Jessica Simpson has made a name for herself as an American singer, fashion designer, actress, and even author. She’s been in the spotlight for years, so when she “bares all,” the whole world takes notice.
In a recent Instagram post, she shared a harsh reality that perfectly captures where she was a few years ago, and what it took to get to where she is now.
She says, “This person in the early morning of Nov 1, 2017 is an unrecognizable version of myself. I had so much self-discovery to unlock and explore. I knew in this very moment I would allow myself to take back my light, show victory over my internal battle of self-respect, and brave this world with piercing clarity.”
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The photo is of an unrecognizably hungover Jessica from four years ago, and it illustrates a harsh reality many of us deal with at some point in our lives; moreover, it also reiterates why Mommy Wine Culture is so dangerous. She had been too drunk to help with Halloween costumes the day before. And, in that moment, it’s clear that she recognized she had a problem, and she got help. Sharing that photo is BRAVE.
That bravery is a continuation of what she shared in her powerful, bestselling memoir, Open Book. In her People article, Liz McNeil talks about Simpson’s book, explaining, “The resulting emotional pain [from abuse], along with other stressors, including career pressures, led her to self-medicate with alcohol and stimulants — a dependency that would later prompt her doctor to tell her her life was in danger.”
With her memoir and now with her Instagram post, Simpson is being transparent in a way that not only speaks TRUTH, but also may just help other women overcome the cult of Mommy Wine Culture.
What is Mommy Wine Culture?
We’re inundated with Mommy Wine Culture, with t-shirts, coffee mugs, and memes. It’s on mommy blogs and on social media sites, particularly on Instagram, where it appears to connect and support moms through the trials and tribulations of being a struggling mom. Single, stay-at-home, working — it really doesn’t matter. It’s all the same in the way it offers relief with the salvation of a glass of wine.
Professional Recovery and Success Coach Julie Elsdon-Heights says, “For years and years, the marketing industry has always targeted men for their alcohol ads. What happened in the early 2000s is that we saw a shift in marketing. The alcohol companies got very wise. They always understood that the women were the people in the household that spent the budget.”
Elsdon-Heights explains, “The marketing companies targeted them for alcohol. There’s the ‘mommy wine culture.’ You can go online and buy yourself a flask that is disguised in a diaper bag. New moms already have all this responsibility and all this stress. And now we’re being told. ‘Hide it and use it.’ To me, this is catastrophic.” She says, “It’s a lack of self-care. It’s a lack of understanding, and we’re being conditioned to accept it.
They all proclaim membership in a club that is bigger than ever. The “Women Who Enjoy Drinking Wine” group has 28k members on Facebook. The “Moms Who Wine” group is 692k strong. It’s trending with every possible joke and hashtag as it highlights images of moms with the glasses of wine that help them get through the day.
Sure, it might feel great to have a glass of wine every once in a while, while relaxing after a long day. But that’s not what Mommy Wine Culture declares with its constant barrage of images of how needed that glass is, how a mom can’t live without it, and how it’s ok to drink away the stresses of the day. It sounds great, right? Perhaps it’s that magic pill or glass that will make everything better, brighter, and smoother. After all, it’s NOT always easy being a mom, particularly after the last year of Covid-19. So, why not?
Some 40% of moms admit to having a drink to cope with the stresses of motherhood. It’s not rare or unusual to feel isolated and guilty about not being the supermom we’re told we should be. That’s why the siren call of the Mommy Wine Culture is so effective.
What About The Backlash?
While this trend may appear harmless at first, it’s dangerous. We’re not talking about drinking Kool-Aid – wine is alcohol. Nearly every American tries alcohol at some time in their lifetime, and some 7% will become dependent. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that 261 people die EVERY DAY from excessive alcohol. When you think about Mommy Wine Culture, do you imagine that it’s such a killer?
How could something that’s so embedded in a culture of mom’s worth and relaxation actually be so dangerous and deadly? It’s not even just a US problem. 3.3 million people die every year around the world from alcohol abuse. Here’s another stat that may surprise you: Americans lose 2.7 million years of potential life because of excessive drinking. And, experts agree that alcohol is much more dangerous than heroin or crack.
Dr. Caitlin Simpson, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, and Director of Clinical Operations with Footprints to Recovery, says: “The problems with mom wine culture lie in the simple fact that it glorifies the idea of drinking as a way to relieve stress and deal with depression, two ailments that affect women far more than men.”
Why Is Mommy Wine Culture A Problem?
The problem is linked to the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) adage: “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.” It normalizes drinking and supports its use as a coping mechanism. It also puts peer pressure on moms to drink regularly. If moms don’t drink the wine, there’s a feeling that they don’t belong, that they’re not normal, and perhaps even that they’re not taking proper care of themselves if they aren’t drinking copious amounts of wine.
There’s also a SERIOUS misconception about what excessive drinking really means. If you look at the ads and memes, it seems like a drink a day is perfectly fine. It seems like a drink will allow you to de-stress, cope with all the demands in your life, feel better, and be somehow more free. If you actually look at the studies, any alcohol consumption is bad for you.
Excessive drinking, which is defined as ~ 5 drinks/week for women, can lead to an increased risk of cancer, high blood pressure, higher rates of stroke, and fatal aortic aneurysms. And, even if you don’t experience any of these side effects, drinking shortens your life by ~2 years.
So it’s not ok to just blindly believe the image of blissful relaxation and the inevitable pull of switching from “coffee to wine”. By normalizing the Mommy Wine Culture, alcohol becomes a crutch without us even realizing how dangerous (and deadly) it can really be.
While society (friends, family, and co-workers) puts pressure on women and moms to drink more and frequently, it also sets a horrible example for our kids. They see their mom drinking every day as a way to cope. It makes sense that they would do the same, right?
For kids, it doesn’t seem negative. It becomes a norm for them, which can lead to their own experimentation and drinking issues at early ages. There’s also the idea that they are the reason mom drinks and that they make their mom’s life difficult. Even when there are issues in a family, these are NOT the messages we want our kids to hear or even to assume.
There’s more to the Mommy Wine Culture issue than simply living a healthier life and setting a better example for our kids. When we normalize the use of alcohol to fix all the mommy blues that ail us, we’re also masking and ignoring our feelings. It could be postpartum depression, depression, anxiety, or it could be some other mental health concern. Instead of encouraging women and moms to reach out for support and help, our Mommy Wine Culture encourages us to reach for a bottle of wine and make all those (very valid) emotions go away.
How To Get Help To Combat The Mommy Wine Culture?
In her Instagram post, Simpson says,“The real work that needed to be done in my life was to actually accept failure, pain, brokenness, and self sabotage. The drinking wasn’t the issue. I was. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t respect my own power. Today I do. I have made nice with the fears and I have accepted the parts of my life that are just sad. I own my personal power with soulful courage. I am wildly honest and comfortably open. I am free.”
That freedom is possible for everyone who has struggled with alcohol abuse as part of our Mommy Wine Culture. As moms, I know we often struggle enough with feelings of trying to do what’s best for our kids, with so many demands. It really is important to reach out and ask for help when we need it. ALL OF US. Here are a few places you can start.
Sober Brown Girls: Sober Brown Girls is a safe and supportive space for “sober brown girls.” The founder, Kirstin Walker, created this space to provide practical tools and the motivation you need to live a healthy, happy life.
Women for Sobriety: Women for Sobriety (WFS) was founded in 1975, as the first peer-support program tailored specifically for women overcoming substance abuse disorders (SUD). They offer online and in-person options to address and support the unique challenges of women in recovery.
Healthy Start: The Healthy Start program screens and offers referrals for services needed for substance abuse, depression, and interpersonal violence. The program is focused on improving the health of moms and children.
Recovery Coaches International: You can easily find and vet a coach in your area who can offer support.
If you’re looking for help right now, you can immediately reach a virtual Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support group. You can also reach out to your doctor or medical provider for counseling and treatment referrals.
What are your thoughts about Mommy Wine Culture? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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