Mothers Under the Influence: A Look at History

In the 1960s, a big change took place. Women, mostly stay-at-home moms, began to discuss their lives--marriages, children and family events. As they did, awareness of things never known began to expand. Social awareness of abuse, drug use, personal dissatisfaction, drinking, neglect and other topics began to emerge. This was the revolution that brought freedoms for women that had not been previously known. Women began to have presence in the workforce, politics, education and to achieve goals that had previously existed for men only. Today, women can look back and see this evolution of freedom and acceptance.

To this we factor in the advent of social media. Today there are numerous websites, blogs and pages on Twitter and Facebook where women openly discuss their lives. In doing so, there are many with discussions geared for new and stay-at-home moms who talk about how to relax, given the stress in today's world.

The Pressures of Parenthood

Because of freedoms gained since the 1960s, stress has increased as well. Some moms (quite a few, actually) are single or raising children without a partner, some are gay, most work and juggle jobs, relationships (even dating), child rearing, housework, laundry, carpools, soccer, ballet, music lessons, softball or little league, and so many more events and social engagements than those moms of the 1960s. The pressure to do it well is intense. Even those without careers and who truly do stay at home with their children have social pressures unheard of in the 1960s world of family.

Was Alcohol Relief for Women?

Introduce the relief found in alcohol and you have today's equivalent of what "the little yellow pill" gave moms in the 60s. Reading blogs and comments on Facebook about moms taking a break, and you readily see the underlying (and sometimes more obvious) messages about how to unwind. A common thread flows through the posts referring to drinking times as "wine o'clock," which start to arrive earlier and earlier. One mom, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, an author of several books about motherhood and drinking, has recognized her problem and quit. A vocal advocate of having a cocktail during play dates, she has become as vocal about her problem in her current writing.

A rise in women's drinking trends is recognized nationwide. As more women are being arrested for drunk driving and checking into addiction treatment, there is an increase in college-aged women who report having a problem with binge drinking. Some of the blog sites and websites visited for this article were advocating happy hours for mommies with toddlers and celebrating (over drinks) when breast-feeding was done, so drinking could ensue. Moms talked freely about their daily drinking when babies were napping and the relief sought in the early afternoons when the day's responsibilities were achieved.

Perhaps this is a helpful way to relieve stress, perhaps not. What is true is we see more talk about drinking in this group and the discussion is beginning to show that more moms depend on alcohol to get them through the stresses of child rearing and day-to-day life. This group could use a theme song by the Rolling Stones from the 1960s, "Mother's Little Helper."

When Drinking Becomes a Problem

When it becomes a problem is difficult to determine. Some may binge drink periodically, others may drink every day. When it begins to interfere with functioning and personal relationships, dependence on alcohol is problematic. As focus becomes more intense on drinking for relief and focus on children, home and other priorities is lost; moms may find that their "coping helper" has become an addiction that needs to be addressed. Look for signs of alcohol dependence: loss of interest in other daily routines or practices, enjoyment of only those situations where alcohol is used, increasing frequency and/or amounts of alcohol consumption, and depression or other negative emotions behind loss of drinking opportunities or little pleasure in regular life situations. Check with your doctor or a mental health professional if these symptoms are occurring for you.


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.

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