I’ve caught the edges of some discourse surrounding how parents are reacting to having their kids at home all the time. On one side, parents reacting with dread, avoidance, and day-drinking, and on the other, those that say parents shouldn’t be telling on themselves about how much they hate their kids.

I think – I hope – anyone who reads this comic knows how completely offensive the ‘if you complain about your kids, you don’t love them’ argument is. The weight of raising a tiny human into an adult one is heavy; more heavy than two people to bear. Suddenly, not only is literally every support that could help carry it gone, but now just existing is harder. Of course we’re joking through the immense psychic pain of it: the parents are not all right.

But, it did get me thinking about a related phenomenon that keeps coming up: the idea of the ‘wine mom.’ Mothers who self-medicate to endure the drudgery of parenthood is a tale as old as… motherhood, probably, but ‘wine mom’ is a phenomenon I think it’s worth looking at.

It’s not socially acceptable to complain about being a mother. People who love their children don’t complain; it’s hard, but their widdle eyelashes make everything worth it, right? In this culture of gritted-teeth cheerfulness, our complaints have to be couched in this air of irony, this ha-ha joke, this easily-commodified slogan stenciled on wood and sold at Target.

Being a ‘wine mom’ gives a mother 1) an outlet to air their life’s frustrations, even if ironically, 2) a ‘fun’ identity, 3) a hit of hedonism, and 4) a sense of community with other ‘wine moms’, kind of like flagging each other as a safe space to be themselves.

Which makes it hard! What if you’re not a wine mom?! I’m not! But not drinking creates a schism – how can we interact with each other, find each other, beyond the cultural shorthand of wine o’ clock? And what do we do when drinking becomes a problem, not a joke? 1 in 10 children live with a parent who has alcoholism. How do we help each other, how do we look out for each other?

The crux of the problem is, as always, that mothers are under inescapable pressure to perform to impossible standards. Community bonds are poor, stressors like financial instability are high. No matter what we do, we are criticized for it. The language we are using to talk about the weight of motherhood is in its infancy; we have barely begun to walk. Of course people are flocking to one of the only ways we have to express that this shit is hard.

And of course this discourse is being used as just one more way to suppress the unpleasant truth that we’re not doing okay. Because we’re not. The family has been struggling for so, so long, and really, this period of isolation and dread is just bringing it all to the surface.

Sorry for the lack of updates last week – if you didn’t catch it on my Twitter, I was in the hospital! Long story short, my esophagus is damaged from something, and had strictured to the point that no food could pass through, which earned me a very painful, lonely night in the ER. I’m currently fine and in no danger, but we’re still in the whole Process of figuring out what the cause of it is.

Updates may be more irregular, though I’m aiming for one Motherlover page and one How Baby strip a week. You can pledge $1 on Patreon to get strips emailed directly to your inbox so you don’t have to check back, or use a service like Comic Rocket, or you can follow How Baby on Facebook to put yourself at the whims of the algorithm – or just check back on the usual days and see what’s up – whatever works for you! Either way, I’m gonna keep doing comics as much as I can. <3