Today, there are many books, memes and blog posts dedicated to this idea that wine (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) is mom’s best friend.
On social media, moms around the world crack jokes about it “being 5 O’clock somewhere,” or “inserting Pinot Grigio IVs,” or “burning calories by running around the house, searching for their wine glass.”
There has been a significant shift in the dialogue surrounding drinking and mothering. But is alcohol dependency really that ubiquitous in modern mommyhood?
After my mother-in-law sent me an article by the Telegraph about the growing number of stressed-out moms in the U.K turning to alcohol to unwind, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious pouring myself a glass of wine in front of her. There is a real problem with drinking that starts after school. It used to be a cup of tea, now it’s a glass of wine at 3.30pm instead, the article says.
Headlines announce the discovery of an underground culture of wasted mothers drinking Chardonnay from sippy cups just to ease the stress that comes with motherhood.
Stay-at-home moms are portrayed as overwhelmed, over-worked and haggard, so they turn to wine not to fall apart. Working moms are also seen as being thrust into the pressure of keeping up with their male counterparts on all fronts — including the “drinks after work” culture.
Are We Drinking More Than Our Mothers Did?
Consuming alcohol hit historical peaks for Canadians twenty-five years ago, according to Gerald Thomas, scientist with the Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia. The rate of consumption took a dip in the 90s and has been on a slight increase ever since.
In 2013, roughly 17 per cent of Canadian women aged 35 to 44 reported heavy drinking* (defined as having four or more drinks, on one occasion, at least once a month in the last year). In this age group, it was down from 20% in 2003.**
Simply put, the rates of problematic drinking for this age group have not changed significantly—yet the conversation about it has.
The Reasons Behind The Supposed Increase
Ann Dowsett Johnston grapples with the many complexities of women and drinking in her groundbreaking book, “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.” One of the questions that drove her research was whether the pressure of the modern world led women towards the bottle or not. She discovered that because of the societal roles women have assumed in the modern world, Generation X’ers have used alcohol to master so many tasks at one time.
We have careers to be concerned about; we take care of our houses, children, and sometimes, useless partners. But haven’t women always had a lot on their plates?
As well as being multi-taskers, millennial and generation X moms tend to be more open by sharing plentiful details about their habits on social media. The upside to our modern culture of networking is that those who need help don’t have to stay isolated for long.
The Difference Between Drinking To Unwind And Dependency
With all the sharing and blogging and quoting, there is something that must be made clear: there is a distinct line between someone who is predisposed to and/or has a dependency issue and one who does not.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse suggests a guideline for women to drink no more than ten drinks a week, and no more than two drinks a day most days. Beyond that, they say, women are at risk of developing alcohol dependence issues, and long-term health problems.
Some of the most popular memoirs based on drinking and motherhood, such as Drunk Mom, written by Jowita Bydlowska, reveal raw and painfully honest accounts of being a mother with alcoholism.
Stephanie Wilder-Taylor, blogger, author and recovering alcoholic, says that she “had no problem finding other mothers who shared my enthusiasm for better parenting through Chardonnay.” This was until, she said, “I caught a glimpse of my puffy face in the bathroom mirror; I was appalled and ashamed,” before she leaned over the toilet bowl to puke again.
Pan to a scene of the majority of those enjoying some wine with friends (or alone doing the dishes) and you will most likely see the ability to cork the bottle when a personal limit is hit.
For us modern mothers that glass of wine may very well be present at play dates, birthday dinners, and Saturday afternoon get-togethers. It has become normalized by way of a cultural shift towards women owning their own choices and being open about it. But the lines between serious issues and moderation shouldn’t get muddled because of survey percentages and feverishly Tweeted personal memoirs.
Alcoholism is a very serious issue and can be a long, slow journey of controlled drinking that slips out of line and ends up ruining one’s life. There are so many components that lead to drinking in an unhealthy way. If alcohol affects your life negatively at all, this is enough to stop and take a look at it. Take this online self-test for alcoholism.
The fact is, roughly 80% of Canadians drink alcohol. That is to say, the majority of us do tip back cocktails from time to time. And yes, there is a definite increase in heavy drinking for young women (aged 18-24) to a point that scares me for our children’s generation (The rate of binge drinking among women aged 18-24 has increased more than seven times than men in the past 10 years.). But I don’t think us mothers (in my age group, 35-44) are any less able to handle the stresses in our lives without dependency than any other generation.
These brave memoirs, documentaries, and articles have generated an incredible amount of awareness about the signs of unhealthy habits and have created a helpful community for those who need it.
However, we need to be careful not to shame women and mothers for their choice to drink within boundaries. We are judged for enough these days—pouring ourselves a glass of red shouldn’t be part of that.