Mommy wine culture is bigger than ever. From shirts and coffee mugs to memes and Instagram hashtags extolling women to “Rise & Wine” and “Let’s Wine About It,” the concept has seemingly become one big joke everyone can enjoy… with a glass of rosé, of course.
While there has been some backlash that this “trend” is making light of a potentially dangerous and heartbreaking addiction – alcoholism – the bigger question is this: Why is “mommy wine culture” even a topic of conversation and is it actually harming women?
What Is Mommy Wine Culture?
Mommy wine culture started a few years ago across mommy blogs and social media sites. The idea started as a way to connect mothers in the digital age — a way that struggling, stay-at-home parents, single moms, and working moms could all find relief and comfort in knowing they weren’t the only ones who craved a glass of wine at night.
“I think of wine mom culture as a community that allows other women who like to have a drink from time to time to feel like she is doing just fine,” lifestyle blogger and mother of two, Sharon Garofalow, tells Parentology. However, she notes, “[As moms,] we put guilt on ourselves for everything so, of course, we think about our drinking and question how it comes across.”
Dr. Caitlin Simpson, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, and Director of Clinical Operations with Footprints to Recovery sees the inherent red flags. “The problems with mom wine culture lie in the simple fact that it glorifies the idea of drinking as a way to relieve stress and deal with depression, two ailments that affect women far more than men.”
Indeed, as sayings like “Rose All Day” and “Maybe It’s Coffee, Maybe It’s Wine” are sold to the masses as cute phrases, it’s also made it easier for moms struggling with addiction to hide.
“I fell into the trap myself where I found myself drinking a bottle of wine a night and justifying it as something we all do to get through the challenges that come with modern mommyhood,” says author and personality Celeste Yvonne, who writes about being a sober mom on The Ultimate Mom Challenge website. “If everyone else is doing it, too, it can’t be that bad. But it is that bad. It’s a serious health risk.”
Is There a Mommy Drinking Problem?
The weight behind Yvonne’s story rings true for many mothers. Numerous articles, news reports, and TV specials feature moms who have struggled with the stress of parenting and turned to alcohol for an escape. While those stories are true and valid, statistics paint a less sensational story.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only around 2.5% of all women who binge drink reach a dependence level of drinking. That means more than 90% of women who do binge drink never become alcoholics. Out of the approximately 46% of women who reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, only 12% reported binge drinking.
This means that not every mom is an alcoholic. And not every mom binge drinks. And not every mom who binge drinks occasionally becomes an alcoholic.
The CDC study also states that men are twice as likely to binge drink as women. Approximately 58% of men reported drinking alcohol in the past month, 23% reported binge drinking and about 4.5% met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Men also consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women. And, among drivers in fatal motor-vehicle traffic crashes, men are almost twice as likely as women to have been intoxicated.
So why are moms who want to indulge in a glass or two of wine looked at more scrupulously?
Simply put, the mainstream media has normalized a father’s right to drink after work, while casting shade on women who do it. From Modern Family and The Simpsons to Married with Children and All in the Family, when the patriarch come home from work, he often gets a drink. Society has become so accustomed to seeing this narrative play out on TV screens that we never really viewed it as a problem.
“Male use of alcohol has always been more socially accepted. It’s ‘just something men do’ by societal standards,” observes Michelle, McGinnis (LCSW), Chief Clinical Officer at Landmark Recovery, an addiction rehabilitation organization with facilities in Indiana and Kentucky. “Plus, there does not seem to be as much pressure on men to be ‘perfect dads.’”
But there is pressure on women, and it’s heightened even more thanks to social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of women felt pressure to be a more involved, better parent, while only 56% of men felt the same way.
“Mothers – even those in dual-earner families – not only bear the brunt of parenting responsibilities, but also experience the strongest pressure to be perfect parents,” author and Doctor of Psychology, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, wrote in The Guardian.
“There is [an expectation] to be a ‘perfect’ mom — and it’s huge and daunting. This pressure creates stress and stress creates the need to cope, and drinking is a means of coping. Add to this that society has created cute catchphrases that seem to endorse your behavior as normal, and it is easy for problematic patterns of drinking to develop.” McGinnis adds.
Changing the Narrative
So is mommy wine culture good or bad? Like with most things in life, it can be a little of both. While mommy wine culture has created community, it has shrouded negative behavior.
“I don’t think there should be a conversation on drinking culture at all,” Garofalow says. “Me, drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day, is my own business and doesn’t require commentary from others. If I choose to share that, it’s because I’m in search of support or encouragement, or now – because my kids are older – I’m hoping to provide encouragement to those with younger kids to let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
McGinnis agrees. She suggests that instead of victimizing moms who do drink or making light of alcohol dependence, maybe we should just kill the concept of mommy wine culture entirely.
Mommy Wine Culture – Sources
D. Gilson, PhD of Cultural Studies and author for ExpertInsuranceReviews.com
ABC News segment: One mom’s journey to sobriety from the peak of ‘mommy wine culture.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Deidra Roach — Healthline: How Mommy Juice is Normalizing Alcohol Addiction
Pew Research Center
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan — The Guardian
Dr. Caitlin Simpson, DSW, LCSW, LCADC and Director of Clinical Operations with Footprints to Recovery
Michelle, McGinnis (LCSW), Chief Clinical Officer at Landmark Recovery