There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.
We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
― Desmond Tutu
I recently heard about an event in Toronto called “A very Mommy Wine Festival.” The more I read, the angrier I got. The website and event page tout things like, “we are giving moms a better maternity leave…join our event series: Mommies that like to Wine,” “Wine/Beer always offered but never pushed,” and ” An amazing afternoon of drinking, baby feeding and having a hella good time with some of the coolest moms in Toronto.” I wanted to email all the sponsors and shame them for their involvement. I wanted all the women in recovery to rally around me in my witch-hunt. Instead, I took five seconds of pause (a second for every year of sobriety). The wise words by Desmond Tutu came to mind: I had recently heard Glennon Doyle Melton share them at a conference called She Recovers in New York City. It is so true. As much as I want to blame and shame “momsTO” and their “Very Mommy Wine Festival,” I need to look upstream and blame and shame the drinking culture we live in.
Let me first start by letting you know that you can survive motherhood without wine and it may even be a better experience. I speak from experience. As the mother of a toddler, I am now 2.5 years in without the elixir known as “mommy juice”.
I understand that not everyone identifies as an addict. But for those moms who do or those struggling to maintain sobriety, this event and group sends a very clear dangerous message: every mom drinks, and drinking is how to get through maternity leave/motherhood. Not only is this a falsehood, it is a big ugly problem. Statistically, female binge drinking has been on the rise in Canada since roughly 2002. To suggest doing it with your kids, as a means to cope with the reality of having them? Well, that is a scary invitation. How many women are going to drive home from the event, or breathe into their young babies faces with their wine breath? How many are going to feel the depressive effects of alcohol, and look at their life, their children, their construct of motherhood as something worse than it is? Sure, not everyone has a problem. But if the addiction statistics are correct, at least 10 per cent of that group could have an issue.
The suggestion that this group could assist in the postpartum depression epidemic scares the crap out of me. As someone who suffered with PPD, I attribute my ability to know something was not right to my sobriety. I was in tune with myself, had the awareness to know I was off and that I needed to get help, and quickly. I called my doctor and got referred to Mount Sinai’s Peri and Postpartum unit, got a psychiatrist, meds and was put into a support group. My psychiatrist suggested that I join a “mom group” to get out and meet some other moms with young children. This in theory seemed like a good idea. But within the first 15 minutes, I knew I couldn’t be in the group I had joined. During introductions, more than half of the members talked about wine, wine events or drinking together as something that bound them. It was shocking and disheartening to me. When did drinking become the only thing we could do together? When did becoming a parent seem so unbearable we couldn’t face it sober? Everything we were going to do would involve drinking. As someone who was then barely two years into my sobriety, it was trigger central. I kept trying to convince myself that I was strong enough and that I was ok to join. The writing was on the wall, for my membership of that group, when on my way to a “social” in a bar, I had a panic attack and realized I was going to drink if I joined the others.
For mothers, PPD is the most common complication of childbirth; sometimes, it sparks a lifelong depression. This is a real, viable health concern. If a mother is suffering from PPD, drinking is the last thing she needs–and more than one in 10 moms are affected.If “A Very Mommy Wine Festival” is inviting them out in hopes of curing the problem, it is being completely irresponsible.