“The Wine Mom” in Media and in Real Life

If you’ve streamed a show or caught a romcom film recently, you might’ve noticed a marked change in the way modern moms are represented: Moms drink. And some drink a lot. From the Bad Moms franchise, which depicts overworked mothers having reckless fun to a multitude of TV moms, we’re bearing witness to the rise of the “wine mom.” And she isn’t purely fictional....

“Wine moms” who proudly celebrate their love of and perhaps dependence on wine,  are everywhere. There are “wine mom” memes, board games, Facebook groups, even a festival. Why?

We’d hazard to say a bottle of Shiraz is a form of easily accessible and affordable self-care. Opening some wine over dinner or sharing a glass or three with other moms is a way many relieve stress, connect with other adults, and maintain a semblance of an adult life in the face of poopy diapers or teenage mood swings. A woman having a glass of wine after a long day is her business, right?

But often, it’s not just one glass of wine. And here’s where “wine moms,” and the fervent celebration of them in our popular culture, gets tricky.

Alcohol use has spiked among women. A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry found that "high-risk drinking" (defined as consuming four or more drinks a day) rose among women by 58% between 2002 and 2013. That’s compared with the (still high) rise of about 30% for the rest of the population. "Problem drinking" – drinking so much that it causes significant problems in your life and/or the inability to stop drinking – rose by 83.7% among women.

The “wine mom” is a complex issue, especially when we consider the very real stresses the modern mom manages: the lack of affordable childcare, the gendered nature of parenting, the lack of family-friendly workplaces, the lack of sleep. Or how about the pressure to sacrifice everything for your kids, or the pressure to be a perfect wife, mother, friend, and employee? It’s no wonder women are turning to wine or other alcohol.

Where the “wine mom” becomes a problem is the lack of nuance in the conversation this label inspires. What about problem drinking? Where are the alternatives to help women manage stress? It is simply untrue that the only way to get through parenting is by drinking. The antics of the bad moms of the screen might be good for some escapist laughs. But if those films feel less like fiction and more like reality, it might be time to cut back.

A few ways to moderate:

1.    Stick to one, or none. If you drink to moderate stress or get that end-of-day buzz, know that as you increase your alcohol intake, alcohol becomes a depressant. It also disrupts your sleep and is bad for your health overall. By committing to just one glass, you’re making a safer choice that won’t increase your stress in the long-run.

2.    Make wine time after lights-out. Rather than uncorking a bottle as you make dinner, pace yourself by limiting your glass of wine until the kids are in bed. It’ll help slow your drinking and it helps make that glass of red or white a special treat that you can savor slowly, instead of something you’re consuming quickly and on autopilot.

3.    Understand why you drink. A glass of wine might feel like the only answer… to what? What does it represent for you? Is it a part of being social? Is it a way to relieve stress, and what is that stress? Work out why you drink. It’ll be helpful in finding alternate ways to meet that need that aren’t drinking.

4.    Relieve stress in other ways. Take a walk outside. Play with pets. Exercise, meditate, or practice deep, controlled breathing. These things might not replace that glass of wine, but it’s always great to having more than one coping strategy in your arsenal, for when life throws you a curveball.