You’ve seen the memes and Instagram posts and maybe even laughed at a few of them. They’re part of “Wine Mom Culture” and they often portray mothers dreaming of having a glass of wine, or two after their kids go to bed so they can relax and just cope with the struggles of motherhood. The hashtags range from #WineMom and #MommyJuice to #MommyNeedsaDrinkie and everything in between.
While it may be a joking matter to some, a new study shares concerns that Wine Mom Culture may be toxic. Indeed, there are concerns that it’s setting women up for drinking problems and could be a coping mechanism for much deeper mental health issues.
What Is #WineMom Culture?
The mom wine culture normalizes using alcohol as a way to cope with the struggles of parenthood. Alcohol is seen as the saving grace for moms feeling overwhelmed by stress and the struggle to look like everything is a-okay when in reality it’s not.
Traci Maynigo, Psy.D., Program Director, Supporting Healthy Relationships and Supporting Responsible Fatherhood at Montefiore Health System, tells Parentology that Mom Wine Culture says, “I’m struggling here, but don’t worry, as long as I can have a glass of wine once in a while, I can get back to being the perfect mom I’m supposed to be.”
Wine mom culture started gaining momentum a few years back through social media sites and blogs. It was seen as a way for moms to cope and then relate to each other because they found other women who were in the same boat. What started as a joke and even a way to share stories blossomed into a culture of sloganed t-shirts, wine glasses, and now great concern that there is more going on than women want to admit.
Toxic Side of Wine Mom Culture
A new study sheds light on the potential dangers of the Wine Mom Culture. Researchers looked at Instagram posts that had the hashtag “winemom” to see how alcohol was related to motherhood. They found that wine was often used to fight back against what society defines as a “good mother.” Women often used the #winemom hashtag to show that alcohol is an acceptable way of coping with daily tasks as well as self-care.
“What’s dangerous is that it ignores the struggle, putting a band-aid over it, rather than addressing the reality that the expectations and demands of modern mothers remain impossible and imbalanced,” says Maynigo.
Maynigo explains that this can lead to overlooked mental health concerns that can show up as early as pregnancy and postpartum, with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
What’s also concerning to researchers and mental health professionals alike is that the messages that mom wine culture sends can normalize regular binge drinking. According to the CDC, approximately 13% of women report binge drinking (consuming 5 drinks in one sitting). On average, they do so four times a month.
Maynigo tells Parentology that when excessive drinking is normalized while the underlying issues remain unaddressed, it can become a maladaptive way of coping. When a culture is created around it, it increases the possibility that more women will turn to it.
Helping Women Cope without Alcohol
If a woman starts drinking more often and becomes dependent on alcohol, and it interferes with her daily life, there could be underlying psychological problems that need to be addressed. Maynigo says finding healthy support systems and other moms with similar experiences are good places to start.
“Focus on opening up to one another about the very real, very mixed, and very valid feelings mothers often have about motherhood but are often too afraid to share without relying on drinking to form bonds or be essential to the relationship,” suggests Maynigo.
Turning to your partner or extended family for support is also a good idea. Bonding with your partner over the struggles of parenthood can help to build a healthy relationship. These healthy relationships can pave the way for optimal mental health for both mom and the entire family.