Perhaps you've noticed all the messages on social media, or the numerous products at the store, suggesting mothers of young children need to drink alcohol, and lots of it, to cope with the pressures of raising children. If you yourself are a young mom, chances are you're being pressured to drink as part of the role.
It's called "Mommy Wine Culture," and while it's pervasive throughout American society, a growing number of mothers are pushing back against it.
The troubling messages often try to be humorous and appear on merchandise like baby clothes saying "Mommy Drinks Because I Cry," wine glasses with the phrase "Mommy's Sippy Cup" written on them, and adult t-shirts with "Coffee, Hockey Mom, Wine, Repeat" emblazoned on the front. Then there are all the memes like "The Most Expensive Part of Having Kids is All the Wine You Have to Drink."
As it turns out, the messaging reflects reality. Moms with young children are turning to alcohol, like Kelley Manley, who always felt "Mommy Wine Culture" was problematic, but drank with other mothers anyway, as a way to fit-in with them.
"I think this messaging that is everywhere, it normalizes this behavior of drinking to survive parenthood, and it normalizes this idea that drinking a lot is no big deal," she told CBN News.
Manley said she was shocked to discover mothers drinking around their children at nearly every conceivable occasion.
"People would show up to the park with little discreet glasses of wine at 4 p.m. at a play date at the park," she said. "You'd go to the zoo, and for a small up-charge you can buy a flight of beer, not just a beer, but a flight of beer, to enjoy while you're pushing your kid around the zoo."
Wine doesn't take center stage only at in-person events like a child's birthday party or play date, but young moms even bond over booze online, such as in the "Moms Who Need Wine" Facebook group.
A Fairly New Trend
Psychotherapist Ann Dowsett Johnston, best-selling author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, told CBN News today's young mothers are under an enormous amount of pressure, as they shoulder much of the family's emotional labor, what she calls "the third shift." She points out that while the struggles of mothers of growing children are very real, the idea that alcohol is the remedy, is a lie.
"Alcohol's been sold as the ultimate way to decompress, to cope, and to bond with other women. And it's very dangerous," she said.
Johnston said decades ago, moms drinking together while caring for their children was practically unheard of, but things began to change in the 1990s when the alcohol industry ushered in what she calls the "pinking of the market," by manufacturing and advertising booze aimed specifically at women.
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"Drink these sweetened, pre-sweetened, gorgeous, attractive pink drinks that will edge you into drinking spirits, drinking pretty wine, drinking wine with names like 'French Rabbit,'" she said.
Historically, men consumed the most alcohol, but now, women are catching up, with serious consequences. In the last 15 years, the greatest increase in consumption has been among women in their thirties and forties.
Worse for Women
Biological differences between the sexes cause women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolize it than men. That means the same amount of alcohol typically damages a woman's body more than a man's.
According to the CDC, after drinking the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men, and the effects usually occur more quickly and last longer in women.
Alcohol also makes women more susceptible than men to liver disease, heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and sexual violence.
U.S. health officials recommend women should drink no more than five ounces of wine a day. Canadian health officials go further, saying only two five-ounce glasses per week.
"This is a women's health issue. It's in fact a big public health issue," said Johnston.
Just Say No
In addition to the physical risks, there are psychological ones, as well, which is why Kelley Manley stopped drinking.
"It just exacerbated my feelings of anxiety and depression, and I felt like I was betraying myself every time I drank," she said, adding that just saying no to Mommy Wine Culture was one of the best decisions of her life. "I just feel more whole, more fulfilled, more myself when I don't drink, and I'm also more confident in my life now in 2023 to just be a non drinker."
She's not alone. More moms are rejecting Mommy Wine Culture and turning to groups like Sober Mom Squad founded by Emily Paulson, who told CBN News she too, initially fell for the lie that mothers drinking alcohol "has become socially acceptable, like if it's a mimosa at 10:00 a.m., 'it's fine, oh all moms drink too much.'"
"I really once believed that drinking made me a better parent because I believed it reduced the anxiety, and took the edge off, until I quit drinking and realized all these problems that I had were related to the alcohol," she said.
Paulson said Sober Mom Squad is an online place where moms can meet online, and it sometimes connects people who live near each other so they can get together in person.
"Having a safe space where you can talk to other moms about the questions you're having about alcohol, or how difficult it is to navigate in this culture where everyone tells you, you need to drink to be a parent, and not have to justify that you should just be grateful to have kids," she said.
Manley said rejecting Mommy Wine Culture can sometimes lead to a social shift.
"If you have true, authentic, friendships they will survive giving up booze, but if your friendships are superficial, and are built on a boozy camaraderie, they won't survive, and that's okay," she said.
Some mothers take issue with Mommy Wine Culture because they're concerned about the culture's impact on a child's self-esteem.
"The most problematic thing about it is what does it say to your kids? You're wearing the t-shirt that says, 'Mommy needs wine.' You're saying, 'I have to drink because you're difficult.' I think that leads into something even more damaging," Paulson said.
So while pop culture and Big Alcohol try to convince new moms that life is better with booze, a growing number are rejecting that message for the sake of their own health as well as their family's.
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