I missed this Today show segment on Friday, even though I knew it was happening, because I was sick (yes, my kind, generous kids shared their snot with me, aren't I lucky?) and I am not a morning person. At all. And the Today show is just on too damn early in the morning for me. So I've spent some time today watching the segment and catching up on all the fun goings on about it. And I read Melissa Summers, the very brave mom from Suburban Bliss who was on the hot seat in the segment, and her take on the whole thing. And then I waited a bit, because I wanted to be calm when I wrote about this.
This segment raised my hackles on so many levels I wasn't sure where to begin. So how about I begin at the beginning?
This was billed as a "new trend" - this drinking while your kids are around. Hello? Huh? What the hell is new about this? Kids in the fifties grew up having their parents drink around them. Kids in the sixties grew up having their parents drink and sometimes something else around them. I grew up in the seventies, and let me tell you, adults drank around me. My grandmother had a glass of Old Granddad and ginger ale at her side everywhere she went. My father would drink beer on weekends while he did all kinds of do it yourself projects around the house, when he worked on the family cars, even. My parents would have wine with dinner on our weekly nights out, so that my mother could have a break from cooking. They would sometimes have wine on weekends at home. And you know what? Our house never burned down, nobody broke anything, we were never in a car accident (although we administered first aid at more than a few, my dad being a volunteer EMT and all), and my parents dealt with any and all crises that arose with my sister and me.
Guess what else? We went to parties. Yup, parties. Wild, crazy parties where people drank and played Yahtzee and watched football and toasted the new year and socialized. Insane orgies of ... boredom. At least, that's what my sister and I and our friends thought about it. That our parents were drinking barely registered on our radar screens. And you know what? Sometimes, EVEN THE BABYSITTERS DRANK, as they were friends of my parents and had their blessing. Horrors.
What effect did all this drinking of the adults in my life have on me? Well, I learned what moderation looked like. And I was bored a lot. And occasionally, I had to ask my parents to turn down the stereo. Huge stuff.
So this is NOT, by any stretch, a new trend. And you know what else? Neither is the judging, which is all this is, as noted by both Melissa and one of the women in the beginning segment -- an excuse to judge other parents around us.
My mother told me from the time I was old enough to even have a clue, how she felt judged by all the other mothers out there because she chose to stay home with her kids. She and my father worked very hard to make sure Mom could stay home because they believed it was important for us to have an adult around. I know how bothered she was because, around us anyway, there weren't many moms home during the day anymore, and she was lonely. Society was telling her that feminism was the thing, and that if you weren't working outside the home, you weren't a feminist and you were letting down your sex, and that you weren't valuable for anything except as a babysitter. Sound familiar?
To me, feminism always meant that men and women would be on EQUAL footing. All women. And that I, as a woman, would have the same choices and opportunities in my life as men do. I could work at anything, I could be anything -- an astronaut, an engineer, a basketball player, a surgeon, a teacher, a professor, a reporter, an author, a mother -- anything that I CHOSE to be. So I find it more than a little depressing that 30 years later I CAN be any of those things, but that we as women are judging each other because we are exercising that right to choose something that might be a traditional female role, yet not martyr ourselves to it, and to retain a sense of our own identities outside of Someone's Mommy. So what? Isn't my ability to choose that part of what the whole damn battle was about?
So what does that have to do with Melissa and the Today Show? Well, first off, Meredith Viera compared Melissa, and by implication all of us stay-at-home Moms, to babysitters. She, as a mother, should know better. Saying that the role of mother is comparable to babysitter is like saying that the role of a network news anchor is to show up and read the news, putting in a couple of hours a day at best. Last I checked, the job is a hell of a lot more complicated than that. Either job, take your pick. Secondly, what the hell was with the anti-drinking rhetoric? Yes, some people have problems drinking. But a hell of a lot more members of our society don't. And if I, as a parent who does choose to drink from time to time, don't model responsible drinking for my children, who will? The kids they'll go to high school with? Their fellow college students? Don't think so - I've been there, I know what THAT'S like. I throw, and have attended, parties for both children and adults where beer and wine are served alongside juice boxes and water bottles - everybody's happy, and no one drinks to excess. And the wine and beer aren't kept with the juice and water - how ludicrous was that segment with all the monstrous wine glasses around? Who does that? You put the glass down when you help your child on the slide - you don't want to spill your wine. Plus it's a lot easier to keep it the right temperature if you leave it in the house. Sheesh. Thirdly, the implication that social drinking ISN'T a healthy way to unwind and have fun with friends is ridiculous. It is one healthy way to unwind, among dozens. Can alcohol be abused? Yes, of course. But it does have health benefits. My cardiologist at one point even told me to drink a glass of wine A DAY to help with my cholesterol levels and stress. It was one thing listed among others, like yoga, meditation, exercise, getting enough sleep, and taking time for myself every day. I haven't done it much lately, because I've spent the better part of the last 8 years either pregnant or nursing, and for me I don't like to mix the two, but I am SO looking forward to the playdates after this last baby weans. That is not to say that I judge you if you choose to nurse and drink -- more power to you. I am all about the freedom to make our own choices.
I will, however, judge you for judging my choices. Whatever those choices are, unless they are clearly negligent, like not using car seats at all or shooting up heroin around your kids or leaving your two-year old alone at home to fend for herself while you go club hopping. I won't judge you for working outside your home. I won't judge you for staying home. I won't judge you for choosing to have 16 kids, or for having none at all. I won't judge you for choosing to bottle feed, or to breastfeed. I won't judge you for choosing to be a news reporter who leaves her kids for days, sometimes weeks at a time for her job. I will always champion the right of all women to make the choices that work best for them and the people in their lives. Isn't that what we are striving for, to do the best thing for our families and ourselves?
We women, we have more important things to worry about than if some of us choose to have a drink or two with our fellow moms at a playdate. Our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers are getting killed every day in a questionable war. Many of us have no health care, and a lot of those who do have inadequate coverage at best. We have rotten maternity and paternity benefits in this country, almost the worst in the supposed "civilized" world. Affordable, high-quality childcare is difficult to come by in this country. And we don't place enough importance on the work of caring for and educating our children, whoever does it, whether mothers or fathers or grandparents or day care workers or teachers. Even if you choose not to have children, you still have a stake in raising kids, because those kids today will be our doctors and teachers and taxpayers and political leaders of tomorrow. These are the things Meredith Viera and the Today Show should be focusing on. These are the things that we women need to work together to deal with.
All of this aside, I thought Melissa Summers Rocked. She did an excellent job keeping her cool in what was obviously an ambush, far better than I would have - I would have bitten Meredith's head off for the babysitting crack. Thank you for reminding the world that most parents have moments when they want to sell their kids on eBay. Thank you for being the voice of moderation in a sea of overreaction. Thank you for taking a stand on letting women make the right choices for themselves without the santimonious, self-rightous judgement that just alienates us from each other when we should be working together. And doing it all with style, grace, and in awesome boots.