Mama, You Don’t Need Wine
For my entire career, I have worked with mothers. Mothers who are overwhelmed, mothers who are grieving, mothers who are anxious. Many use alcohol to cope with all of the stress.
When you grow up watching the important adults in your life use alcohol to celebrate, you internalize the message that alcohol is fun. It’s no big deal. It’s just the Cajun culture. It’s just what we do! Alcohol companies add fuel to the fire, using clever marketing strategies through commercials and movies to make alcohol appear sexy, and we buy into it because we were taught that alcohol is synonymous with celebration and fun. And then those same marketers and influencers came up with a brilliant idea—validating how hard and exhausting motherhood is, while offering a cool alternative to cope! “Mommy needs wine!”
But let’s be honest here—alcohol is a drug. Alcohol is a depressant. It’s NOT harmless. Alcoholism is definitely not sexy or funny. Alcohol does not make motherhood easier. It certainly does not make us better mothers.
The more alcohol permeates our society—at baby showers, football games, hurricane parties, Mardi Gras balls, and school fundraisers—it becomes more and more accepted. And for many of us, it’s fine. We can drink socially and be responsible.
The line between using alcohol in celebration and using it to cope with difficult feelings is so thin. It doesn’t take a huge leap for our brains to recognize that alcohol causes us to relax and temporarily decreases our stress levels. Maybe we are nicer to our spouses and children—more laid back or permissive. Certain grievances seem less significant. At least until the next morning.
Those of us on the front lines of our current mental health crisis know the truth—we have terrible coping tools. We eat too much sugar, we don’t move our bodies enough, we drink too much alcohol, we spend too much time on our phones—many of our coping tools exacerbate our problems. And mamas—we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to take care of all the things and all the people. We are literally drowning in high expectations. I can tell you that a glass of wine every night might start off as an attractive tool to unwind from your day, but it may also lead to increased anxiety, sleep disruption, weight gain, skin problems, physical dependence, and a plethora of health issues.
If you want to try something different, I have lots of alternative ways to cope with the stress of motherhood!
- Protect your sleep.
- Eat well and drink water.
- Speak to a therapist who specializes in Maternal Mental Health (I highly recommend the ladies at Bloom Mental Wellness). Therapy works and is one of the best forms of self-care!
- Exercise—whether a 15-minute yoga video at home, a walk around the neighborhood, or a local gym
- Get some sunshine.
- Set healthy boundaries with friends, family members, and co-workers.
- Change your environment—go outside, go to the Starbucks or Smoothie King drive-thru, bring the kids to the library or the zoo.
- Work on a puzzle or an adult coloring book.
- Call a friend.
- Utilize meditation apps like Headspace, Expectful (if pregnant/postpartum), and Mindful Mamas.
- Be gentle with yourself—you are doing the best job you can do for your children.
- Use some mantras: “Nothing bad is happening.” “I am doing my best”. “I am a good mom”.
- Go in another room, focus on your breathing, and count to 10.
- Find a church group or support group for moms.
- Substitute the glass of wine with something non-alcoholic—sparkling water, tonic water and lime, etc.
- Take time for yourself—schedule in weekly breaks. Even if just for 10 minutes—to breathe, to read, to have a cup of tea, to listen to a podcast.
- Most importantly: Speak with your doctor if you have any symptoms of depression or anxiety that are affecting your relationships, your sleep, or your ability to carry out the normal functions of your day.
Using alcohol as a tool to self-medicate real symptoms of anxiety or depression camouflages the true problem and leads to worsening symptoms. If you are one of the many mothers who find themselves drinking when they are aggravated, irritable, anxious or can’t fall asleep, please do an honest evaluation of your relationship with alcohol. Are you experiencing feelings that are overwhelming and using alcohol to feel better? Have you ever wondered if you rely on alcohol to cope with stress? Are you drinking to avoid some negative realities of your life? Do you find yourself looking forward to bedtime when you can finally have a drink? Make a plan to incorporate some alternate coping tools and see how you feel. Check in with yourself—what do you really need?
Maybe, just maybe, you don’t need that glass of wine after all.
About the Author
Leslie Theriot Herhold, MSW, LCSW, PMH-C graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Louisiana State University in 2006. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 15 years of experience in reproductive and maternal mental health, including a decade of experience in the hospital setting as a social worker for women’s and children’s services. She has received extensive training in Maternal Mental Health through Postpartum Support International and Karen Kleiman’s Postpartum Stress Center in Philadelphia, PA, and holds a certification in Perinatal Mental Health. She has worked in clinical private practice since 2018, and now owns a group mental health practice with two locations in Baldwin County, Alabama. She provides workshops to nurses, social workers, community agencies, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals. She is a member of the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers, the National Association of Social Workers, and is a volunteer support coordinator for Postpartum Support International. She served as a Subject Matter Expert for a perinatal mental health course for the University of Alabama’s VitAL program. Her first book, Self-Confidence Strategies for Women, was published in the Summer of 2020. She lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama with her husband and two children. Visit her website to learn more.