Memes and photos showing well-coiffed moms holding glasses of alcohol populate the Internet. The images of the “Mommy Wine Culture” are often funny, relatable and usually have a long thread of “Girl, Right?” comments.
They also indicate that moms drinking Shiraz is medicinal, as if motherhood was some sort of disease. It’s our drinking justification: the female version of men reaching for a beer after some back breaking physical labor.
Welcome to the cute – and dark – national narrative of
‘Mommy deserves this’.
Media & Mommy Wine Culture
Blogs, imagery and movies spin a dizzy combination of inspiration and authenticity about motherhood. They weave balanced tales of superhero Mom ‘doing it all’ with lighthearted reality of interspersed ramen dinners, dirty underwear and a bottle of wine for “needed me time.”
Mommy wine culture is a perfect product of social media, as we perpetuate it rapidly. Every humorous blog or meme share helps sustain the whole culture. We reassure each other that Moms need wine to support parenting sanity, society is reassured that mommy’s drinking is harmless, and ahead we chug (figuratively and literally).
This culture is also extremely marketable: teeshirts, glassware, baseball hats, etc. Name some swag and you’ll find “The most expensive part of motherhood is wine” or “Mommy Juice” displaying proudly.
This legal sedative called “Mommy Wine” is so embedded into the fabric of our culture that we don’t see it anymore – or its impact on women until it’s too late.
Mommy’s Little Helper
Mommy drinking culture is a lot cuter than “Mommy’s little helper” (Valium) culture of the 1960s-1980s. Since the prescription drug backlash, “pill popping” mommies are not in fashion. Mom-friends, wine, bonfires and oversized sweaters are far more wholesome.
But is it?
For generations, feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental health dangers have been dismissed as part of motherhood. The primary reason women give for drinking is to relieve stress, but there’s a big difference between grandma’s brandy in tea and a bottle of chardonnay.
This current pop-culture is a reflection of real, unaddressed issues in the lives of women ranging from professional and personal pressures to fundamental ideas about the role of mothers in society.
Mommy’s Legal Addiction
Americans justify our alcohol use constantly. Even in 2020, our society has a misplaced idea of the “typical alcoholic,” that keeps us from seeing alcohol abuse in moms who keep their kids fed and clothed, maintain a job and serve their community.
Mommy Wine Time is not an “ugly” addiction. So we discount it.
Funny memes and swag all contribute to that image – “Our drinking isn’t a problem; it’s just an amusing hobby.”
I have a friend named Jane. She is an upper middle-class professional, who has a master’s degree and is PTO Chair. Jane is the stereotypical suburban mom living the “American dream.”
Jane also has the genetic disposition for addiction. She would drink with her neighborhood moms at social gatherings, but her DNA took that drinking to the next level. On her 39th birthday, Jane found herself homeless, having lost her driver’s license and, most painfully, her children.
And me? I am a mom, a daughter and a loyal friend. Professionally, I am a MBA graduate, a marketing executive and I volunteer in my community.
I am about 150 different things — to myself and to everyone in my life.
My name is Rebecca, and I have been in recovery from alcohol addiction for 10 years. Chardonnay became my demon after I had my sons. The Mommy Wine Culture does NOT want you to see me.
See, I bought into this culture 100%. Although I always drank in a way that I now know is abnormal, it was still easy for me to believe I did not struggle from the disease of addiction. I was simply a woman who had a little too much wine by myself, with friend or with my husband – definitely not an alcoholic. I was so much better than that. Until I wasn’t and it was insanity. I kept doing the same thing, over and over again, and expected a different result.
Insanity vs. Reality
The craziest thing about insanity is that, initially, we don’t know it’s happening. There might be an occasional twinge about all the drama and odd behavior, but we stay unaware. Because, who would want to know? Who wants to believe the same terrible result will keep popping up?
I own the insanity. When I was in my worst stage of addiction, I still attempted to rationalize my drinking. I wanted to see the raving beast in the distance and say, “Yes, that’s a monster for sure. However, I’m sure he’ll go right past me once he gets here.”
The raving beast did not waltz past.
And, when my sons were young, I realized the horrible entrapment that is alcoholism: I couldn’t stop drinking, AND I couldn’t continue. Either way, I felt I would die. I almost did.
Addiction Warning Signs
As the beast came, I ignored the following signs. Any of these is a sign of growing alcohol abuse/addiction problem and NOT a fun Mommy Wine meme:
- You promise yourself you won’t drink. But do.
- Your alcohol consumption has increased.
- Others are noticing your drinking.
- Your evening drinking ritual has crept into the daytime.
- You regret things you say and do. Or maybe do not remember.
- Alcohol is impacting your work or other commitments.
- You’re thinking about some aspect of drinking every daily.
Not all Mommy Wine drinkers are like me. However, societal bias against any struggle for mothers prevents many women from seeking safe and effective treatment. Instead, they self-medicate. The Mommy Wine Culture feeds off this bias.