An Open Letter to Heidi Montag Puts Mommy Drinking Culture on Blast

A mom in recovery calls out actress Heidi Montag and "mom wine culture" in an open letter. Do you think she has a point or does she miss the mark completely?

Heidi Montag drinking on the beach with her son
Photo via @heidimontag on Instagram

Wine culture is all the rage these days – especially among moms.

I can’t remember the last time I walked into a store and didn’t see some sort of wine décor with a “cutesy” message like “I cook with wine, and sometimes I even add it to the food.” Heck, if you check Etsy or Wayfair you’ll even find purses with built-in wine dispensers.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of a glass of vino every now and then, but the prominence of wine culture has been on my mind for quite some time. I mean, yes, moms are adults and they don’t stop being adults when they have kids. But is a couple of glasses of wine a day acceptable (i.e. healthy) or is it borderline alcoholism? And what kind of example is it setting for our kids?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to these questions. I’m a journalist, not a doctor or health care professional. That said, my ponderings don’t seem to be that unfounded or ridiculous.

In fact, Emily Lynn Paulson – a long-term member of the recovery community, certified professional recovery coach, author, speaker and mom of five – had a lot to say when she saw a photo posted on Instagram by actress and singer Heidi Blair Montag.

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The image shows Montag sitting on a log at the beach in a glamorous power-blue dress. Her golden blond hair is styled with luxurious curls and her eyes are closed as she drinks from a champagne bottle. Her son is sitting next to her in shorts and a T-shirt staring at his mom’s gown.

She captioned the photo simply, “Mood.”

The photo racked up nearly 20,000 comments, many of which were supportive. There were plenty of hearts and lighthearted notes about parents with toddlers need to drink from the bottle and that “it shows that motherhood isn’t always perfect.”

Paulson, who has been sober since January 2017, had quite a different take.

“Oh, Heidi. This is so irresponsible,” she wrote in an open letter to Montag. “With nearly 1 million followers, you have an obligation to tell a better story about parenthood and being a woman. No doubt, this is setting a terrible example for the child you are raising, but that’s your choice as a parent.”

She continued that while Montag has the right to drink, she has a larger responsibility to her followers who may use a photo like this to “justify problem drinking” and that “drinking out of a bottle on the beach within reach of your child is a problem.”

She argues that if you replaced the bottle with a cigarette or a bong, it likely would have never been posted – and that, as a society, we’ve “conditioned ourselves to believe that alcohol is a required accessory to parenthood” and that “we need alcohol to ‘survive’ our kids.”

And I think she has a point. Back in September, Today ran an article that explained that alcohol use is increasing among women – especially moms. This is concerning because too much alcohol can increase the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and breast cancer among women. Women are also more vulnerable to brain and heart damage.

Like Paulson, this article points out that the “wine mom” narrative on social media can make it seem like drinking large amounts of alcohol is harmless when it can indeed cause damage and even death. Not only that, recent studies have found that even moderate drinking upsets kids.

That said, I don’t think that moms need to cut wine out completely (though some studies suggest women could get a big health boost from cutting out the alcohol). Parenting is tough – life is tough – and a glass of wine (or champagne, beer, whiskey, whatever) can take the edge off of a bad day. However, I do think we should take a step back and take a closer look at the way we treat wine.

At the end of the day, wine is not water or orange juice. It’s an alcohol, it’s addictive, it can be harmful and it should be used the same as anything else – in moderation.

Do you partake in mom wine culture? Do you think it could be damaging to our kids and ourselves? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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