As recently as last month, drinking parents seemed to be all the rage. On the bookshelves: Stefanie Wilder-Taylor's Naptime Is the New Happy Hour, Robert Wilder's Daddy Needs a Drink and Chris Mancini's Pacify Me, the cover of which shows a six-pack consisting of five beers and one milk bottle. A pacifier dangles from one of the brews.
Well, goodbye to all that thanks, at least in part, to the fallout from a horrifying drunk-driving tragedy that has garnered national attention.
On July 26, Diane Schuler, a 36-year-old mother of two, plowed her minivan into oncoming traffic after driving the wrong way on New York's Taconic State Parkway for almost two miles, killing herself, her 2-year-old daughter, three young nieces and three men in another car. Her 5-year-old son survived. Police said last week that shortly before the crash, which occurred on a Sunday afternoon as Schuler was driving the kids back from a weekend of camping, she had smoked pot and imbibed more than 10 drinks' worth of vodka. Her blood-alcohol level was at more than twice the legal limit. A bottle of Absolut was found smashed in the wreckage.
Suddenly, post-Schuler, it's no longer funny when people crack a joke about "better parenting through alcohol." The image of a giddily drunk parent may have had some appeal when it started, once the war against Betty Crocker had been won and when irreverent mommy bloggers were confessing their sins as far as the mouse could reach. There was something liberating about the eyebrow-cocked, white-wine-swilling posture of the saucy parenting memoir. It felt fresh, a rebuke to the perfectionism displayed every day by the overly tidy mothers on morning television.
But some backtracking from that freewheeling attitude appears to have started well before the Schuler tragedy. Wilder-Taylor, for one, posted this on her website, Baby on Bored, on July 21: "Today marks 60 days on my sober calendar ... Wine, for me, was a friend, a lifestyle and (I thought) a choice." Famously tipsy mommy blogger Rachael Brownell's new book, Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore, which hit stores Aug. 1, chronicles her first year of parenting sober. (Disclosure: I am the editor in chief of Babble.com, where Brownell was a blogger a couple of years ago, and my first book, Instinctive Parenting, will be published next year by the same house that did Wilder-Taylor's and Mancini's books.)
The revelation that Schuler had been drinking prompted hundreds of disapproving comments on the community Café Mom. One typical posting: "What I want to know is not only why was she driving drunk but why the hell was she drinking when she had all of those kids with her anyways?"
The recovering drinkers in the parenting blogosphere were more circumspect. "On the one hand it's easy to believe that Diane Schuler is so extreme and a crazy alcoholic," says Wilder-Taylor, "but on the other hand, according to the news, her husband and family had no idea she had a drinking problem. Her husband says he's never seen her drunk. It would seem there are a lot of people out there with alcohol and drug problems not being addressed due to shame or other factors, and in some cases it leads to tragic results."