If you are an adult, especially if you’re a parent, you have probably heard of mommy wine culture, though perhaps not by that name. Mommy wine culture basically makes using alcohol to cope with your day as a parent an accepted, even celebrated, part of modern life. Many moms – and parents, more generally – can feel trapped and overwhelmed by stress and the pressure to “keep up appearances.” Mommy wine culture purports to be a solution to this problem. But is it?
What Is Mommy Wine Culture?
You’ve seen the wine glasses, coozies, and other swag emblazoned with phrases like “Mommy needs a drinky,” “Mommy Juice,” or “Mommy Therapy.” These are meant to be a joke about how primary care givers need the escape of alcohol to cope with a long day of caring for their children. An SNL skit just last month highlighted the mommy wine culture phenomenon and hinted at some of the painful problems inherent in it.
In practice, there are a variety of ways this culture is lived out, most of which are more subtle than the tchotchkes above. Some people drink throughout the day, even while driving. There might be vodka in that travel mug with a teabag tag hanging out of it, whiskey stashed under the driver’s seat, sangria in the big cup from the gas station soda fountain on the kitchen island. Some people might drink to or past intoxication during naptime or after the kids are down for the night.
Mommy wine culture might be covering up a much more difficult truth, alcohol dependency.
The Appeal of the Wine Mom
The “wine mom” life seems desirable because it is an easy way to connect to others. It is not just moms that view a glass of wine or a cocktail as a way to unwind after a stressful day. Most of contemporary society agrees with that idea. Mommy wine culture seems desirable because it feels like a way to connect and unwind with other mothers, who might be experiencing the same stress you are.
Being a parent is hard. There is no argument there. Many parents view mommy wine culture as a means of relaxation, a way to disconnect from or dampen the stress of being a parent. They do not view it as dangerous or negative. Instead, they view it as their only true way to let go of everything they carry so they can just be.
Deeper Issues with Mommy Wine Culture
We tend to think alcoholism = alcohol dependency = binge drinking. While someone could struggle with any number of these issues, none of those terms are actually equivalent to any of the others.
- Alcoholism, also termed “alcohol abuse disorder,” is an addiction. This means that the element of choice is no longer in play. There is a chemical dependency involved that overrides the will. Alcohol has actually changed the brain of the person with alcohol abuse disorder.
- Alcohol dependency is more of a habit in the traditional sense – it’s not a compulsion, and the person who is alcohol dependent has the power to make choices about their drinking. Alcohol dependency can lead to alcoholism.
- Binge drinking is the act of consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short time. In the United States, binge drinking is defined as drinking enough in two hours to raise one’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.08%. On average, this means consuming four drinks in two hours for women and five drinks in two hours for men. Interestingly, binge drinking is not necessarily connected to alcohol abuse disorder or alcohol dependency.
(To learn about CDC recommendations for the consumption of alcohol, check out their article Alcohol Use and Your Health.)
Female alcohol dependence and alcoholism often go unnoticed in American society. The good news is that help is available for anyone who wants it, no matter which of these issues they face.
To find a someone who can help you deal with problematic drinking, search for a therapist in your area and filter your results by Alcohol/Addiction Issues. To find a facility where you can get help if your problem is acute, search for an RTC (or Rehab Treatment Center) in our directory.
Effects on Children
Mommy wine culture tells a story about parenthood, and children are often quick to pick up on stories. This story tells that, while parenting is precious, it’s also unbearably awful, and that, because children are so [active, clingy, demanding, annoying, exhausting, boring – fill your own flavor in here], parents are desperate to escape. The more time a parent spends with their child, the more they need alcohol to cope with it all.
This story is probably not one you want to pass on to your children. That being their parent, that being with them is just the worst; that they are the reason you drink; the belief that alcohol is the only option when you can’t physically run away – these are ideas that yield hard and bitter fruit. And the idea that using alcohol (or any other substance) is a healthy, sustainable way to keep stress at bay could encourage the same attitude in your children.
Any form of self-medication is questionable, especially one that is known to be addictive and damaging. Parents who use alcohol to self-medicate instead of growing in the ability to regulate their emotions are choosing a short-term solution that can have very negative consequences. This is true for anyone who turns to a substance to solve their problems.
It’s okay to lack the skills needed to handle something in your life – stress, responsibility, anxiety, whatever it is. We all have areas where we need to grow. Therapy is a great resource for that growth. Therapists have a toolbox full of strategies and interventions that can help you become more capable, more resilient, more steadfast, and they are eager to share them with you in a helpful way. But just as it would not be okay to neglect a child because you felt overwhelmed, it’s not healthy to use substances as a way to escape your feelings. Reach out for help. It’s waiting for you.
Long-Term Health Damage
A long-term relationship with alcohol can be destructive to one’s health. People who drink heavily or addictively are putting themselves at risk for a variety of health issues down the line.
Toward a Healthier Relationship with Alcohol
Bringing awareness to this issue is the first step toward change. We need to take this prettied-up version of alcohol dependency off its pedestal. Start by noticing and asking questions.
Explore Other Kinds of Relationships with Alcohol
Research and explore how other cultures, other families, and other parents incorporate (or don’t incorporate) alcohol in healthy, non-dependent ways. Ask friends or find groups online of folks who practice these alternatives to learn more about these options. Consider which of these options might be best suited to you. You can even try them on for size.
You can also just leave alcohol behind if it’s not serving you. Sobriety is on the rise, as is a “sober-curious” movement. Some cultures and religions eschew alcohol entirely as well. You won’t be the only one.
Pursue Mental Health
Struggling with mental health concerns is the root of mommy wine culture. Whether you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues, drinking will not solve the problem. It may make it worse. But help is available. Click through to find a mental health professional who can help you.
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