November 11, 2007
Confessions of a party mum
Middle-class drug-taking doesn’t stop with parenthood – in fact, among my friends it’s rife. But it ain’t pretty
We’d all finished dinner, and we kicked off our shoes and watched as our host showed off his new Technics turntables, a present from his wife. It was his 40th-birthday party, and a group of us had come to stay at his house in Devon. One mum went upstairs to check all the children were asleep. Including my three-year-old, there were 10 children staying, aged from six months to five years. No sooner had we been given the all-clear than two of the five dads got out wraps of cocaine and began chopping out lines on the table. Are we a group of rock stars, DJs and supermodels? No, we’re City bankers, lawyers, housewives, entrepreneurs: professional urbanites doing what many parents do on a fairly regular basis.
Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Parents doing drugs; kids upstairs, (hopefully) asleep. But a painfully honest new book, Mommies Who Drink, written by the American comedienne Brett Paesel, throws a sharp light on what the hedonism generation do once they have children. As Paesel says: “I rebelled against what seemed like a group-think about what mommies should be: dull, doughy, desexualised and almost pathologically interested in children. What I really wanted [after the birth of my son] was a stranger to screw me in a parking lot after loading me up on margaritas and Thai stick.”
Parents and drugs are one of society’s last taboos, as evidenced by the outcry when Kate Moss was apparently caught sniffing white powder. For many, it was the fact that she was a mum that caused the most outrage. But for my group of thirtysomething middle-class mums, hard drugs always have been, and probably always will be, a part of life. Our group is not on the fringe of society. We’re an entire demographic. Ours is the generation that went raving every single weekend in the 1990s. It didn’t stop us from getting good degrees and jobs – we would spend most Sundays sleeping off the party in a field, but by Monday morning we’d be back in our Armani, climbing the career ladder with everyone else. Ten years on, taking drugs maybe once a month and being a great mother don’t seem mutually exclusive concepts. Besides, isn’t the ideal 21st-century mum supposed to be excellent at multitasking?
We may not go to warehouse raves any more – most of our drug consumption happens at dinner parties and weekends in the country – but in the summer, we venture out. You may have spotted us at festivals such as Glastonbury or Bestival (where they even have a breast-feeding tent: Breastival). Some leave children behind with the granny or the nanny; others take their offspring along for the ride, sneaking off as soon as the kids are asleep.
Ibiza isn’t ruled out just because you have children, either. I know of one wealthy couple who rent two flats for a month in the summer – one for themselves, the other for the nanny and their four-year-old – so they can party in peace.
We don’t set out to be irresponsible. The official arrangement between most couples I know is that only one parent is allowed to get wasted at a time. But drugs are hardly conducive to a sense of fair play. What often happens is that, when it’s Mum’s turn, Dad has a few secret lines anyway, hoping she’ll be too out of it to notice or care. She’ll find out eventually, and when it’s Dad’s turn, Mum has one or two “grudge lines” to get her own back.
Still, even though drug-taking is acceptable in my close circle of friends, there have been instances that have shocked me. I remember going to a hen party the very night I’d stopped breast-feeding. I hadn’t touched any drugs for almost 18 months. I can’t say I missed them, but I can’t say I wasn’t looking forward to having some again. One mother among the giggling gang, an intellectual-property lawyer, had an eight-week-old baby. I was surprised to see her there at all and fully expected her to slip home in time for the 11pm feed. “It’s such a pain when you’re breast-feeding, isn’t it?” she told me at about 3am. “I’ll have to express my milk all day tomorrow and chuck it down the sink.” So dedicated was she to cocaine that she had pumped a day’s worth of breast milk out of her body in preparation for her big night out. The thought that she would be nursing her tiny baby two days after taking class-A drugs made me recoil. How could she possibly know that it was safe? It’s hardly something you can check with the midwife.
None of us acknowledges the double standards we employ in raising our children. We feed them organic carrots, give them wooden educational toys and fight to get them into the best schools. We tell ourselves that we make every sacrifice possible.
Last New Year’s Eve, I was with a group of families in a hired house in Scotland. Not long after midnight, I looked down to see a thick white stripe across a shiny surface. At the end of the powdery track was someone’s baby monitor. The seediness of the image made me feel a bit sick. New Year’s Day was a write-off. Couples were sniping at one another, and our children were handed chocolate and crisps to keep them quiet while we nursed our frayed nerves – smoothing out the edges with more alcohol and cannabis. Was this really the way for my family to see in the New Year? Twelve hours earlier, it had felt as if we were having it all.
Original story here http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article2805598.ece