Scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, I stopped dead at a photo of an acquaintance’s 4-year-old daughter.
The image pictured the young girl smiling happily, sitting outdoors with a wine glass in front of her. It wasn’t wine—rather, sparkling apple juice. But the caption was what had shocked me. She wanted some wine. She said it tasted like apple juice. Guess she wasn’t fooled.
Maybe to most, all of this—the caption, the photo—was innocent. Even funny. But I was horrified. As a recovering alcoholic, I couldn’t find anything humorous or adorable. I couldn’t see anything besides a photo that demonstrated just how far mommy drinking culture has gone. Has it really become okay to allow children to drink pretend wine at such a young age? Has it become funny?
This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen a photo of a mom-friend proudly displaying her goblet of wine, bottle of rosé, or cocktail glass as the camera captures her mid-laugh. Mommy juice! It’s the caption, always. And the internet is filled with photo after photo of mothers celebrating their alcohol consumption.
Mommy juice, they joke.
I deserve this after a long day, they say.
I need a drink, they caption.
Memes abound of moms drinking before noon because their kids made them crazy over breakfast, or those that say a box of wine is just juice for mom. A cursory search for the phrase “mommy juice” returns images with kitschy sayings like, I like to play a game where I take a shot every time one of my kids say “mom” or, The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink.
Moms share these memes and laugh to each other—it’s bonding and solidarity. And, of course, parenting is hard. But I wonder: Do they realize how dangerous their language is?
I’m not a mom—yet. There are plenty of experiences I know I can’t speak to about having children, running a household, being the nucleus of a family. But I am a woman in recovery. And these images, memes, jokes, and “funny” photos concern me.
How many moms out there are drinking to relieve stress and slowly increasing their consumption, not realizing that their drinking is becoming problematic? How many moms see those memes, laugh, but then wonder whether their consumption is “normal” or okay? Sober mom friends tell me that they see those memes, and they worry, too.
I’d never tell another woman what to do with her body. When I see someone say that she “needs” a glass of wine to get through the day, though, I remember how I said the same thing. But for me, I was stressed out about work, believing that I “deserved” to drink an entire bottle of wine on my own at home because I had a tough week. Not long after, I was blacking out on weekends because I “deserved” a break. That’s what I told myself, anyway—before I realized that I was using alcohol to relieve the stresses of my life. I went to rehab.
When I see someone say that she “needs” a glass of wine to get through the day, I remember how I said the same thing.
I’ve been sober for three years. My husband and I just bought a house. My life is moving forward, and we’re talking about having kids soon. As I consider trying to get pregnant in the next year, my mind wanders again to those “mommy juice” memes, and the problematic photos with which I’m inundated online. I worry that mommy drinking culture could put my sobriety at risk.
Right now, I feel very secure in my recovery. I have help from all angles: my husband gave up alcohol when we met; I regularly see my therapist, who’s helping me deal with my anxiety and stress in healthier ways than drinking; and I have a support system that I didn’t have during my darkest drinking days. But as my life continues to change, and I make moves toward parenthood, challenges will be different.
Parenting isn’t easy for anyone, and I’ve always known I’ll have more to take on as a person in recovery and a mom. But now, I am bracing myself to come face-to-face with mommy drinking culture, too.
What’ll happen when I become a parent? As far as I’ve seen, parent fundraisers for their children’s schools often involve alcohol, like “beer nights,” cocktail parties, and happy hour get-togethers. I’ve seen pictures of moms relaxing with other moms, wine glasses in hand. I’ve heard from mothers first-hand that the pressure is real. And although that’s okay for them, it won’t be okay for me.
I hope my future mom-friends be understanding and supportive of my recovery. But even then, these women might post photos of their very full wine glasses with a caption like, mommy needed this, and I know I’ll never be a woman who can support that.
My recovery—and my life —isn’t worth a glass of “mommy juice” in a weak moment. I know this, and yet I worry. It’s impossible to see the future. It’s impossible to know. But when I become a mom, I plan to maintain my sobriety in the face of mommy drinking culture and my own stresses and anxieties. It’ll take some work, yes, but I’m resolved to do it right.