In today’s world, the image of a wine mom has become deeply ingrained in our shared consciousness.
It conjures up an image of a mom, usually with young children, reaching for a glass of wine at night as a ‘reward’ for dealing with another day of the pressures of parenthood.
This ‘Mommy Wine Culture’ has probably been around as long as wines and moms have existed.
However, the phenomenon really gained momentum with the growth of social media, where it was promoted by memes and #winemom-captioned photos.
It was the perfect place for moms to look to in order to normalize their drinking habits – habits that otherwise could have carried shame for some, had they not seen them reflected back to them.
Its widespread acceptance was fueled by a sense of camaraderie and a shared understanding among moms who found comfort in the humor.
There was a sense of being ‘in on the joke.’
However, beneath the lighthearted Instagram posts and ‘wine-o’clock’ stories, a much wider issue was being concealed.
“The wine would accompany bath time and story time,” Ange says
“As my life stages progressed, so too did my alcohol consumption,” Ange Chappel tells Kidspot.
Now the founder of a mindful drinking app, Mind the Sip, Ange wasn’t always in control of her drinking habits.
She knows that alcohol has long been a common coping mechanism for parents, including herself.
“Falling pregnant twice forced me to stop for nine months each time. But instead of adopting a healthier lifestyle post pregnancies, I went in the opposite direction. I indulged in alcohol almost immediately,” she says.
She says a feeling of “having missed out” on drinking for nine months was all the justification she needed.
“I deserved this; it was my reward. That’s what ‘Mommy Wine Culture’ was selling, and you better believe I was buying it!” Ange continues.
She then reflects on the moment she realized the impact alcohol was having on her parenting.
“In the throes of life with a toddler and baby, that after-work knock-off wine soon progressed to another at bath time, with yet another following me into my son’s bedroom for story time.
“I caught myself one night, the contrast of a glass of red on my son’s bedside table, whilst he was snuggling next to me engaged in the story. I checked myself and never let a wine enter that space again.”
The next step was to cut out alcohol mid-week, which helped reduce her overall consumption.
But that didn’t stop the weekend drinking, which she saw as “a great release” and helped her feel like “something other than someone’s Mom.”
Over time, Ange recognized the need for a more significant transformation, breaking free from the cycle of binge drinking and embracing a more mindful lifestyle.
When asked about the changes she’s experienced as a mom since becoming sober-curious, Ange shares, “I’m more engaged and less irritable, without a doubt. Let’s not get it twisted, my patience is still tested with my now young teens, but my reactions are less emotional and more considered. I enjoy a genuine connection with them and have reclaimed more time with them, which is the best gift of all.”
Sophie Scott, a former TV health journalist and now a mental health speaker and writer, also broke away from the grasp that Mommy Wine Culture had on her life, in particular her friendship circle.
“Drinking alcohol was one way I coped with the stress of parenting. I used it as a way of calming my nervous system with a busy job and having four kids,” she says.
“In the short term, it can make you feel good, as it causes a surge of dopamine,” she explains, adding that in the long term, it usually leaves you feeling worse for wear.
“I would have a few drinks to take the edge off feeling stressed, then I would need caffeine in the morning to get going.”
Over two years ago, when she made the decision to give up drinking for health reasons, it led her to confront the underlying motivations behind her old habits.
“I found it challenging at the start as I realised I had relied on alcohol as a security blanket to manage low-grade anxiety,” she says. “Being sober means you have to feel all the feelings, good and bad. So it can be confronting at first. But I’ve found living an alcohol-free life really aligns with my values.”
Sophie’s journey of reevaluating her relationship with alcohol also involved navigating the dynamics of her old friendship group. She shares, “I had one friendship group of moms which really centered on drinking lots. Heaps of champagne at every lunch and catch up.”
“Being in a friendship group where drinking was the main activity was challenging living alcohol-free. One of my friends would even still keep pouring me alcoholic drinks, even though I had given up drinking! I think my sober life was difficult for them to understand,” she recounts.
She eventually made the decision to distance herself from that group, but kept in touch with a few of the like-minded women in that circle.
“It really took the pressure off me to spend time with moms who weren’t necessarily alcohol-free but didn’t solely focus on drinking as their form of entertainment,” she concludes.
Radio personality and author of Last Drinks, Maz Compton, has been sober since 2015 and has been extremely vocal about the issue of alcohol dependence in our culture.
“It starts when we are teens, then we grow older and without learning new ways to handle the big life stuff, booze can quickly become to multi-tool of coping. And when you become a mom, nothing can prepare you for the challenges, so we might turn to alcohol, but it doesn’t help,” she says.
Maz wants parents to know that if alcohol has become their go-to relaxant or coping tool, “It’s not too late to change and to do some time in the parenting trenches without the wine.”
She explains, “All the things I used to think alcohol did for me; gave me relief, helped me relax, took the edge off, made me enjoy moments more; sobriety has delivered me.”
Maz’s journey toward sobriety began in 2014 when she became sober curious. Then the following year, she stopped drinking altogether.
But the process of breaking free had its challenges.
She recalls, “I was most worried about dying of boredom and what people would think of me. I was worried people would assume I had a drinking problem, which I did, but not in the clinical definition of alcoholism. I wasn’t chaotic, I just drank a bottle of wine every night and I didn’t know how to stop.”
Now eight and a half years on, she believes that sobriety has made her a better person and mother.
“It helps me to show up and be fully present in each moment of my life,” she says.
“Do I still lose it when my son refuses to put long pants on when it’s eight degrees outside, yes, sometimes I do, because I am human, and we all have our limits.
“Our kids test those limits daily. But being sober gives me the capacity to parent from a place of strength. I am showing up to each of those moments as my best self. Not perfect. Not all-knowing. But fully present and whole.”
“Giving up alcohol won’t make your kids any less challenging, but it will provide you with the best possible chance you have of handling it well.”
Melissa Watkins, an Alcohol and Drug psychotherapist, draws from her personal experiences to give relatable support to her clients.
She says it’s important to have an understanding of the underlying reasons why moms often turn to alcohol, so we can know what to do about it.
“Women who drink alcohol excessively are usually trying to avoid or suppress difficult emotions,” she explains. “This habit can be emphasized during parenthood because it can be a very challenging time.
“We experience significant physical and emotional changes during pregnancy and motherhood, which often coincides with the constant demand of caring for their baby around the clock. Also, it can be very isolating and many women may feel they lose their sense of identity. For some, they turn to alcohol to give them a sense of relief from their emotions, but also giving them a sense of connection to their past self.”
“But it’s a false sense of connection, that only emphasizes the uncomfortable emotions or problems long term.”
Melissa encourages moms who may be struggling with their relationship with alcohol to seek professional support from therapists specializing in addiction and recovery.
“It’s important to recognize it’s not your fault if you are struggling with drinking excessively because this habit can happen to anyone especially when going through such big life changes such as motherhood.”
So – is Mommy Wine Culture changing?
As we look at these different women’s experiences of Mommy Wine Culture, it’s clear that change is in the air.
But the statistics from the Global Drug Survey still point to a concerning reality – Australia holds the title for the world’s heaviest drinkers and a significant portion of these heavy drinkers are women, including moms.
Maz believes that tackling this problem requires challenging the normalisation of alcohol in our society.
“The way we share memes and joke about alcohol being necessary for survival in parenting, frankly, needs to stop. When you realise the damage alcohol does, the mental health impacts, the damage to your body and relationships it can cause, it suddenly isn’t funny.”
According to Ange, although a drinking culture still lingers, she has already begun to witness transformations within her circle and is hopeful about the future.
“For my friends, our kids are now early teens. Although we are out of the trenches of the stereotypical ‘Mommy Wine Culture’ with little kids running through our legs, there is still very much an element of ‘You deserve it, parenting is hard, have a wine, take a load off!’”
“However, I believe that positive changes are underway. Parents are becoming more conscious of the impact their behavior around alcohol can have on their little (and big) ones.”
She says, “By modeling responsible and sensible attitudes towards alcohol, we can make a meaningful difference in shaping the future wellbeing of our children, whilst showing Mommy Wine Culture who’s boss!”
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