What’s wrong with the mummy wine culture?

Last week, in the first part of this post, I looked at the reasons that mums feel they need to drink. This second part will look at what the mummy wine culture is and why people are beginning to question it. Next week I’ll look at why mums really do not need to drink and finally how we can thrive as mums without wine.

I need to make it clear from the very beginning that this is not a post judging or criticising anyone or anything. I was so firmly in the mums needs wine camp and I struggled long and hard to get out of it and to work out how to function as a mother without it. Please don’t feel got at, criticised or attacked my anything I say.

One Year No Beer, a group that really helped me when I was trying to quit (the successful time!) talks about the shamed lonely drinking mums. The ones who believe they have a problem but feel alone and too guilty or ashamed to reach out for help. 

If this is you, I want to show you with this post that there is another way. It is possible to cope with everything parenting throws at you without alcohol, AND most importantly, you can be happy doing it!

What is it?

It is pretty much impossible to escape the mummy wine culture that has been floating around for a good few decades now. Initially starting with red wines, moving onto the chardonnays, pinot grigios, proseccos and now the ever-present gin. Mummy wine culture is not limited to one country. A simple internet search will flag up articles from all over the world highlighting the prominence of the mummy wine culture across the globe. 

Nor is this a new phenomenon. Pictures, books and films throughout the last few centuries have shown women drinking gin, martini, wine and even laudanum with the accompanying euphemisms – mother’s milk, mother’s friend, mother’s ruin and most recently, mummy juice.

Nowadays, those in the mummy wine set are generally educated, capable mothers who are wine/gin appreciating connoisseurs, drinking as a means of relaxation and socialisation while sustaining a high octane, high achieving existence. 

As I said, I was fully in the mummy wine camp. Don’t get me wrong, I started drinking way before I had children, but the mummy wine culture was there, waiting to welcome me when motherhood arrived, and I was more than ready to fall into it.

Wine o’clock

Wine o’clock was 4/5 pm. Boys back from school, homework, starting to cook, children wanting attention, squabbling together. These few hours seemed endless and hard. Getting children to do homework or read, eat without complaining, have baths without flooding the house, get ready for bed and then actually go to sleep – aaahhh! Wine soothed it all and made it feel manageable.

Many people say they don’t start drinking until the children are asleep but most wine mummies I have seen, just about reach the 5pm mark. To be honest, I think I would have drunk at those times anyway (wine after a hard day at work?), but I was very willing to be convinced that I deserved/needed a drink at wine o’clock!

Why is it so talked about now?

Support

The wine mummy culture taps into the fact that parenting is lonely and hard and offers what all mothers need – SUPPORT!

The mummy wine culture became more talked about since mothers started to open up about how hard parenting is. This allowed others to come out of the woodwork and say, yes! I find it hard too! People opened up about having a drink to relax after a hard day with the children, and social media exploded with people saying – Hey I drink after a hard day with children too!

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Marketing

With social media buzzing and books being published about drinking to cope with children, the marketing people had a field day. It is hard to find anything mummy related now that doesn’t have a more than generous smattering of mummy wine references. Bottled sized wine glasses with ‘Wine o’clock’ emblazoned across the front. Wine glasses for new mothers saying ‘I’ve waited 9 months for this’. Tumblers with ‘Mommy Juice’ printed on them. ‘Emergency mum fuel’, ‘Goodnight kids, hello wine’. ‘Mummy’s medicine’, the list goes on and on. 

I have had more mummy wine birthday cards than I’d like, but they also made me feel safe. Everyone was saying drinking to cope was normal, so what I was doing was acceptable – all mothers need wine to cope. 

But, with the explosion of honesty about mummy wine, come the questions about what the mummy wine culture is actually telling us.

Mummy wine backlash

Honesty?

The honesty that came with the mummy wine culture allowed people to unburden and show the reality of coping as mother, so people could feel they were doing OK. Mummy wine culture allowed people to get the essential support they needed, so what is there to question?

The problem is that it can be hard to speak up when you start to worry about your drinking because you don’t want to break the camaraderie and the sisterhood. If you are not drinking, it’s considered odd. If you say you’re are worried about your drinking you’ll get the dreaded ‘are you an alcoholic’ questions, followed by the reasons that the other person isn’t. Suddenly your support mechanisms are collapsing. So much easier to keep going. Please don’t think I am being judgy because I promise I am not. I have been the giver and receiver of such comments, it is what alcohol does.

Change

Thankfully, things do seem to be slowly changing.  Many people have begun to question and reject the idea of the mummy wine culture. Articles, books, blogs and social media accounts now abound saying – whoa! I think this might not actually be the best coping strategy! Clare Pooley was one of the first to bravely open up about her drinking in her blog about her first year sober. Having realised that her drinking had got out of control, she quit drinking but in her first year sober she was diagnosed with breast cancer (thankfully now cancer free).  This is now a book called The Sober Diaries and can be found with this link.

Other good book in a similar vein are The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and The Sober Revolution.

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I am not going to go into facts and figures about increasing numbers of female drinkers for a few reasons. I think statistics like this are often utterly inaccurate. It is well known that doctors double the amount of alcohol patients say they consume. Like I said in my previous post, people either don’t want to be honest about how much they are drinking, or they don’t know how much they are drinking. However, even with dodgy statistics the medical profession is saying that middle aged to older women are now drinking far more than advised and they are worried about it.

Problems with drinking as a mum

Physical Health

The health effects for a woman drinking are unfortunately far worse than they are for a man drinking the same amount. Our bodies just can’t tolerate it the same way. It increases our risk of a whole host of rather nasty health problems from neurological issues, to heart disease and cancers.

The other problem is that by drinking and enduing hangovers, the time and energy that we could spend on exercise and looking after our bodies is gone. As exercise is amazing for physical and mental health it’s definitely a reason to start questioning the advisability of using wine to cope!

Mental Health

Another health problem related to the over consumption of alcohol is mental health. In Why do mums drink?, I mentioned that mums often develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Being a mum is hard enough (See Mental Load comic!), it is stressful and exhausting. You then add to that loneliness, the feeling that you can’t ask for help, the feeling that you are failing when presented with happy social media images, the frustration of your expectations, the high expectations that you place on yourself and the general all-consuming MUM GUILT.

The conundrum is, that most people don’t realise, until they stop drinking, that by drinking to cope with being a mum, you are 100% exacerbating and sometimes creating your mental health problems. It’s funny, I just did a search in my own blog website to find the posts where I had written about anxiety to give you more details, and every single post came up!! I think that proves the impact of quitting drinking on my anxiety.

Over the years I suffered from depression, post-natal depression and anxiety. Anxiety to the point I couldn’t leave my house. When I was bad, the only thing that would give me temporary (very) relief, was drinking. What I realised when I quit, was that alcohol was the cause of my anxiety. In the last 16 months sober, my anxiety has all but disappeared. That’s not to say it doesn’t rear its head sometimes (see Furious Sober Yoga Mummy), but it is never as bad, always temporary and always manageable.

Normalisation

One of the things that worried me most, and I’ve seen other mums worrying about it, is the effect the mummy wine culture has on our children. I’ve always been terrified that The Bear will think drinking is totally normal and it will have horrendous repercussions for his diabetes when he’s older. I was particularly struck by this a few years ago. My niece, then 15, and I had a shopping dates in town. Unfortunately, my childcare didn’t go to plan so my eldest two and my younger niece had to come along for the trip. We had a good trip but obviously shopping with children in tow is exhausting! Later than evening my niece put up a social media picture with her drinking something out of a wine glass (I think it was OJ!) saying: ‘Shopping with children, now I need a break’. I thought ‘Aaahhh!’ What are we doing? She doesn’t even have children yet or understand the full load of parenting/adulthood but the message there is already, alcohol will help you cope!

Time

This is so important. Just take a minute to think about the amount of time that you use when drinking. That first blissful fuzzy 10 minutes that blurs out the stresses, strains, emotions and whatever else we’re hiding from is followed by how many hours of nothingness (except maybe fighting, shouting, tears and anxiety).

What could you be doing with that time?

I am definitely not talking about doing more of the mummy stuff! We pretty much stay sober enough to do that anyway. I’m talking about that stuff that could actually nurture you enough to make you feel that you can cope without the booze! I talk a lot about this in my next post, but for now I’ll just mention a few things.

Use your time wisely

Exercise, in whatever form you enjoy it, is literally a miracle drug! Everything you get from alcohol you can get from exercise – and a whole array of other positive benefits. You need to make exercise your habit instead – See How to stop alcohol cravings for how to do this. Realistically you only need 30-45 minutes decent exercise a day and you will feel the positive effects for the next few days. After that 30-45 minutes there is no guilt, no shame, no anger and tears and no wasting hours!

Exercise also improves your mental health. When I took antidepressants, that doctors told me I needed to use them to get to a place where I felt strong enough to make permanent changes in my life, then I could come off them and those changes would help me from falling back into depression. It worked at the time but it is very easy to slip back into old negative thinking patterns when things get hard and no one wants to be on antidepressants for ever! I honestly found regular exercise as good as antidepressants. When things are hard and just for maintenance, use exercise to boost yourself so that you feel strong enough to tackle whatever issues are currently bringing out down. Sign up for my free 7 day email course below to find out how to start feeling better about yourself.

You will now have a little bit of extra time because after your 30-45 minutes exercise, you are sober and feeling great, so no time wasted being drunk and miserable!

You can use this time to start the positive life changes you need.

You need to use that time to focus solely on you? Relax, do something you enjoy, nurture yourself to give yourself that energy you need to handle this mummying stuff! 

There is a piece of advice I give regularly because it has worked for me so many times and it is amazing! It will help you tackle your frustrations when they rear their heads, and will help you to let go of your expectations that are causing so much stress.

We cannot change the past and we cannot change the future. The only thing we can change is the now. Things are as they are, fighting against that will only cause you pain and ultimately make no difference to your situation at all. All you can do is accept your situation, say thank you for the things that are good, and work out what you can do now that will help you to get the future that you want, even if you can’t have this future now. 

Once you accept your present and stop fighting, the universe steps in and you will be amazed how things start falling into place (See Change your thoughts to change your life for more on this).

Please believe me when I say I know exactly how hard that can be. But I have put myself into depression by fighting my life and I have brought myself out by accepting. In my times of acceptance, I have met My Love, the best, kindest, most supportive and loving person that I know; I have found my love of Yoga; I have retrained; I have accepted that I am a self-sufficient wanderer and need to work for myself; I have started this blog and I have become sober.

In these times I have been a better, happier, kinder person.  It is a constant work in progress, but I have no doubt that, with consistent practice, I will learn to truly live in the present.

To read more on how to learn to live in the now, my favourite book is the Power of Now by Echkart Tolle which you can buy by following the link.

To read more on how to learn to let go of your expectations and allow the world to work for you, my favourite book is the The Seven Secrets of Spiritual Success by Deepak Chopra.

It is a problem

Most mums don’t hit rock bottom. Most mums continue to function as mothers, wives, friends and part of the community every day. But many of them do it with the constant knowledge that their drinking had taken on a life of its own and they no longer feel in control of their lives. Balancing on the knife edge of just being OK with the knowledge that rock bottom, depression, collapse and burn out could be on either side of this blade. Often these fears keep us drinking.

Rock bottom is not a place you need to reach before you take back control.

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