Does Mommy Really Need a Drink? with guest Celeste Yvonne

This week the Mental Health Mamas talk with a mom whose story and honest postings about her dealing with her own sobriety touched so many people that she made it her life's work. Listen in as she talks about her book, It's Not About The Wine: The Truth Behind the Mommy Wine Culture.

Notes and Mentions

Like us on Facebook!
Find us on Instagram @noneedtoexplainpodcast
Follow us on Twitter @mhmamas
We love to hear from you! Email us:


Serena: Hey everyone, I'm Serena

Tina: And I'm Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.

Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you not as mental health professionals or experts in the field,

but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis,

please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources and our show notes and on our website,

Tina: Okay, so we've all seen the memes. ?My kids are the reason I drink? or the wine glass emblazoned with ?mommy's sippy cup?.

Serena: Yeah Uh huh

Tina: Today we are here to talk with a mom whose story and honest postings about her dealing with her own sobriety touched so many people that she made it her

life's work. And there is some pain to purpose.

Serena: Sober mom advocate Celeste Yvonne is a writer and certified recovery coach with over 20 years of experience as a communications professional in corporate America. Her essays on parenting, the mental load of motherhood, mommy wine culture, and sobriety resonates with mothers everywhere and has been featured in the Washington Post, Good Morning America, Today Show, and Refinery 29, among others. She is also a contributing writer to the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller So God Made a Mother. Over five years sober and a founding host of the Sober Mom Squad, Celeste advocates

for mothers who struggle with addiction and mental health. She is a recipient of the Windfelt Inspire Award by the Dry Society Social Club, as well as 2x winner of Red Tricycle's Spoke Challenge for best writing. She lives in Reno, Nevada, with her husband and two children. Celeste, welcome to the podcast!

Celeste: Thank you, Serena. Thank you, Tina.

Tina: So first we want to, of course, thank you for coming on the podcast and sharing your book with us, It's Not About the Wine, The Loaded Truth About the

Mommy Wine Culture. So before we get too far in, tell us a bit of your personal story and kind of what sparked your desire to advocate for those struggling with addiction and mental health.

Celeste: I think I always was a gray area drinker, and by gray area drinker I kind of define it between I wasn't an occasional drinker, but nor was I addicted to alcohol. So I was somewhere in that middle area, and we call that gray area drinking now, but for most of my life, I didn't know there was a term for it. All I understood was there's two types of people, there's normal drinkers and there's alcoholics, and I didn't believe myself to be an alcoholic. So therefore, I'm going to put myself in this box of normal drinker. It all worked for me fine and dandy until I became a mom, and high risk drinking and motherhood just do not mix. Certainly parenting hung

over did not mix for me at all. It was really hard for me to try to be the mom I wanted to be while also drink at the level I wanted to drink, and it just kept coming back to bite me in the butt. But you know, I looked around and I saw my friends, I saw people on social media, it semed like everywhere I want was this pervasive message that mothers need wine to get through our struggles to get through parenting, to get through the challenges of raising our kids. So it just felt so confusing because was I doing it wrong, I'm trying it this way, it's not working.

I just, I felt like I couldn't even drink the right way. Like I felt it was hard enough being a parent, but to also not be able to fully, to parent and drink also felt like I was just failing at one more thing. And I wound up quitting alcohol, it was almost six years ago to the day, almost just in desperation. Just I was at this place mentally, physically, emotionally, where I was like, I cannot do this a single moment longer, I'm exhausted, I'm drained, this is not working for me, I have to try something else. And that was the start of my sobriety, it was the start of almost kind of my reinvention, certainly a refresh on my life. But as I started to live and parent as a sober mother, I started to see kind of the pervasiveness of this mommy wine culture narrative, the challenges it poses for people who, like me, did not drink safely. We were high risk drinkers and how it helped legitimize what could be an increasing problem, not only for us as parents, but for our children. And I wanted to understand what was at the root of this message, because genuinely, this felt much bigger than mothers who simply couldn't handle their alcohol. And I wanted to understand from a mental health perspective, why are so many women drinking,

why are more women drinking than ever before now, in 2023, 24? We know COVID had an effect, but these stats have been going up for the last 10 to 15 years. So what is at stake that more women are drinking than ever, that we feel like we are in this place where it seems like the only solution anybody has to anything parenting related is to drink and laugh it off, and how can we support each other in a better way? And that's really where I started digging into the heart of this book, like my own story, how I got here, and what we need to do to lift the mental load that has so many mothers like me just fighting to survive in a culture or in a community

where it just feels like we have no support coming from any direction.

Serena: Yeah, so let's jump into talking about your book. And so on page four, you say, quote, ?Mommy wine culture was and is a symptom of the larger issue, the mental load of motherhood, a burden born from outdated family norms, traditional roles, and a systematic lack of support for moms.? So you provide a lot of background and history of motherhood, the female roles, and society over the generations. So talk to us a bit about that mommy. So as you said, you know, we've seen the, you know, all the memes and the the optics certainly during COVID, but you're saying this has been going on a long time. So tell us about the mommy wine culture historically, and then how that plays out today.

Celeste: Yes. And, you know, this narrative that mothers need drugs or alcohol to cope is certainly nothing new. It's been going on for decades. You know, most people can think as far back as the 60s to Rolling Stones mommy's little helper. But I've seen implications of this message that mothers needing alcohol to cope can go back to the 1800 and early 1900s. I mean, this is a not an unusual message. And so what is it about right here right now that is causing this ramp up? You know, I think when you look at the 70s and 80s, it wasn't alcohol that mommy needed help with,

right? It was a valium and prescription drugs that we know are more aware of now and have much more, we have more control over from a government side of it. Once we were able to tamper down on some of the misuse and misprescribing of those medications, alcohol really kind of swooped in. And I don't say that lightly. The market research that me and women before me have looked up from a marketing and advertising standpoint shows that advertisers for alcohol companies were specifically starting to target women because they were underperforming in the marketplace. So that's where you see the 90s and the 2000s more of these alcohol beverages being marketed towards women. We call it pink washing

for the alcohol brands, especially wine, but I think about malt beverages too. And now you see that more than ever, you know, things like White Claw. But what really made all of this skyrocket was the massive use of social media in, you know, the early 2000s, around 2010 is when this message of mommy needs wine took off on social media. And it's not hard to see that that's about when most people were on Facebook or Instagram. It was an easy way to spread a message and make it go viral. And that was the message for many years before all the sudden we're seeing the t-shirts at Target saying ?Mommy Needs Wine? and the Etsy shops devoted to these

products kind of just with that resounding message that parents need alcohol to cope with raising children.

Tina: Yeah, so this just for me is about, and it's not exclusive to moms. I just have to say that out loud. I think self-medication is something we do in this country in a way that can get very out of control very quickly. You know, we live in college community. I've lived in college communities almost all of my life. And that is certainly true. And so part of it is getting to the root of what it is that we need, right? So, you know, whether it is that we struggle with depression, whether it's we struggle with whatever. I mean, you talk to us in a previous conversation about

the fact that you had postpartum depression when you had your children, right? And that many people felt like that was the solution was to bring you about a wine or a gift or whatever. And you do say in your book, and I'll quote another piece, ?Alcohol is both a depressant and is known to increase anxiety for new moms. And especially those who might be vulnerable to PPD, drinking wine is pretty

much the worst suggestion you can offer.? And again, that is not exclusive to mothers. So, help our listeners understand that quote by just saying a bit more and perhaps address this mental health, I mean, we are not clinicians. None of us are, right? But the kind of relationship between mental health and the self-medication. And then, you know, specifically for moms of new babies, what are some alternatives? What should, how should we best support them?

Celeste: Yeah. I mean, what a vulnerable place to be, you know, after you have a child, many of us have very little maternal care, let alone paid maternity leave. And from the stats, you know, we see that majority of women in America are taking two months or less of paid or unpaid maternity leave. So, something significant just happened in our lives and to our bodies and to our families and in our homes. And we have less than two months to adjust and bond and make connections with this newborn before it's almost like get back to work like nothing has it, nothing's even changed. You know, when I was doing research for this book, it over and over, I kept reading this concept that it's like, as soon as the baby's born, the care or concern around the mother's needs just disappear. It's not important anymore because it's all about the baby now. And I feel like that's really in the United States, that's how we treat moms. Like, it's not their needs, their concerns, their pain or their struggles are no longer our concern. We just want to make sure the babies

taken care of. And I just, I feel like it just shows in so many of the stories of the woman I talked to in my own story, you know, when I was two weeks postpartum and I called my OB just saying something's not right. Like, I was having intrusive thoughts. I did not feel connected with my baby. I just didn't have the energy to even care. And my OB says to me, unless you are having thoughts about harming yourself and your baby, just suck it up. It's going to go away on its own. And for me, that was not a, oh good, I'm going to be fine. Kind of, that's not what I heard. I heard her say, if you want someone taking your baby away from you, you keep talking about how unwell you feel. And unless you want that, you better shut up about it because there's not going to be any sort of care or compassion in how we

respond to mothers who express those kinds of concerns.

Tina: Yeah, that certainly doesn't seem to be very supportive of our mental health, doesn't.

Celeste: No, it's opposite, right? The opposite response. And it really, you know, I remember thinking in my head, okay, moving forward, do not talk about

this stuff, not out loud. And I mean, no wonder I feel like so many moms are afraid to get brutally honest with professionals because whether it be about depression or PPD, specifically, or even about addiction, like just this overall fear of what are they going to do? How are they going to respond? It makes you want to put your guard up and not maybe say what you necessarily need.

Tina: And that's true in the workplace too, right? Mental health is not normalized. And going back to work for any of us and talking about our mental health, it's just not a thing, right? I guess maybe, I mean, I don't think things have changed that much since I was working in a workplace, but maybe?

Celeste: They try to offer better support. I mean, I know like HR and companies are trying to do a better job about addressing mental health and making safe spaces available through online therapy or hotlines, they can call and just letting them know it's 24 seven available free as part of insurance, whatnot. But it is, it does feel like they're checking off a box, right?

Serena: Yeah, so let's move into that idea of what a better world would look like. So we're going to ask you the miracle question. So we know that parents and moms and everybody needs more support. So if the world were to magically change overnight and tomorrow, moms woke up and they were getting exactly

what they needed in terms of support, what does that look like to you?

Celeste: To me, that world would look like postpartum support, maternal postpartum support for at least the first year after the baby's born, regular ongoing visits, specifically for the mother, you know, we do so many visits after the

baby's born. So check on the baby, but really digging into the mother and not just a quick questionnaire or screening for PPD, but really kind of digging into how can we take care of you? How can we give you a roadmap for what to expect and how to take care of yourself during this very confusing hard time? It would also look like better benefits and support in the workplace, paid maternity and paternity leave is something that the United States needs desperately. And we don't have it. And it's disappointing and it's not all that surprising that we are in such a mental health crisis when we don't support people in ways so vital such as this. But then, you know, I also think about, you know, the cost of child care, which is obviously

extremely impossible right now that puts people in a place where even just having these options of returning to work, putting a child in daycare, there's no decision left. It becomes just a matter of survival. And we're in that place right now with with child care costs. And then, you know, when I think about things that are actually things that are tangible and things we could do today to support mothers and parents in general, it's having a redistribution of labor on the home front. If you are in a partnered relationship, you know, having these conversations even before

the baby's born about how to change the structure and dynamic at home to support each other, because adding a baby to the mix is going to change everything. And we still have such outdated norms around who is responsible for housework and child care and all these things, regardless of whether the mother is returning to work or not. And that needs to get restructured and changed around and quickly, or it can cause not only relationship strife, but it can really impact the mental health of people in the relationship as well. I think about too, just like the mental load

of motherhood and how there are these expectations and impossible parenting standards we put on ourselves and each other about what a good mom or a good parent looks like and acts like. And we need to kind of lower those expectations a bit. They're impossible, they're unsustainable. And for many of us, they put us on this hamster wheel where nothing ever feels like enough, but we're all just running as fast as we can just to not trip and fall. It's just too hard a place to be and it doesn't have to be that way. We have kind of set ourselves up to run that wheel

and we need to slow it down.

Tina: Yeah, so I like the lowering and the expectations for sure. I am a high expectation individual that needs to do it all. And I don't need to do it all, do I? I do not. And I think I'm just going to add this because I think it's super important, especially if you do not, you're not a partnered relationship, right? Asking for help is important. And I think I am a person who is really bad at it. I need to be better at asking for what I need. And I think that's not an uncommon thing. Serena and I have clearly talked about it a lot of times. Being able to ask for the help that you need. And I taught a class and told my students, asking for help is a strength. It is not a weakness. It is a strength. So we need to make sure we lean, you know,

build our community, especially if you're not in a partnered relationship, you know, build your community, ask for what you need. So, so yeah, so I'm going to circle back just one second because I feel like there was a question in there that didn't quite get answered, but you had said in your book, you know, you got a lot of wine when your babies were born. What should we bring our mamas when their babies come? What are the things?

Celeste: Yeah, the best gifts are advice is a great one. But I think about one of the best gifts I received was somebody brought an entire pre-cooked meal that just needed to be reheated in Tupperware that did not need to be returned. I mean, boom, she nailed it, right? Diapers, offers to watch the baby even just so you can go

down for a nap. You know, these are the things that are going to make a difference for a mom or a dad, a parent who is low on sleep, mentally, physically drained, and probably wouldn't mind, somebody to just sit and chat with them and make them a cup of coffee and have some connection time other than just constantly meeting a baby's needs. I feel like there's so many things we can do to fill a parent's cup in those early days and it doesn't need to be wine. That seems to be the presumed gift, but there's so many other things we can do that can be far more fulfilling

in my opinion.

Serena: The shower, that is what I wanted.

Celeste: Do the laundry, right? Offer to change the bed sheets and do a couple rounds of laundry and maybe a gift card to Uber eats. I mean, there's just so many things that would be supportive for new parents that they don't even realize they need yet.

Tina: And I love the connection piece because especially if it's your first, I was home all by myself and man talking to a baby is it's wonderful and it gets to be enough after a while. You need some adult human contact. So we know you are a super busy mom juggling a lot of things and hopefully finding the support that you need. And we all need to take care of ourselves so that we can be fulfilled. So how do you take good care of yourself, Celeste?

Celeste: I think the biggest thing that has changed for me in this part of my both motherhood and sober journey is really listening to what my body needs. When I feel tired, I try to take that time to rest. When I feel hungry, I try to nourish my body. I'm trying to be much more in tune with what my body's asking for and not trying to literally numb it out, which is what I used to do with alcohol, but emotionally kind of dull it down through whatever it is, social media, television, distraction. I see now what I was doing and it was a survival mechanism and it helped me for a long time. But being able to be more in tune and present with what the language my body is trying to communicate with me has far greater

impacts on my mental and physical health. So that's how I try to take care of it now.

Serena: And I just want to repeat that for just a moment because it's so simple and I think we all do it right. You said when you were tired, you rest. When you're hungry, you eat. Like there it is.

Celeste: When you're sad, you cry. I mean, yes. Give yourself that permission. My kids see me cry all the time, no shame. I want them to know that that's a normal natural response our body needs. It's not a mistake. It's something we do to release pressure and tension in our body.

Tina: Feeling all the feels, right?

Serena: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So Celeste, thank you so much for joining us

today and sharing. This is super important stuff and I'm so glad that you're sharing it with the world.

Celeste: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here. It's been such a journey and if you had told me even seven years ago that I would be talking to people about sobriety and motherhood, I would probably have offered you a glass of wine. So life changes. You live and learn and when you find, when you find what's not working for you and you're willing to get curious, you can make a shift in your life to go in a direction of a way that does actually work for you. You just have to be curious and take a chance.

Tina: We love curiosity. So Celeste's book is it's not about the wine,

the loaded truth about the mommy wine culture. We will put a link to it on our in our show notes. And so podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting apple podcasts. Please leave us a review while you're there. We have a lot of awesome reviews and we love some more. Subscribe and please share the podcast with others. You will find more content on our website. No need to explain and you'll also find us on all the socials.

Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while

you're also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks so much for listening.

Serena: Bye.