by Nicole MacKay, Social Sips
Being a mom is arduous, obviously. Being a mom who works outside of the home is difficult, this we know. And being a mom who works in the wine industry, well that’s an unexpected level of tough. The majority of women I encounter while working in my day-to-day are not mothers. Certain aspects of the industry simply don’t flex to family. Wine is a business, and one that is rarely a 9-to-5 gig.
The most common comment I get about being a wine writer is ‘wow, that’s so cool!’ And yes, my job is cool. I get to learn about wine and talk to fascinating people from all corners of the globe. And then I get to share my knowledge with people who share my passion. But as a writer, there’s a lot of research, analysis, and spitting – lots and lots of spitting. I’m fortunate to be able to attend tastings and events – but to work in wine does not mean that I am constantly consuming it.
That’s where my philosophy on responsible consumption comes in. Because it’s my job and I take it seriously, I don’t joke about counting down until happy hour, even if it’s been a rough day. And I don’t quote memes off the Internet such as ‘caffeine until cocktail hour’. My children are young, so a casual attitude towards alcohol could have a great impact on their perception of my job as they grow older. One day in school, they’ll likely get asked, “What does your mommy do for a living?” I cross my fingers and hope they don’t just say, “Mommy drinks wine.”
Since becoming a mom nearly 4 years ago, I’ve strived to absorb the insights from other moms in the industry. Marketing Manager at Tantalus Vineyards, Stephanie Mosley, is married to the winery’s winemaker, David Patterson. Together they have a preschool-aged daughter. “There are times when we both need to travel to various out-of-town wine festivals and that can be tricky,” she shares with me. Yet, Stephanie shares the silver lining in raising a child while living on the Tantalus property. “When she is older, I hope her exposure to winemaking and seeing the process from the vineyard to the bottle, helps her to gain an appreciation for wine. Also, that we can convey to her that enjoying alcohol comes with responsibility.”
Lindsay Kelm, former Marketing & Communications Manager at Quail’s Gate, shares a similar testament. She hopes that being open with her two sons (aged 5 and 7) will benefit them down the road. “The conversation about drinking responsibly already happens in our household. Perhaps it’s because of our industry, but we make a point of noting the importance of having a responsible driver and not indulging too much,” she explains.
After grappling with a demanding schedule at the winery, Kelm recently launched her own communications company to help take control of her calendar. “There were many days when I would be rushing out of meetings to get to daycare on time. There were also events that I couldn’t attend as they were at the kids’ bedtime. Or if I did attend, and we’d need to find a babysitter, or have my husband change his schedule so I could make it work.”
The most sage advice I’ve received comes from DJ Kearny, this year’s Spirited Industry Professional Award recipient. DJ is a highly respected Wine Educator and Consultant in Vancouver. Her twin boys are now grown, but she clearly remembers the difficulties of working while mom-ing. “My job involves travel, evening work, and constantly trying to find the time to research and read to keep my own knowledge fresh and current. Arranging childcare, missing school and sporting events, and the guilt of being away from home were all things I juggled frequently.”
There’s that word. Guilt. We all feel it in some form or another as mothers. DJ’s words eased me slightly, having faced the ‘guilt-monster’ with her children years later. “I expressed my guilty feelings about being away from home so much to my twins, and they were quite astonished. They told me that they were proud of me and highly aware that I was working so hard to support them. It was the exact opposite of what I had been feeling!”
The balance (or lack thereof) we face as mothers is universal, whether we work outside the home or choose to be the primary caregiver of our children. My struggles are neither unique nor special. But, it’s the added aspect of alcohol that makes my path slightly muddier, at least to me. I worry about my children’s perception of my work, and I worry about their narrative when explaining it to others.
I’ve learned that whether I work in the industry or not, open conversations with my children about alcohol will be a priority as they grow up. Aside from that, I think I just have to worry less and focus on being a good role model. Wine or not, shouldn’t that always be the goal?