Mom Wine Culture
For all the occupations a woman can have, it is said that motherhood is the most rewarding. The opportunity to teach, care for, and influence another human being comes with much satisfaction and joy. However, motherhood also comes with endless responsibilities and stressors. Screaming children, school PTA projects, house cleaning, and cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner are just a handful of stressors mothers deal with each day. It is no wonder that having a glass of wine is seen as not just a reward, but sometimes a need.
Thanks to social media and the internet, the combination of motherhood responsibilities with everyday humor has brought about a certain cultural phenomenon known as Mommy Wine culture. Although the memes, merchandise, and wine parties seem to be fun, what societal truths are being hidden underneath these jokes? More to the point, what does this say about the normalization of alcohol abuse and addiction?
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Although the memes, merchandise, and wine parties seem to be fun, what societal truths are being hidden underneath these jokes? More to the point, what does this say about the normalization of alcohol abuse and addiction?
Mommy Wine Culture and AUDs
This cultural movement is based around the idea of a highly stressed mother needing to relax at the end of the day with a glass of wine. At first glance, it seems like this is a well-earned reward for completing yet another day of motherly duties. Notwithstanding, some argue that this trend has become a gateway to normalizing functional alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Writing for MPH Online, Sam MacArthur notes:
Beyond simple stress relief, the drinking represented in wine mommy culture can be seen as dangerous self-medicating, especially for undiagnosed or unacknowledged emotional and psychological issues. More than 10% of women report depression; more than 8% report anxiety disorders. And those numbers, from the World Health Organization, can only include women who report their problems – not the many, many more who go unreported.
Anyone who has an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) will be familiar with the term “self-medicating.” Taking a substance in order to maintain your psychological well-being is never something to be celebrated. Although most “wine moms” know this to be true, the culture condones it to the point of contributing to potentially thousands of untreated substance issues.
Alcohol Abuse Rate of Women
A study published by PLoS Med in 2019 indicates that the rate of binge drinking has increased over the past 14 years. This study broke down excessive alcohol consumption into two categories: binge drinking and heavy drinking. The criteria for these are noted in the study: “we examined national trends in binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks in a single day for men and 4 or more drinks for women, and heavy drinking, defined as 60 or more days with binge episodes in a year.”
After 12 years (2006-2018) of monitoring this, the researchers discovered a significant increase in alcohol use.
This study demonstrated that trends in binge and heavy drinking over time were not differential by parenting status for women; rather, declines and increases over time were mainly attributable to sex and age. Women both with and without children are increasing binge and heavy drinking.
With the increase in alcohol use for women with or without children on the rise, an important issue has come to light. Is there a double standard between women with children and women without children binge drinking?
“Ask any young mother – the cult of perfect motherhood is real and damaging,” MacArthur writes. “It perpetuates a lot of unfair and dangerous stereotypes, and generally has the effect of increasing the stress and emotional damage that leads to drinking.
Typically, within society, mothers are held to a higher standard than childless women when it comes to alcohol use. Despite the added stressors of raising children, they are often expected to be perfect, as MacArthur states. That it’s unfair is a given, but is the “wine mom” phenomenon pushing too hard in the other direction?
Is There a Bigger Problem?
MacArthur is quick to note that this mommy wine culture could be pointing to a bigger issue.
The numbers don’t lie – if anything, they’re too conservative. The Journal of the American Medical Association has found that between 2001 and 2013, rates of high-risk drinking (behaviors that could lead to alcoholism) were up 58% for women, and that rates of problem drinking rose more than 84%. It’s worth mentioning that those numbers come before the real height of wine mommy culture in the last 5 years. It’s almost as if internet culture is reflecting and amplifying a social trend – which is exactly what the internet is good for.
The research makes it obvious that alcoholism in mothers is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. However, what is at the core of the issue? MacArthur goes on to say:
The problem is one of cultural perception, that doesn’t allow Americans to recognize problem drinking when we see it – until it’s too late. For one, we have a very misplaced idea of the “typical alcoholic,” that keeps us from seeing alcohol abuse in moms who keep their kids fed and clothed, maintain a job, serve their community, have satisfying relationships with partners and friends – all of the conventional signs of a healthy, happy life.
What MacArthur is referring to is the stereotypical idea of what an alcoholic is. As individuals, we often imagine alcoholism as a man stumbling around, hiccupping, with glazed eyes and a stained shirt. Although these can be the results of an alcohol problem, there are many people indulging in alcohol abuse who can keep it together a little better than that. Many times, high-functioning alcoholism can continue for years without anyone noticing.
High-Functioning Alcoholism 101
Most people, woman or man, mother or childless, married or single, know someone who is a high functioning alcoholic. Medically, a high-functioning alcoholic is defined as “a person who suffers from alcoholism but has yet to experience noticeable effects of alcohol. They likely experience negative consequences caused by alcohol abuse, but those consequences do not appear to prevent them from functioning in everyday life.”
As seen by many who have experience with a high functioning alcoholic, they can achieve many things. In fact, they can be CEOs of major companies, famous actors and artists, and even successful politicians. They may seem well put together, assertive, charismatic, and charming. However, when they are alone, they are binge drinking alcohol to mask the pain of an underlying issue. Sometimes it’s a mental illness, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder. Other times, it’s due to overwhelming stress. Either way, there is a dependency problem that will hurt their mental and physical health in the long run.
Considering the topic from this angle, it is easy to see how the social media influencers of mommy wine culture can hide their addiction in plain sight. From children constantly needing attention, to husbands who do not help as much as they think, to the seemingly universal expectation of “positivity,” most people can justify the drinking habits of a busy mother. Consequently, mothers end up hiding an addiction from everyone around them, and perhaps even from themselves.
One of the biggest challenges with high-functioning alcoholism is getting the user to admit they are suffering from addiction. Denial is a powerful weapon a functioning alcoholic can use to justify any binge drinking or excessive alcohol use. Now, with this new culture around motherhood in place, is functional alcoholism becoming the norm? Has this social media-inspired culture done a disservice to mothers everywhere?
Has Mommy Wine Culture Crossed The Line?
The opinions on this topic are controversial, to say the least. Is mommy wine culture pushing alcohol addiction in mothers? Sam MacArthur explains her understanding of the issue of women and alcohol.
One crucial aspect in understanding the public health impact of wine mommy culture is getting a clear picture of why women drink, and particularly why moms drink. Obviously, wine mommy culture isn’t making moms drink – it’s a pop-culture reflection of real, unaddressed issues in society and the lives of women. These are deep-seated, complex underlying troubles, and they can’t easily be solved; they range from professional and personal pressures to fundamental ideas about the role of women and mothers in society.
The expectations placed on women in society can hardly be understated. This alone can be a reason to drink excessively. However, in an article written by Abby Johnson in USA Today, she expresses far greater concern for mothers and drinking.
There are other ways to cope with the inevitable challenges of motherhood that don’t involve alcohol. When the culture tells mothers that imbibing daily is an acceptable way to handle the difficulties that children present, it enables them to miss out on the lives of their kids because they are too buzzed or drunk.
Although the challenges of motherhood are far greater than what most people expect, as Johnson stated, there are better ways of handling these challenges on an emotional level.
Coping With Motherhood
As for mothers who have abandoned the mommy wine culture, they are finding joy in staying sober. Harmony Hobbs, a social media influencer, spoke of her journey to sobriety in an interview with ABC News.
“So it started out with maybe two glasses, and then eventually…I needed more and more to feel relaxed,” said Hobbs. “I had all this unresolved stuff [and] I didn’t know why, and I drank to make it go away but it never really went away, alcohol made me more depressed. So I was just…miserable.”
This is a pattern seen in all types of addiction. Eventually, after time, the substance begins to add to the depression. The self-medicating begins to be unsatisfactory. When this occurs, it is always important to seek help. As for Hobbs, she finds peace in staying away from alcohol.
“I always thought this would happen in mid-life, like, you become comfortable in your own skin,” she said. “And for me, it’s sobriety.”
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