There’s an enormous problem wreaking havoc on women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with children; an alcoholism enabled by a culture of excuses. It’s called the “mommy drinking culture”, and it makes drinking often and drinking more a norm, simply because moms are stressed and overworked.
Now, as a mom, I’m one of the first to give mom her due, because, well more often than not, women do perform most of the household work and child-rearing, even in this more enlightened time. But, in the face of alcoholism and the health risks it poses, the enabling that mommy drinking culture supports has become extremely dangerous, and in numbers simply too big to ignore.
Between 2002 and 2013, the number of women who consumed more than four drinks a day rose almost 60 percent, while those meeting the criteria for alcohol use disorders — indicative of problem drinking — increased by 84 percent, according to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
The Social Norms of Mom Drinking Culture
The prevailing attitude behind mommy drinking culture is that motherhood is hard and mothers deserve a break. Alcohol is seen as a simple way to relieve stress after the difficult, seemingly incessant work that accompanies motherhood. Add to this the fact that women are also increasingly and concurrently taking on full-time careers–somehow frenetically balancing it all. The woman’s role has evolved as a simply impossible division of responsibilities to do it all, and it’s too much.
Healthy Women CEO, Beth Battaglino, writes that turning to alcohol is, in some ways, expected: “Drinking and motherhood go together the same way time-outs, power struggles and sleepless nights and motherhood do. Totally normal and expected.”
Underlying Issues of a Coping Population
In “Wine Mom, Interrupted: A Public Health Perspective,” Sam Macarthur traces mommy drinking culture to its origins as a “pop-culture reflection of real, unaddressed issues in society and the lives of women” that range from “professional and personal pressures to fundamental ideas about the role of women and mothers in society.”
Pressures to keep an immaculate home, manage the lives of children, provide for spouses, and to socialize and maintain relationships, all while often working full-time, can place a great deal of stress on mothers. As a result, mommy drinking culture has manifested in multiple forms: as an Internet phenomenon, as the focal point of social groups, as campy merchandise, and on a broader scale, as societal pressure. The pervasiveness of “wine mom” merchandise and similar Internet jokes and memes can serve as a way to legitimize drinking as a genuine coping mechanism for such pressures.
Casual Mom Drinking Can Quickly Become Alcoholism
The repercussions of these societal issues and the attitudes they provoke are clear. The numbers don’t lie. Women, in particular, have upped their drinking exponentially in the last decade. All the funny memes and wine time for mommy merchandise can’t scoff it away.
60% of women are drinking 4 or more drinks a day. Four drinks a day can easily be seen as an addiction, and what was once an indulgence at a children’s birthday party is now a dependence. Whether in the form of social drinking, self-medication for anxiety or similar mental health issues, or simple stress relief, casual drinking can easily turn into dependence. It can happen quickly. It can get out of hand fast.
And Not Just Mommies are Enabled…
The mommy drinking culture is not even the whole target of the widespread enabling of alcoholism. Advertisements and social norms about alcohol are almost always favorable, and often, promoting excess. So, if you don’t want to drink, it’s often much harder not to get razzed or even bullied when you decline to. After dinner drinks, co-worker happy hours, and neighborhood beerbqs are all not just ok; they are expected. In turn, identifying and reconciling your addiction has become all the more obtuse, harder to recognize.
If you or a loved one depends upon or uses alcohol to a dangerous or life-impairing degree, seeking professional treatment is a vital first step towards recovery from alcohol addiction. Trying to manage a serious alcohol dependence on your own is likely to lead to failure. Professional care at an inpatient recovery program can give alcoholics the knowledge, skills, and social support that are necessary to replace alcohol with healthier coping mechanisms and build a better, sober life.