separating the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the non-dairy soy alternative. If, after you have offered drinks all around, the visiting parents quickly gather the child...and run silently from your house, enjoy your martini with the knowledge that these people were not the sort with whom you would want to embark upon a long-term playdate relationship." I respect other's choice of a cup of tea, so don't write me off as a "problem" if I opt for a few sips of vino.
DMB September 19, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Is this controversial? When I lived in England I, on two occasions, attended two children's birthday parties that were held in actual pubs.
Lollie Davis Weeks September 19, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Pub party!? Now that's a kid birthday party I could get into!


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