There is a dark, insidious underworld on Facebook populated by subgroups, littered with thousands of threads on a topic so divisive and sensitive that it regularly pits human against human in a battle to see who is the most good and the most right.
I'm talking about mommy groups. Entire social media universes dedicated to baby rashes and breastfeeding and the subject of "shaming," and often hotly divided by topics like vaccinations and formula feeding. But one area where most members seem to align is the ever-sacred subject of wine, or "mommy juice." There is a group on Facebook called, "Moms Who Need Wine" that currently has nearly 725,000 members and a quick search of the words "moms" and "wine" yields hundreds of other smaller groups with no doubt dedicated members.
The language of alcohol in motherhood has become both infantilizing and romanticized. Kids just went to bed? Pour a glass of grownup grape juice. Survived the morning school rush? It's 5 PM somewhere! Get that special momma drank inside of you. Alcohol becomes medicine, wine becomes juice and addictive behaviour becomes an unavoidable rite of passage. And I don't say this to shame mothers struggling with a seemingly never-ending mountain of responsibility, because it was inevitable that marketing companies and corporations would capitalize on a hyper-engaged consumer subset that has both income and influence on their side.
Women account for an increasingly large portion of alcohol companies' target demographics, already making up 57 percent of wine sales in North America. Advertisements sell us booze as social lubricant, female empowerment, romantic aid and maternal must-have. Mommy wine time is not just a way for new parents to connect over shared stress, it's a commodifiable entity that allows corporations to normalize the consumption of alcohol during otherwise taboo times. See this Toronto-based event that recently faced backlash over its marketing and setup. 'A Very Mommy Wine Festival' was billed as a daytime gathering for moms to get together and sip some mommy juice judgment and shame-free. One of the taglines for the event was literally, "babes on the hips, wine on the lips." Organizer Alana Kayfetz told the Toronto Star she didn't really consider the wider impacts of alcohol marketing and women and even pointedly added that, "We tried 'Mommies that like to drink tea' … but nobody came." Addictions specialists were quick to point out the dangers in normalizing drinking and the ease with which one drink in the daytime turns into two, and three and six. Of course, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a drink and coping mechanisms are essential to a person's survival toolkit. But when there aren't strollers involved, we would call wine as a daily coping tool something else: alcoholism.
As someone expecting their first kid, I say this from a very personal place. I'm terrified of what happens once the baby comes and how I'd cope with post-partum depression. I've experienced severe bouts of depression before and already know how easy it is to succumb to the instant pleasure of alcohol as an emotional salve. It's quick, it's effortless and fuck it, it makes dealing with the world so much easier. I don't want to think that my go-to self-destructive behaviour is already being eagerly facilitated by companies happy to offer me the worst possible solution at a mommy-friendly price. And the linkages between motherhood and alcohol are not just problematic in the short term, they're part of a growing, dangerous trend that is seeing spikes in women binge drinking and increases in early mortality.
Again, enjoying booze and unwinding with a drink can all be normal, healthy parts of life but particularly when women are at their most vulnerable—struggling with the realities and hardship of early parenting, susceptible to post-partum depression and anxiety—letting alcohol companies convince us that "mommy wine time" is cute isn't just fucked up, it's literally killing us.
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