I like a glass of wine at the end of a particularly trying day as much as the next over-worked, under-appreciated parent. Hell, most nights a glass of wine won't do, and I make a Seven & Seven instead. But as I've found my bearings and a routine that makes this full-time working mom thing manageable, I've also noticed how often us moms are encouraged to drink our exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness away. So, can we finally start taking "mom wine culture" seriously? Because while I can admit that those t-shirts and memes are pretty damn funny, they're also extremely problematic.
A reported 5.3 million women suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the United States, according to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The same institute notes that, "In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion," and, "Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking." In a 2014 Today.com survey, "40 percent of respondents said drinking helps them cope with the stress of being a parent and more than one-third said they have mom friends who they think have a problem with alcohol." And according to Today, brands specifically designed to speak to "stressed out moms," like Mad Housewife, Mommy's Time out, and Mommy Juice, have seen an increase in sales as high as 25 percent. A reported one in five women ages 25 to 24 admit to frequent binge drinking, or consuming four or more alcoholic drinks at once, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Moms don't need to join a "Wine of the Month" club, they need affordable access to mental health services and better postpartum treatment that can help new moms seek the treatment and support they need and deserve.
Should a mom be able to relax at the end of a day with an alcoholic beverage or two? Of course. She's an adult, and her decision to procreate doesn't preclude her from enjoying non child-related things. She's not irresponsible for having a glass of wine at the end of the day, or enjoying a few drinks with friends or coworkers at the nearest happy hour. Like any other adult, she's entitled to drink responsibly... especially in the comfort of her own home.
The problem with this messaging isn't that it encourages moms to kick back, take a break, and focus on themselves (a reminder we all need, from time to time). The problem is that the very same type of constant messaging also encourages moms to use alcohol to fix their problems. The over-saturation of a wine culture specifically targeting moms who need support has made it easy for all of us — moms and non-moms alike — to simply overlook the struggles those very same moms face on a daily basis, and the ways we could help moms in a real, sustainable way.
Before too long, I felt as though I needed an alcohol beverage in order to be a mom who could simply make it through the day without falling apart.
Currently, the United States is the only country in the developed world that doesn't have mandatory paid maternity leave. A glass of wine at the end of a hard day isn't going to change the fact that in 2015, one-quarter of moms returned to work just two weeks after giving birth, according to the Department of Labor. Women don't need bottles of wine chilling in their refrigerators; they need time to recover from childbirth, adjust to life as a parent, and bond with their newborn.
A reported one in seven women develop postpartum depression after their child is born, according to the American Psychological Association. Moms don't need to join a "Wine of the Month" club, they need affordable access to mental health services and better postpartum treatment that can help new moms seek the treatment and support they need and deserve. And since consuming alcohol can worsen depression symptoms, according to American Addiction Centers, the last thing a woman suffering from postpartum depression needs is constant encouragement to drink.
As a new mom living thousands of miles away from the nearest family member, and the first of my friends to have a child, I found myself isolated, exhausted, and lonely — despite the fact that I had a tiny human being constantly vying for my attention. And it was easy, too easy, to simply pour myself a large glass of wine, or three, and joke about how necessary my "mommy juice" was in order for me to survive parenthood. Before too long, I felt as though I needed an alcoholic beverage in order to be a mom who could simply make it through the day without falling apart.
So while I still enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a particularly difficult day, I am also weary of the messaging most moms are subjected to.
That's not what I needed, though. I needed support and encouragement. I needed time to adjust to life as a new mother, instead of working remotely the day I came home from the hospital. I needed to talk to a doctor or therapist about what turned out to be postpartum depression. I needed to make a living wage, make as much money as a man doing my same job, and to know that I could rely on affordable child care when and if it was necessary. Instead, though, I was marketed t-shirts that had "Coffee. Mom. Wine. Repeat." and encouraged to laugh it all off as "just part of being a mom."
So while I still enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a particularly difficult day, I am also weary of the messaging most moms are subjected to. I ask for help when I need it, I advocate for paid family leave, affordable child care for all, and closing the gender pay gap, and I rely on other non-alcohol related things (like writing or a walk or a good book) to de-stress at the end of the day.
Because we need to do better by the moms of this country, and offering them a glass of wine isn't helping. It's hurting.