And now the latest word from the neurotic-mommy front (thank you, New York Times), where the cultural rituals of affluent mothers are analyzed like a flock of rare suburban birds whose behavior never ceases to fascinate.
This time the hand-wringing centered on the possibly new, possibly not so new, possibly big, possibly small, possibly harmless, possibly dangerous, possibly meaningful, possibly insignificant trend of mothers getting together for play dates with children and breaking open the booze.
"Happy-hour play dates are here," the piece reports. "Between runs to soccer and ballet classes, fund-raisers and homework projects, some stay-at-home mothers are sipping cocktails at afternoon spa parties, drinking bloody marys at play groups and toting wine and wine coolers to parks and friends' decks while their children frolic nearby."
A tempest in a 'tini glass? Perhaps. Most of the women polled claimed that they weren't getting drunk or reaching for the bottle out of need, but that didn't stop experts worrying over safety issues and the potential source of new alcoholism -- and, more important, whether the trend suggests that women are spiking their cranberry juices for fun or to mask the unhappiness that comes from the increasing demands of "today's obsessive, hard-driving, Harvard-or-bust parenting scene."
These articles always seem to approach the issue in a balanced fashion but somehow always end up sounding alarmist. After citing critics of the practice and the defensiveness of the happy-hour mothers, the piece even got Christie Mellor, author of the irreverent anti-manual the "Three-Martini Playdate," to worry that some women might have missed the point of her book and were only becoming "very busy drunks."
No doubt some of these women are drunks who would tipple even without a social invitation, but puh-leeze, is this what counts as risquié behavior nowadays? Women in Europe have been drinking wine day and night -- even through pregnancy. Do we need to do send an anthropologist out to do a field study?
Throughout the ages, mothers' little helpers have come in many forms -- from prescription painkillers to pills for attention-deficit disorder stolen from their children. That some women having a glass of wine in front of their kids is news shows just how strange our parenting conversations have become.
As a mother of two, who was notoriously puritan in my youth, and downright teetotaling in my 20s, I only learned to appreciate a stiff drink after I had a child. Call it a vice or a virtue, but the burdens of grown-up responsibilities (something many of us youth-oriented, middle-class types only fully experience when we become parents) sometimes call for a little relief. So it was that six long years ago I began attending some loosely organized get-togethers early on Friday evenings called "baby happy hour." There, moms and dads would take their babies at a designated neighborhood bar and sling one back. Eventually, the parents clashed with the smokers and we moved to more baby-friendly locations and then finally a listserv. I never knew I was at the bleeding edge of a worrisome trend; I just thought I was doing what grown-ups have done since fermented juice was invented: Having a drink at the end of a long day.