When “Mommy needs a drink” Isn’t Funny Anymore

mom-cocktailI recently came across a piece that was published last year, yet seems as important and relevant as ever. Originally published on Salon, and written by Leslie Garrett, the piece describes the author’s experience as both the daughter of an alcoholic and a new, tired, stressed-out mother, and how those jokes about mommy’s drinking can be deeper and more serious than they appear. Although I’m no longer a new mother, I know that for many, stress and fatigue can send you straight to that lovely bottle of wine chilling in the fridge. Here’s what Garrett has to say…

“There was no social media when my mother began her descent to the bottom of the bottle. No Martini Mommy tweeting that “Two glasses of red wine turns my children from Devil-Eyed-Beasts to Tolerable-Additions-To-My-Life.” No Mommy Mixologist stressing that “sometimes Mommy REALLY needs a drink.”

Even the books – “Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay,” “The Three-Martini Playdate” and the just-released “Reasons Mommy Drinks” – arrived on bookshelves long after my own mother’s reasons to drink had grown up.

I wonder if, had my mother been born later, she might have adopted the Twitter handle @mommyhidesboozeinthewashingmachine. Might she have tweeted that “Vodka in my coffee dulls the sound of daughter’s begging me to stop drinking”? The thing is, I’ve seen the “mommy needs a drink” culture up close. It’s not that funny.

“Comedic gold,” is how Lyranda Martin-Evans described to a newspaper reporter the “daily struggle” that time-starved, sleep-deprived new moms face. Her book, “Reasons Mommy Drinks,” which she wrote with blog partner Fiona Stevenson, offers up advice paired with mocktail or cocktail recipes. The Day Care Defense, for example, is a fruity rum drink that promises to “numb your guilt, kill germs and boost your immune system.” The first 18 months of motherhood were “really hard,” Martin-Evans says, but “tragedy plus time equals comedy.” Apparently tragedy plus vodka does too.

I’ve tried to laugh along. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons features a woman with a glass of wine in one hand, her toddler on her hip. “This?” she says. “It’s a magical potion that makes everything you say interesting.”

Funny, right? It speaks to those mind-numbingly boring days when you’ve read “Puppy’s Birthday Surprise” 87 times and your kid won’t nap and you’re on deadline and you still can’t zip your skinny jeans even though your “baby” is almost three. Sometimes a glass of wine would take the edge off.”

To read the full article, click here.

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When Doctors Can Hear, but Can’t Help

article-1286369-07BA6D6D000005DC-830_468x347Last week, I read a troubling article that fell under the column title “Hard Cases” in the New York Times. Read on and you’ll understand why.

The author, New York Times writer Abigail Zuger, M.D., wrote about a patient’s wife who called her to express concern about her husband drinking. Dr. Zuger was surprised to learn about her patient Tom’s drinking, and yet without Tom’s admission of a problem, there was nothing Dr. Zuger could do or say.

Dr. Zuger goes on to write about the difficulties doctors have detecting drinking problems that are not extreme, and that many patients try to save face. “A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the 38 million problem drinkers in the country, only one in six have come clean to a  health professional,” she writes.

The phone call from Tom’s wife made the situation clear to Dr. Zuger, yet she was forced to reply, “I’m so sorry. I can’t talk to you about that.”

There are moral and ethical standards whereby an adult patient’s health issues are his business alone. And of course, there is the law and the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which govern patient privacy.

Dr. Zuger did tell her patient, Tom, that his wife called, but didn’t say what she’d called about. She asked Tom if it would be okay for his wife to come to his next appointment, to which he replied, “Absolutely not.”

The story ended there. The doctor never met Tom’s wife or spoke with her again. But she listened and never forgot.

To read Dr. Zuger’s article, “What Patients Don’t Tell Their Doctors,” click here.


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The Law of Equivalent Drinking

by UnknownRonna Benjamin

Mike and I watched the swirling snows of Nemo that Friday afternoon, curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fire. Carole King radio played on Pandora over the stereo. We each had a glass of tequila splashed with Cointreau, in which floated a few wedges of three-week-old lime. Ahhh, the benefits of an empty nest! It was a fine afternoon for a storm.

We relaxed as we soaked up the warmth of the fire and the liquor.  And then…I couldn’t breathe.  I began to blow my nose.  My throat was on fire, and I began to sneeze. I wanted to amputate my head.

Not knowing where to turn to ease my misery, I grabbed my laptop so I could let the world know how miserable I was, and my spirits were lifted when I saw an email from my daughter in Abu Dhabi.  The subject of her email was: “Check out this article…you guys are right…duh.”

I perked right up.  Screw the cold!  My kid thought we were “right”!  And she was reading the LA Times!

I immediately clicked through to the link in her email.  It was to an article that had appeared on February 6, 2013 in the LA Times Health section,  The article was about incompatible drinking and divorce, and sure enough, it confirmed we were right.

The LA Times article focused on a Norwegian study of 19,977 married couples (which, of course, begged the question, “couldn’t they have gotten 23 more?”) that proved that spouses who consumed roughly the same amount of alcohol (“compatible” drinkers) were less likely to divorce than pairs where one partner was a heavy drinker and the other was not. (Interestingly, the study indicated it was worse if the woman was the drinker and the man was not.)

I asked Mike to freshen our drinks in celebration, because we were so very ahead of the (LA) times; we have been talking about this “compatible drinking” theory with family and friends for decades.  Many moons ago, without spending a dime on research (unless you factor in the cost of the alcohol) my brilliant husband came up with the Law of Equivalent Drinking, or as we call it, LED (not to be confused with Light Emitting Diode).  We could have saved them a lot of money if they had just asked us.

LED, or the Law of Equivalent Drinking, as Mike explained it one night over a round of martinis with friends, provides that everyone–married or not- gets along best with people who drink roughly the same amount. Having legal backgrounds, we called it a law and not a theory.  Besides, TED would be taken soon enough–though ironically, this indeed has proved to be an Idea Worth Spreading.   We toasted to shedding the light on LED the night of Mike’s epiphany, and have done so with friends many times since.

The fact is, we tend to gravitate toward, and get along best with, people who drink like we do–and we know others do too. Mike enjoys the company of men who can appreciate a fine scotch.  We like to share a bottle of wine with dinner.  We like to see the excitement in our friends’ faces when we bring over an oversized glass container of fruit-infused vodka.  We like to start our Saturday night out with a martini.  It’s ok if it’s dirty, but if you pass altogether, it changes the mood.

Like any law, LED has its exceptions.  I have a few wonderful girlfriends that are truly special to me- even though they order a diet coke instead of a glass of wine at dinner.  I get that some people do not like to drink.  I get that some people cannot have a drink and of course I respect that.   But on the whole, I’m just sayin’….we spend an awful lot of time with people who drink like we do.

Mike may not bring me a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day (though if he does, it should be dark chocolate with sea salt.)  He probably won’t bring me a dozen roses either.  But I do know for sure that we will share a toast over a nice bottle of Cabernet this Valentine’s Day. And there is no doubt in my mind, that because of LED, we will finish that bottle.

*This essay was originally published on 

Ronna Benjamin is the Managing Editor of BetterAfter50.com. About the time Ronna  turned 50, she had an epiphany.  After 28 years of practicing law, she realized she didn’t want to be a real estate attorney, and jumped into the world of writing.  She never looked back.  Ronna writes humorously about the things BA50’s are concerned about:  adult children, aging parents, illness, anxiety and insomnia, to name a few.  She is a native Bostonian and loves to spend time with her wonderful husband and three adult children.  She also loves to cook, sail, ski, run and bike.




Did You Ever Drink With Your Parents? What Was That Like?

girls photoThere are a number of ways drinking with parents can go: It can be raucous and fun, celebratory, a proud part of growing up, weird and disconcerting, or loaded with judgement and shame.

In the Season 1 opener of Girls, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, has a glass of wine with dinner with her parents. And why not? She’s in her twenties–legal, and out of college. No one bats an eye.

In families with addiction issues, it can get complicated. My mother is a recovered alcoholic, and I didn’t feel comfortable drinking around her until recently. I was worried that my drinking would trigger a relapse for her.

In other families, there are discrepancies between how much the young adults drink and how much the parents drink, which can cause tension.

Here’s our take on drinking with our parents. We’d love to hear yours:

Caren: My parents were European, and some form of alcohol was always close by. They sipped wine at home with dinner, Slivovitz (plum brandy) or bloody mary’s with friends. If I asked for a taste, they always said yes, and as I grew into adulthood, we enjoyed countless dinners together during which the wine flowed freely. My parents were often the life of the party, twirling on the dance floor like no one else existed. I have fond memories of my father–who had a beautiful voice–belting out Romanian and Russian songs as if her were an Eastern European Pavarotti. I’m not sure it was the alcohol that made them love life at those moments, but I imagine it was a potent enhancement. So, yes, I’d say that I partied with my parents, and most of those memories are good ones!

Leah:  I never knew you could drink with your parents till college. My mother is a recovered alcoholic, so we never had liquor in the house, growing up. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had was drinking with my friends’ parents. In college, I so envied my friends whose parents would take us out drinking. A few of my wildest nights in college were spent drinking with my friends’ parents: once, in Paris, drinking wine at La Coupole, and then at various bars and another time, at a fancy dinner in my college town, where the wine was flowing. I just remember singing “Dixie Chicken” at the top of our lungs when we got back to our apartment. Drinking parents=parents who could still have fun + a bonding experience, the one time adults and their children could even the score. I felt sorry for my mom, since she was denied that pleasure, and I always hope, like Sara Eckel (who wrote a post about the fun times drinking with her parents) that I’ll be able to enjoy drinking when it’s appropriate and that I’ll be able to ride the party bus when I want, if I want, no matter how old I am!

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Wine and Serenity on Superbowl Sunday?

cgon175l-1I don’t know about you, but my Sundays (and some Saturdays) since September have been filled with football. I have a husband and a son who are fairly smitten with watching overgrown boys run around a field in any type of weather throwing and chasing a ball, and then falling upon one another to retrieve what seems to be as valuable as the Hope diamond, ignoring that they are potentially crushing someone else’s–or their own–skull.

It is commonplace on these long weekend afternoons for my two boys to sit on our family room couch, snacking on thick, extra dark pretzels (paying no attention to the crumbs and salt bits that fall in between the couch cushions), tossing a football and tackling one another or our dog during commercials–and drinking. If my twelve-year-old is feeling really hyped up for the event, he’ll ask if he can have a soda–usually saved only for special occasions in our house–while my husband opts for a cold Saranac Black & Tan, his beer of choice on these special game days.

When game time begins and all players–and viewers–prepare for the coin toss (or on some days the pre-game show needs to be screened first), that’s my clue to take to the living room. I’ll usually curl up on the couch, with either a cup of tea or a glass of wine close by–book, newspaper, and laptop at the ready for at least four hours of quiet time (save for the occasional shrieks coming from the next room).

Once in a while, my husband will gently request (“quick! come fast! hurry up!”) that I come and join them to watch a replay of some player running 40 or 50 yards down the field and then doing some kind of tribal dance in the end zone (that’s actually my favorite part). I oblige for the sake of my son–wouldn’t want him to think that his mom isn’t a woman with varied interests.

And then, I retreat to my corner in the next room. Happy. My husband chugs his beer and my son his soda, and both scream at the TV. I sip my wine (or tea), cozily engaging in my reading and/or writing. So, in truth, it turns out that football days are not so bad. This coming Sunday is the almighty Super Bowl. There will probably be a lot of noise coming from our house as of 6:30 pm EST when the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers take to the field (full disclosure: I had to ask a friend who was playing). I may hide out at a neighbor’s house. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll put down my book, opt for a beer, and relocate to sit with the boys, pretending that I actually care.