Parenting

The Dangers of Mommy Needs Wine: Alcohol and Motherhood

Why using alcohol as a parenting crutch is dangerous.

Posted Jan 24, 2021

Mothers are constantly bombarded by messages that booze, a more than $252 billion dollar industry in the U.S., is indispensable to our survival as parents. Mommy needs wine to get through the day. 

Or do we?

It's time to change the narrative around parenthood and alcohol as the “mommy needs wine” culture is growing larger by the second.

The dangers associated with alcohol as a parenting coping tool are more serious than society’s painted pictures. It is nearly impossible to scroll through social media without seeing memes of “mother's little helper” and an image of a wine bottle. Of course, parenting is challenging, and some days, you may feel defeated, exhausted, and emotionally run down; however, turning to alcohol as a consistent coping tool not only is dangerous to your mental and physical health but it can impair your parenting skills and send the wrong idea to your child. Our children grow up watching our every move. They repeat what we say, mirror our actions, and pick up any subtle behaviors, even when we think they are not watching. Children are sponges, so when we reach for that glass of wine to take the edge off, our children see us. We are subconsciously telling our children that we need alcohol to cope, and we must self-medicate to tolerate them. 

"A January 2020 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that alcohol-related deaths among women in the U.S. rose 85 percent between 1999 and 2017, with the largest increase among non-Hispanic white women."

Responsible drinking vs. "mommy needs wine"

There is a fine line between responsible social drinking and numbing yourself with booze to deal with being a parent. There is a difference between having a glass of wine at dinner or meeting your girlfriends for an occasional outing and sharing a bottle of wine compared to needing a drink on a daily basis in order to deal with the stress of parenthood. If you are wondering which side of the line you fall on, think about the following questions:

  • How often do you drink?
  • Why do you drink?
  • Do you drink as a way to deal with the stress of parenting?
  • Do you drink in front of your children?
  • How often do you drink in front of your children?
  • Do you drive under the influence with children in your car?
  • Do you drink when you become upset with your child?
  • Do you drink with other moms while having play dates with your kids?
  • Do you drink to calm your nerves around a screaming baby?

Being a mom, especially a new mom, can raise feelings of inadequacy, isolation, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. You are constantly around children, elbow deep in dirty laundry, diapers, homework, and meal planning. You are trying to maintain your career and juggle parenting at the same time. You rarely have alone time and may feel emotionally and physically exhausted. Motherhood can lead to anxiety and depression, and oftentimes, we use alcohol as a crutch to hide these feelings instead of treating the anxiety and depression. 

We live in a society where motherhood is portrayed as a beautiful dream full of laughter and love, and although motherhood is a treasured gift, it is hard. We are often not given permission to admit that we are struggling and to talk about our shortcomings and negative feelings associated with motherhood. So many mothers are scared to seek treatment out of fear they will be judged or have their child taken away. Recognizing your feelings and openly talking about them not only is a healthy outlet, but it can open many more conversations among other mothers who are also struggling. But if we hide our feelings and use alcohol as a coping mechanism, we are not only hurting ourselves, but we are potentially hurting our children. 

Help for mom should not come in the form of mommy juice

Mommy doesn't need wine. We need healthy outlets and help. Help should come in the form of loved ones and supportive partners, encouragement to develop healthy self-care routines, and affordable access to mental health and addiction services. We should be allowed to recognize and admit that no matter how strong or successful we are, we cannot do it all. We need time for ourselves; we need time away from our children, we need others to help us. 

  • Hire a babysitter or find someone to watch your children so you can have alone time, even if you don’t leave the house. You should not feel obligated to be with your child every single day. 
  • Share your thoughts, feelings, and challenges with other parents. You may be surprised how many other moms and dads relate to your story
  • Develop a self-care routine. Take a shower every day, exercise, adopt a healthy sleep routine, take a day off, read a book and engage with others. Just because you are a mom doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your individuality. 

Seek help 

If you are feeling an overwhelming amount of stress, isolation, depression, or anxiety and are using alcohol to numb the pain, it is important that you seek professional mental health treatment. The consequences of alcoholism as a parent can be dangerous not only for your own well-being but for the well-being of your child. You are at risk of endangering your child and passing on the genetic risk of alcoholism to your offspring. Professional treatment can help you recognize your underlying triggers and help identify and adopt ways to overcome the stress associated with parenthood.

A version of this post appears on Quest2Recovery.