Apparently, there are two types of wine drinkers in this world: 1) connoisseurs, and 2) mommies.
The connoisseurs keep their wine in elegant racks, or better yet, temperature-controlled cellars. They sniff and swirl their wine before allowing it to pass their lips. They care about tannins, mouthfeel, and other terms that are not part of our common lexicon.
The mommies hide their wine in the back of the pantry. Sometimes they buy it in boxes. They drink standing up, sometimes out of the bottle. Often, there is no sipping involved. That’s because mommy wine consumption has nothing to do with pleasure or taste. According to all the memes, coasters, and T-shirts, when it comes to wine, we just always need more of it.
And of course, our sensitive female taste buds can’t handle Big Strong Man Drinks, like beer or whiskey, so we quell our constant anxiety with fermented juice. It’s cute, really. Then we go online to share middling memes and have a good laugh. And if the 482,806 results for “mom wine” on Etsy are any indication, we also go online to buy things printed with these same middling memes and to laugh some more.
But here’s the rub: “mommy wine culture” is not actually funny.
Partially because the memes are played out and only occasionally chuckle-worthy, at best. Partially because they make light of excessive alcohol intake as a way to cope with the trials and tribulations of motherhood.
But — and this is coming from a mother who drinks a daily glass of wine before bed (which my doctor knows about), as well as a daily pint of beer before dinner (which, ever since a former doctor’s condescending lecture, I leave off the intake form) — my real beef with “mommy wine culture,” and particularly with its commodification, is that it trivializes these trials and tribulations, glossing over the very real and completely overlooked needs that mothers actually have.
The trivialization starts with the word “mommy.” Don’t even get me started on “mommy.” My own kids never even called me mommy, though if they had, I would have been okay with that. I’m not okay with grown adults, particularly grown men, referring to me as such.
Also, for the record, though I frequently write about motherhood, this is not a “mommy blog.”
Motherhood, and womanhood in general, has long been trivialized as cute, not particularly difficult, and always ancillary to Big Important Man Work, like shooting guns, writing constitutions, and building railroads.
After all, Big Important Men forged history while the weaker sex basked in the comfort of home, worrying their silly little heads over recipes and dress patterns.
Now, over two decades into the 21st century, the work of running a household and raising children is still socially undervalued and women still take on a disproportionate amount of it, whether or not they also work outside the home. Fighting wars, leading countries, building and inventing things — these are still male domains, only occasionally intruded upon by pesky wine-guzzling female interlopers.
All the Big Important Men out there doing Big Important Man Things are given social permission to gather in a public space at the end of the day and consume Bitter Man Drinks to take the edge off the stress and put some hair on their chests.
Meanwhile, mommies hunch in pantries with bottles, or boxes, of wine. We only rarely convene to drink out of the house because we’re busy doing disproportionate amounts of housework and childcare. Also, it’s hard to coordinate with other mom friends, who themselves are busy doing disproportionate amounts of housework and childcare. And as women, most of us don’t feel comfortable striding into bars alone.
It’s not only drinking that Mommy Wine Culture makes light of, but drinking in isolation. And believe me, there is nothing funny about the isolation of modern motherhood. Fewer and fewer mothers have access to extended family and neighborhood or church communities.
Beyond the increasing lack of access to immediate communities, our society at large continues to leave mothers out in the cold.
Though I feel like a broken record reciting the list of ways we fail mothers, alas, I will have to keep reciting it until something changes:
- The United States is one of six countries in the entire world that doesn’t offer national paid parental leave.
- It ranks 40th out of 41 high-income countries when it comes to accessible, affordable, and quality childcare.
- The so-called “motherhood penalty,” which refers to the 60% decrease in pay mothers experience compared to fathers in the decade following the birth of a first child, is the most significant driver of the gender pay gap.
People love to tell moms, “It takes a village,” but no one is stepping in to pick up the slack.
Here’s an interesting irony — despite my beef with current iterations of Mommy Wine Culture, the public celebration of mothers imbibing alcohol could very well be interpreted as a feminist act.
For years, women were expected to pour drinks for their husbands after their long, hard days at work, or they were expected to shrug it off when Dad hit the bar on his way home from work because Dad had no housework to come home to, and Dad’s need for a drink (or two, or three) was beyond question.
Boozy dads have long been socially acceptable, but boozy moms conflict with all the “happy homemaker” stereotypes we have long attached to motherhood.
It’s not that mothers have suddenly started reaching for the bottle over the past few decades, it’s that we’ve made it more socially acceptable. Even if we still mostly drink in isolation, at least there are online communities that cheer us on. And while indulging to excess is not a healthy coping mechanism for either gender, it has been our way of crying out: “This stuff is hard on us, too!”
If no one is going to take our coat at the end of a long, hard day at work and pour us a glass before we start our second shift, we’ll pour our own, thank you very much.
Yet like so many feminist acts, not all women have been included.
Not everyone gets to unwind with an enormous glass of cab and then laugh about it. Women of color, particularly Black mothers, are not even given the leeway to joke about substance abuse. As Medium writer Vena Moore points out, Mommy Wine Culture is very much White Mommy Wine Culture, reflecting the racist double standards that Black mothers grapple with on top of the trials we all share.
When the national conversation fails to include all mothers, and when it becomes more about the wine, haha, than the sources of stress that are pushing us to the bottle, it’s high time to pause and reevaluate.
Does Mommy need more wine? Black, brown, and white mommies alike are entitled to a glass of wine if they want a fucking glass of wine. They can also drink a beer, or a whiskey on the rocks, or a cup of tea. But what mommy really needs is an equitable division of household labor; help from her village; paid parental leave; accessible, affordable childcare; and a paycheck that reflects what she’s worth.
That’s my meme. Maybe I should start my own Etsy store.
Kerala Taylor is an award-winning writer and co-owner of a worker-owned marketing agency. Her weekly stories are dedicated to interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. She writes on Medium and has recently launched a Substack publication, Mom, Interrupted.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.