Hangable wall art that reads, “OMG I SO NEED A GLASS OF WINE OR I’M GOING TO SELL MY KIDS.” Wine glasses engraved with Mommy Juice and Motherhood Survival Kit. Hand-crafted bottle labels marked Goodbye Baby Weight, Public Temper Tantrum, and Baby Slept Through The Night.
This is wine mom culture – a growing phenomenon where raising a family in one piece is the problem, and drinking is the solution on tap.
And while the jokes may seem innocent enough at first, the truth of the matter is that this new culture can be tough to wade through as a recovering addict. And on top of that, it might even be contributing to an increasingly alcoholic mommy population too.
In fact, problems involving alcohol have been on the rise with women in particular. One study found that abuse and dependence increased overall in America about 50% from 2003 to 2013. But for women, rates jumped by a whopping 83.7%!
And changing social norms toward women drinking (looking at you, wine mom culture) may be part of the problem.
So, how can a mom in recovery navigate raising a family when playdates, picnics, and post-parent-teacher-conference get-togethers are so rife with booze nowadays?
These 14 tips for keeping sober in wine mom culture are sure to help you keep both your sanity and sobriety intact along the way.
But, first thing’s first…
What Is “Wine Mom” Culture Anyway?
Addictive drugs have always had an impact on American pop culture. And it goes without saying that alcohol is by far the most influential.
Recently though, a brazenly boozy new kind of drinking culture has grown around an unexpected station in life: motherhood.
The so-called “wine mom” culture acknowledges that parenting is tough. In fact, it can be downright maddening. But with a little bit… well, a lot of wine, you can get through it without cracking!
Wine is your reward for getting through another day of the hardest job in the world – being a mother.
And while the jests are often harmless or even absurd (like a bottle with a wine glass opening that reads “Finally! A wine glass that fits my needs!”), it can’t be denied that these caricatures aren’t always too far off from reality.
Perhaps it’s because there’s truth in the joke: lots of mothers I know encourage each other to drink. It’s a shorthand for empathy and sympathy – a euphemism for just taking a break. We smile at the despairing mother whose children are bouncing off the walls and tell her that she deserves a large glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed, and that we would do the same.
More and more, then, motherhood is being associated with drinking to take off the edge of raising a family. And even more importantly, it’s become accepted and even expected to start incorporating a bit of the bubbly into aspects of child-rearing that used to be, well, a lot dryer.
Modern wine moms can be found sneaking sips with other parents at sporting events, playdates, and picnics. And when the kids go to bed (or even before they do), an exceptionally large glass of wine or four is standard to relax after a long hard day – every single day.
What’s So Wrong With The Wine Mom Idea?
In short, this type of culture can make it much more acceptable to engage in problematic drinking behaviors. And that can lead to full-blown alcoholism.
But there’s more to it than that.
The thing about wine mom culture is that it can lead to an especially sneaky form of functional alcoholism. This type of chronic drinking doesn’t match the idea of stereotypical alcoholism. After all, your family unit isn’t shattered, you aren’t drinking on the streets, and you don’t have to have a glass in the morning to stave off the shakes.
And because this form of drinking isn’t recognized as being a problem, the problem can develop without your friends, your family, or even you being aware of it at all.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, former wine mom enthusiast and author of books like Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay and Naptime Is the New Happy Hour, describes the delusions of control that come with this type of drinking. She says:
Every once in a while I questioned my drinking, but I always managed to convince myself it was under control. After all, alcoholics were nothing like me, I told myself. Alcoholics were like my junior high science teacher with shaky hands who sipped vodka and OJ out of a coffee mug, thinking no one knew. Alcoholics drank booze alone. Out of a paper bag. I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t have a problem. Which was a good thing because when I became a mom, I really needed to drink.
What Does That Mean For Recovering Alcoholics?
The especially sneaky alcoholic nature of wine mom culture is bad enough. And for many mothers, a crippling addiction can rear its ugly head without ever being suspected. But one of the worst things about this new phenomenon is how it impacts sober mothers.
Recovering from an addiction to alcohol is hard enough as it is. It comes along with crippling withdrawals, overpowering cravings, a near-constant fear of relapsing, and of course the rampant shame and guilt that’s common with all addictions.
But when you’re raising children while trying to stay clean, the stress of daily life and the temptation to drink can be even harder to cope with than if you’re on your own.
The wine mom culture can make this even worse. And it’s precisely because this kind of heavy drinking isn’t acknowledged as the problematic behavior that it really is.
“Mothers deserve to drink,” it tells you. “In fact, mother’s NEED to drink to blow off some steam. And it’s okay! So, have a drink!”
And when you hear that message everywhere – from playgrounds, to pickup games, to birthday parties – you just might be tempted to do so.
Now For The Tips: Keeping Sober in Wine Mom Culture
But just because wine mom culture is all around you doesn’t mean that you’re defenseless against it. There are a number of tools and strategies you can use to navigate this brave new world of child-rearing without turning back to the bottle.
Have a look at the 14 tips below to learn how to keep your wits about you during your recovery.
Tip #1: Learn To Ignore (Most) Social Media
This one is killer, and it certainly doesn’t just apply to recovering alcoholics either. Social media is everywhere you look these days. And emerging evidence is showing that while this new medium can, in fact, be used for good, there are some serious impacts to self-esteem that are secretly taking their toll.
According to BBC, a 2016 study by Penn State University found that viewing other people’s selfies may harm self-image because individuals often compare themselves to these photos of others looking their happiest. Another study in Sweden found that the same outcome came about when users compared their own success and relationships to those in the world of social media.
But there’s more to it than just self-esteem. One of the biggest problems with social media for a recovering wine mom is the fact that this haphazard culture’s main home is on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Dana Bowman, mother of two and recovering alcoholic blogger extraordinaire, puts it like this:
Facebook, the gateway drug for tired moms with possible drinking problems… Social media was practically shouting at me that moms drinking chardonnay was medicinal, as if motherhood was some sort of infectious disease. As a result of all this, I began downing nightly glasses of You Deserve This while I binged on Netflix and folded fifty-thousand diapers.
In the end, while social media can be great for connecting with people in similar situations, there are often other online alternatives available that can keep you away from the spirit busting, wine mom glorifying content.
Have a look at these from 12step.org.
Tip #2: Avoid Old Trigger Gatherings
One of the biggest takeaways from rehab for most people is that when you’re in recovery, you need to be vigilant, calculating, and – above all – realistic.
Walking out the front doors of treatment doesn’t mean you’re cured. In fact, that’s when the real work begins. And while rehabilitation does it’s best to prepare you for what lies ahead, nothing compares to the real-world challenges you’ll face outside its walls.
Day-to-day stress can seem crippling without the crutch of a frosty glass of booze in your hand. Cravings can seem overwhelming and can crop up nearly anywhere. And when you’re confronted with situations or events where drinking was a given, willpower alone may not be enough to keep you dry.
That’s why you may want to consider avoiding these kinds of gatherings altogether. Playdates spiked with chardonnay, afternoon outings to the park with tumblers full of wine, holiday parties, and any other invitation to imbibe may bring with it more temptation than even the most resolute won’t be able to withstand.
So skip them.
Sure, some moms may ask where you were or even take offense at your absence (most will get over it).
But recovery is always focus number one. Plus, there will always be more get-togethers. Because as short as childhood may be, motherhood seems like it stretches on for ages.
Tip #3: Be Selfish For Once!
Being a great mom means sacrifice – sacrifice of time, sacrifice of wants, sacrifice of sleep, and sometimes sacrifice of sanity. It’s all worth it, of course. And the benefits far outweigh the costs.
But when you’re recovering from alcoholism, you have to be a little selfish to get through it in one piece. And that means learning to stop sacrificing your needs so much for those of your family.
Now, this may sound like blasphemy to some. But recovery requires you to be a little selfish every now and then. Get in tune with your needs. Stop pushing yourself so hard day in and day out. And learn how to take time off, relax, center yourself after a long week.
Get a babysitter for the night if you have to.
You might feel guilty at first since you’re probably so used to always attending to the needs of others. But now is the time to start focusing on what you need to stay sober. And don’t worry – your family will understand.
Especially once they see the all the awesome benefits of finally having a sober mommy.
Tip #4: Get Support OUTSIDE of the Fam
While having an unbreakable bond with your family is going to be the bedrock your recovery is built upon, it isn’t the only support system you can have while you get sober.
In fact, you don’t want your family to be the only people keeping you dry. Although they’re the people that are undoubtedly the closest to you, sometimes it helps to talk to someone who’s actually been in a similar situation.
That’s where support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous come in. These groups follow the 12 step model and are widely available around the country.
According to the organization’s General Service Office, there were over 2.1 million active members that attended the more than 118 thousand groups worldwide in 2016!
And if you live in Washington State in particular, there are plenty of meetings to choose from near you.
But support doesn’t just have to come from AA. Outpatient services at a treatment center, secular groups like SOS, science-based groups like SMART Recovery, and many more options are all available.
In the end, there are TONS of resources you can use to get the support that’s so valuable during recovery.
Tip #5: Make TIME for Your Recovery
Getting the kids to school on time, making parent-teacher conferences, carpooling to extracurriculars, grocery shopping, healthy and timely meals – with so much that goes into good parenting, it’s a wonder there are enough hours in the day for moms to get to everything.
In fact, Pew Research Center data shows that stay-at-home moms spend over 40 hours a week on housework and childcare. And in addition to bringing home the bacon, working moms spend around 25 hours a week on the same tasks.
And that can make it hard for recovering mothers to squeeze in the extra time it takes to focus on staying sober.
I mean, how are you supposed to take off for a 12-step meeting in 20 minutes when dinner isn’t even on the table yet?
Here’s where being selfish about your recovery is so important – you have to take the time to do recovery right. And that means making it to every meeting, every counseling session, and every group gathering you can.
Think of your recovery like a garden. Every time you attend a meeting, every time you read recovery literature or talk to your sponsor, it’s like you’re watering your garden. And at first, it’ll take a whole lot of watering to keep your garden alive.
So throw a frozen pizza in the oven if you’re running behind. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up the kids. And don’t be shy about getting your husband to take over more of the household duties while you’re getting better.
But above it all, make time for your recovery.
Tip #6: Don’t Forget That Recovery Is A Family Effort
Going along with the last point, it’s crucial to remember that while you may be the only one in your family with a drinking problem, it affects absolutely everyone in your home.
Whether you were a helicopter mom that just happened to over-indulge every single night or you were never there for your kids or partner because of your drinking, your alcoholism has most definitely left its mark.
And in fact, maybe your family members have even enabled your addiction and made the problem even worse.
Getting them the specialized support they need, then, is also critical to helping you stay sober for good. And luckily, there are plenty of resources available that are meant just for them.
Al-Anon, for example, is similar to AA in that it’s built off of the 12-step model but is meant specifically for family members of alcoholics. Alateen, an offshoot of Al-Anon, is meant for teenagers who are dealing with an alcoholic friend or family member.
There are also family groups for other major support meetings. SMART Recovery has Family & Friends meetings, SOS has an online Yahoo Group for family members, and there are loads of other information resources available too.
Ultimately, taking care of yourself during recovery should be one of your first priorities. But that doesn’t mean your family members don’t need support along the way too.
Tip #7: Live In the Moment!
One of the biggest struggles for any aspiring sober mother is finding new ways to enjoy old hobbies without all of the casual boozing. And despite what your past experience may have involved before, not EVERY playdate, picnic, and birthday party needs to involve getting jingled.
In fact, it’s often the anticipation of not being able to handle an event sober that’s actually worse than enduring the moment itself.
Rather than stressing out about how unbearable it’s going to be making it through a get-together without a glass in hand, take each moment as it comes. Relax. Breathe. And stop building things up so much.
You might be surprised at how much easier something is than what you imagined.
Tip #8: Change the Definition of “A Drink”
This is one of the best tips you’ll walk away with today. Part of the trouble of navigating wine mom culture is the fact that so many other parents expect everyone to be drinking along with them.
Hosts at social events will endlessly circle the room asking, “Can I get you a drink?” – a gesture of hospitality, sure, but a relapse-in-waiting for many recovering alcoholics. And if you refuse, the common response is, “Are you sure? Nothing?”
Now, it’s worth noting here that most of the time they’re just trying to be good hosts. But the danger here is that the sentiment may be mistaken for pushiness. And eventually, it could lead to falling off of the wagon.
But here’s a trick – next time you’re faced with the question, don’t just say, “No thanks.” Instead, ask specifically for water, juice, or soda. And be clear, decisive, and strong about it too. Any shakiness could lead to the dreaded, “Are you sure you don’t want a glass of wine instead?”
On top of that, make sure you always have a drink (water, soda, etc. that is) in hand too. Not only will it help prevent you from feeling like something is missing when socializing, but it’ll also signal to your gracious hosts that you’re already well taken care of.
Tip #9: Learn How To Talk To Your Kids About Recovery
As any mother knows, children are always taking in way more information about the world around them than most people think. And no matter what age your little ones are at right now, if you’re going through a tough time in life (e.g., alcoholism recovery) then they know something’s up.
That’s why it’s so critical that you learn how to talk to your kids about recovery early on. Otherwise, they may falsely attribute the downsides of sobriety (mood changes, cravings, irritability, etc.) to something they’ve done.
Honesty here is always the best policy but (obviously) be sure to tailor the appropriateness of the details to the age of your kids. A few important points to be sure to communicate are that addiction is a disease (not some sort of moral failing) and that you’re getting the help you need to overcome it.
But more than anything else, don’t underestimate their understanding. They’re smarter than you think!
Tip #10: Put Away The Cape
Living up to the expectations of modern motherhood takes almost superhuman powers. You have to be nearly everywhere at once, know the answer to every question, have the solution to every problem, and on top of it all, you have to be able to handle it without any help along the way.
This idea of motherhood is bull crap. It’s misleading, destructive, and when you’re in recovery, it’s particularly farfetched.
That’s why if you’re going to truly kick your drinking problem for good, you need to abandon this narrative of what it takes to be a mother, put down the superhero cape, and learn how to ask for help once in a while.
Stop overloading your kids (and yourself) with extracurriculars. Give your partner the reigns and recoup with a much-needed day off. Ask your friends to cover your carpool shift this week.
Showing vulnerability and asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a worse mother for it. Instead, it gives you the space and time you need to focus on the most important goal in your life right now – getting sober for you and for your family.
Tip #11: Don’t Sugarcoat Your Past
Getting over the shame and hurt of being an alcoholic is one of the hardest parts of being sober. And for many, the remorse that so often goes hand in hand with addiction is often reason enough to start drinking again.
This inherent pain often leads many people to downplay the embarrassment and damage that their drinking caused in the past. But doing so is throwing away one of the best motivators the human race has at its disposal – guilt.
Guilt lets us learn from our mistakes of the past and enables us to create a better future. It’s a deterrent for the abhorrent. A discouragement for the distasteful. And when you’re in recovery, avoiding it is the most effective strategy for keeping you sober.
So, don’t wallow in your mistakes and ruminate about your failings. Getting clean means moving on in some sense.
But don’t ignore the gritty reality of your drinking either. It just may be the key to your restraint.
Tip #12: Recognize Co-Occurring Disorders BEFORE They Lead To Relapse
Co-occurring disorders, also called dual diagnosis, is when someone is addicted to a substance of abuse while suffering from a mental disorder at the same time. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common, but the list extends to many other disorders including borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
And whether you know it or not, dual diagnosis is far more common than most people know. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “about half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.”
On top of that, if an underlying mental disorder isn’t treated alongside the addiction, it can make relapse far more likely to occur in the future. That’s why it’s so important to find a rehab facility that specializes in treating co-occurring disorders.
Without this kind of specialized help, the untreated depression or anxiety can rear its ugly head again, and you might just be tempted to self-medicate to help you deal with the symptoms.
Tip #13: Take Care of Yourself!
Once you’ve put down your wine glass for good, you may feel the urge to fill the hole in your life with bad food, bad TV, and bad habits. And it makes sense – these kinds of activities all come with a kind of immediate gratification reminiscent of that which came with a bottle of merlot.
But while they may feel good in the moment, one of the best things you can do for yourself during recovery is to adopt healthy habits instead. Try to get more exercise every day. Take up meditation. Pick up a book before bed Instead of your phone.
The healthier you are during your recovery, the better you’ll feel. And that can translate into less of a desire to drink along the way.
Plus, exercise is a fantastic way to blow off some steam after a long day of parenting. It might not be as fun as drinking, but even a short daily jog can help you shed pounds, reduce stress, and build confidence too.
Tip #14: Remember To Take Stock of How Far You’ve Come
And last but not least, don’t forget to take a look back every now and then to appreciate the difference your journey to sobriety has made.
How much closer do you feel to your family? What kinds of impacts have you noticed on your health? What about your looks? How do your partner and kids feel about your transition?
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our daily trials and tribulations that we lose sight of just how much we’ve changed along the way. And when that happens, it can be disheartening and may even lead to relapsing out of hopelessness.
That’s why it’s so important to think about just how much of your life has changed since you’ve put the bottle down.
Think about how hard abstaining was at first. Or about what it felt like that first night when you opted for La Croix instead of pinot grigio. Or how often you used to be bombarded by ravenous cravings.
And compare that to now. You might be surprised at just how far you’ve come.
Wine Mom Culture: Not As Harmless As It Seems
There’s no denying that the wine mom culture has a certain magnetism to it. The lighthearted jokes, the mutual commiseration of the stress of raising a family, and the encouragement to imbibe to your heart’s content is undoubtedly appealing.
But when you’re in recovery, the near-constant onslaught of wine mom memes and drinking at children’s get-togethers can be exhausting – not to mention tempting.
Hopefully, though, these tips can make navigating this pro-boozing culture just a bit easier and your journey to sobriety a smidge smoother.
Making sure your children grow up happy and healthy is tough – there’s no disputing that. But you don’t have to lose yourself in the bottle to do it well.
What’s your experience with the wine mom culture been like? Do you have any other tips for staying sober when raising a family not covered here? Let us know in the comment section below. And remember, you can always reach out to us for help – whether it’s finding a support group nearby or getting more information on treatment.