Talking early, often to dispel kid perceptions of parents drinking due to stress
When I first started blogging, I attended a launch event for a new wine brand targeting moms that implied that a pour from the bottle was essential to motherhood thanks to a label depicting a crazed 50s-esque era housewife. At the time, I had a preschooler and toddler so could appreciate the occasional moments of insanity but couldn’t identify with the need to drink as a coping strategy for parenthood. Soon after, a local entrepreneur invited me to a trunk show for her line that consisted of Ts that contained a variety of witty sayings about mom’s need for wine, cocktails, or beer. I purchased a Mommy Needs a Vacation shirt from the mompreneur (because don’t we all always need a vacation?) but the rest of the line also wasn’t really me.
I’ve brought home swag from various events that I’ll come across lying about from time to time. There are emery boards and spatulas emblazoned with the company name, a stemless tumbler that read “I sooo need a drink or I’m gonna sell my kids,” and a cheeky magnet with a woman holding a martini glass is affixed to our fridge.
Even though I see those items on a regular basis, I didn’t give them much thought until statistics from the TODAY.com survey came out stating that 40% of respondents say that drinking helps them cope with the stress of parenting. Suddenly I’m questioning how messaging on such items might be perceived by my children even though I’ve made a point of having an open dialogue about drinking. While I’ve never thought of wine as being an antidote for wanting to sell my kids because of personal stress, sometimes they’re very literal. A line of tongue-in-cheek humor that’s funny to adults isn’t always so with kids and can certainly send the wrong message.
As adults, we can process information intended as humor on the memes on social media channels that joke about the need for a drink. We can wander through the aisle, smiling at labels on bottles with “names like Mad Housewife, Mommy’s Time Out and Mommy Juice” that Today.com reports have experienced a 25% jump in sales.
I don’t hide the fact that I enjoy a nice glass of wine with the dinner I’ve made for the family, an ice-cold beer with a wedge of lime on a hot summer day, or that I’d like to try a signature cocktail when we’re dining out but I like to think that my kids know I don’t use drinking as a way to cope with the stress of parenting.
I know this because we’re open about discussing drinking with our children. We’ve made a point of starting the conversation early. We talk about alcohol often- at home, when we’re out, and whenever it happens to come up, regardless of where we may be. We’re open to answering their questions.
I wonder how many of the 40% of TODAY.com survey participants who responded that drinking helps them cope with the stress of being a parent talk to their kids about alcohol. Do they talk early? Do they talk often?
In Hitting the mommy juice too hard? Experts warn of alcohol abuse by moms, Today said “alcohol is a harmless antidote to anxiety, but experts worry that more women are drinking to excess and putting themselves and their kids at risk.”
Besides the associated health risks of drinking to excess to numb parenting stress, parents who don’t take the time to talk to their kids about alcohol are missing a huge teachable moment to foster important conversations about drinking. Kids look to parents to model appropriate behavior. We know that toddlers often mimic our behavior to make sense of the world around them. We wouldn’t want 40% of toddlers reaching for plastic cups and a bottle to relieve stress as they play pretend house. Yikes.
Our kids look to us for guidance to help them learn to navigate this world they inhabit. It’s our responsibility to educate them about drinking by talking to them about our own consumption of alcohol and giving them the opportunity to ask questions they have about what they observe.
I know my kids are observant so they’ve probably noticed the name of the wine company and the associated tag line on the pink spatula they commonly use to flip omelets. Maybe they’ve caught a glimpse of the stemless tumbler in our cabinet when reaching for a juice glass. They can’t really miss the magnet with the woman holding the martini glass when they open the fridge even if it’s above their eye level.
As a proponent of talking early, talking often, and seizing teachable moments, I think I’ll use these objects to gauge their thoughts on the kinds of messaging these items convey. I’m curious to know what they might think but have a feeling that I’ll be the one learning that I need to get rid of these objects because they reinforce the idea that it’s ok to drink to cope with the stresses of parenting.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*