When Kristi Josephson wants a break from motherhood, she puts on her high heels, rounds up her girlfriends and drinks cosmopolitans at a mod-style lounge on Vancouver's Main Street.
Ms. Josephson, 36, says she spent years at home caring for her 12-year-old son before she decided to let loose at a martini bar.
Getting drunk is not the goal, she adds. The monthly outing with other moms is a way to reclaim part of her identity, she explains.
"You kind of get lost in motherhood."
Mothers have been drinking since frilly aprons were de rigueur . But today's tipplers are no longer content to down a few at the backyard barbecue. In books and online, they're brazen about their boozy nights away from husbands and kids.
They joke about alcohol consumption on mommy blogs such as June Cleaver After a Six-Pack and Why Mom Wants Rum: Therapy on a Budget.
They devour books such as The Three-Martini Playdate and Mommies Who Drink , a memoir in the genre of Sex and the City meets Desperate Housewives . And they chat about cocktails and cursing in front of kids on websites such as Momswhodrinkandswear.com.
Among the most active communities is a Facebook group called Moms-who-sometimes-need-to-go-out-with-girlfriends-&-drink Secret Society.
Founded in 2008 by Audrey Silver, a 40-year-old Vancouver mother, it grew from 10,000 members earlier this year to more than 190,000 in three months.
The Facebook page started as an inside joke, Ms. Silver says, but the title struck a chord with women everywhere. "It says that we like to have fun - we're not just moms who take the kids to school and do laundry."
Popular forum topics include: "If your child was named after the drink you were drinking the night they were conceived, what would their name be?"
Women who became mothers in the age of Oprah and Sex and the City feel entitled to a night on the town, Ms. Silver says. "I think moms are realizing that we need that sisterhood of going out with our girlfriends."
Stuck at home, often for the first time in their lives, some new moms plan their first postpartum bar outing the minute their baby gets the hang of bottle feeding. (They use the "pump and dump" technique so the alcohol won't taint their breast-milk supply.)
Unlike socializing at a kids' play date, going out with other moms is a form of self-care and a way to restore a sense of autonomy, Ms. Silver says. "You're not on call to someone else's needs - it's totally for yourself."
In Oprah lingo, girls' night is the new aromatherapy massage.
For women who spend all day with kids, alcohol symbolizes adult time, says Stefanie Wilder-Tayler, the Los Angeles-based author of Naptime Is the New Happy Hour , and the mother of a four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old twin girls.
After the kids are in bed, a couple of glasses of wine offer an escape from the feeling of hyper-responsibility, says Ms. Wilder-Tayler, 42. "It makes you feel like you're still young and you're still fun."
But Veronica Strong-Boag, a women's history professor at the University of British Columbia, says the phenomenon is a throwback to the 1920s, when for women, alcohol was associated with mystique.
"It's a very dated way of reacquiring one's youth or liberation," Ms. Strong-Boag says. If a mother truly wants to be radical, she adds, "get your guy to do 50 per cent of the housework."
All those jokes about alcohol may conceal a real drinking problem, she points out.
According to a 2007 study, a significant number of mothers drink heavily in the weeks after giving birth. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin surveyed 8,700 postpartum mothers and found that 12 per cent reported at-risk alcohol-related behaviours - defined as seven or more drinks per week, or four or more drinks on a single occasion at least once in the past month.
Drinking is not a good coping strategy for dealing with stressors such as brutal teething and toddler tantrums, health professionals say. For women predisposed to alcoholism, that glass of wine before dinner can easily turn into three or four.
Ms. Wilder-Taylor says she realized she had become dependent on alcohol when she found herself drinking several glasses of wine every night. "I wanted to blur the edges," she says.
Recently, she quit drinking and wrote about it on her blog, Baby on Bored. She quickly discovered that many of her readers could relate.
"I had hundreds of e-mails from people telling me that they never had a drinking problem before they had kids and all of a sudden, they're drinking every night."
Despite all the books written on self-care for women, it's challenging to find ways to relax that feel as good as a glass of wine, she says. "I didn't like taking a bath with rose petals before, so I'm not going to enjoy it now."
But ever since she decided to lay off the sauce, Ms. Wilder-Taylor adds, she's noticed that plenty of moms aren't into alcohol.
The ones who imbibe are simply more vocal about it, she concludes. "They're like, hey - I love to drink, it's cool!"