The Stigma of Being a Sober Mom in a “Mommy Wine Culture”

Ellen Elizabeth

Stigma of Being a Sober Mom

“Want to come over for a playdate?”

“Yes- let’s do it at 4 so we can have drinks.”

“You’re invited to my baby shower!”

“Great! I’ll bring stuff to make mimosas!”

“You just moved into the neighborhood! Here is a bottle of wine!”

I’m guilty of all of the above. I used to be that “fun” friend. I scoffed at baby showers that didn’t have alcohol, or at 1-year old birthday parties without a keg. I never did anything without alcohol. Society has normalized drinking so that it is rare to do anything without drinks. Just met someone. Meet up for drinks. Playing on a summer kickball team? Drinks after the game! Rough day at work? Happy hour! Home all day with the kids? Mommy needs wine. When did it become a requirement to socialize while drunk? “Mommy wine culture” is normalizing alcoholic behavior in women, and now that I am sober, a huge stigma has engulfed me.

The rate of drinking and alcohol addiction are on the rise among women. A 2017 study put high-risk drinking among women at a 58 percent increase in the last decade alone. Why are we, women especially, drinking so much more? Some of it can be attributed to the “Mommy Wine Culture.”

“Mommy Wine Culture” is a culture that encourages drinking alcohol to take the edge off of parenting. This has been seriously reinforced by internet memes and products with mantras like “mommy fuel” or “I wine because my kids whine.”

Let’s face it; alcohol is everywhere. Happy hours are the gateway into our drinking society. Get a few moms together, and you have mommy happy hour gone wild. We need to end the stigma that comes with staying sober in the pandemic of mommy alcohol culture. I don’t want my babies growing up thinking “Mommy needs alcohol to deal with me” or “Why does mommy always have her own special juice?”

Now that I don’t drink, I notice how this culture is everywhere. Five years ago, I would have loved all of these T-shirts or memes that say. “I only drink wine on days that end in Y,” or “I am a strong woman raising a strong daughter, which is why I need a strong drink.” I never associated myself with people who didn’t drink. If you were drinking something non-alcoholic, I used to think there was something terribly wrong with you.

Fast forward to my sober life. Now, I struggle seeing how people think they need to drink to survive and how it is all a huge joke. I post things on my social media accounts encouraging people to look at the other side of this message, but I get pushback and called a “buzz kill” or someone who “can’t take a joke.” We need to try harder to stop this stigma. What are we teaching our kids if they see us telling them they are the reason we are drinking?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines one standard drink of alcohol as:

  • bottle of regular beer
  • small glass of wine
  • single measure of distilled spirits

This was not normal in my social circle. Everyone had several drinks every time we were together. The average amount that people who do not identify as having alcohol use disorder consumption is much higher than the health guidelines. Society makes it normal to drink this much daily and pushes it by glamorizing it and advertising it nonstop. It’s the only drug we have to justify not using in this current culture. Why is this? I almost never see anyone have only one beer or one small glass of wine. Even “normal” drinkers in my social circles had several drinks at any social gathering.

I see people around me who are in denial about being functional alcohol users. I was one of them. I had a steady job, happy relationships, no DUIs, and no one considered me an alcoholic. I drank every single day, and it was never just one. It was usually 4-5, and that did NOT include the drinks I had in secret. And my pours were always about 4 fingers deep. I managed to drink like this for years, fooling everyone but myself.

How many other people are drinking like this? Fooling everyone, but deep down thinking they are drinking too much. Then they see how current society makes it normal to drink heavily, so they convince themselves that there is no problem at all. With alcohol consumption on the rise, we should be advertising more about where people can find help instead of more booze filled ads making alcohol use look fun. Trust me, the dark side of heavy drinking is not fun. The day after the Super Bowl, a news station had a “tips” portion of the newscast, similar to this site, for what to do for the 17 million people who were hungover.

Our society implies it is okay for 17 million people to poison themselves to the point of feeling sick with alcohol, but they don’t show the other side of the story. What about all those people that were in drunk driving incidents, or who were hospitalized for drinking to excess? What about the children who had to watch their wasted parents, stumbling up the stairs as they tried to put them to bed? What about the fights that broke out due to alcohol induced anger? None of this was on the news. Only the “funny” part of being hungover and how to fix that was covered. Instead, we should be discussing how to fix the underlying issue that our society drinks too much.

Unfortunately, this is an uphill battle. I don’t see a paradigm shift happening anytime soon. For now, all I can do as a sober mother is continuing to educate and show a different side of “Mommy Wine Culture.” Hopefully, if enough people are talking about it, we can eventually end the stigma of being sober during this time of mommy wine culture.

Ellen is a 36-year-old Colorado native celebrating over 4 years of sobriety. She is the proud mother of two-year-old twins. She lives with her family of 4 in Colorado Springs, CO. When not working part time or engaging in the joys of raising twins, she enjoys being a wellness influencer on many different social media platforms to anyone struggling with addiction or infertility. Ellen can be found on social media @itsellenelizabeth and is here to support anyone struggling now, anyone who is in recovery, or family members of those struggling.