Of the many universal truths out there, one that resounds with women everywhere is: Motherhood is hard work. Perhaps writer Anna Quindlen put it best: “The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.”
Swap a glass of Bordeaux for tea, and you have Marile Borden’s founding principle for her website, Moms Who Need Wine (www.momswhoneedwine.com). Launched in 2009, the site has nearly 570,000 Facebook fans. (Compare that to Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 36,040 fans.)
The site features tasting notes that fly in the face of traditional wine reviews. To wit: “Tastes like a fancy lemon butter you might get at a fancy French restaurant, the kind you never go to anymore because your daughter doesn’t eat anything that doesn’t involve ketchup.”
But the wine talk is almost incidental. Yes, readers are drawn to the site because they love, say, a good Riesling, but what keeps them coming back is that it’s a forum where women can air the joys and insecurities of motherhood.
“It’s nice to know that other people don’t always have it all together also, that I’m not the only mom who fed her kid Oreo cookies for breakfast the other day,” said Borden, from her Northborough home. Her children are 5 and 8. “There are hair-pulling days, things we’re not supposed to admit.”
After three years of building an online community with members as far-flung as Dubai and Sydney, Borden took the community offline and declared April 5 “Mom’s Night Out.” It spawned 502 Meetup.com groups. And with that, Borden has become an accidental sociologist.
“Someone will pour herself a glass while making dinner, and think, ‘Gosh, I’m drinking alone, that’s a bad thing.’ Then they realize they can go online and say, ‘I’m sipping Pinot, what are you doing?’” she said. “It used to be there were neighborhood groups that go out socially. Moms were working less in those days. Motherhood is a lonely job, but online we can get the support we need.”
Borden, who owns and runs Metal Creative, a boutique advertising and marketing firm, has turned the site into a cottage industry, landing sponsorships from wine companies and creating a partnership with the California Wine Club. Her demographic dovetails with the wine industry’s growing trend of targeted marketing. Recent studies reveal that women buy eight out of 10 bottles of wine in the United States. Little wonder winemakers have begun to develop labels like MommyJuice and Mommy’s Time Out.
“With so many different labels on the shelf, how do consumers differentiate between the brands? More wineries are getting savvy about which demographics to target,” said Ziggy the Wine Gal, a consultant and radio host. “It comes down to common denominators. Women enjoy a glass of wine, it helps them relax at the end of a long day.”
Borden has taken flack from people who say they’re disturbed by moms who need wine, but as Borden sees it, the verbiage is part of the fun.
“We could say we’re moms who love wine, but that doesn’t get to the meat of what we’re about, which is that motherhood is hard,” she says. “It could have been chocolate. Chocolate does the same thing.”
Liza Weisstuch can be reached at Liza.firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @livingtheproof