Expert Interview: Jennifer Ginsberg

With books like, The Three Martini Playdate and Sippy Cups are for Chardonnay (both of which I have read), it seems like cocktail playdates are the norm. It’s a scary and disturbing reality. I first came upon this topic when I read our experts article on momlogic.
I could not believe what I was reading and had to learn more. Luckily, I had an opportunity to speak with Jennifer Ginsberg about this alarming trend and get her perspective on why it’s gaining so much attention.

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When do you think the trend of drinking at a playdate began?

It’s really hard to track when it began because people have been drinking alcohol since man crushed grapes. The idea of the cocktail playdate is relatively new. In the past few years it’s gotten a lot of publicity and it was brought to life by some really popular books that came out. Those books hit the market within the last five years, and people started talking about it and the different camps came out, some women and moms were rationalizing it saying that it’s totally acceptable to drink during playdates, and other people were completely against it. Then what happened was a lot of the popular authors that were promoting it actually came out and said they had alcohol problems. It brought the issue more to light and more people started talking about it.

The idea of a playdate is a pretty new idea, and it’s just a reflection of our culture and our time. We used to not have playdates, when I was a kid there was no such thing, we went outside and we played. Now there’s this idea of a playdate, this social construction, because we don’t live in communities like that anymore. So instead we make these dates for our children to play. And you know sometimes I feel that many moms feel overwhelmed and isolated and they turn to alcohol to relieve that.

Do you feel the books made it more acceptable or just brought the issue to life?

I think it brought the issue to life more than it made it acceptable. I think there are people who do it and that’s just what they do. People who want to drink will find any way to drink, whether it’s at a playdate or a little league game or alone at their house at one in the afternoon. Someone who wants to drink is going to drink. But the idea of the cocktail playdate was these moms who were writing and talking about it and trying to rationalize the behavior.

Do you feel drinking on these playdates leads to heavier drinking at home?

Not necessarily, I think that’s not really the issue. I think the issue is that a playdate is not a place to be drinking. It’s not appropriate, it’s not responsible. If there was an accident and someone had to get to the hospital who would drive? Who’s driving the children home from the playdate? What kind of example are you setting for your child? And I think a mom that needs to drink during a playdate might have a problem.

Is there anything specific that family members should be watching for and what should they say if they see this happening?

It really depends on what side of the fence you’re on. There are some women who say it’s totally acceptable to have a glass of wine while my child plays and no one sees an issue with it. Alcoholism and addiction are self diagnosed, and it’s only a problem if you think it’s a problem and it’s impacting your life negativily. And if it’s not causing any problems, then it’s not causing any problems. It’s causing problems if the husband starts noticing that his wife is coming home drunk, if she’s not taking care of the child, if she drove drunk with the child in the car, then absolutely he can’t enable that behavior. He does need to confront her with it, without question.

Can you discuss some of the negative effects of drinking on playdates?

There are a lot of negative things that can happen. You know people wait for a major tragedy like Diane Schuler and they wait for that and then everyone is so quick to get on their moral high ground and say “that woman was horrible, she was awful, she was evil”. All of that might be true, but it’s so much easier to look at one tragic, sick, horrific accident rather than look at the behavior that people engage in everyday which is having one too many before getting behind the wheel of your car. Popping a pill before picking up your kid from camp. Those are the behaviors that people rationalize all the time. And for someone who’s prone to addicition those behaviors can lead to that path quicker. And if there was an accident at the playdate, who would be responsible? Who would take the child to the hospital? Who would call the doctor? Who’s driving home from the playdate? You know people never think they’re drunk when they get behind the wheel, they always think they can handle it. But often times they are legally drunk even if they don’t think they are, they feel in control.

Am I correct in thinking that if they are pulled over and are drunk with their children in the car, their children could be taken away?

Absolutely, you’d have your license taken away, you’d get a DUI, you’d have a court case, you’d have Child Protective Services knocking at your door, all of that.

And what about the trauma of the child witnessing this?

It’s an awful thing that would happen and you know it’s a consequence that people don’t think about that often when they get behind the wheel with their kids in the car. It’s a really scary scary thought to think that you could be driving and get pulled over, but even more so, those are the lucky people that get pulled over. You know, what if you hit someone? What if you killed someone? What if you got into an accident and killed your child? Those are the real consequences, the real horrible consequences.

What kind of treatment options are there if the cocktail playdate were to become full on alcoholism?

There’s a lot of different treatment options. Most people find a lot of support and comfort in 12 step programs. If they just go to AA.org they can find a list of services in their area, and these meetings are 12 step meetings, non-denomiational, not a-policitcal, non-secretarian, they don’t have any dues or fees. It’s a support group for people who are alcoholics. There are people there who have managed to stay sober and it’s a wonderful wonderful resource for people who struggle. You can also go to my site, JenniferGinsberg.com, I have a lot of different resources, surveys, tips, and articles there.

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For more information, please visit Jennifer’s site and read her article on momlogic. If you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol please visit AA.org.

Have you ever heard of cocktail playdates? Have you been to one? What are your thoughts?

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7 comments

  1. Dianna@KennedyAdventures

    our liqour budget has increased for sure since the boys were born! I'd be up for a cocktail playdate, but I think I'd feel a little odd being the mom that started it. I'm off to check out the momlogic article, and check the books out from the library

  2. What an interesting topic!

    A few times, when I've been particularly stressed out by something going on with my kids, my co-workers have said things like, "Have a glass of wine after the kids go to bed." This is totally reasonable – I like wine – but when we were making relatively frequent visits to the emergency room for breathing problems, there was no way I'd have a drink! What if tonight was the night we needed to go to the ER? I don't drink often, and I have a pretty small build, so I don't drive if I'd had any alcohol at all.

    My husband and I never drink together if we're out. One of us is always the designated driver. I will admit, though, as our daughters' health has improved, we've been known to share a glass of wine with dinner.

    If I were to attend a cocktail playdate, it would have to be within walking distance of my house, and I'd want to know that there was at least one adult staying away from the alcohol in case of emergencies.

  3. Seriously, this is a problem?? When I was a kid we went out in the evenings and played out in the street with all the other neighborhood kids and all the parents stood around chatting with a beer in their hand. No one called that an "alarming trend". How is a cocktail playdate any different then that except for the fact that it has a name?

    I will admit driving after drinking is ridiculously stupid and with your kids in the car would be unforgiveable but we never had to drive to a playdate and I don't drive my kids to them now- if I did I certainly wouldn't be drinking. But all our "playdates" are on our street and I have no problem sitting in my driveway with my neighbors drinking a beer or glass of wine while the kids play.

  4. I have seen some recent press on this topic, but I can't say I've exactly chosen my side of the fence.

    In theory, if our family were visiting another family, and either my husband or I chose to have a drink, I think that's fine. My hubby and I have already said that we want our children to witness us behaving responsibly with alcohol.

    Before we started trying to conceive, I would usually have a drink when we went out to dinner. I thought that would resume when I quit nursing. Well, for one, we don't get out to dinner much (!!!), but outside of that, I just don't feel like drinking. Although it's extremely rare that I have to get up with one of the girls during the night, I always think, "What if?" And I sometimes struggle with being "peppy" during morning play…I sure would hate to have a headache to boot!

    I hope to be able to enjoy a glass of wine now and again as the girls get older, but for now, I feel pretty content with a Diet Coke. (With sodas having been off my trying-to-conceive / pregnant / nursing diet, I still consider it a treat. It's all a matter of perspective!)

    Mandy, mom to 14-month old G/G twins

  5. I think if it were just a short walk from home, I may consider it. Although there are some who don't know when to stop. But I wonder, why she saying its bad to have a cocktail playdate, but mentioned nothing about how you can drink beer by the pitcher at places like Chuck E Cheese and other family restaurants?

  6. Here's my only problem with spotlighting the "cocktail playdate": Why is it acceptable for men to hang on Sunday drinking beer, watching football and letting the kids run around, but the second women mention drinking it becomes an issue? I don't think it's irresponsible to have a drink on occasion. I do think it's irresponsible to drink and drive or drink and put yourself or your children in danger, but I think a lot of the controversy is just reiterating the double standard that still exists.

  7. The Adventures of Grunty and Chubbs

    I had no idea that "cocktail playdates" were even in existence. I am not a big drinker and will usually only have one drink when I go out (not very often!). I don't think parents should drink enough around their kids to get a buzz. They need to remain responsible and safe. And it is hard on kids to see their parents affected by alcohol.

    That being said, I read The Three Martini Playdate and thought it was hilarious! I didn't think it was promoting drinking. I thought it was just making the point to not take yourself so seriously, don't try to be perfect, and your life does not have to totally and completely revolve around your kids every moment. Parents deserve to have a life too. 🙂

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