Mommy wine culture may seem like fun and games, but is it simply masking a real problem?
We’ve all seen the Facebook memes, the Etsy t-shirts, and the oversized novelty wine glasses branded with funny sayings.
It’s wine o’clock
Momma needs some wine!
These products typically come in fun colors and feature cute fonts that make them seem harmless. But are these products pointing to a serious issue? Are we normalizing addictive behavior? Is wine mommy culture making it okay for women to mask their stress and pain with booze?
Obviously, it’s common for parents to have a drink or two every once in a while. Motherhood is a stressful job, and alcohol helps to take the edge off after a long week.
But, in some ways, the wine mom phenomenon seems to be turning alcoholism into an identity, much like being a music-lover or sports fan. These days, a mother could theoretically decorate their entire house with merchandise that promotes alcoholism and reinforces the idea that addiction is funny, cute, and necessary.
However, as any recovered alcoholic can tell you, alcohol addiction isn’t cute or funny. It’s actually a dangerous disease that can lead to serious problems. So while the mom wine merchandise may garner “likes” on social media and make it seem okay to pour a glass of red at noontime, it’s just covering up a serious problem.
Research suggests that women use alcohol for stress management and mood stabilization. It’s important to recognize signs of stress and find restorative ways to improve your mood. Changing “I can’t wait until happy hour” to “I’ll see you at the park for a walk.”
~ Dr. Bader, Women’s Recovery Staff
How Mommy Drinking Culture Has Normalized Alcoholism
Wine consumption among parents isn’t necessarily new. For decades, wine has been the favorite drink of many people, including many mothers.
But when we talk about the culture of “wine mommies”, we’re talking primarily about a social media phenomenon. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other sites are the space where images of wine-related merchandise circulate, and they’re also where moms receive positive feedback for posting about their drinking habits.
Let’s be clear here, too: alcoholism isn’t only a problem among mothers. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 14 million Americans show signs of alcohol use disorder. And 9 million of them were men.
But, the unique case of mommy wine culture gives us insight into how addiction is rationalized.
After all, it’s easy for a mother to join a Facebook group like “Moms Who Need Wine,” and receive reinforcement from the group’s members. These groups circulate memes and photos that reassure their members that drinking is perfectly normal, especially when you’re forced to deal with the stresses of parenthood.
However, roughly 5.1 Million American women show signs of alcohol use disorder. And many mothers don’t realize that they’re alcoholics, even if they show all the key signs.
When Does Being a Wine Mom Become a Problem?
Hardly anyone ever decides to become an alcoholic. There may not be a person alive who sat down one day with a box of wine and said, “I’m going to develop a drinking problem now.”
No, it’s usually much more subtle than that. Drinking problems develop slowly and over time.
But wine moms often fail to recognize when their drinking habit is getting out of hand. They think that because they don’t live under a bridge or wake up covered in their own vomit, they’re fine. As long as they’re able to wake up, go to work, and take care of their kids, they’re good, right?
Well, kind of. Below, we’ll discuss a few signs of alcoholism. If you show one or more of these signs, your mommy juice habit could be growing into a bigger problem:
Drinking More and More Wine Over Time
Maybe you used to start with one glass, but now you do two. Or maybe you’ve already moved onto an entire bottle.
Whatever the case, increasing your intake over time can be a sign of a larger problem. If you’re unable to feel satisfied by the amount you used to drink, it means that you’re developing a tolerance. Unfortunately, this can be a sign of alcohol dependency.
Drinking Earlier than You Used To
Remember when you used to start drinking at dinnertime? These days, it seems like you can’t wait to pop the cork and pour your first glass. Sometimes, you’ll even start at 3 PM, right when the kids get home from school.
This is a bad sign. It means that you’re growing increasingly dependent on alcohol, and that you may need it to function.
Doing Embarrassing Things While Drunk
At some point, anyone who drinks alcohol will do or say something embarrassing. It comes with the territory. After all, drinking wine lowers your inhibitions, causing you to do things that you normally wouldn’t.
But too much embarrassment can be detrimental to your mental health. If you constantly scream at your neighbors when you’re drunk, for example, you’ll start to feel quite ashamed. Over time, that shame might cause you to drink more wine (leading to more embarrassment).
Doing Dangerous Things While Drunk
Alcoholics often their safety and that of the people around them. For example, ever heard of drunk driving? It’s a highly dangerous activity, but people do it all the time.
When you drink a lot of wine, your sense of responsibility goes out the window. But, you can put yourself or your family at risk. If you constantly find yourself in unsafe situations while drinking, it may be time to confront your problem.
Lying About Your Drinking Habit
There’s a lot of shame around alcoholism. Many mothers cover up the problem by lying to other people (and themselves) about their issues. They may lie about how much or how often they actually drink. This relieves them of temporarily of their embarrassment.
But, lying doesn’t make the problem go away. In fact, it may prevent you from seeking the help you need.
Wanting to Quit But Being Unable To
Here’s a question to ask yourself:
Could you stay sober for an entire month? What about two?
If the prospect of quitting wine feels impossible, then you might have a problem to contend with. Even if you enjoy wine, you should be able to quit if you want to.
Many moms want to quit drinking wine, and even attempt to, but can’t. If you find yourself unable to stay off the wine for any amount of time, you might become dependent on it. In that case, it’s time to seek professional help.
Don’t get stuck in the rut of a using routine. See if your friends would be up to a health challenge, “No excuse November” where every person steps away from drinking for one month. In this time, you would be able to see if a particular behavior serves as a challenge for yourself or a close friend.
~ Dr. Bader, Women’s Recovery Staff
Why Are Women Prone to Alcoholism?
Alcohol addiction affects people of every age, race, religion, and gender. It’s an unforgiving disease that doesn’t care if you’re black or white, male or female, 18 years old or 80. Everyone who picks up a drink has the potential to become dependent on it.
Although more men show signs of alcohol use disorder, women are just as prone to it.
One of the most interesting things about wine mom culture is that it’s shown us why mothers become alcoholics. Although there are many reasons not listed below (such as genetics, which is an important factor), here are a few common ones:
Much of the wine mommy aesthetic is based around rebellion. It’s about letting go of the traditional image of a “perfect mom” in place of one that likes to let her hair down, relax, and have fun.
Because there are such high expectations placed on mothers, this culture allows women to feel more comfortable being themselves. While mothers should be allowed to be themselves, the wine mommy brand promotes the idea that alcohol makes things better and that it’s okay to drink heavily on a regular basis.
Most people drink to relieve stress. This is why almost every bar in America is packed with people at the end of the workweek. But mothers experience more stress than most people. After all, they are responsible for caring for other living beings.
The idea of “mommy juice” suggests that wine is a cure-all for stress. Even more, it suggests that drinking a bottle of chardonnay every night is a reasonable response to the stresses of parenthood.
A lot of mothers, and women in general, use alcohol to cope with past trauma. They may have unresolved pain from childhood or an abusive relationship.
In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that up to 80% of addicted women suffered through sexual or physical assault.
Because of the stigmas around mental health, especially for mothers, many women reside themselves to drinking wine instead of dealing with the problem.
Mommy wine culture gives these individuals a sense of belonging. Instead of finding a healthy way to deal with their pain, they’re able to drink wine out of a glass that says something like, “Mommy’s Sippy Cup.”
Obviously, a lot of people drink while socializing. Alcohol makes us feel friendlier and makes other people seem like they’re more fun. It allows us to let down certain inhibitions and enjoy ourselves. For this reason, most of us want to drink in social settings.
But mom wine culture is interesting in that there’s a lot of pressure to drink. Once you’ve adopted the image of an irreverent mom who loves wine, you may have trouble living that down. Your other mom friends might expect you to drink when you hang out with them. In fact, the wine may be the only thing you share in common.
You Don’t Have to Be a Wine Mom: How to Quit Drinking
The wine mommy culture feels fun at first. It appeals to mothers who enjoy drinking to destress. However, it also promotes alcohol abuse or alcoholism, which is a dangerous disease that can lead to a number of scary side effects. Among other things, alcohol abuse is known to cause liver disease, heart disease, pregnancy issues, depression, anxiety, and other problems.
So while a glass of wine may help you to cope with the stress of motherhood, alcohol abuse is never a good thing. If you think that you’re too dependent on wine, it could be time to get your habit under control.
Here are a few things you might do to help yourself:
I don’t mean to sound like an after-school PSA, but it’s okay to say “no” to wine, especially in social situations. If you want to stop drinking, you don’t have to. Even if the other moms in your social circle are dependent on wine, you can abstain. If they don’t accept that, you’re better off hanging out with different friends or spending time with your family.
As we’ve discussed, mom wine culture happens predominantly online. The drinking part happens in real life, of course, but the aesthetic is spread on social media.
So if you disapprove or are trying to wean off alcohol, stop encouraging the wine moms. You don’t have to like their Facebook updates or Instagram posts, even if they’re your friends. By reserving your “likes” for posts that aren’t hashtagged with #winedownwednesday or #winetime, you’ll send the message that you’re no longer a part of that culture.
If you find yourself unable to quit drinking wine, you might want to reach out for help. Alcoholism is a dangerous disease. The longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to overcome.
If you drink heavily on a regular basis, you may have to go through a detox program to get clean. But if you’re just trying to overcome a mild addiction, rehab could be the perfect resource for you.
In an alcohol rehab program, you’ll learn how to cope with stress in a healthy manner. This will help help you get sober.
There are many rehab programs designed for busy mothers. At Women’s Recovery, for example, we offer an intensive outpatient program that makes it easy to fit treatment into your schedule.
Women’s Recovery: Helping Women Overcome Alcoholism
No one is immune to the risk of alcohol addiction. Even moms who simply enjoy a glass of wine now and then are susceptible to it.
At Women’s Recovery, we’ve seen countless women fight their way through alcoholism. But with proper support, they’re able to recover and live happier, healthier lives.