So, I started a shit storm on the local online mommy message board. To be fair, I didn’t really start it. Another mom posted a question about places in the Eastside where one could go for happy hour with one’s children. I posted back that we are generally at Figaro on Vermont for their happy hour (5:00 – 7:00pm, good ambiance, mediocre service, $4 mini martinis, $6 crab cakes and heaps of other specials) on Mondays. I call it Mommy’s Monday Martinis. People loved this. There were several group posts and I received more direct emails from moms I don’t even know saying they wanted to come.
I warned Figaro of the potential onslaught this coming Monday.
Then, the proverbial shit hit the fan. A mom (who clearly won’t be joining us) wrote and very helpfully informed us that even one drink could put someone over the legal blood alcohol level and that we really shouldn’t drive with our kids in the car after drinking. Really? Hadn’t thought of that! Good think I can WALK to this location. Another mom posted that she, too, hadn’t been “comfortable” with the idea of taking a child to a happy hour. “Why not hire a babysitter to go out every once in a while?” she proposed. OH MY GOD!!! I thought. Again, this had never occurred to me. Of course, this person also could not possibly know that I do hire child care regularly and my budget is more than maxed and so, if I want a quick $4 mini martini, the babe is going along.
I stayed out of the fray…just watched as people debated the undeniable complexities of the happy hour or not decision. There were confessions that some had thought it was a good idea but, on further reflection, had realized what horrible mothers they would be if they participated. There were assertions that one might go and not drink. There were snarky comments, defensive rants, holier-than-thou treatises, and loads of ‘information’ about how alcohol goes into breast milk. All because a couple of moms had connected over the desire to get out of the house for a few minutes in the late afternoon and – gasp – have a drink in the presence of their babies.
Do I sound bitter? I am not. I understand that the culture of parenting in America functions to keep parents guilt-ridden and competitive. The United States is meant to be the home of the free and the brave. Yet, when it comes to parenting, we are all too often the judged and the scared. As a single mom, I have endured far more than my share of inappropriate comments, advice, and judgment. I try to assume that each person’s intentions are good and move on.
But I am no saint. I do sometimes want to defend my choices. Before I even knew the extent of his dishonesty, I had decided that I did not want to be with Addison’s dad–that I would prefer to be a single mom. I love being a single mom. I am in no hurry to bring a ‘dad’ figure into the picture. This is my choice and I really feel it’s a good one. Beyond the logistics and practicalities, I want to take Addison out with me. My son is one of the most well-socialized fifteen month olds I know. When we are out, we practice appropriate behavior (“When we are in a restaurant, we sit on our bottoms.“) and he gets the opportunity to interact with other adults in a different setting. Happy hour is casual enough that I don’t have to worry about ruining the other patrons meal. It is also cheap.
Other people do not see either of these situations as ideal and, indeed, there are drawbacks. I don’t expect endorsements. In the absence of actual grave danger to my child would like to be left the hell alone. I also would like to not have to prove that danger exists to make a choice to protect my child. Which brings me to my next point.
Merck, the manufacturer of a number of childhood vaccines, recently stopped producing measles, mumps, and rubella as separate vaccinations. It’s just not profitable enough for this pharmaceutical giant. At the risk of starting another shit storm here, I will just say that the safety of the standard combined vaccination (the MMR) has been the subject of much debate with assertions of varying scientific reliability that range from its being the cause of autism to it being completely safe. Parents tend to be polarized on this as well–either following the CDC guidelines to a ‘t’ or rejecting vaccinations alltogether. My (admitedly unscientific) position is that the reality lies somewhere in between and that the fact is no one really understands the full complexity how these things work. I have lived in places where vaccinations are not available for all children and I plan to travel, with my son, to some of those places. I want to protect my son from potentially life-threatening or debilitating disease if I can. I also happened to have had a very severe adverse reaction to the combined MMR myself as a child and have experienced a pattern of health problems (but not autism) that is associated with having such an adverse reaction. I had planned to break up the vaccinations for Addison, giving them separately, over time and thereby theoretically reducing his chances of an adverse reaction.
Now that choice is not available to me. Which is why I am asking everyone I know to go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/moms-for-separated-mmr-vaccines and sign a petition requesting Merck to make the separated vaccines again.
In a culture of conformity and disrespect for varying opinions (a Merck representative was quoted as saying that assertions of the potential for problems with the combined MMR are ‘hooey’) I just think we can all do what we can to keep more space open for the multiplicity of possibility in parenting and in life.