Before I got sober, Mother’s Day used to be a boozy free-for-all. I always bought my mom her favorite champagne and the day started off with us popping the bottle for mimosas — hold the orange juice, mind you — before noon. After that, we’d maybe hit a couple of breweries, then head back home for more wine with dinner. Ultimate mother-daughter bonding time, right? Except not; the last Mother’s Day before I got sober, I got so tipsy that the night faded into oblivion. All I remember is a heavy case of the hiccups and stumbling to bed.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, people are on the hunt for the perfect gift, such as wine glasses boasting “Mommy Juice” or wine bottles labeled “Mommy’s Time Out.” It’s hard not to fall into that trap; virtually every Mother’s Day gift guide includes at least one booze-related gift. What does Goop recommend? A wine club membership starting at $170. The New York Times suggests the oh-so-gendered rosé, $150 tequila, sweet tea “with a kick,” and a book titled “Wine Country Women of Napa Valley.” Oh yeah, and a $170 detox box so you can sweat all the booze out when you’re hungover the next day. You get the picture: Alcohol, motherhood, and consumerism are a synergistic triangle. Unfortunately, the real honoree on Mother’s Day is the liquor industry.
What’s wrong with a little “mommy juice”?
So, what’s wrong with a little mommy juice? Well, let’s look at some sobering statistics. Alcohol use disorder among women in the U.S. increased by 83.7 percent between 2002 and 2013, according to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. As reported by NPR, high-risk drinking (four or more drinks in a day on a weekly basis for women and five or more for men), rose by 29.9 percent overall. When separated by gender, however, high-risk drinking among women rose around 58 percent.
In other words, women have closed the drinking gap, and it’s easy to see why. While more women are in the workforce than ever before, they’re only compensated 80.7 cents for every dollar that a man makes — all while they’re still doing the bulk of chores around the house. And that’s if they’re a white woman; black women earn $0.61 cents, Native American women earn $0.58 cents, and Latina women earn $0.53 cents to the white male dollar. Additionally, women spend more time raising children. Basically, women are doing a lot more for less, and they’re way more anxious. And so they drink. So, maybe mommy doesn’t need a timeout from motherhood; maybe mommy needs a timeout from the patriarchy.
So, maybe mommy doesn’t need a timeout from motherhood; maybe mommy needs a timeout from the patriarchy.
Mom’s pressure to “have it all”
Beyond the pressure to “have it all,” alcohol’s gendered marketing labels motherhood as a burden, as though women need to numb themselves to survive this lifelong task. In turn, women flock to Facebook groups such as Mommy Drinks Wine and Swears, which boasts more than 600,000 followers. We see personal essays about motherhood with lines such as, “I actually require alcohol to deal with motherhood.” Yes, being a mother is hard work. So is being a lawyer. What’s the difference between the two, then? Society only applauds one of these choices with paychecks and status. Being a stay-at-home mom is extremely hard work, yet it’s significantly undervalued.
Mind you, this isn’t an argument for all women to become stay-at-home mothers; that’s far from the truth. Intersectional feminism is about equal opportunity regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, race, gender, ability, or socioeconomic status. It is rooted in self-autonomy. If you want an 80-hour workweek with a corner office and permanent “Auntie Brigade” membership, you should be able to do that. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, you should be able to do that, too. And it should be just as valued as a career, with options such as extended maternity leave and affordable childcare.
If you want an 80-hour workweek with a corner office and permanent “Auntie Brigade” membership, you should be able to do that. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, you should be able to do that, too.
So, what if your mom likes a drink to unwind? That’s fine — her body, her choice. Again, feminism isn’t about policing what other women do with their bodies. If you’re anything like me, though, I’d rather celebrate Mother Day’s with an activity we’ll both actually remember, such as a hike, trip to the museum, or daylong baking spree.
Giving mom a different kind of gift
I also don’t want to give my mom the very thing that nearly ruined my life. Double standards abound when it comes to your poison of choice. More people die from excessive alcohol use than opioids every year in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control. Nobody bats an eye when the New York Times suggests four different booze-related gifts for Mother’s Day. Can you imagine if the publication recommended chic little bottles of Oxycontin, or a lustrous photobook of West Virginia, which was the state with the most opioid deaths in 2017? The opioid epidemic is undoubtedly serious, but so is the alcohol epidemic; one is just more socially acceptable.
While I used to get my mom a bottle of champagne for Mother’s Day, I want to give her something we’ll actually enjoy — and remember — together. I also want to honor her with a gift that thanks her for all of her hard work during these past 29 years; maybe a pillow with the words “Sorry I was such a pain in the ass stoner teenager” embroidered on it — kidding, but not really. Ultimately, I want my mom to know that I see what she endured and what she lost, from the day my shoulders got stuck while she was delivering me, to a lack of time for self-care she so desperately needed. That, but I also want to acknowledge the joy we’ve shared hiking, laughing, and singing David Bowie together. With such pain comes such joy.
Until our society can embrace motherhood as a challenging yet deeply rewarding life choice, liquor companies will continue to target mothers. So if you’re still looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift, maybe it’s time to put down the bottle.