Moms, Stress & Rising Alcohol Use Rates
We’re continuing to explore the impact of the pandemic on moms. Last week we discussed the significant increase in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. This week we’re looking at the stress moms are facing and the rise in alcohol use among women.
Why Moms Are So Stressed
The pandemic has been tough on everyone, but women with children are feeling stressed to the max. The numbers say it all; 1 in 3 working women are the primary caregiver for their children. While a number of people are able to work from home, essential workers don’t have that ability. Guess what? 1 in 3 jobs held by women are considered essential; more than three-quarters of healthcare and social work jobs are held by women and more than two-thirds of grocery store and fast food workers are women. To make things more difficult, of the 5.8 million people in healthcare jobs that pay less than $30,000 per year, 83% are women and half are nonwhite.
So what do these stats tell us?
Working moms are responsible for caring for their children and doing essential jobs that require them to be out of the home, which leaves many moms in the position of deciding whether to leave their children at home alone in order to go to work. For the moms who are able to work from home, they don’t have to worry about finding a babysitter, but they are trying to juggle work while caring for their kids and possibly managing remote school on top of it all. At the end of the day, women are left with choosing between their career and their children. So it’s no surprise, almost 1 million women have left the workforce; Black, Hispanic and single moms have left in the highest numbers.
Coinciding with all of this stress is increased alcohol use, especially heavy drinking, among ALL women not just moms. This behavior has been trending upwards for the past two decades, which is a cause for concern.
Alcohol Use Among Women Increased Significantly in 2020
Research shows both men and women are drinking more during the pandemic. A national survey found the frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 14% in 2020 for adults over 30 compared to 2019, however women reported 41% more heavy drinking episodes during this timeframe. Heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks within a few hours.
Alcohol use among women has been a growing concern over the years, well before the pandemic. Mommy wine culture became popular around 2009 when the Facebook group, Moms Who Need Wine popped up. This trend normalized drinking as a coping mechanism for motherhood and continues to thrive today. A quick search of “mommy needs wine” or “wine mom” on Etsy brings up thousands of products from shirts to glasses to baby onesies.
An article from Psychology Today recently examined this trend and said “there is a fine line between responsible social drinking and numbing yourself with booze to deal with being a parent.” So how do you tell if you have crossed that line? Here are some questions they say to ask yourself:
How often do you drink?
Why do you drink?
Do you drink as a way to deal with the stress of parenting?
Do you drink in front of your children?
How often do you drink in front of your children?
Do you drive under the influence with children in your car?
Do you drink when you become upset with your child?
Do you drink with other moms while having play dates with your kids?
Do you drink to calm your nerves around a screaming baby?
The Good News
It seems like women may be seeking help. According to a New York Times article, sober social/dating network, Loosid, saw a 3,000% increase in messages and posts in 2020, rising from 500 in February to more than 16,000 in November. Women have been particularly interested in curbing heavy drinking. The article also referenced a Long Island addiction treatment facility whose medical director said, in his experience, women in their 40’s and 50’s typically account for 15% of addiction patients. However, three months into the pandemic, 70% of this facility’s patients fit in that demographic.
There are also some groups popping up like Sober Mom Squad to support moms in recovery and speak out against the normalization of coping with alcohol. This group of women formed in March of 2020. Learn more about them in the video below.
If you are concerned about your alcohol use, you can take a self-assessment to get an idea of whether your alcohol use may be problematic. This does not replace a diagnosis from a medical professional. To find treatment locally, view our resource guides. You can also find a variety of recovery resources on our website.
Read more about issues affecting moms right now in the New York Times series, The Primal Scream.