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The Problem with “Wining Down”

he Problem With Wining Down

“It’s wine-o’clock”

“The most expensive part of having a kid is all the wine you have to drink.”

“Technically you’re not drinking alone if your children are at home.”

Anyone with an Instagram or Facebook account is probably pretty familiar with these wine mom culture memes, which are usually accompanied with an illustration of a picture-perfect mother gazing lovingly and adoringly at a chubby, smiling baby perched on her lap. Or even if you’re not a frequent social network user, you’ve probably wandered into a gift shop and spotted mugs that say, “This might be wine,” or T-shirts that declare, “Just give me the wine and nobody gets hurt!”

These popular wine mom culture memes are supposed to be funny, but they can also be unsettling since they are, essentially, encouraging mothers to drink when they feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Becoming a mother brings so much joy, happiness, and love to a person’s life, but also stress, frustration, and exhaustion. Mothers with young children may feel emotional, isolated, overwhelmed, or even bored at times. Parents often feel pulled in many different directions and rarely have “me time” to relax and recharge. So why not have a glass of wine to take the edge off?

The problem is, for many moms, one glass or even two or three is not enough. And for those mothers who turn to wine as a stress reliever, these memes normalize addictive behavior and make it more socially acceptable to drink with children in tow. Some may argue that sitting around sharing wine jokes with your girlfriends (and their kids) is all in good fun. But not everyone can have fun in moderation.

Thanks to these memes, many mothers may no longer think twice about mixing play dates with happy hour. Many now-sober women argue that the idea of “needing” wine to be a mom is potentially dangerous. And for those mothers struggling to stay sober, wine mom culture makes it even more challenging to avoid situations where alcohol is served. Those who abstain from drinking alcohol may feel awkward and uncomfortable when they discover they’re in the minority.

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 10.5% of children under the age of 17 live with at least one parent who has an alcohol use disorder. Many mothers struggling with addiction are hesitant to get help because they are ashamed and fear losing custody of their children. Instead, they may turn to the Internet for reassurance that others drink as much or as often as they do.

The intended audience for these memes may also be particularly vulnerable to the idea that wine can make life easier and/or more enjoyable. For example, new moms, in particular, are at risk for postpartum depression, which can affect women between two months and one year after giving birth. According to national survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 15% of women with postpartum depression and children less than a year old report engaging in binge drinking.

In light of these statistics, perhaps it’s time we give mothers more creative ways to manage stress, such as going for a jog or a bike ride, hiring a babysitter, meditating, taking a bath, reading a book, squeezing in an extra nap, seeing a therapist, or calling a close friend to chat. Some moms may feel guilty taking time away from their children for these activities. But taking time for yourself is critical for your mental and physical health. It also does something that drinking alcohol can never achieve: it makes you a better parent.

Wine mom culture memes acknowledge that motherhood is not perfect. Even with its myriad rewards, parenthood can be messy, challenging, hard, and stressful. You definitely need a sense of humor to get through some days. But some jokes get old—especially wine jokes.

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Positive Sobriety: The Book
Daniel H. Angres, MD

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