• Fri, Oct 19 2012

SAHM No More: Drinking At Work Functions Isn’t The Massive Mommy Guilt Trip I Thought It Would Be

drinking and kidsSAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

The image of a Don Draper-type knocking back one old-fashioned after another before heading home in a cloud of cigarette smoke is an iconic idea of what the life of an American working man is like. And although the days of excessive drinking and smoking are pretty much decades behind us, the current reality is not so different, what with a professional culture that rewards people who can network over cocktails and beers. In fact, studies have shown that the more successful you are, the more you have to drink. What does this mean in the real world? It means that to get ahead, or at least to keep pace, it is important to have a collegial after-work drink with co-workers or a couple of bourbons with clients in order to seem like you’re on the same fun-loving page. Even if you have kids.

And what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I have been to work meetings and work-related functions where everyone around me is drinking and I feel strongly compelled to drink too. I don’t feel compelled by anyone else, rather, I feel compelled by my own need to keep up with everyone around me. Peer pressure: it’s not just for kids in middle school. Of course, just like actual peer pressure, the real impulse to keep up with everyone else is mainly driven by my own desire to not seem lacking in a fundamentally important part of work—socializing. And I don’t even feel slightly conflicted by this. I like having drinks with my co-workers and I like relaxing and having that convivial feeling that occurs when we all just let loose.

So great, right? Well, sort of. Here’s the thing. When all of my co-workers finish with both work and the ensuing revelries that continue post-work, they head home to childless houses, or—rarely—to kids who they’re raising with their partners. What do I head home to? Just my kids because I’m a single mom. And it’s not like I’ve ever picked up my kids when I’ve been incapacitated, but I’ve sometimes arrived home feeling a little bit buzzed.

In the past, I would’ve felt extremely guilty about this. I would’ve felt like I’d failed some fundamental mothering test where I need to be perfect all the time. But lately, I’ve been embracing it. Instead of feeling the stress of a long day at work, I’ve been enjoying getting home with my kids and feeling completely relaxed, feeling as if the craziness of the day is firmly behind me and my only responsibility is to my kids.

A recent New York Times op-ed detailed the experience of a father who found that his parenting skills were enhanced when he smoked pot before hanging out with his three kids. Suddenly, he was interested in the same arcane minutiae that they were. No longer did he feel annoyed by the many minutes that they wanted to spend on the floor playing with him. And while my experience isn’t exactly the same, I’m finding that it’s not as much of a conflict of interest as I would have thought it would be when I come home feeling a little bit light-headed.

It’s like all the worries of the day go out the window and I can just relax with my kids, laugh at the stories they tell me about their days, and put on music that’s just a little too loud so that we can dance.

(photo: Igor Normann/ Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Kristin Iversen, on twitter.
Share This Post:
  • Lastango

    Beware – the most professionally dangerous, damaging personal interactions I’ve witnessed in the business world were fuelled by alcohol.
    Consider the office Christmas party, for instance. Show up, have one drink, and then get. the. hell. out. of. there.

  • LiteBrite

    I used to work for a very conservative financial firm, and I had to constantly be on my guard when debating on having that second glass of wine. (It didn’t help that I worked with stuffy financial planners who made me wish I had a whole bottle with me.)

    Now I work for a busy staffing firm, and I’m the one who surprisingly drinks the least (or at least I feel like I am). It amazes me how much these people can drink (and I live in Wisconsin so that’s a pretty bold statement), and I know what you mean about the pressure to keep up. It seems like there are always consultant happy hours and team-building events that involve alcohol. I still have to be on my guard when it comes to alcohol but for entirely different reasons, namely that it is TOO easy now to have that second glass of wine (or more). I mean, they’re all doing it, so why not, right? Well, the difference is that many of them are childless and don’t have to go home to parenting duties. I also have to drive home and have a much further commute than many of them. Oh, and let’s be honest; most of them are younger than me and can handle a hangover way better.

    I know where you are coming from in regards to alcohol and work functions coinciding with parenting. Just be careful about not letting it interfere with parenting or your career. I’m not saying that to be judgmental and sanctimonious; I’m saying that because I agree with Lastango that alcohol-fueled interactions can be damaging, particularly work-related ones.