It’s (Kind of) Funny
wine drinker. A cheerful one, tipsy more often than sloshed. But from an early age, I noticed the change when she drank. By day, she was organized, composed, maybe a little too tightly wound. Into her fourth glass of Burgundy, she came loose.
In our survey, 77 percent of moms said their drinking doesn’t affect the way they are as parents. Could that be true? Is parenting with a buzz really no big deal? Or are we kidding ourselves? April Storey is a mother of two from Redding, California, with passions for fitness and wine. Two years ago, she became a viral sensation when she posted a “wine workout” on Facebook. In the video, she performs push-ups with a glass underneath her. With each rep, she lowers herself to sip through a straw—a flourish, she tells me, that’s pure comedy: “I don’t actually drink when I work out.”
But Storey’s post struck a chord, garnering more than 22 million views and a flood of comments. She knew other moms enjoyed wine as much as she did, but she hadn’t realized just how many.
In 2015, women drank 57 percent of all wine consumed in the U.S., according to Nielsen. Among the health conscious, vino enjoys celebrity status as the unicorn drink that can supposedly slim your waist and strengthen your immune system. (Sobering fact: A report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggests that one drink a day—wine or otherwise—can raise a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer by 4 percent.)
Wine is also a panacea for the trials of modern motherhood, if you buy into the messages in movies like Bad Moms, the memes and GIFS on Facebook, and the cutesy slogans printed on T-shirts sold on Etsy (“I wine because they whine,” ha-ha). “It’s become this wink-wink joke of ‘Parenting is so hard, I need my wine,’ ” says Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best-kept Secret, a book about American women’s relationships with alcohol. But there’s a problem with the punch line: It gives women who have bona fide drinking issues fodder to justify their behavior.
Stefanie Wilder-taylor knows this firsthand because she used to be doing the wisecracking. The author of Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, she quit drinking in 2009 after accepting that her nightly swilling had gotten out of hand. Wilder-taylor went on to found an online community, the Booze-free Brigade. “Many moms who joke don’t have a drinking problem. They just think it’s funny,” she says. “But the women who do have a problem get fooled into thinking, ‘Every mom drinks like I do.’ ”
Experts say there’s a darker story to be told about how the drinking culture affects our health. Alcohol-use disorders, drunk-driving arrests, and alcoholrelated deaths among American women are rising, says Deborah Hasin, PH.D., professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. If current trends continue, millennial women will become as likely to binge drink as millennial men.