‘Mommy Wine Culture’ Is Toxic. Here Are Better Ways To Deal With Parenting Stress.


Much has been written about the toxicity of “mommy wine culture.” In some circles, like Facebook groups with names like “Mommy Needs Wine” and “Mommy Wine Time,” it’s not just alcohol, it’s “mom juice.” It’s ever-present at parent gatherings, reinforced in popular culture and emblazoned on T-shirts with phrases like “wine mom goals.”

Just ask Emily Lynn Paulson, a mother of five who previously told HuffPost that wine was so present in every facet of her mothering experience, from play dates to social media, that it almost felt like she couldn’t survive motherhood without it.

According to Noreen Farrell, a gender justice expert with The Equal Rights Advocates, wine may be increasingly marketed to and consumed by moms because they carry disproportionate levels of parenting stress. She said this results from decades’ worth of discriminatory hiring practices, gender pay inequalities and persistent sexist familial caregiving expectations.

The relatability of motherhood as a shared experience makes the concept of using alcohol as a coping mechanism seem innocuous, said Heather Aje, a licensed professional counselor with The Connections Wellness Group.

“Toxic mommy wine culture in a nutshell is the combination making jokes or insinuating the need for alcohol (wine in this case) to ‘deal’ with parenting and the normalization of what is often overlooked substance abuse. I am sure every mother has read a meme surrounding this idea and either laughed or felt completely validated,” Aje said.

But needing a glass of wine to unwind on a bad day can quickly turn into needing a glass of wine every day, Aje told HuffPost. She added that this can build tolerance, ultimately requiring a person to drink several glasses in order to feel the same stress-relieving effects ― a cycle that can ironically result in feeling more stress over time.

“Over the short term, alcohol lowers heart rate and blood pressure, reduces attention and concentration, and increases sleepiness, all of which contribute to the sense of relaxation most people like. Unfortunately, regular alcohol use primes the body to work to counteract these effects,” said Jessica Peirce, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“This means regular use can result in higher baseline heart rate and blood pressure and worsening anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness,” Peirce said.

Susan Zinn, a licensed psychotherapist and certified trauma specialist, told HuffPost that the negative effects of alcohol are even more significant for women than they are for men because women are more likely to develop life-threatening diseases such as cancer, liver, heart and brain damage.

Instead of reaching for the bottle, Zinn suggested moms develop and maintain an identity outside of parenthood by taking time for hobbies or things they enjoy in order to counteract the “everyone else first before me” mentality.

“Who you are is important; you matter. By recognizing yourself as an individual, you are showing your children that they are important, and as they age it is important to be true to who they are, what they are interested in, and not only what is occupying their time and energy at any given time,” Aje said.

Below, she and other experts share some ideas for dealing with the stresses of motherhood without alcohol.

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A daily five-minute journal with prompts and places to reflect

“Honestly, journaling is a great tool. It allows you to get everything out of your head without much forethought, and it tends to provide a wealth of information and insight,” Aje said.

This day-to-day journal can help you carve out time to yourself each day to reflect, manifest your goals, develop gratitude and even experience improved mental wellness. Reviewers who have this journal said that the thoughtfully designed prompts and daily affirmations helped them manage stress and anxiety.

A pair of noise-canceling headphones for quiet alone time

For uninterrupted peace and quiet, these discrete and highly rated earbuds may be just the thing. The noise cancellation is adjustable with a full transparency feature, which allows you to customize the level of outside noise that filters into the headphones while you listen to a podcast, meditation or your favorite music. You can also get six hours of battery life per charge, and the soft silicone ear tips leave these earbuds feeling comfortably secure.

An impactful guide that helps you make sense of your emotions in motherhood

Motherhood can be an extremely isolating experience. For an effective way to develop an understanding of those subsequent emotions, Aje suggested “What No One Tells You,” a practical guide written by two reproductive psychiatrists. This book explains to both new and seasoned mothers the physiological and hormonal factors that are at play, and ways to manage the stress that comes with them.

A macrame kit to start a new hobby

Zinn said creative hobbies and outlets can be a great way to relax and unwind. This macrame set includes everything you need to create beautifully woven wall hangings for bedrooms, living spaces or to even make as gifts. The easy-to-follow instructional booklet teaches basic knots as well as three different macrame patterns.

An indoor cycling bike to create endorphins naturally

“Having fun and and increasing your heart rate can be extremely helpful in allowing you to unwind and feeling a sense of individualization by doing something just for you,” Zinn said.

Investing in an indoor cycling bike can be a great way to generate a quick boost of endorphins while also contributing to your physical health. Even if you don’t have an hour to dedicate to exercise, this highly rated and soundless stationery bike features an iPad holder so you can easily follow along to shorter and higher-impact exercises that meet your needs. The large resistance range allows you to customize your level of impact and the LCD monitor tracks everything from heart rate to calories burned in order to help you meet your fitness goals.

A paint-by-numbers art kit to create your own wall decor

This set allows you to choose from 10 different designs with an easy-to-follow numbered layout to create a customized painting. Each design is printed on a high quality and eco-conscious canvas and comes with paint brushes, corresponding paints and a wall hanging kit. You also have the choice between two different size options and whether you would like your wall art placed in a wood frame.

A luxurious bath kit for self care time

A uninterrupted soak in the tub can be a great alternative to your nightly glass of wine and may even help promote better sleep. This mineral-infused soaking set by Maude is formulated to improve circulation in the body, remove impurities from skin and keep it feeling nourished and hydrated. The set includes amber-scented bath salts harvested from the Dead Sea and a coconut milk bath for a gentle soak.

A guided breathing and meditation audiobook to manage stress

“Breathing techniques and meditation are great strategies for managing stress,” Zinn told HuffPost. She explained that during mediation you can focus your mind and reduce life pressures, while breathing techniques can help calm your nervous system and bring you a sense of emotional balance.

This guided audio meditation focuses on breath work to help you develop insight, calm your overwhelmed mind and develop awareness.

An unlimited collection of online classes to foster your own identity

“It is imperative to have an identity outside of being a mother,” Aje said. “I encourage my clients to think about life before they had a child and identify things that they enjoyed.”

With MasterClass, you can choose from an extensive collection of online classes to cultivate your interests outside of being a parent while also unwinding in the process. Learn everything from drumming technique from Ringo Starr to creative writing from Margaret Atwood to fashion design from Marc Jacobs.

An indoor garden kit and book to connect with nature

Zinn said that developing a connection with nature in any capacity can boost your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Gardening and plant-tending has long been seen as a way to develop mindfulness and manage stress.

This indoor garden kit can help you tend your own green space and grow your own herbs, even if you weren’t blessed with a green thumb. The full spectrum LED light helps to promote plant growth all year long has an adjustable timer. Additionally, “The Well Gardened Mind,” written by psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith, talks about the anti-depressant effects of gardening as a meditative practice and the ways you can incorporate green space tending in your own life.

A beginner’s yoga guide to start a mindful exercise routine

Zinn told HuffPost that the practice of yoga can work to quiet the mind, strengthen muscles as well as improve sleep and flexibility. “The Yoga Beginner’s Bible” features 63 illustrated poses plus ways to create your own yoga flow and sequences. The book also provides breathing methods and tips on how to turn yoga into a habit you will want to incorporate into your daily life.

A monthly book subscription to discover new books

Studies have shown that reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68% and promote an overall improvement in a person’s well-being. A monthly book subscription can be a great way discover books and develop a regular habit of reading. Book of the Month features a curated book selection to chose from that includes everything from early release books, debut authors and even classics that date back to 1926.

You can also check out HuffPost Readable, our very own book club that features a new book pick each month and hosted discussions.

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