Moms are drinking more than ever before. Why, and what can be done?
In her book Her Best Kept Secret, Gabrielle Glaser traces the history of women and drinking along with the astonishing increase of alcohol use among today’s mothers. Women buy two-thirds of the wine sold in the U.S. and consume 70 percent of what they put in the shopping cart, according to Glazer’s research. You’ve come a long way, baby.
Social acceptance of female drinking began after World War II, when women got a taste of working outside of the home. In the 1950s cocktail culture proliferated. Then came the 60s and 70s when things loosened up. About this time, California wine manufacturers pushed to increase consumption of their product by those who did the shopping (Mom). The benefits of wine for health, cooking, and a taste of the continental life were actively promoted.
As women’s education and careers advanced, they were initiated into the same stressful circumstances as their male counterparts, without the same pay or advancement. Women with families now had workplace demands and the lion’s share of housework and childcare to deal with (these trends continue today). And women’s magazines promoted wine as healthy and a slim alternative to other drinks. Wine consumption doubled from the 1970s to the 80s; a good deal of this increase was driven by women.
driven to drink?
Now, the intense drive of high-powered professional women is aimed at the kids. Helicopter mothers compete with like-minded parents to obtain the best sports and school placements to ensure their child’s success. Add in the pressure of having also to be fit, serve unprocessed food, chair the benefit luncheon and have great sex. Many feel unaccomplished, unfulfilled and invisible. Wine is a ready remedy, but at a cost.
Women drink more now than ever before. The negative effects of alcohol—including liver damage, psychological compromise (such as depression) and the increased risk of breast cancer—are significant. Many are surprised to learn that unhealthy drinking for women is more than nine drinks per week and more than three drinks on one occasion (one drink is four ounces of wine, not a Cougar Town goblet).
Treatment options for women are limited, relative to male drinkers. Traditional 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous emphasizing powerlessness are not appealing to women who already feel that way. Moreover, women face more negative stigma than men who admit they have a drinking problem, so going to a meeting is not an attractive option. Fortunately, there are programs now that specialize in treating women, medications to treat craving such as naltrexone, and moderation management programs for women who want to learn to drink less but not abstain (although this is not recommended for everyone). There are also web-based support groups (see sidebar). Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is part of evolving. No woman should feel ashamed if she has developed a maladaptive habit like drinking too much. Change is possible and can lead to the next level of each woman’s quality of life. In the process, the next generation may learn how to handle stress without alcohol.
Pat Blackwell, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist in practice at Pelts Kirkhart & Associates. patblackwellphd.com, 504.581.9333.
Web-based support for women
. Moderation and abstinence support. Online, and face-to-face meetings at the Latter Branch library on Wed. evenings. Moderation.org.
. Secular recovery, online meetings. Lifering.org.
. (Self-Management and Recovery Training), smartrecovery.org.
Women for Sobriety
. Online support. womenforsobriety.org.