OPINION: Moms and wine, and how we've normalised the two going hand in hand

A mom once invited me in for tea when I picked up my son from a playdate. Tea? I politely declined and made a mental note that this was probably not a mom I was going to be close to. Then headed quickly home to pour myself a glass of chardonnay.
 
Because this mom needs wine. And I’m not the only one. There’s a Facebook page called Moms Who Need Wine with 726 000 other moms who need wine, too. Therein lies the rub. It’s normal right? The notion that we’ve earned that drink at the end of the day has become a given that is heavily reinforced by popular culture, the alcohol industry and social media.

Log onto any social media platform and the memes and quotes come at you.

‘Motherhood: Powered by love. Fuelled by coffee. Sustained by wine.’

Or, ‘The most expensive part about having kids is all the wine you have to drink.’

There’s even merchandising. Wine glasses engraved with ‘Liquid Patience’ or ‘Because kids’. And what about the movies? The moms behaving badly in Bad Moms were apparently so relatable that the concept warranted the sequel, A Bad Moms Christmas!

In the past, mothers who drank would be considered neglectful. These days taking the edge off is supported. Encouraged even. I once tweeted as I arrived at a compulsory school picnic: “Help. School picnic. Partner not here yet and no wine allowed’ to which I received an immediate reply from another mom: ‘Leave. Leave now!’

The LA Times published an article on How to pair wine with your favourite girl scout cookies!

How much is too much?

Considering that the parenting condition seems to be a state of feeling constantly overworked and permanently exhausted, is there really any harm in having that glass of wine after a long day?

Well – for women in particular, yes. Because who has just one glass? While we all metabolise alcohol differently, more than one and a half bottles of wine per week is considered ‘risky’ for women in general.

It was this measurement that really hit home for me how normalised drinking has become.

I often drink a bottle of wine in the evenings without giving it any thought at all (except maybe to wonder if I should open that second bottle) and many other women I know do, too. If we’re drinking the weekly limit in one night without any concern for the harm it may be doing, then there are serious forces at play. What are we getting ourselves into?

Drinking is especially hazardous for women. According to an article in the Washington Post, the differences in our physiology make blood-alcohol levels in women climb faster and stay elevated for longer than in men. Women have lower levels of the stomach enzymes needed to process the toxins present in alcoholic beverages, and generally women are more prone to heart and liver disease as a result of 'risky' drinking, not to mention the definite link between alcohol and the risk of developing breast cancer.

It can be difficult to consider frequent drinking a problem if you're not falling off your chair or pouring vodka over your cereal. But if you find it difficult to take a break from daily drinking, it may not be a bad idea to rethink your relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is no longer black and white and the 12-Step programme no longer the only way to treat it.

A gentler approach to rethinking your relationship with wine

Following a decision to cut alcohol out of my life, but concerned about my ability to stick to my decision, I recently attended a World without Wine workshop.

World without Wine is a social network offering workshops, recovery coaching and online support. Founded by Janet Gourand, their vision ‘to support and inspire a lifestyle without alcohol’ is advocated using a gentler approach to sobriety than what has traditionally been available. There is an absence of labels and the main focus is to create a mind shift regarding alcohol and to provide people with the tools they’ll need in order to take responsibility for their own recovery.

More and more research is beginning to surface about the negative impact alcohol has on our health but it's often drowned out by the millions spent on advertising by the alcohol industry. However, this may soon no longer be the case.

In South Africa the Department of Health is seeking a ban on alcohol advertising as proposed in the Liquor Amendment Bill now sitting with Cabinet. There is ongoing debate as to whether this would be an effective measure in terms of curbing alcohol abuse, considering that there are so many factors that predispose abuse including economic, genetic and socio-cultural determinants.

But if we consider how normalised daily drinking has become and how advertising and social media has worked to reinforce this, we definitely need to review the role that alcohol plays in our lives.

Tea anyone?