Google the phrase “mommy needs wine,” and you’ll find everything from clever memes and t-shirts to 1000-word blogs on big parenting sites that list the reasons moms need to down one after bedtime. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor in this wine mom culture, and most of us have laughed at one of these boozy memes about crazy kids before. If we stepped back and examined this trend, though, would it seem harmlessly funny?
After all, 5.8 million women in the U.S. struggle with alcohol use disorder. The rate of death due to alcohol-related causes among middle-aged white women has more than doubled since 1999. Many of those who suffer from alcoholism and other addictions are moms. Is a culture that lauds alcohol use as a norm among mothers harmless, or could it possibly be influencing addiction trends, specifically alcohol abuse in women?
Alcohol use among women is at an all-time high, and rates have risen among young moms in particular. Unfortunately, even short-term alcohol abuse can have profound effects on physical health and well-being. Many women who suffer from alcohol abuse struggle to admit their problems or find help. Thankfully, an array of treatment and 12-step programs are available. The addiction treatment for women California residents trust is focused on helping women overcome both substance abuse issues and the culture that normalizes them.
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A Closer Look at the Wine Mom Culture
Maybe you’ve heard a mom joking about having “mommy juice” while she’s making dinner, or maybe you’ve watched video ads for purses that feature hidden wine bladders. There are even specialty lines of wine that are marketed specifically to women and to moms. The big message of this culture is that drinking wine is socially acceptable, classy and even healthy. It’s a frightening message that obscures the issue of the sharp increase in drinking and alcohol-related deaths among women.
At the epicenter of the wine mom culture is the idea that moms need something to help them cope with their demanding, often-stressful lives. It doesn’t take much deep examination to see that using alcohol to cope with everyday problems is a form of self-medication. Addiction specialists warn that self-medicating only worsens the underlying problems that women are trying to combat. After all, alcohol is a known depressant that can impair reasoning and motor function. Using alcohol to cope sets up an unhealthy cycle where women must continue to drink to solve problems that are being caused in large part by alcohol itself.
According to the wine mom narrative, a nightly drink is also a well-deserved reward for putting in a hard day’s work of mothering. This has rightly concerned substance abuse researchers, who warn that viewing alcohol as a reward puts women at risk. Viewing wine as a reward for being a mom on a tough day is like thinking of a big slice of cake as a reward for working out to lose weight. Working out might have been difficult, but eating a piece of cake afterwards undermines success and can lead to an unhealthy cycle of associating exercise with free license to eat poorly.
How Marketing Rules in the Wine Mom Culture
It’s not just social media influencers and regular moms who are promoting this wine-loving culture. It’s also big alcohol companies. Women’s rights activists have noted that alcohol marketeres see women as a consumer demographic ripe for the picking. Beer and wine ads in particular are increasingly targeted towards women at all age and income levels.
This isn’t just mass marketing. It’s targeted marketing, and women are standing in the bullseye. All of the t-shirts about moms needing wine and the bras that double as flasks aren’t marketed to men. These products are being sold to women, and they’re often being promoted by other women on social media at no cost to the companies that benefit. Women are being sold alcohol as a glamorous, fun and acceptable way to unwind and cope. We’ve reached a point where this targeted marketing in the face of a women’s health crisis is just too much.
What About Kids in the Wine Mom Culture?
The mom-needs-wine narrative affects more than just mothers. It can also have an impact on kids. What do children learn when they are exposed to the idea that they drive their mom so bonkers that she has to drink after they go to bed? What messages do kids get about whether alcohol is a good coping mechanism when their moms joke about how much they need a glass of wine? The wine mom culture is sending dangerous messages not only to moms but also to highly impressionable young girls.
Stepping Away from the Wine Mom Culture
It’s true that many moms can indulge in the occasional drink during a special dinner or social event without developing an addiction. However, there’s no need for a wine mom culture to make drinking acceptable for these women. Women who live in the U.S., Canada and much of Europe already enjoy free access to alcohol in public and private spaces. There’s no need to normalize alcohol abuse with high-dollar marketing campaigns or cute memes about mom’s nightly glass of wine.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.