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My kids watch me drink wine. Pretty often. Is that a problem?

I see how easily one drink a night can become most nights or every night; how quickly one glass becomes two glasses.
(Steve Banks / Los Angeles Times / Getty )

Parent’s Perspective | Many moms enjoy the occasional glass of wine in the evening. It seemed like a normal part of the fabric of my world, like going to Trader Joe’s, and walking the dog, and making sweet and sour meatballs for dinner. Then I wrote a personal essay about the pervasive promotion of weed dispensaries in L.A. (I’m a mom. I’m sick of this in-your-face cannabis culture) and was bombarded by angry emails from marijuana proponents accusing me of being hypocritical for not taking aim at moms (including myself) drinking wine: Aren’t you upset about the effect “mommy wine culture” has on your kids? I’m sick of all these moms drinking and acting like it’s OK. What about the in-your-face alcoholic mom memes?

I never thought much about “mommy wine culture.” It seemed innocuous to me that moms like to have a glass of wine in the evening. Not every evening. But the occasional meetup at a bar or restaurant was always a welcome reprieve. Now, in the age of Covid-19, my Mom’s Night Outs are once a week at 8 p.m. online. We toast that the day is done, that our kids got off the Xbox for an hour, that after working from home all day, we got in and out of Ralph’s, bought the Kleenex and toilet paper for our parents in Assisted Living, and dropped it off on the same day. We toast that we emptied and refilled our dishwashers, that homework was turned in on Google classroom, that we liked the last episode of “Ozark” or “The Stranger “on Netflix. We curl up on separate couches in separate houses and pour out our anxieties and frustrations and silver linings with a nice glass of red, or white, or a cocktail with a twist.

Is it a big deal if the kids come into the kitchen and see Mom sitting at the table with her laptop open having a drink with her book club? Or if the kids come onto the patio and find Mom FaceTime-toasting with her girlfriends from high school? Or if they come outside on a Sunday afternoon to find moms on lawn chairs drinking wine at the end of their driveways? The kids could be 6 and 10, or 16 and 20. Are we moms just having a bit of fun or are we pretending alcoholism is not a major problem?

I don’t think dispensaries are the root of the teen weed issue. But once your kid has a problem with drugs, the ubiquity of pot shops and how cool they look and their pervasive promotion across the city can feel disturbing.

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Raising kids can be so grueling and quarantine can make a mom feel especially alone. When humorous memes go around Instagram and Facebook — Wine Wednesday; It’s like Taco Tuesday but for moms; Boxed wine is just a juicebox for mom; Motherhood: Powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine, they get posted and re-posted and hearted and haha’ed on group chats from coast to coast.

Maybe mommy wine culture is meant to give moms a break from their lives as parents and teachers and supervisors, and now as P.E. coaches, tutors, and three-times-a-day meal makers? Sharing a glass of wine with other mothers at the end of the day can feel like a statement that it is OK to want and need our friends, to clink our glasses together like the bell for quitting time. I think, for many, mommy wine culture says: We are all in this together, now let’s get done with parenting and talk about our partners, our work, and the things that weigh us down, and also about our hoped-for new jobs, new dogs, new adventures. It signals time to unwind and nurture each other through the moments when we feel like we know everything about everyone in our family but ourselves.

But I see how easily one drink a night can become most nights or every night; how quickly one glass becomes two glasses. And in the age of Covid-19, it is easy to think: I am not driving. I have been on duty all day. I deserve a little treat.

One night while having Zoom cocktails with the girls, a friend said she was drinking seltzer. “I noticed I was wondering and waiting and longing for five o’clock so I could have my wine.” She said that bothered her enough that she decided to stop drinking for the duration of the quarantine. Another friend told me she looked forward to going to Ralph’s every two weeks because “If I buy six bottles of wine, I get 30% off.” She said she now bought more expensive wine and she liked the upgrade. She also said having more wine in the house can be a problem.

So back to the question of: Are we moms having a bit of fun or pretending alcoholism is not a major problem? I think the answer is both. We are having fun and downplaying the effect cocktail culture may have on ourselves, and our kids. We all know alcoholism is a major problem. If I’m honest, I would be disturbed if there were billboards all over the city advertising moms drinking wine. If I’m honest, I would be sad to give up my weekly happy hour with the girls. But we don’t need wine to have community. For some, it’s a treat. For others, it’s a problem. And our kids are worse than Alexa, they see and hear everything. This is something every mom has to decide for herself — but it’s worth considering with eyes wide open.


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