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Read an excerpt from Women & Recovery

When Mothers Drink

In an episode of the TV series Mad Men, set in the early sixties, advertising exec Don Draper is entertaining colleagues at his suburban home with his wife and family. His daughter, who looks to be around six or seven, is mixing and serving gin and tonics to guests as if she were a seasoned bartender. Although the Draper family may be fictitious, back in the day it was not uncommon for adults to throw cocktail parties while the children looked on or even helped serve the drinks. I remember many times when my parents had parities with friends where I was asked to help serve.

Flash forward to today, and you will find a retro-trend among mothers who are mixing libations and parenting. It seems that an increasing number of stressed-out moms are using cocktail playdates and boozy birthday parties as a way to help ease the monotony of motherhood. Even in these health-conscious and child-centric times (the cigarettes are gone and the bike helmets are on), these momtini mothers want to have their birthday cake and drink, too.

Melissa Summers, the Michigan mother who is said to have coined the word “momtini,” attracted so many readers when recounting her tales of serving Bloody Marys at children’s play groups on her Suburban Bliss blog, she began selling T-shirts, mugs, and underwear emblazoned with her logo. And actress and author Christine Mellor argues in her tongue-in-cheeky book The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Parenting:

Why not have an afternoon cocktail party? Sure, invite the kids. It’s your child’s birthday, after all. If you plan on having more than a few children over to celebrate, hire a neighborhood teenager to keep an eye of the tykes while you and the other parents sip chilled alcoholic beverages…Lemonade provides refreshment for those too young to appreciate distilled spirits, and the simple addition of a fine vodka creates easily made and remarkably tasty beverages for an exhausted and grateful grownup.

Mellor even supplies readers with a martini recipe that “all young children should know how to make for their parents and other thirsty grown-ups who drop by around five o’clock.” Although Melissa is not advocating mixology training before you potty train your tot, she and a rapidly growing community of kindred spirit-drinkers adamantly believe there is nothing wrong with drinking responsibly at play-group gatherings. Blogs such as Mommywantsvodka are sprouting up on the Internet, and Babybites.com now sponsors happy hours in New York City around what used to be tea time (4 p.m.). Twittermoms.com hosts a monthly wine tasting, where mothers indulge in an alcoholic treat and tweet.

Yet others, such as Stephanie Wilder-Taylor, the mother of three young children and author of the pro-momtini book Nap Time Is the New Happy Hour, worried that she had been drinking too much. She posted the following on her Babyonbored blog called “My Sobering Secret.”

“I drank often when Elby was a baby to help deal with the stress of a new infant. I found myself drinking more than I had before I became a parent and drank with other moms to bond and unwind (yes, I’m the cocktail playdate mom and I stand by it being a healthy thing to do in moderation, in walking distance (if you’re not me)…For others, it might be a once in a while treat to go out and have a couple of cocktails. For me, it’s become a nightly compulsion and I’m outing myself to you; all of you: I have a problem. Why are so many mothers today reaching for the wine bottle along with the baby bottle? Research shows better-educated women are more likely to drink excessively than less-educated ones are, as are women who work outside the home. For younger moms who are loath to give up their once vibrant social lives after having babies, cocktail playdates are a way to continue the party after motherhood.”

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