"Mommy wine culture” is a pop culture phenomenon that has emerged over the last decade with help from social media. The movement seemingly started in 2009 with the Facebook group “Moms Who Need Wine,” which now has over 728,000 members. The group allows fellow moms to share funny memes, articles, and other content about how raising children requires a large amount of wine. In this context, wine isn’t something that just helps take the edge off, it’s the thing that allows mothers to stay sane. In Facebook groups and mommy blogs alike, moms are posting about the realness of motherhood; however, posts about feeding the kids Pop-Tarts for dinner rather than a three-course meal has transitioned into memes about downing a whole bottle of wine after putting the children to bed.
In addition to social media groups, movies like Bad Moms and Bad Moms 2 reinforce the idea of mommy wine culture, portraying the modern mother as rebellious, carefree, and wine chugging – the opposite of Leave It to Beaver’s June Cleaver and The Brady Bunch’s Carol Brady. E-commerce sites like Etsy have also capitalized on mommy wine culture, offering hundreds of wine glasses for sale that bare sassy mom-themed messages such as “Mommy’s Sippy Cup,” “They Whine; I Wine,” and “My Kids Think This Is Coffee.” It doesn’t just stop with cups and glasses, there are also T-shirts, purses, baby onesies, and home decor that all tote mommy wine sayings.
It may seem like harmless fun and solidarity amongst mothers – a palatable code for “motherhood is hard,” but what if mommy wine culture is ultimately doing more harm to mothers than good? On one hand, mommy wine culture has helped de-stigmatize the idea of having to be the perfect ‘superhero’ mom that does it all, but on the other, it’s normalizing unhealthy drinking behaviors. Mommy wine culture espouses the idea that parenting is stressful and exhausting, but drinking will help. Every meme and joke that is shared helps reinforce the idea that excessive drinking amongst moms is normal and harmless, leaving those who are truly struggling with alcohol abuse to believe that they don’t have a problem.
Mommy wine culture not only normalizes heavy drinking; it glorifies it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate alcohol consumption for women as having up to one drink per day. However, mommy wine culture’s trend of pouring two or three glasses a night to cope with the daily struggles of motherhood clearly defies this amount. In mommy wine culture, everyone is drinking, even at play dates and children’s birthday parties, making it easy to participate in binge drinking. Additionally, the casual references to excessive drinking on social media only downplays these problems.
With social media, there seems to be an openness now to talking about [binge drinking], and even sometimes to celebrate it, which really minimizes the risk. This can lead some who drink too much to believe, ‘This is socially acceptable; this is something people do.’ It can minimize the impact alcohol can have in their life.
Jim Scarpace, Addiction Treatment Expert and Executive Director of Gateway Foundation Treatment Centers:
Under the guise of just having a few glasses of “mommy juice,” many women are consuming more than three or four glasses of alcohol a day and aren’t realizing the negative impact it could have on their lives and health. Women are much more likely than men to develop health problems due to excessive alcohol use, including brain damage, liver failure, and heart disease. Additionally, women that frequently binge drink are more likely to experience hormonal problems and cancers than women who are moderate drinkers. The funny memes and mementos of mommy wine culture masks these serious health risks of drinking.
Recovering alcoholic mother, Celeste Yvonne, said that the constant stream of pictures on Instagram of moms drinking wine with hashtags like #MamaNeedsADrink and #SurvivingMotherhoodOneBottleAtATime contributed to her drinking problem: “I was very much entranced by the mommy wine culture, and I used that culture to self-medicate… Society has very much normalized it, and that’s how I managed to justify drinking a bottle of wine a night.” Yvonne is not alone as many women are losing sight of the problem that drinking can be due to the light-hearted tone of posts that are actually glorifying dangerous alcohol use.
The humor that a majority of women see in the wine mom trope is a trigger and struggle for many others that have come to depend on alcohol. What began as a fun parody and blowing off steam has transitioned into an addiction for some, and these jokes not only mask the problem – it makes it acceptable. Channing Marinari, a licensed mental health counselor and certified alcohol and drug counselor, urges women to think about the message that mommy wine culture is truly sending: “That moms need wine to handle the chaos of raising kids and life? That moms can only socialize over wine? That wine solves the problem of motherhood? None of those things are true, and the ramifications can be serious.”
The message that alcohol is a woman’s only crutch to get through the stresses of motherhood contributes to the development of unhealthy coping mechanisms. The demands of parenting are real, and all parents should be encouraged to have healthy, productive outlets that go beyond a wine glass. Excessive alcohol use not only poses a threat to the health of the mother, but her family as well. Alcoholism, similar to other mental illnesses, tends to run in families. In fact, growing up with an alcoholic parent is a major factor for future alcoholism. This is due both to genetic factors and learned behavior. Many mothers have realized that having their children witness behaviors that say “I need a drink to deal with this today” not only damages a child’s self-esteem, but shows them the wrong way to deal with life.
Although not every mom that enjoys mommy wine culture struggles with alcoholism, the reality is that there are many that do. Mental health professionals and addiction treatment experts alike are calling for women to stop perpetuating the idea that using alcohol to cope with the trials of motherhood is normal and to instead recognize excessive alcohol use to be the true problem that it is.