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Drinking Habits

The Rise of Wine Moms: Why Mommy Wine Culture Is a Toxic Trend

Published:
June 28, 2023
·
11 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
June 28, 2023
·
11 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
June 28, 2023
·
11 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
June 28, 2023
·
11 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
June 28, 2023
·
11 min read

To (some) of the moms out there, you know the drill. The clock strikes 6 p.m., the children are finally quiet, dinner is pretty much ready, and it’s your favorite time: Wine O'Clock! There's nothing quite like the first sip of that crisp, ruby-hued liquid, a moment of calm amid the beautiful chaos we call parenting. But what if we told you that science suggests trading in those merlot moments for something less intoxicating? Let’s explore “mommy wine culture” and some of the practices that might serve us better.

What Is Mommy Wine Culture?

First things first — what exactly is “wine mommy culture” and what is a “wine mom”? With many of us having embraced the identity of the "wine mom,” it’s more than just a social media hashtag — it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Stemming from a mix of pop culture, marketing strategies, and social media influence, “wine mom” has become an identity for many moms across the world. 

Mommy wine culture has been nurtured by a flurry of humorous memes, Instagram posts, and tongue-in-cheek products bearing catchy slogans like "Mommy's Sippy Cup" or "It's Wine O'Clock." Etsy alone has over 67,000 “wine mom” products for sale! 

This playful portrayal of moms resorting to wine to cope with the stress and chaos of parenting resonates with many women, making them feel seen, heard, and understood. For many, it’s an amusing and seemingly harmless way to express solidarity and camaraderie in the often overwhelming journey of motherhood.

At its core, "wine mom" culture tells us it's okay — and even expected — to rely on a glass (or bottle) of wine to handle the challenges of parenting. After all, a little buzz can make the mundane more bearable and the tough times less tense. It also offers a veneer of relaxation and sophistication, glamorizing the consumption of wine as a deserved reward after a hard day of wrangling kids. Parenting is hard, and after a few sips — thanks to that hit of dopamine and calming balm of GABA — we feel fuzzy, warm, and happy. 

Diagram about the problem with  mommy wine culture

A Slippery Slope

It’s all in good fun, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. Consistent alcohol consumption, even moderate, can cause our brains to adapt: we need more to feel the same effects. This is known as tolerance, and it's a slippery slope to increasing our intake without realizing it.

More wine means more ethanol — the active ingredient that gives us the fuzzy warm feelings — but it also has some prickly effects. The liver metabolizes ethanol, turning it into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that’s a free radical. These free radicals can damage our body’s cells, leading to a variety of health issues such as liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and cognitive decline.

Moreover, while that initial relaxation might feel nice, alcohol is a depressant, which means it can lead to increased feelings of anxiety or sadness over time. And, let's face it, no one signed up for that!

When Mommy Wine Culture Becomes Toxic Mommy Culture

These dangers are the reason why normalizing “wine mom” culture is so risky. Studies going back to the early 2000s have shown a spike in alcohol use disorder among women. A 2018 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported a rise in alcohol-related trips to the emergency room, with women making up a greater proportion of these increased visits than men

Moreover, a 2017 study in JAMA Psychiatry showed that high-risk drinking among women — that's when they down four or more drinks a day — jumped by a whopping 58% in the last decade. 

In a way, this is a new manifestation of the “mommy’s little helper” phenomenon of the 1960s, when benzodiazepines such as Valium became the center of a seemingly innocent trend. And COVID didn’t help: according to a 2020 study by RAND Corporation, heavy drinking in women shot up by 41% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Humor as a way to cope with stress is an important part of this trend — and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is in the fact that it’s misdirected. As addiction therapist Erin Stewart told Good Housekeeping, “Wine mom culture says that the best and the only way to mom is with a glass of wine in hand … [it] also tells us that motherhood, and parenting little ones, is unbearable and brutal without the ‘mommy juice’ to ease the tantrums, the messes, the lack of sleep and the overwhelm of it all.”

Embracing the “Wonder Mom” Approach

So how can we redirect our wine cravings into something more beneficial? We can fill our evenings with mindful, nourishing activities that feed our soul and create memorable moments.

  • Be aware. Acknowledge the role of wine in your daily routine. Recognize the physical and emotional impacts.
  • Make a plan. Establish a new routine. Initially, it might feel strange, but keep going. Our brains are incredibly adaptable and will eventually form new habits.
  • Trade in your wine glass. It’s no secret that parenting is stressful. But instead of reaching for the wine, what if you reach for a paintbrush, dip into a novel, or spend a quiet moment on the porch, watching the sunset? Engaging in mindful activities can decrease cortisol levels — the primary stress hormone — and increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with happiness. Finding new activities that you enjoy can also boost your cognitive health by challenging the brain in new ways. Plus, this way everyone wins! Just imagine your kiddo's pleasure when they join you in painting, reading, or star gazing. That’s a Hallmark-worthy moment right there!
  • The power of connection. Changes are easier with support. Find a friend who’s willing to join you on this journey to make it easier to avoid the pressure to drink. Share your experiences, successes, and challenges.

    It's important to remember that not all drinks are created equal. Beers, wines, and spirits can vary significantly in their alcohol content. A light beer might only be 4% alcohol, while a high-gravity craft beer could be upwards of 10%. A typical table wine might be around 12% alcohol, but a fortified wine like port could be closer to 20%. Always check the labels when possible to get a better sense of how much alcohol you're consuming.
  • Celebrate. Celebrate your progress, even the smallest victories. Remember, change is a process, not an overnight event.

Set Your Sights on Something New

Picture a new scenario that’s every bit as exciting and meaningful, just without the hangover. Maybe you’re roller skating in the park, stopping for some refreshing lemonade. Or maybe you snuggle under a blanket in front of the TV, sipping on cocoa while watching sitcom reruns. Either way, there’s so much to enjoy about being a parent — and the best gift of all, our kids will enjoy it so much more without alcohol getting in the way.

To (some) of the moms out there, you know the drill. The clock strikes 6 p.m., the children are finally quiet, dinner is pretty much ready, and it’s your favorite time: Wine O'Clock! There's nothing quite like the first sip of that crisp, ruby-hued liquid, a moment of calm amid the beautiful chaos we call parenting. But what if we told you that science suggests trading in those merlot moments for something less intoxicating? Let’s explore “mommy wine culture” and some of the practices that might serve us better.

What Is Mommy Wine Culture?

First things first — what exactly is “wine mommy culture” and what is a “wine mom”? With many of us having embraced the identity of the "wine mom,” it’s more than just a social media hashtag — it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Stemming from a mix of pop culture, marketing strategies, and social media influence, “wine mom” has become an identity for many moms across the world. 

Mommy wine culture has been nurtured by a flurry of humorous memes, Instagram posts, and tongue-in-cheek products bearing catchy slogans like "Mommy's Sippy Cup" or "It's Wine O'Clock." Etsy alone has over 67,000 “wine mom” products for sale! 

This playful portrayal of moms resorting to wine to cope with the stress and chaos of parenting resonates with many women, making them feel seen, heard, and understood. For many, it’s an amusing and seemingly harmless way to express solidarity and camaraderie in the often overwhelming journey of motherhood.

At its core, "wine mom" culture tells us it's okay — and even expected — to rely on a glass (or bottle) of wine to handle the challenges of parenting. After all, a little buzz can make the mundane more bearable and the tough times less tense. It also offers a veneer of relaxation and sophistication, glamorizing the consumption of wine as a deserved reward after a hard day of wrangling kids. Parenting is hard, and after a few sips — thanks to that hit of dopamine and calming balm of GABA — we feel fuzzy, warm, and happy. 

Diagram about the problem with  mommy wine culture

A Slippery Slope

It’s all in good fun, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. Consistent alcohol consumption, even moderate, can cause our brains to adapt: we need more to feel the same effects. This is known as tolerance, and it's a slippery slope to increasing our intake without realizing it.

More wine means more ethanol — the active ingredient that gives us the fuzzy warm feelings — but it also has some prickly effects. The liver metabolizes ethanol, turning it into acetaldehyde, a toxic compound that’s a free radical. These free radicals can damage our body’s cells, leading to a variety of health issues such as liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and cognitive decline.

Moreover, while that initial relaxation might feel nice, alcohol is a depressant, which means it can lead to increased feelings of anxiety or sadness over time. And, let's face it, no one signed up for that!

When Mommy Wine Culture Becomes Toxic Mommy Culture

These dangers are the reason why normalizing “wine mom” culture is so risky. Studies going back to the early 2000s have shown a spike in alcohol use disorder among women. A 2018 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported a rise in alcohol-related trips to the emergency room, with women making up a greater proportion of these increased visits than men

Moreover, a 2017 study in JAMA Psychiatry showed that high-risk drinking among women — that's when they down four or more drinks a day — jumped by a whopping 58% in the last decade. 

In a way, this is a new manifestation of the “mommy’s little helper” phenomenon of the 1960s, when benzodiazepines such as Valium became the center of a seemingly innocent trend. And COVID didn’t help: according to a 2020 study by RAND Corporation, heavy drinking in women shot up by 41% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Humor as a way to cope with stress is an important part of this trend — and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is in the fact that it’s misdirected. As addiction therapist Erin Stewart told Good Housekeeping, “Wine mom culture says that the best and the only way to mom is with a glass of wine in hand … [it] also tells us that motherhood, and parenting little ones, is unbearable and brutal without the ‘mommy juice’ to ease the tantrums, the messes, the lack of sleep and the overwhelm of it all.”

Embracing the “Wonder Mom” Approach

So how can we redirect our wine cravings into something more beneficial? We can fill our evenings with mindful, nourishing activities that feed our soul and create memorable moments.

  • Be aware. Acknowledge the role of wine in your daily routine. Recognize the physical and emotional impacts.
  • Make a plan. Establish a new routine. Initially, it might feel strange, but keep going. Our brains are incredibly adaptable and will eventually form new habits.
  • Trade in your wine glass. It’s no secret that parenting is stressful. But instead of reaching for the wine, what if you reach for a paintbrush, dip into a novel, or spend a quiet moment on the porch, watching the sunset? Engaging in mindful activities can decrease cortisol levels — the primary stress hormone — and increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with happiness. Finding new activities that you enjoy can also boost your cognitive health by challenging the brain in new ways. Plus, this way everyone wins! Just imagine your kiddo's pleasure when they join you in painting, reading, or star gazing. That’s a Hallmark-worthy moment right there!
  • The power of connection. Changes are easier with support. Find a friend who’s willing to join you on this journey to make it easier to avoid the pressure to drink. Share your experiences, successes, and challenges.

    It's important to remember that not all drinks are created equal. Beers, wines, and spirits can vary significantly in their alcohol content. A light beer might only be 4% alcohol, while a high-gravity craft beer could be upwards of 10%. A typical table wine might be around 12% alcohol, but a fortified wine like port could be closer to 20%. Always check the labels when possible to get a better sense of how much alcohol you're consuming.
  • Celebrate. Celebrate your progress, even the smallest victories. Remember, change is a process, not an overnight event.

Set Your Sights on Something New

Picture a new scenario that’s every bit as exciting and meaningful, just without the hangover. Maybe you’re roller skating in the park, stopping for some refreshing lemonade. Or maybe you snuggle under a blanket in front of the TV, sipping on cocoa while watching sitcom reruns. Either way, there’s so much to enjoy about being a parent — and the best gift of all, our kids will enjoy it so much more without alcohol getting in the way.

Ready To Say Goodbye to Toxic Mommy Culture and Break Up With Booze?

The Reframe app has got your back! We know it's not an easy journey, but Reframe is here to guide you as you navigate the world of less alcohol in your life. Sure, we're not a magic potion for alcohol use disorder (AUD), but we are a pretty handy buddy to help you reevaluate your relationship with alcohol in a brain-friendly way.

Lots of people just like you found our approach handy in trimming their alcohol consumption. We think you can do it, too! Reframe's mission is to help you cope and thrive with less alcohol in your life. We bring you daily nuggets of wisdom backed by science, a peek into the brain science of alcohol, and a Toolkit within the app loaded with resources and activities to conquer every challenge along the way.

Plus, you can join our global community of Reframers in our round-the-clock Forum chat, where you can get advice from folks all over the world who are walking the same path. Need some personalized guidance? Our certified coaches are here for a chat, as well!

And hey, we don't stop there. We keep adding cool stuff to our app to make your journey even smoother. Our latest helper is Melody, an in-app chatbot powered by the strongest AI technology around. She's here to help you glide through the transition towards less or no alcohol. There's always something new: we cook up engaging monthly challenges like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You can jump in with the rest of the Reframers or go it alone — you're the boss!

Fancy giving the Reframe app a whirl? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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