With two-hour long bath times, surprise crayon murals on the living room wall and--God forbid--colic, motherhood is arguably a dish best served with a chilled glass of chardonnay.
"Four-thirty is the witching hour when all hell breaks loose,” said Marile Borden, a mother of two from Boston and founder of the Momicillin Publishing group. “You’re trying to cook dinner and help your 7-year-old with homework, your 4 year-old wants a snack… Sometimes you need to kick your feet up and have a glass of wine.”
In 2009, Borden created a “Moms Who Need Wine” Facebook page and website as a "personal experiment." Now that the Facebook page has accumulated over 400,000 fans, Borden knows she’s not alone in her sentiment. The Facebook group “OMG I so need a glass of wine, or I’m gonna sell my kids” has a similar history. On a particularly long day as a work-from-home mom, founder Christine Trice started the "borderline taboo" group for some friends. She accidentally made the page public and three minutes later, she says, it had 900 “likes.”
These popular sites serve as a virtual mother’s group where moms with a sense of humor vent about day-to-day parenting issues. One “Mom Who Needs Wine” recently asked the group if she was the only one who had ever served her child Oreos for breakfast. (The Answer? Oreos are a kind-of justifiable food group.) On OMG, one mom declared, "it's probably going to be a long summer when you look at a bottle of wine & think about making homemade popsicles with it."
But more than just a place to kvetch, these groups also provide a forum for mom wine connoisseurs who enjoy debating the merits of Malbec versus Merlot. “We’ll specify and send out invitations to toast each other at the same exact time across the globe and discuss wines,” Borden said.
Social media plays a big role in the wine-loving moms’ online meetups. The SocialMoms online community has a Twitter Wine Moms group which hosts monthly online wine tasting parties where women sit in front of their respective computer screens to drink and tweet in wine-loving solidarity.
While mothers indulging in a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed is hardly a new trend, two wine companies are marketing specifically to this demographic.
In their respective ad campaigns, the brands "MommyJuice" and "Mommy's Time Out" both evoke the notion that mothers have earned the right to a drink. "Tuck your kids into bed, sit down and have a glass of Mommyjuice. Because you deserve it," reads the back of the “MommyJuice” brand's label. Its front displays a Buddha-like woman juggling a teddy bear, a house and a computer. Mommy's Time Out, which features an empty chair facing a corner, wine bottle in reach, reads, "You Deserve a Break..." Both cost under $10 a bottle.
Vintners aren't solely targeting mothers. Many brands market specifically to women with illustrated labels such as "Mad Housewife," "Girls Night Out" and "Bitch." Mazzetti d'Altavilla's Essentia Vitae even sells a perfume shaped wine bottle for the female audience.
Given recent studies indicating that women purchase 77 percent of the wine in the United States, wine industry experts say that it makes sense to market to the mom audience.
"There is no difference between a man and a woman's palate," said Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine. "[For women], it is less about the style of the wine and more about how we use it in our lives ... less about stocking the cellar and more about what's in the cabinet." According to Scrocco, the women's market isn't primarily concerned with collecting, but focused on consuming.
The competition for the “Mommy” title is heating up among vintners. In late April, New Jersey-based Mommy's Time Out notified Clos Lachance Wines, the California parent company of MommyJuice, saying their use of the word "Mommy" unfairly infringed on their registered trademark. A MommyJuice spokesperson said, "There is no more common word than mommy," and the company is letting a San Francisco Federal Court decide if there was a violation.
Disputes surrounding the wine, however, are not limited to the trademarks, as people question whether "mommy" wines empower or demean women, and if they are potentially dangerous.
Alcohol and drug addiction expert Dr. Howard Samuels is disturbed by marketing any form of alcohol to young mothers. Samuels runs an addiction treatment center in Los Angeles and has worked with mothers who turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress of raising children.
"Young mothers are already under so much pressure and stress concerned with having a baby," Samuels said. "They are isolated, hormonal and sleep-deprived since they have to wake up every three to four hours to nurse ... And we want to teach them and their children that the way to relax is through alcohol? “
The negative backlash of an overly laissez-faire attitude towards drinking is perhaps exemplified by blogger Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of "Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay" and "Naptime Is the New Happy Hour." In May 2009, Wilder-Taylor acknowledged that her embracing of the mommy cocktail culture essentially hid her drinking problem. In an interview with the New York Times she admitted: “I’d write, ‘I’m a few glasses in on this post.’ And the blogging mommies would comment: ‘Woo-hoo! Over here in Wisconsin, just polished off a bottle, too.’ I found kinship in that.”
According to Dr. T.J. Gold, a New York pediatrician, the most frequent question she hears from moms at their infant’s one-week well visit is if it’s safe to drink alcohol.
"A lot of women will stop breast-feeding because the restrictions [with regards to drinking] are not acceptable to them," Gold said.
Gold says that there is no proof that one or two glasses of wine are incompatible with breast-feeding, although mothers should wait 30 to 90 minutes after having a drink before continuing to nurse.
“[Drinking] is one of the most common social customs in the world,” Gold said. “I assess the motivation for why the question is being asked and establish the need for moderation.”
MommyJuice founder Durzy and spokesperson for Mommy's Time Out Mike Cicotta insist that their beverage labels stress the importance of moderation.
"Wine has been used to relax and unwind, and no one deserves that more than a mom. Sit down with toddlers for a few days and you'll get it," Durzy said. "It also says clearly on the label to put your kids to bed before you have a glass."
Durzy continued: "People have been marketing to men for years. If it's ok to give Dad a beer after work but not Mom, that kind of screams sexism to me."
"I think it's brilliant and about damn time," said Trice, founder of OMG I So Need a Glass of Wine. "The wine industry as a whole is very male-dominant, but this is refreshing and… branded towards me."
Although Trice said that having older children means she isn't sneaking wine on the playground with friends, she will host mother-daughter dates in which the kids eat popcorn and watch a movie while the moms drink wine. She also believes that "mommy wines" have the potential to open up the wine appreciation world to newbies.
Cecile Giannangeli, president of finewine.com, has taught wine tasting classes to stay-at-home moms and chooses wines for women’s book clubs -- which sometimes resemble wine clubs by the end of the session -- for decades. Passionate about elevating women's knowledge of wine, she finds brands with "mommy" on the label demeaning.
"You don't see them using Daddy," Giannangeli said. "There's no reason why a woman shouldn't be able to buy a $10 bottle of chardonnay. Don't dumb it down!"