The “Mummy-Booze Culture” is this a real thing? Do you think mums are encouraged to drink? Are there hidden dangers that we haven’t been told about? Have you stopped drinking alcohol? These are the questions blogger Rhiannon Boyle is asking in our latest blog post.
Why I’m calling time on the Mummy-Booze drinking culture…
(NOTE – I am well aware this somewhat preachy post will probably make me very unpopular, but hey, I was always the fatty picked last for netball so – f*ck it.)
When I started blogging just over a year ago, I set up a mummy blog called ‘Greatmum Shitmum’ and my tag line was – ‘Greatmum – Baking, crafting and being wonderful. Shitmum – Hangovers, Netflix and being grumpy.’
Mega lolz right? Totally relatable yes? I fitted right in amongst all the other wine loving, gin guzzling – I’ve got a hangover and I’m going to tell the world about it because I’m honest and real, and anyway Mummy needs a blow out because it’s the hardest job in the world – crew. For sure.
Great, I’ll just carry on then. If we’re all doing it, it must be fine!
I couldn’t believe it. Not only were we allowed to talk openly about being hungover whilst trying to take care of the kids, but it was actually considered a right old merry hoot.
Until I gave up drinking that is.
Because part of my going sober this time (it’s the third time I’ve given it a go) meant – reading all the books, listening to endless sobriety podcast and watching lots of Ted Talks. I started reading the many alcohol related research papers and following loads of booze free instagrammers.
It was then, whilst learning about the harmful effects of alcohol and trying to abstain from it, that I started noticing how saturated in positive messages about booze, our society and culture really is. Especially for us mothers.
Mums using booze to cope is a concept, which is constantly being drip fed to us in the media. On our social channels we’re bombarded with funny pictures and quotes like – ‘Mummy’s wine o clock’, and memes showing alcohol as a mother’s must have de-stress accessory.
But is all this just normalising alcohol dependency?
According to the 2010 Nutt Report into the harms of different drugs to the individual, alcohol is the fourth most harmful drug after – crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Scary huh? Now imagine setting up an insta account called – ‘Hurrah for valium?’ Posting a funny quote declaring it was – ‘Mummy’s cocodamol o’clock!’
Makes you shudder right?
But valium and painkillers – which are also legal drugs – don’t even feature in the top twenty harmful drugs list. So in fact, taking either of those as a way of dealing with the strains of motherhood, should be a lot less judgement worthy than a daily dose of the highly addictive, potent drug ethanol.
So is using alcohol as a crutch any different?
Now, before I get mothers jumping in, defending their boozing and justifying their reasons for drinking (interestingly this always happens when I start slagging off the nation’s favourite drug), I don’t actually give a fiddler’s fart how much you drink. You crack on. Maybe you are one of the 64% of women who drink a moderate 14 units or less a week (drinkaware.co.uk). Good for you, I’m actually very jealous.
No doubt I’ll also get people accusing me of mum bashing (always happens too) with angry females asking – ‘Why don’t men get held to the same accounts for their boozing?’ Step down hun. Don’t get your fanny in a flap. I hear ya. There’s a whole other post to be written with regards to equality and how harshly women are judged in comparison to men. I’m with you sista (offers fist for bumping). But for the purpose of this post, I’m just talking about the mummy drinking culture. OK?
Now that’s cleared up, let’s look at some harsh facts. One in five adults – according to NHS digital data – are drinking more than they should. According to government statistics (ons.gov.uk) – in England alone – it is reported that 11% of women are drinking up to 35 units a week, with 3% drinking dangerous amounts (more that 35 units a week). Now maths ain’t my strong point, but even I know that means there are millions of mothers out there struggling to control this addictive and potent drug. (It’s worth noting here that there’s significant under reporting, and so the real numbers are most definitely much higher.)
So maybe you – like I was – are one of these women. If so, you are not alone.
But why are so many of us women drinking too much? There are – of course – lots of reasons, including recent cultural and socioeconomic changes. The ladette movement of the 90s being one, as well as women being heavily targeted by marketing companies in recent decades.
The introduction of sweeter, fruitier, pinker, fizzier drinks in pretty colours and in attractive packaging has definitely increased, specifically to target us females. Over recent years advertising has been carefully constructed to portray drinking as – fashionable, glamorous, desirable and fun to us women.
But what about the mummy booze culture, here online? What part does that have to play? Are we ourselves feeding into the idea of alcohol consumption being a funny, cool, relatable, necessary and normal part of any modern mummy’s daily routine?
Are you guilty of promoting alcohol dependency on your social media platforms? Hypocrite alert! I know I was, with blogs like – ‘Does being hungover make you a better mum?’ and insta posts showing me downing my glass of wine at sundown because I’d gotten through another tough, relentless day.
But is it time to stop and think about the messages we ourselves are putting out there? Is it actually funny or is it all a bit tragic? Irresponsible? Will it eventually go the same way as smoking? Being seen as gross, antisocial, unhealthy and just plain stupid?
Because a record quarter of young British people aged 16-24 are now choosing not to drink at all, and it is in fact the older generation (45-64) that are drinking the most. (digital NHS UK) So, is it time to shine a light and raise an eyebrow at the wine downing mummy dinosaurs? Should the mummy booze culture be facing extinction? Will boasting about mummy’s ‘wine o clock’ eventually be seen as passé as lol-ing over say – mummy’s crack o clock?
And if booze is the only way you know how to de-stress at the end of a relentless day mumming, I’m here to tell you, there are other ways. These days at the end of a tough day I chug an ice cold bottle of Becks Blue or knock up a sweet virgin mojito. I go for a run, have a bath with candles, put on some tunes, call my best friend, practice yoga, shop online (with all the money I’m saving), read, listen to a podcast, cook, eat yummy food or throw on clean sheets, go to bed early and chill.
And guess what? I feel a million times better for it. I don’t crave ethanol anymore (nearly five months in) and I don’t miss it. Are things more boring? Well, not as boring as going to the pub, talking bollocks for five hours then lying on the sofa the next day doing nothing. Been there, done that, got the T shirt and the tattoo babes. If anything, without alcohol my life is fuller and I get so much more done. And no, I don’t feel like I’m missing out because I’ve gained so much.
I can feel huge benefits in both my physical and mental health. I’m a better mum, wife and friend because I’m more energised, thoughtful and present. I’m sleeping better, eating better, I’m less grumpy, less irritable, more patient and my mind is so much clearer. All the anxiety and blue – no, actually black – thoughts that were consuming my head have completely disappeared. And at the risk of sounding like a smug Sally from smugville – I feel absolutely f*cking GREAT! I’m jumping out of bed in the morning feeling excited about my day and optimistic about life, because my friends – I am really, really happy. Without alcohol. Well, well. Who knew?!
So, are all the messages we’ve believed about boozing being fun, exciting and cool all actually lies? Because if life is fuller, brighter and so much better without it, surely they must be. Maybe it’s time for a new message? Time for the mummy drinking narrative to change.
Because I for one, am calling time.
Pictures Gemma Griffiths Photography
**Disclaimer** – I am no expert in alcohol dependency and so if you think you have a problem please seek advice from your GP or a medical professional.
My top three helpful books:
The Sober Diaries – Clare Pooley
The Unexpected Joys of Being Sober – Catherine Grey
This Naked Mind – Annie Grace
Amazing Ted Talk:
Clare Pooley – Making Sober less Shameful