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Mommy Wine Culture: Can It Lead to Alcohol Addiction?

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The mommy wine culture markers can pop up anywhere—on a T-shirt, an art print, or even a wood or metal sign. Many slogans that encourage moms to drink wine for just about any occasion appear coy or are witty, or even a bit snarky. 

You may chuckle when you notice “it’s wine o’clock” on a canvas bag or see an image of a woman holding an oversized glass of wine, with the words, “I didn’t choose the mom life; the mom life chose me,” in big, white letters.

It sends a clear message: Moms are people, too, and they should be able to enjoy their wine in peace after working, taking care of their kids, and running a household. Some people do not think much about these signs and memes because having a glass of wine is considered normal by society’s standards, and wine is perceived as less alcoholic than, say, beer or vodka, or something stronger.

However, if you have had any of these thoughts, some would say you might not be aware of how prevalent mommy wine culture is or how dangerous it can be. Even though drinking wine is socially accepted, the view that it is a harmless pastime is misleading, observers say. They warn that frequent or heavy drinking can easily slip into unhealthy ways of coping at best, and alcohol addiction at worst.

Women Are Drinking More, Studies Show

Mommy wine culture has some taking a closer look at women’s relationship with alcohol. Some data suggest that drinking rates have increased among women in general, not just those who have children.

A 2019 study published in PLOS Medicine analyzed data between 2006 and 2018 and concluded that the rate of high-risk drinking in women with children increased at nearly the same pace as women without children.  

Binge drinking is the practice of having four or more alcoholic beverages in two hours. The study also found that binge drinking increased for men as well during those 12 years.

“So that puts to bed the idea that there is something special about mommy drinking. It seems we need to be worried about everyone,” said Sarah McKetta of Columbia University, the study’s lead author, told NBC News.

A JAMA Psychiatry study also supports the observation that high-risk drinking has increased across all groups, including women, older adults, and racial/ethnic minorities, among others. 

However, the study, sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), offers alarming data about the increase in high-risk drinking among women. 

According to the study:

“Drinking norms and values have become more permissive among women, along with increases in educational and occupational opportunities and rising numbers of women in the workforce, all of which may have contributed to increased high-risk drinking and AUD [alcohol use disorder] in women during the past decade.”

The study also notes that, “Stress associated with pursuing a career and raising a family may lead to increases in high-risk drinking and AUD among women, results that were consistent with substantial increases in these patterns of alcohol use among married individuals and those residing in urban areas found in this study.”

Between 2012 and 2013, “notable increases were found among women” who drank in that span, with the rate of alcohol use going up by nearly 60 percent.

Deidra Roach, NIAAA’s medical project officer, told Healthline that drinking has increased among women because the rules around women drinking in public have become more relaxed during the past 50 years. In the past, women were less likely to drink alcohol because society deemed it unacceptable. 

The social rules appear to have also changed concerning mothers, who have become more open and vocal about the challenges of motherhood. Mommy wine culture grew out of women needing to be heard and their experiences validated. 

Where Did ‘Mommy Wine’ Culture Come From?

Mommy wine culture started some years ago online via blogs and social media sites geared toward women with children, according to Parentology. The parenting site shares that mommy wine culture aims to give mothers a place where they could wind down with a guilt-free glass of vino after looking after their children, their spouses, and tending to other household and job-related duties. 

Sharing some laughs over wine brings women together to help them bond. These groups welcome stay-at-home moms, working moms, and single moms. Connecting with like-minded mothers can make some women feel less alone in facing their challenges of raising children. Some say mommy wine culture also encourages moms not to give up on their desire to enjoy an adult beverage and that craving one is OK. 

Naturally, some women who engage in the culture view wine drinking as a stress reliever and a way to reward themselves for managing their responsibilities.

The memes pairing up moms and wine multiplied over time, encouraging what could be perceived as a movement toward normalizing alcohol use to cope with parenting pressures and stress. 

This, along with statistics like the ones shared above, is why some people say mommy wine culture needs to be on everyone’s radar, especially among the people who partake in it or encourage it.

Why Mommy Wine Culture Is Not Just About Drinking Wine

Playful banter like “daytime drinking is allowed: I’m a stay-at-home mom” and jokes about bringing wine to play dates are widely circulated, perhaps reminding mothers everywhere that they can always reach for alcohol for some relief when mommy life gets to be too much. Wine is even called “mommy juice” in some circles because it is the go-to alcoholic beverage they want to calm their nerves or escape their worries.

However, using alcohol in this manner is problematic. Drinking to cope with life’s challenges or mental health struggles is known as self-medicating, which is why drinking “mommy juice” too often could be leading women to develop troubling drinking habits that could lead to problems with controlling their alcohol intake.

In general, concerns about drinking alcohol are rarely about the substance itself. It’s usually about how often people drink it and how they choose to use it, which is when it becomes a problem. 

Having a glass of wine is standard for many people, and some even choose to have one glass a day. There have been studies promoting the health benefits of wine, such as it having antioxidants and being able to combat inflammation and help heart health, as this Healthline article notes. A glass a day is considered moderate alcohol use. 

However, this rule cannot apply to everyone, as we are all unique. For some people, one glass a day is too much alcohol. Problems can start when one glass a day turns into a few glasses a day and then one bottle or more a day or something along those lines.

Having a glass of wine during a wind-down period of the day likely will not raise eyebrows. However, if a woman’s first instinct is to reach for a glass of wine every time she’s feeling tired, angry, or sad, or stressed, that could be a problem. Or, if she intends to have one or two glasses but then looks up and realizes that she drank a bottle of wine or two in one sitting, that’s a red flag, too.

In cases like these, the view that mommy wine culture could be normalizing alcohol use to cope with negative feelings and experiences is worth considering.

Women and Alcohol: Health Stakes Are Higher 

The NIAAA notes that women are at risk for long-term illnesses if they drink alcohol too frequently, such as heart disease, liver damage, and brain damage. Biological differences also affect how alcohol affects women versus men. 

As the organization explains, women generally weigh less than men and have less water in their bodies than men, too. This means that when a woman drinks, she will have less water for alcohol to mix with, which is why her blood-alcohol concentration level will be higher than that of a man’s. 

The JAMA Psychiatry study also notes women’s sensitivities to alcohol, including the possibility that high-risk drinking can increase their vulnerability to breast cancer, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and cirrhosis of the liver. Women are also at higher risk of having an adverse reaction to alcohol since they are more likely than men to take prescription medication.

Wine Is Still an Alcoholic Beverage

Despite the perception of wine being lighter in alcohol content than other substances, wine is still an alcoholic beverage that can contain anywhere from 9% to 16% alcohol, according to the website DifferenceBetween.net

The kind of wine you drink makes a difference as some flavors typically have more alcohol in them than others, as WineFolly.net highlights. In some instances, some types of beer have less alcohol in them than some wines do. It largely depends on what kind of wine one drinks and how much they are drinking it.

Also, according to DifferenceBetween.net, “in some instances, the term ‘wine’ refers to the higher alcohol content, rather than the production process.”

Anyone who drinks alcohol is advised to be responsible while using it. It is a drug, and when it is abused, it can cause problems for the person drinking and everyone around the individual. 

Drinking Too Much Can Lead to Alcohol Use Disorder

In addition to all the other risk factors of drinking alcohol, women who engage in risky drinking behaviors could be on course to developing alcohol use disorder or AUD. 

The Mayo Clinic defines AUD as, “a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.”

Not all drinking patterns constitute AUD, and not everyone who drinks heavily will struggle with it. Addiction involves other factors, such as genetics, environment, mental health history, and substance use history.

As the Mayo Clinic notes, if a person has problems with functioning daily because of their drinking, they likely have AUD, which ranges from mild to severe.

A physician or mental health physician can consult with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) to confirm whether AUD is the case. If you or someone you know thinks you might have AUD, you are advised to consult with a medical professional.

Signs that AUD may be present include:

  • Not being able to stop drinking when you want to
  • Wanting to cut down or quit on drinking but can’t
  • Giving up family time or time with others to drink
  • Increased isolation from others
  • Hiding or lying about your drinking from others
  • Declining job performance due to repeated drinking
  • Feeling increased tolerance for alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

See a doctor as soon as possible so that you can take your next steps, including entering a professional treatment program that treats substance use disorders.

Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you have been diagnosed with AUD, your next step is to find a quality recovery program at an accredited facility that treats substance use disorders.

People with alcohol addiction can be treated with therapies and medications that target alcohol dependence. The treatment process starts with an intake process and a medical detox that helps patients manage alcohol withdrawal with professional help. Patients are monitored around the clock and could receive medication to help them during this process if needed.

After detox, patients can start recovering from alcohol addiction in a treatment setting that is tailored to their unique needs. During this time, they can receive therapy, counseling, and in some cases, medication-assisted treatment to help them overcome their substance dependence. 

When they have exited treatment, they can use aftercare services that promote full-time sobriety and offer support and help with finding housing or employment or continued treatment and therapy in an outpatient program.

The Palm Beach Institute is ready to help you or your loved one recover from alcohol addiction. Call us today so we can help you leave mommy wine culture behind for a new life in recovery.

Sources

McKetta, Sarah, and Katherine M. Keyes. "Heavy and Binge Alcohol Drinking and Parenting Status in the United States from 2006 to 2018: An Analysis of Nationally Representative Cross-sectional Surveys." PLOS Medicine. Public Library of Science. from https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002954

Carroll, Linda. "Moms Are Binge Drinking More, but so Are All Women, Study Finds." NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group, 05 Dec. 2019. from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/moms-are-binge-drinking-more-so-are-all-women-study-n1091806

"Women and Alcohol." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 24 Feb. 2020. from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/women-and-alcohol

"'Mommy Juice' Normalizing Alcohol Addiction for Women." Healthline. from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/the-rise-of-mommy-juice-culture-and-its-impact-on-kids

Volkman, Claire. "'Mommy Wine Culture': Why Is It Even a Thing?" Parentology. 14 Feb. 2020. from https://parentology.com/mommy-wine-culture-why-is-it-even-a-thing/

Mayo Clinic. Alcohol Use Disorder. Overview. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243

Celine. "Difference Between Alcohol and Wine." Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. 16 July 2018. from http://www.differencebetween.net/object/comparisons-of-food-items/difference-between-alcohol-and-wine/

"Alcohol Content in Wine and Other Drinks (Infographic)." Wine Folly. 12 Mar. 2020. from https://winefolly.com/tips/alcohol-content-in-wine/

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