Baby Lisa IrwinRecently, Deborah Bradley, the mother of the missing Baby Lisa Irwin, admitted, days after the fact, that she was "drunk" the night her baby daughter disappeared from her crib and seemingly vanished into thin air. She and her husband Jeremy Irwin maintain that they have no idea what happened to Baby Lisa in the middle of the night while Deborah and the couple's older two children slept and Jeremy was at work. While the nation continues to hopehopehope for Lisa's safe return, Deborah's recent admission about being drunk that night does bring up the question of drinking while parenting.
When is it okay for parents to drink or get drunk while in charge of their kids? Only when there's another adult around to take up the slack? Only after bedtime? Only on occasion? Never?
I'm going to come right out and say that, as a recovering alcoholic who quit drinking before having children, it's a little hard for me to take a stand about other parents drinking around or while in charge of their kids. I am not other parents. In my life, alcohol served one purpose and that was to get me drunk or at least to beautifully blur my reality a smidge. I have no experience with drinking responsibly although I've heard it can be done.
Now obviously, assuming Deborah Bradley is telling the truth about her innocence in Lisa's disappearance, there's no way she could have foreseen that her daughter would go missing that night or that her getting "drunk" (her words) might have kept her from hearing an abductor in her home. I'm sure she thought, like many typical exhausted moms, "Ahhh, the kids are finally in bed. My husband will home at 4 a.m. Now it's MY time."
At the same time, though, she was the sole parent in the house with three kids and she admits she consumed enough alcohol "to be drunk." Is this just asking for your kids to be abducted? Absolutely not. However, going to bed drunk while you're the sole parent in the house is no way to parent. Being present for our kids and making them feel safe are two of our most important jobs as parents. Within the horrific circumstances of Deborah Bradley's case, however, is a good question for the rest of us to consider -- if and when and how much we drink while parenting.
Am I in any way trying to say Deborah Bradley is to blame for her daughter's disappearance because she was drunk in her bed? God no. Of course not. But her devastating situation does make me stop and remember that we are parents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and our kids count on us. If and when we want to take off the parenting hat for a little while, whether to take an overnighter alone or get drunk at the bar with friends, then it is our responsibility to leave another responsible adult in charge.
Maybe, in the end, drinking while parenting just isn't a good mix. Maybe it's simply not worth it. We all must decide for ourselves and our families. For once, being an alcoholic is helpful to me and makes this parenting decision super simple for me to figure out for myself.
Do you drink when you're in charge of your kids? Where do you draw the line?
Image via National Center for Missing and Exploited Children