'Mummy needs wine' culture hides the dangerous true cost of drinking

Why ‘mommy needs wine’ culture is toxic: Author says ‘drunk middle-class white mothers’ are seen as ‘harmless fun’ because of white privilege – while women of color are ‘judged’ and reported to social services

  • Drinking culture has given rise to a ‘mummy needs wine’ mentality, author claims
  • Women are told it’s acceptable to use alcohol to help ‘survive’ parenthood
  • Psychotherapist Veronica Valli warns this attitude conceals the dangers of drink
  • Also argues the way ‘white drunk mommies’ are treated is different 

Drinking culture has given rise to a toxic ‘mommy needs wine’ mentality that makes it ‘acceptable’ for ‘white, middle-class mothers’ to reach for the booze at the end of a day but judges women of color who do the same, an author claims. 

Psychotherapist Veronica Valli, who lives in the US, argues a normalization of binge drinking has led to women being ‘culturally conditioned’ into thinking there is ‘nothing wrong with rewarding themselves with a drink’ after they have ‘survived’ another day of parenthood. 

She notes that the idea has been embraced by pop culture. Social media is full of slogans like ‘kids happen, wine helps’, while parents can buy baby clothes with messages like: ‘I’m the reason mommy needs wine’.

However Valli, who is sober, argues that while white ‘drunk mommies’ are perceived as ‘harmless’, women of color are more likely to be judged and reported to social services.

Drinking culture has given rise to a dangerous ‘mummy needs wine’ mentality that makes parents think they need alcohol to ‘survive’ parenthood, an author claims. Stock image 

‘Cute memes and jokes about drunk mommies are seen as harmless fun when it’s a middle-class white mom,’ Valli writes in her new book Soberful.

‘But how would a mother of color be perceived? Would a drunk mom of color in charge of her kids be seen the same way? How would she be judged?

‘The idea that “Mommy needs wine” is something that is unquestioned for middle- and upper-class white women. Women of color and working-class women would not be afforded the same luxury.’

The author speaks to Grachelle Sherburne, a licensed clinical social worker, who agrees the notion that ‘mothers need wine’ to ‘make it through motherhood’ is an example of white privilege.   

In soberful, pictured, Valli argues society has become too accepting of binge drinking culture

‘If there was an organized group of women of color, socially drinking in a public place with their babies on their hips, the Department of Family and Children Services would be called immediately,’ she claims.

‘As a social worker, I have seen calls being made to Child Protective Services on families of color, but for the same situation, resources, and support be given instead to white families.’

Valli, who grew up in the UK, says she had years of ‘self-destructive drinking’ before ditching alcohol for good. 

She claims the issue of the ‘mommy needs wine’ mentality is rooted in wider attitudes towards alcohol.  

‘Alcohol is deliberately associated with as many positive experiences and celebrations as possible,’ she writes. 

‘Most people can’t even imagine a birthday party, Christmas dinner, wedding, coworker socializing event, school reunion, or weekend without alcohol. 

‘I believe it’s fair to argue that alcohol is appropriate in many of those situations, but there’s an important distinction between appropriate use and required use. We can do all of those things sober without our joy or fun being in any way diminished. 

‘But the distinction between optional and required has been almost completely lost. We now view a significant number of events as inconceivable without alcohol. 

‘We have been persuaded that without alcohol, none of those events can be tolerable, let alone fun. We believe we need alcohol to really enjoy them.

‘What bothers me most is the expansion of events and situations that alcohol is now being associated with. 

The author claims a normalisation of binge drinking has led to women being ‘culturally conditioned’ into thinking there is ‘nothing wrong with rewarding themselves with a drink’. Stock image 

‘I’ve even recently seen yoga studios offering yoga and wine events—because a toxin-laden, dehydrating, central-nervous-system-depressing substance is exactly what you want with your yoga session.’

However Valli says that this attitude towards alcohol is particularly concerning with regards to parenthood, and argues that it is in fact a reflection of the lack of support offered to mothers who are struggling to cope.  

‘This new “Mommy needs wine” culture strikes me as a barely concealed primal scream. Women lack the support, childcare, and community that are necessary to raise a child,’ she writes.  

Psychotherapist Veronica Valli, pictured, shares her thoughts in a new book

‘Being a mother is demanding, exhausting, and lonely. Which makes it easy to buy into the lie that alcohol is the best way to create the connection and relief mothers are craving. 

‘Mothers are desperate to hold on to some part of their former selves because motherhood is way, way harder than they expected. And if they can’t get proper support from their society or spouses, at least they deserve a drink!’

The author argues this breezy approach to booze glosses over the damaging effects of alcohol that can impact children and families.    

‘What I take particular issue with is the dishonesty around drinking, especially binge drinking, which is deceitfully presented as fun and without consequences,’ she continues. 

‘There’s a myth that there are only two camps drinkers: those who can’t handle it (full-blown alcoholics) and everyone else (the majority who can handle it just fine). 

‘In reality, many people drink to excess who don’t fit the definition of an alcoholic, but they definitely face consequences—hangovers, embarrassment, depression, anxiety, spending too much money, loss of opportunities, or the dullness alcohol brings to your mind and soul. 

‘We use our spin-doctor skills to turn our consequences into a humorous story to entertain our friends, while burying our shame, embarrassment, and self-disgust. 

‘We have normalized abnormal drinking by brushing away its severe and frequent consequences. It’s a collective and deliberate denial that alcohol causes any consequences whatsoever to the vast majority who can “handle it”. 

‘Hangovers are shrugged away as insignificant and irrelevant. Alcohol is fun, something we need; it is our right. And it is now being inserted into all parenting activities.’

Soberful: Uncover a Sustainable, Fulfilling Life Free of Alcohol, by Veronica Valli, published by Sounds True Inc, £14.99  

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