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Instragrams Soberish Mom

Katie Nessel, Instagram's Soberish Mom, is helping others engage in mindful consumption of alcohol. Photo by Katie Nessel @Soberishmom

Pushing back against ‘mommy wine’ culture

Instagram's 'Soberish Mom,' Katie Nessel, encourages mindful drinking

Maybe you’ve seen a wine glass with “Mommy’s sippy cup” printed on it, and it made you smile. Or a onesie that says, “Mommy drinks because I cry.”

Issaquah content creator Katie Nessel (@soberishmom) used to be a wine mom herself, pouring a glass of “mommy juice” as her reward after a long day of caring for her kids, 2 and 4.

“I was reaching for wine in the evenings because of the beautiful, amazing burden of motherhood that we love — but that is all-consuming,” Nessel says. “That’s what’s at the root of mommy wine culture. Women are exhausted because they have so much to deal with in a day.”

She decided to go on a 10-day cleanse in January 2023 to take a break and reevaluate her habits with alcohol.

Right away, Nessel started sleeping better. Her skin improved. Her anxiety decreased. After a week, her brain fog cleared. She was more patient with her kids. She had more time on her hands.

“The one thing you don’t realize when you drink a lot is alcohol steals a lot of time from you, Nessel says. “I earned back so much time.”

Sharing the message

And that’s how Soberish Mom began.

Nessel started an Instagram account in March to encourage others to be more mindful of their alcohol consumption. The “sober curious movement is growing: According to a 2024 survey by NCSolutions, 41% of Americans are trying to consume less alcohol.

Nessel started posting non-alcoholic cocktail recipes, moderation tips, and reviews of non-alcoholic spirits on Instagram one year ago. Since then, she’s amassed 150,000 followers on Instagram.

Nessel hit 10.2 million views with a reel demonstrating how to make fancy ice cubes shaped like oranges, accompanied by a voiceover about why she took a step away from alcohol. “What is most important to me is that I was able to share with 10 million people what mindful drinking is, Nessel says. “I would never have had the audience without Instagram.”

Part of what she loved about drinking was the ritual, and she still does that, with fancy ice cubes and garnishes. Instead of alcohol, now it’s mocktails with juice or soda, something fun to do together in the kitchen with her kids.

“I don’t want my kids to believe that every celebration, every holiday, every dinner out has to have alcohol, Nessel says. “They see more than we think.

“I just want them to know that life is amazing and wonderful without alcohol.”

(Mom hack: If you struggle to keep your kids hydrated, try fancy ice. Kids looove fancy ice. Get some molds, edible plants, or edible glitter, and you’re in business.)

Instagrams Soberish mom

Ice cubes by Katie Nessel. Photo by Katie Nessel @Soberishmom

A message of moderation

Nessel spent nearly 20 years working in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Part of her job was planning huge tasting events. “I never thought twice about the amount of alcohol I was drinking because it was so normalized in our society, she says.

She went from 15-plus drinks a week to one or two. Or even zero.

“Once that veil had been lifted, I can never go back. I’ve seen the other side, Nessel says. “I still do drink occasionally. It’s just moderation.”

Mommy wine culture

You’ve seen the memes:

“Boxed wine is just a juice box for mom.”

Or, “Motherhood: powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine.”

The message here is that moms need wine to get through the day.

“It’s everywhere, Nessel says. “It takes a lot of courage to say, I don’t want to live my life that way.”

For years, Nessel put off cutting back on drinking because she thought she had to be completely sober, all or nothing. And she did a poor job talking to loved ones in the beginning because she felt embarrassed.

“There’s so much shame around that, Nessel says. “You’re labeled as you have a problem. You need to get help. Go to AA.”

Soberish mom

Non-alcoholic selection. Photo by Katie Nessel @Soberishmom

Not doing it alone

Questioning your relationship with alcohol is still somewhat taboo, Nessel says, and her goal for Soberish Mom is to be a community where people don’t feel they’re alone.

“If you are struggling, or you are feeling like maybe alcohol is holding you back in certain areas of your life, you owe it to yourself to at least try, Nessel says. “At least try to give yourself a chance to experience life without alcohol. This doesn’t have to be forever.

“You might be just shocked at how good you’re feeling.”

Read more:

Parents in Recovery: Worth the work

About the Author

JiaYing Grygiel

JiaYing Grygiel is a photographer and writer in Seattle. Find her on Instagram @photoj.seattle and at photoj.net.