#WineMom memes: Funny or concerning?

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-23 23:35:23-04

If you're on social media, chances are you've seen the memes of women guzzling oversized glasses of wine with hashtags like "Day Drinking" or "Hiding from the Kids." While many people get a chuckle out of these photos, not everyone is laughing.

A meme is defined as a funny or interesting picture or video that's spread widely on social media.   They often contain clever captions. With about 70% of Americans using social media, a lot of people see them in their news feeds, but are some of the photos of alcohol use sending the wrong message?

From movies like "Bad Moms" to wine called "Mommy's Time Out," companies are marketing to women feeling the growing stress of juggling demanding careers and raising children. Heather Wendland of Cecil described being a nurse and mother to 8-year-old twin girls.

"Chaos. Controlled chaos."

Wendland said it's not unusual to see overwhelmed moms sharing memes of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as a form of liquid patience on social media.

"Even though I have a little chuckle about it, I will not share it," she said.

"The reality is that it very much normalizes problematic drinking," said Tina Marie Baeten.

Baeten is a recovering alcoholic turned substance abuse counselor and clinical supervisor at the Jackie Nitschke Center. She believes sharing memes of moms overindulging to cope with parenting could be perceived as giving permission to others to do the same.

"I don't think many women are aware of just how vulnerable they are and how at risk they are to developing a significant drinking problem, even more so than men."

The Centers for Disease Control reports that due to body structure and chemistry, women absorb more alcohol and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies making it more likely that women will suffer serious health problems such as liver, brain and heart damage and an increased risk of breast cancer if they develop addiction issues.

Baeten said, "It's a life threatening illness and that part of it isn't funny."

Lisa Schubring, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Prevea Behavioral Health, agrees.

"I encourage my patients who are struggling with addiction issues or even struggling with comparing themselves to somebody else on social media, I encourage them to be off social media."

But for those considered not 'at risk,' Schubring believes the memes can serve a positive purpose especially on the heels of the popularity of Pinterest.

"There is very much this idea that women need to be perfect, and I think that moms are starting to rebel against that and that's probably a good thing." 

With Facebook pages like "Mommy Needs Vodka," Schubring believes it's more about stressed out moms bonding than boozing.

"I don't know that it's having a negative effect on women," she said. "Moms have always drank. Social media is just a platform to put out there for everybody to see, so it seems like it's happening more but I don't know that it really is."  

Baeten sees the growing acceptance of the boozy mom culture in her own news feed. While she doesn't think it will trigger a relapse, she knows after nearly 30 years of sobriety the urge is always there.   

"The further I am from my last drink, the closer I could be to my next. So, I really want to be careful about being too overconfident or cocky or complacent."        

Wendland steers clear of posting images of things like "Mom-mosas" or using the hashtag "Wine Wednesday," because in the digital age, perception is reality.

"I laugh at them, but I also don't want my kids to see that. I don't want them to think that that's really our focus."

A recent study in the medical journal Jama Psychiatry found between 2002 and 2013, high-risk drinking, or consuming four or more drinks a day, rose among women by 58%. Baeten said if that's you, not only is there a potential danger to you, but also to your kids, who may model mom's behavior in the future.     

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem, here are some local resources to get help:

Green Bay -  Jackie Nitschke Center, 630 Cherry St. - (920) 435-2093

Appleton Comprehensive Treatment Center, 3301 N Ballard Rd Suite B - (920) 753-8816

Oshkosh - Nova Counseling Services, 3240 Jackson St. - (920) 231-0143

Manitowoc - Marco, 1114 S 11th St. - (920) 684-0605 

Nationwide: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 24/7 Hotline - (800) 662-HELP (4357)