Women and W(h)ine

I read it on my friend's facebook profiles, I hear it on the phone, I hear it from my own mouth.

Man, I need a drink!

Mothers who have had a bad day with the kids, after the bath and bed, turn to the bottle for relief. And it is accepted that this is OK. And it is.

Within reason.

On NPR's OnPoint this morning the conversation was "Why Women Drink." Two recovering alcoholic mother/authors told their stories and those of others who had found solace in the sauce. Women who hide the empty bottle at the bottom of the trash and buy a new one to fool the spouse, or who get up at 3AM to get work done in order to start drinking earlier. Women who drive with their children in the car after one too many.

Those examples may seem a little extreme, but the point was that when you start centering your life around the drink - thinking about it all the time - you may have a problem. And when you start giving yourself limits (because you are aware you need them) but you can't stick to them or you make up an excuse to have "just one" (Jonny was such a brat today, I deserve it!), then it might be time to think about getting help.

Personally, I have only just discovered the wonders of a drink after the bedtime battle. I have never been a drinker - it was not a social norm in my family - and I somehow escaped the enticement of it as a teen and young adult. Yes, when there is a bottle in the fridge I look forward to enjoying a glass (and frequently I forget when there is one there), but when there isn't one, I don't even think about it and have a cup of tea instead. And I am so grateful! But I do understand.

I have written before about the pressures society puts on women - and we put on ourselves - to be perfect. Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Perfect housewife. Perfect employee. Perfect citizen. Etc. Etc. Etc. Whether we are working outside the home, stay-at-homers, or lounge-by-the-poolers, every situation carries its own stress. Wine is a sophisticated way to dull the anxiety, ease the frustrations.

Who wouldn't want a fairly inexpensive, easily accessible, socially-acceptable form of stress relief? Who doesn't deserve a reward at the end of a long, exhausting, infuriating day? Why shouldn't friends gather and commiserate together in the way reminiscent of their younger, childless days? Stress does need to be exorcised but drinking it away does not make it go away. It just numbs you to it for a while.

And if it is done with other girlfriends it may go unnoticed as a potential problem. "There is no gauge," was the way I believe it was termed by one of the guests on OnPoint. This means that others close to us must speak up - it may not make a difference at first but it will "plant the seed."

Please don't get me wrong! I love a glass of sweet white wine (I know, I know, dry red is so much more sophisticated but I ain't all that) and I am not trying to preach. I am just hoping that through google and my 20 or so readers I will do my tiny part to get this information out there. I didn't know how big a problem "mommy drinkers" had become (has always been?) and it scared me to hear it.

Tonight I won't have a glass because there isn't any in the house. But tomorrow I might. You have one too. But PLEASE be aware! The pressure to do and be everything to everyone is not worth the cost you may be willing to pay.

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Morgan U said...

YOur not going to give me an intervention are you? I am one of those Mommies, not the extreme version, but a wino none the less. I agree that it doesn't make problems go away, but you are right it is a little numbing. Some people go for a jog ( so bad for your knees but great for your heart), I have a glass (or 3 ) of wine (bad for the liver, good for the heart)....I don't see a problem...Haha...joking aside..your not planning an intervention right! LOL, w need a "walk" soon!

Stuff On My Blog said...

LOL I skipped the wine last night and went straight for the Vodka (cruisers, but still ;) It doesn't happen THAT often, which is probably why it mellows me out after the very occasional crap day with teh kids.

joanna said...

No, Morgan... and yes, we haven't "walked" in a while!

Stuff, can I join you next time?

Noble Savage said...

While I think our drinking is definitely something we need to monitor if we feel it getting out of hand, I find it vexing that there is all this concern about women's drinking, with media dedicating copious airtime and column inches to figuring out why we drink and what can be done to stop us, lest society as we know it crumble into wine-soaked dust. I don't see such concern and analysis over why men drink, and they do (and always have) drink more heavily, regularly and dangerously than women. To me, it just seems to be another way in which we use any supposed change in mothers' behaviour to blame them for a myriad of things and bemoan how the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

I see all these articles and segments like "Girls becoming as violent as boys! What is the world coming to?" "Women now smoking and drinking like men! What is the world coming to?" Instead of asking why ANY of us have these problems and what can be done about it, we use men's experiences as the standard (which is deemed normal, or 'just how men are') and then measure women against those standards. As long as we keep ourselves "above" the low standards men have set, we're okay. But the moment we start to 'slip' and we act like people with problems just like men, not moral arbiters and mother martyrs, this is cause for great concern. It's bullshit, as far as I'm concerned.

Drinking too much and for the wrong reasons is a problem for ANYONE, not just women and certainly not just mothers. Where is all the outrage at stressed fathers coming home every day to crack open a beer? They've been doing that since time immemorial but no one seems concerned about it. Sometimes a drink is just a drink and sometimes it's a problem. That goes for everyone, men and women alike.

joanna said...

NS, yes, you are absolutely right. Drinking to excess is obviously a problem for anyone.

However, my point was that women drinking to excess is largely an unrecognized problem that should be bought to light, especially if they are taking care of their children while doing it. It is "unacceptable" for a woman to dislike her "job" of childrearing so she may feel she needs to hide her feelings of inadequacy and how she deals with it.

And women physically have a different capacity to metabolize alcohol. A man's few beers after work does not have an equal physical effect as me having a glass of wine (me = lightweight).

But yes, there are double standards that need to be addressed also.

RaisingSmartGirls said...

Joanna -

I'm one that no matter how bad it has gotten at home with the three closely spaced kids, I never really had the urge to drink.

I've had other urges - like leave the kids at home with the hubby and tell him I'm going to the store but really continue driving to Canada. Or at the very least check myself into a fancy hotel overnight by myself. Never really did that though.

I did for a very brief period of time (like 3 months) go on a very low dose of Zoloft after my 3rd baby was 13 months old. Mostly that was because dh was working the midnight shift every three weeks and I had terrible insomnia those weeks, so I was very, very sleep deprived.

But, even though I have drunk in the past, once in a great long while to excess, I really don't like to drink at all.

What really helps me more than anything to de-stress after a crummy day with the kids is having dear husband rub the knots out of my shoulders (he's got the warmest, strongest hands for the job) while we watch something intelligently funny - like the Big Bang Theory or the IT Crowd (a BBC comedy).

Or if I can't wait that long, he lets me run away to the local Borders where I just get a cup of tea and people watch or read some books.

I've got more of a problem with the coffee consumption though. I can't live without my 2 cup a day habit.