It’s a Friday evening, and the week has beaten me down. I could take a hot bath, or go for a walk with my kids, but none of that is what I want if I’m being honest. Nope, what I want is a drink, and I mean the kind you have to be 21 to buy.
I enjoy drinking, and let’s be honest: It’s not because of the taste. If that were the only factor, I’d stick to sweet tea. I like the way a cocktail or a glass of wine gives me that relaxed, buzzy feeling, and I can almost feel my tensions melting as my normally high-strung nature gives way to a more chill version of myself.
But. Notice I said it’s Friday evening, not every evening. It’s not even every week. I don’t need alcohol to function, or to parent, and it isn’t my go-to coping mechanism (that would actually be chocolate). Yet, thanks to the drinking habits of mothers being scrutinized under a glaring spotlight lately, it feels almost uncomfortable to indulge in a drink … and shameful to indulge in more than that.
I’m not saying the shift in focus isn’t a good thing. The “mommy wine culture,” as they’ve dubbed it, has normalized drinking to excess, for those inclined to do so. It’s a permissible addiction because it’s legal; it’s not like we’d ever see “Surviving Motherhood on Cocaine” emblazoned across the side of a tote bag, but replace that with “Wine” and it’s tote-ally okay. This widespread acceptance has made it easier for alcohol-dependent moms to deny that they actually have an issue – if everybody’s doing it, it must be okay, right?
Thanks to the outspoken criticism of this normalization by the moms it has affected the most, the ones who have worked to overcome (and bravely shared) their own addictions, the pendulum has begun to swing in the other direction. Which is great news for mothers in similar situations, but for those of us who don’t have a problem with overusing alcohol, the judgment sucks.
We can’t even raise a glass without raising an eyebrow, simply because “mom” is a facet of our identities. I cringe when somebody tags me in a social media post even remotely involving alcohol, because I know that it will be scrutinized, and fall under the sweeping generalization that all moms who drink, drink too much, or because they have no other way to cope.
But do dads fall under the same scrutiny? NOPE. I know that if my husband is tagged in the same type of photo, he’s seen as a guy having a beer with his buddies, end of story. Nobody’s wondering if it’s impacting his ability to be a successful parent. But moms … we’re a different story. We’re clearly not catering to our children’s every need if we’re out swilling cocktails. How dare we step away from our posts. It must be because we’re out of control.
If you’re a mother, you’re either a teetotaler or you’re flagged in people’s minds as a probable alcoholic. There is no in between.
Whether excessive drinking personally affects us or not, it’s merely a symptom of a larger problem that we all share: Momming is hard, and made even harder these days by our culture’s obsession with Instagram- and Pinterest-perfect parenting. Moms drink to alleviate the undue pressure put on us not only to keep our kids alive, but to excel at everything from lunch packing to life coaching. We’re expected to satisfy our partners, raise enviable offspring, age much more slowly than the natural rate, and make sure our toilets are sparkling. The drive for perfection is an engine within us accelerated by the fuel of societal pressure, and for some people, alcohol is the only thing that acts as a buffer. The only damn thing.
Let’s focus on the root cause, then. Maybe we can start by elevating the moms who dare to be real on social media, the ones who don’t post studio-lit photos of their angelic sleeping toddler in a pristine, all-white nursery.
Maybe we can be kinder to one another, so we no longer have to fear judgment for not having our shit together … and kinder to those who are struggling, with alcohol or otherwise, and are brave enough to let others witness that struggle.
Maybe we should be honest, and realize that even if one mom is excelling in a certain area, another part of her life is likely in chaos, because that’s how reality works.
And on a smaller scale, maybe we can lend support to the mom next door and the ones in preschool playgroup, helping out when and where we can – and getting the same in return. Because let’s face it, we all know that sometimes life is an overwhelming shitshow and we can use all the help we can get, even if it’s just a coffee date or an offer to take the kids for a half-hour breather.
Maybe, just maybe, if parenting didn’t come with quite so much pressure, we wouldn’t feel so desperate to ease it. And maybe if we didn’t feel so desperate, a glass of wine wouldn’t be just one more thing to feel guilty about – whether we can stop after just one or not.