It was a funny joke in the early days of motherhood: Is it time for wine yet? Haha. My girlfriends and I would have playdates on Fridays that always involved a glass or two of wine and not-so-healthy snacks. It was our source of relief from the stresses of new motherhood. None of us had a problem with alcohol per se (or at least not that I’m aware of). We enjoyed this time together and would laugh about mommy wine time (I’m pretty sure I even had a set of napkins that said something like “It’s Wine o’Clock Somewhere!”)
But somewhere along the way, it started to feel… weird. It was so much fun to curl up on the couch and watch a movie with my husband and a glass of wine or to enjoy dinner and drinks on the town with friends, but turning to alcohol to relieve the pressures of motherhood (or life) never felt quite right to me. Don’t get me wrong — I love wine. I love the culture of it, the history behind it, and the beauty of making wine. Bryan and I have even visited Sonoma, California, where some of the best wines in the world are made. But the “mom wine” joke was slowly becoming a cultural phenomenon that didn’t sit right with me. It was my friend McKay who helped put my feelings into words.
In late 2016, McKay wrote out her resolutions for the new year:
- get more sleep,
- exercise more,
- eat less sugar,
- stop drinking.
What? I hung out with McKay all the time. I was shocked that she wanted to stop drinking and yet also oddly proud of her. As she told me about her goal for the next thirty days, I became more intrigued. She explained that although she didn’t feel she had a problem with alcohol and that nothing crazy had happened, she just knew that her life had a slow leak. For her, it had started after she had kids (I see this pervasive marketing to young women everywhere today, not just moms). It was a pinhole, but it was there. In the back of her mind, McKay had always wondered if maybe this cultural norm wasn’t helping her be the woman she wanted to be. So she decided to quit.
McKay was nervous at first. How would she respond when others noticed the sparkling water in her hand at a dinner and asked why she wasn’t imbibing? Would she feel comfortable joining the conversation when out with new friends with no rosé to calm her nerves? How would she unwind after a long day of work and parenting? McKay dug up strength she wasn’t sure she had for a goal that wasn’t driven by necessity but by a desire in her spirit. Forty was approaching, and she was ready to be her very best self. Deep inside, she knew alcohol wasn’t helping to get her there.
Our oldest boys are best friends, so McKay and I talk often. I’ll never forget a conversation we had where she told me about a recent beach vacation she’d taken with her husband and friends. Evenings included pre-dinner cocktails and bottles of wine passed around the table. McKay enjoyed herself and had yummy food and drinks but opted for spirit-free beverages.
She told me about how she woke with the sun every day, something she’d never done before, grateful for a totally clear head to enjoy the sunrise. She’d never returned home from a vacation feeling so rested either. She didn’t set out to quit drinking forever, but now that she’s gone nearly three years without a sip, she tells me she’ll probably never go back. She feels more herself than ever before, not only because of the lack of alcohol in her life but also because she dug up the strength to do something hard for herself.
Who knew such a seemingly small (yet enormous) change could catapult a woman so quickly into her best life?
Less indulgence led to more energy, clarity, and life for McKay. I’m so proud of her, and her story has inspired me to take a look at my own relationship with certain behaviors. The cultural dialogue that moms “need” or “deserve” wine is dangerous. Walking through a local department store the other day with Caroline, I spotted not one, not two, but three shirts promoting the idea:
• Mama Needs Wine
• Mom Hard, Wine Harder
• Raising Strong Girls — Send Wine, Lots of Wine
I’ve never been so grateful that Caroline doesn’t yet know how to read.
What are we teaching our daughters with these phrases? That doing hard things requires a chemical depressant? That mothering is so hard (or that life is so hard) that alcohol is necessary? And why in the world do we find this funny? Everything about this messaging feels wrong. The fact that mainstream stores carry items with this kind of suggestion seems to reveal a bigger problem than most are acknowledging. It’s not a statement or mind-set I want my children to think is normal or humorous. A glass of wine every now and then is something I enjoy. But the message that we need alcohol to thrive, in motherhood or in any role, is dangerous and damaging.
What if we focused on the things that bring more to our lives?
That truly lessen our worries and fill our cups? The healthy and meaningful activities that calm our nerves, settle us down, and equip us to live our fullest lives — good, hard, and everything else? Can’t we encourage women and moms to wind down and find rest in other ways? And for some of us, is it possible we maybe have developed too casual a relationship with alcohol? I think it’s time for this conversation and for us to talk about all the many alternatives. More than anything, I think we should own the narrative — not retailers and manufacturers and whoever it is that’s saying women need wine to cope with life.
I still enjoy wine. But watching McKay’s journey has changed my relationship with it. I’m careful now to make sure I’m enjoying it for the right reasons and at the right time. If my tank is feeling empty or I’m super stressed, that is not the time to pour a glass and dodge the real issues. Because skirting reality with a temporary buzz will eventually lead me right back where I started, sometimes feeling even emptier. We’re wired to look for the paths of least resistance. But when we’re feeling tired or worn out after a long day, that’s when we should push forward down the path of most resistance by acknowledging, addressing, and dealing with how we really feel. I realize this message won’t make a cute t-shirt, but, wow, can “leaning in” change your life!
I would be remiss not to acknowledge here that consistent use of substances of any type can lead to addiction. This is why I find this “mothers need wine” message so dangerous. No.
Mothers need support, friendship, rest, nourishment, and soul care. Mothers don’t need alcohol.
As McKay’s friend, I watched her awaken somehow when she started leaning in to her life and pushing out the vices. Gradually, I watched her eliminate alcohol, reduce her sugar consumption, and begin to learn about what fueled her body. She became certified to teach Yoga Sculpt to share with other women ways to fuel their bodies and lean in to hard things. I’m so proud of her. And so inspired by her commitment to living her best—with less of what drained her and more of what gave her life.
Excerpted with permission from When Less Becomes More by Emily Ley, copyright Emily Ley.
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Has the “mommy needs a glass of wine” culture leaked into your group of friends? Through idle chit-chat, cocktail napkins, or birthday cards? What if we focused on the things that bring more to our lives? Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about changing our relationship with substances that won’t ultimately satisfy or give us life! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full