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