Something about the messaging that “mommy deserves a drink after a hard day” has struck a chord. What’s wrong with mommy wine culture?
Women and Drinking
Turns out, I am not the only woman who saw her drinking progressively increase. Since the early 2000s, research has shown that alcohol use disorder is on the rise in women. A 2018 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, found an increase in alcohol-related ER visits with women accounting for more of the increase in visits than men. And a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2017 found that women’s high-risk drinking (defined as drinking four or more drinks in a day) rose by 58 percent.
What is Wine Mom Culture?
There’s no official, medical or cultural definition of “wine mom culture.” But you’d recognize it if you saw it. It’s things like the “Moms Who Need Wine” Facebook group. A wine glass that simply says “mommy’s sippy cup.” A baby’s onesie that says “mommy loves me more than wine.” A throw pillow that says “Mama Needs Some Wine.” Or a t-shirt that says “Surviving Homeschool One Breakdown (And Glass of Wine) at a Time” — which seems to be tailor-made for the pandemic stress many mothers, myself included, experienced when daycares and schools across the U.S. closed.
What’s Wrong With Mommy Wine Culture
So it seems, “wine mom” memes have spread far and wide in response to this idea that there is such a thing as a “perfect mom.” Drinking can be a coping mechanism for stressed-out moms, like Nicole Slaughter Graham, a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, FL, who has been sober for 11 years. “Parenting is hard, and I couldn’t figure out how to take care of myself and my children at the same time,” she says, “so ‘wine mom’ culture felt like one of the only options I had to learn how to cope with motherhood.”
And while not everyone who buys a funny “wine mom” shirt is in the same situation as Slaughter Graham, mom wine culture can help “perpetuate the belief that women need booze to survive being a mom,” says Emily Lynn Paulson, an author, recovery coach, and founder of Sober Mom Squad, a support group that began during the pandemic after Paulson saw “a huge uptick” in the number of women who were reaching out to her for support.
Before getting sober, Paulson “used every meme, t-shirt, kitschy coffee mug and ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ comment as a justification for my own drinking,” says the Seattle-based mom of five who has been sober for almost four years. “Even when I did question if my drinking was abnormal, these messages kept me ‘stuck’ in a pattern of drinking to deal with all of the challenges of motherhood for much longer than my brain and body wanted to be stuck there.”
And wine mom culture tells women that’s okay. “Wine mom culture says that the best and the only way to mom is with a glass of wine in hand,” says Erin Stewart, M.S.W., a therapist who focuses on motherhood, alcohol addiction, and recovery. “Wine mom culture also tells us that motherhood, and parenting little ones, is unbearable and brutal without the ‘mommy juice’ to ease the tantrums, the messes, the lack of sleep and the overwhelm of it all.”
How We Can Get Past It Together
Society wants us to think that we can buy the solution in the form of a $12 bottle of wine because the actual solution — a major systemic overhaul — is way more complicated.
“Read books on recovery for understanding,” recommends Stewart. You don’t need to be sober, sober curious, or trying to get sober in order to learn what alcohol use disorder can look like in women. These books may just help you understand your own drinking patterns. “There are so many great reads out there, like This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker, along with so many addiction memoirs, like We Are The Luckiest by Laura McKowen, that really makes mothers and women in this position feel like they are not crazy and not alone.”
If you’re ready to start fixing what’s wrong with mommy wine culture, dive into This Naked Mind. Download the first chapter for free now!