Confessions of a Whiskey Taster: Balancing Work and Pregnancy
If you were to take a glimpse into my everyday work routine, you’d find a desk adorned not with the usual assortment of coffee cups and water bottles, but with an array of whiskey bottles. Yes, I joke that I drink for a living, but the reality is more nuanced. As a freelance writer and critic specializing in spirits, particularly whiskey, my job involves tasting whiskey on a regular basis. However, it’s not quite as glamorous as it sounds. Allow me to explain.
A significant portion of my work revolves around evaluating whiskey. This process begins with “nosing,” where I carefully inhale the aroma of the whiskey, followed by sipping and, usually, spitting it into a cup. It’s a rigorous practice that requires a keen sense of smell and a discerning palate. There are days when I find myself meeting with master distillers and blenders, who guide me through their latest releases. And yes, on occasion, I even conduct business meetings at bars. But rest assured, indulging in excess is not part of the job description. In fact, if I were to get intoxicated on the job, I wouldn’t have a job for very long.
Now here’s where things get tricky. I recently discovered that I’m pregnant, and contemplating how this new chapter will impact my career has filled me with apprehension. The majority of people can sip on coffee or tea throughout their workday, but my situation is a bit different. With whiskey being such a significant focus of my work, I worried that pregnancy would pose certain challenges. Not only did I fear the impact it might have on my career progression, but I also anticipated judgment and unsolicited opinions due to the combination of pregnancy and alcohol.
Given these concerns, I had a lengthy internal debate on how to navigate my pregnancy while maintaining my work commitments. When I was still working in an office prior to the pandemic, I frequently tasted whiskey alongside my colleagues. There was no way I could conceal a pregnancy in such an environment without raising suspicions. That wasn’t the route I wanted to take. Like countless other women, I dreaded the potential negative consequences pregnancy might bring to my career – a well-founded concern, given that one in five mothers experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.
The fact that my profession revolved around whiskey heightened my anxieties. Combining alcohol with pregnancy seemed like the perfect storm for judgment and criticism. I worried that people would question my choices, regardless of whether I was imbibing or not. Let me be clear: I am not consuming alcohol during this time. When I made the decision to start trying to conceive, I abstained from drinking altogether. The advantage of working exclusively from home these days is that I can take a break from tasting without anyone being the wiser. In public, I resorted to excuses like Dry January or merely holding a drink without actually sipping it. As long as you’re holding a beverage, no one tends to question anything.
Returning to regular whiskey tastings as a critic for The New Wine Review, I continued spitting out the whiskey as I always had. Surprisingly, it hasn’t affected my ability to evaluate the quality and characteristics of the spirits. If anything, my heightened sense of smell during pregnancy has been advantageous during the tasting process. Oddly enough, I haven’t really missed drinking, except for the occasional craving for a martini. While there are plenty of delicious alcohol-free cocktails out there, nothing truly substitutes that classic concoction.
Now, I find myself just a few weeks away from my due date. While I’ve privately shared the news with many people, I’ve hesitated to make a public announcement. I still harbor fears that my professional reputation will take a hit, and that this decision to start a family might hinder my career progress. But the time has come to confront these anxieties head-on. My baby will be born whether I talk about it publicly or not. And once this little one enters the world, I will most certainly celebrate the joyous occasion with a pour of the finest whiskey.
In conclusion, navigating the intersection of work and pregnancy as a whiskey taster has been a complex journey. The worries and prejudices surrounding women’s reproductive choices are only magnified when alcohol enters the equation. However, with conscious decisions, the ability to adapt, and a supportive network, it is possible to strike a balance between personal and professional life. As I embark on this next chapter, I aim to shatter stereotypes and prove that motherhood does not hinder career success. My journey as a whiskey-tasting mom is just beginning, and I am eager to embrace the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.