A few years ago, I posted a meme about the need to drink in order to cope as a parent. I thought it was funny, and apparently so did a lot of other parents — they could relate and joined me in feeling like they deserved that drink at the end of the day. After all, parenting is rough, man.
To me, it was just a harmless joke. I didn’t actually need the alcohol; I was just trying to be funny and relatable.
Then I met a woman while I was going through my divorce who changed the way I thought about those seemingly innocent memes. She confided in me one night about how she was struggling to cope with her anxiety as a single parent after she and her ex split up. She realized she was using alcohol — every night — as a coping mechanism and felt like she couldn’t get it under control.
Suddenly my meme, which was meant to be lighthearted and relatable, wasn’t funny. AT ALL.
She was reaching out to me, asking me for help, and it made realize this “Mommy Wine Culture” has been taken as a joke for too long. What so many of us see as humor is a trigger and struggle for many.
Not only that, but it made me ask myself, What are we showing our kids?
When we make fun of ourselves because we reach for a bottle of “please chill me the fuck out right now,” we send a message to our children that we can’t function without it. That they are so insufferable that we need to self-medicate in order to tolerate them.
We are letting them know that taking care of them is so traumatic we can’t handle them without numbing ourselves, even if it’s only with a glass or two of alcohol.
There is nothing wrong with meeting your girlfriends for a drink once in a while or having a nice dinner with your partner and opening a bottle of wine.
That’s something entirely different from using alcohol as a numbing agent to deal with being a parent.
When we start misusing booze, these “jokes” mask a real problem, and they make the problem even worse by making it acceptable.
I’ve had a hard day with my kids and I need some alone time with alcohol.
I’m stressed and can’t deal with life; pass me the booze.
“Mom therapy” found in alcohol form isn’t therapy at all. In fact, the paraphernalia, the memes, and the jokes have made it our new normal, trendy even.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized alcohol doesn’t agree with me for many reasons. It interferes with my sleep, makes my skin break out, and after one drink I feel hungover. So I decided to stop drinking when I went out with friends. It’s not really a hard and fast rule, just something I’ve cut back on because I realized it was making me feel like crap. Even though not drinking made me feel better physically and mentally, I was blown away by the backlash I received when I went out with friends and tried explaining this to them.
One night it came to a head. I heard comments like:
Why aren’t you drinking? You deserve a drink. Here, treat yourself, you need this.
I suddenly felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb and had to explain myself for not drinking. And that’s fucked up.
I couldn’t imagine how my friend who’d decided to quit drinking because she knew she was trying (and failing) to use alcohol as therapy felt in these situations. Talk about a humbling experience.
I didn’t realize until that evening talking with my newly divorced friend that we’ve been using jokes around wine as a mask for coping with everyday life. And it made me feel incredibly sad and mad at myself for joining in on something I thought was innocent.
I’m done making jokes.
I no longer think wine glasses filled to brim count as therapy or something we deserve.
Alcohol is not self-care.
And letting our kids hear us say things like we need a drink in order to deal with raising them not only damages their self-esteem, it shows them the wrong way to deal with life.
I’m not saying everyone who drinks or makes jokes about using alcohol to cope with life has a problem or is doing something horrible. I’m just saying when alcohol is used in abundance or we realize we can’t parent without booze, it’s a larger issue that needs to be recognized instead of dismissed with a joke.