My husband is in a Ph.D program working toward a degree in biomedical neuroscience. This means he's under a lot of pressure to spend endless hours in a lab conducting experiments and publish in medical journals. I teach three days a week at a respectable university in Philadelphia. I can't take on a full-time gig, because the few hours I teach, my husband stays home with our baby. So, when I finish teaching for the day, I hurry home so my husband can go to work. While my husband is at work, along with taking care of our baby, I lesson plan, grade papers, respond to student e-mails, clean the house, cook dinner, and prepare for the next day. I do it lovingly. I enjoy having the ability to teach and be home to take care of our baby.
At the end of the day, when my husband comes home, the three of us sit around the dining room table, and eat the dinner I had prepared for that evening. It's a time for us to wind down and talk to one another about our day. Sometimes, we enjoy a glass of wine with our dinner. Sometimes, after we put our baby to sleep, we watch our favorite shows with a glass of wine. Our friends enjoy good food and wine, too. So, on certain Fridays and weekends, we have dinner parties where we open a bottle of our favorite red or white wine and have long and relaxing dinners. We make each other laugh and talk about our lives. It's our only luxury since staying out late with a baby is out of the question.
As I'm writing this, I can almost hear certain people passing judgement on our decision to drink at home or around our child. After all, what kind of a mother or father would drink around their children? Aren't we supposed to set a better example for them? I mean, why would any parent glorify alcohol consumption? Do we want your child to become an alcoholic one day? Why can't we wind down with tea? Usually, these comments and judgements come from people who aren't yet parents. Better yet, they're the people who've never learned to drink responsibly or met anyone who drinks responsibly. Even worse, they're the people who think that any amount of alcohol consumed leads to alcoholism. You see, my husband and I don't need to drink wine. We choose to enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of beer during the week or on the weekends. We never drink ourselves to stupor where we can't take care of our baby and wake up with an urge to have another drink to ease the hangover. We don't put ourselves or our baby in danger by having even just one drink and getting behind the wheel to drive ourselves home. Alcohol is not a lifeline for us. We don't use excuses like, oh, parenting is hard, drink, I'm so stressed, drink, baby doesn't want to eat, drink, baby is teething, drink. From the very beginning, we were prepared to face the challenges parenting would present us, and we have always known that the solution to life's challenging times isn't found at the bottom of a bottle.
Also, lets not forget that some of these people who pass these judgements are those who entertain the notion of treating parenting as if it's a religion. There is a constant one-upping contest between parents, especially mothers. It seems that many people are self proclaimed experts in parenting and they will always find the need to give you unsolicited advice about what's right and what's wrong. It is impossible to avoid coming across viral blog posts and videos shared by supermoms who do it all! Of course, that level of perfection doesn't exist in any parent's universe. Sure, many mothers might feel inspired and empowered by the social media moms who do it all, while the rest feel inadequate for not living up to such perfection. I get it, really. No one wants to feel like a bad parent. Because of this, many people have a hard time admitting that they despise the less than glamorous moments of parenting. New parents are often made to think that it's not okay to long for a part of their life they thoroughly enjoyed before becoming parents. In the parenthood religion, expressing a single negative sentiment toward being a parent will make other parents ostracize you. After all, children should always be the most important part of our lives. They're a priority. They need constant praising and a pat on the back. They're always winners even if they don't always succeed. They must be awarded for every little thing they do. They're little gods and we must worship them!
Naturally, some parents will crumble under these pressures our society places on them. While they frantically search for that lifeline, they will employ problematic habits to block out the expectations they think they have to fulfill. There are many parents who've written about their worsening drinking habits after becoming parents. There are parents who've written about alcohol being their lifeline in helping them feel present as a parent while not being wholly there. They talk about their dysfunctional pasts prior to becoming parents and how parenthood pushed them to drink more to numb their pain. While I feel terrible about the unfortunate stories of these parents, I also feel lucky. I feel lucky that I don't need to ease life's challenges with the help of alcohol. Perhaps, it's because I'm able to admit that it's okay to not enjoy every single step of raising a child, while still loving being a mother to our baby. Perhaps it's because I don't compare myself to other mothers, and care about what they think or say about my style of parenting. Perhaps it's because I don't strive toward perfection. Perhaps it's because I know that I don't always need to have all the right answers.
Our goal as parents is to display a responsible consumption of alcohol to our child and not hide it from him like it's something that we're guilty of doing. We want him to know that when he's old enough and away from home, it's okay to consume alcohol in moderate amounts. We don't want him to think that alcohol is something one must drink in secrecy or in excessive amounts. I firmly believe, as a society, our attitude must to change about alcohol consumption in order for our children to act responsibly around alcohol when they're no longer living under our supervision. While I was in college, my French roommate couldn't fathom why everyone in the dorms drank themselves to a point of blacking out or getting hospitalized from alcohol poisoning. After all, she was from a culture where people found a way to pair up a glass of wine with their meals to bring out the flavors of the foods they eat. For her, it was something they did in the background while they enjoyed the company of their friends and family. I find it that in this country we are made to think alcohol consumption is bad, especially if you're a parent. Sure, alcohol is bad in excessive amounts but it's nothing to be ashamed of consuming as a parent if you consume it responsibly and in moderate amounts.
For me, it's about asking myself the right questions like, do you know your limits?, are you aware of the consequences of the decisions you make?, will your decisions harm you or anyone close to you?, will you regret anything you do and say tomorrow? I think these are the right questions to ask yourself in any given situation and not just while consuming alcohol. Of course, we will teach our son to ask himself the same questions when he's old enough to evaluate the situations in his life. Passing judgement and making passive aggressive comments aren't helpful. They're hurtful. It's okay if it's against your principles to enjoy a drink in front of your children just as it is okay for you to drink moderately in front of your children. Parenting is hard enough and it is incredibly draining to deal with outside opinions that aren't always aligned with your ways. Everyone can make their own choices, and we must respect that. So, whatever it is you choose to do, as long as you do it responsibly without causing harm to yourself and those around you, I support you.
[Pictures: From this past summer. My husband and I in Turkey enjoying local wines and dinner with family & friends]
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