Mums and Alcohol: Do We Have a Problem?

The topic of women and alcohol has been in the news fairly often in recent years, and female alcohol misuse has become a major public health and social issue in recent decades.  One thing that has been less well documented is the topic of mothers and drinking.  Perhaps because mothers are under-represented in the media anyway, or perhaps because mum drinking is usually behind closed doors, even secret.  Which of us hasn't, even occasionally, thought of that glass of wine or G&T as a little reward after a long, sometimes hard, day with the kids?

We must all be aware of the risks alcohol poses, yet we still don't think our evening glass of wine is a problem.  Back in 1971, alcohol-induced illness amongst women was a third of that male, but by 1981 a government report on women and drinking noted that the ratio was now 1:2, and 92% of women said they drank alcohol at least sometimes.*  The main concern then, interestingly, was on so-called empty nesters, mothers driven to excess drinking by feelings of sadness and loss when their children left home.

In the 1980s the focus shifted to younger women, young professionals frequenting city wine bars, both to socialise and de-stress.  A huge rise in female drinking occurred.  The causes of this rise are many: cultural and socio-economic change; the rise of a wine culture, always a more acceptable drink for women; the increased availability of alcohol, both in more attractive, female-friendly premises and from off-licences and then supermarkets; and advertising campaigns targeted at women and encouraging aspirational lifestyles.  The advent of 'ladette' culture in the late 1990s cemented this change and saw a sharp rise in younger working class, and to some extent middle class, women drinking in a similar way to men.  Binge drinking, public drunkenness and regular heavy drinking became the norm for some.

As young people we are encouraged by peers, and to an extent by society, to see drinking as a rite of passage.  Drinking to get drunk, that particularly British attitude, is seen as funny and drunken anecdotes are shared amongst friends or to boast to others.  When we enter the workplace, there are pub or bar trips on a Friday, followed by drinking with friends over the weekend.  Drinking alcohol is the norm in our culture, and only those who can claim to be driving or on antibiotics are excused a ribbing for not drinking.  Dinners at home mean a glass or two of wine, every night, and when a doctor asks about units, very few of us will tell the truth.  If we are trying to conceive, many women would rather make other excuses than just say we don't want to drink any more, as that is seen as a lame excuse.

Little wonder then that by the time we are mothers (having complained about not drinking during pregnancy!), we are gasping for a drink!  Having spent years believing that alcohol is a means to socialise, to relax, and to cope with the demands of modern life, mums are turning to their regular tipple every day, even several times a day.

Play dates and parties are often accompanied by the clinking of wine glasses, mums talk of 'liquid therapy' or 'Mummy juice' (a US winemaker has even launched a wine called this!), and many of us will think wistfully during the day about that late evening sit down with a cold glass.  But is it OK to be using alcohol as a stress reliever?  When does this supposedly harmless antidote to life's issues become a problem?

Single mum Stephanie Chivers recognised that she had a problem with alcohol a decade ago, and having sorted her own problems out, she launched ichange21 to help others.  She is passionate about helping people get the right information and the right advice to improve their lives, particularly mums.  After all, we're already doing the toughest job on the planet.

Read Stephanie's story about how she got to today, and sign up for her FREE videos that will not only teach you how to control alcohol, but also improve your life too.

Change your habits, change your life.

You can also follow Stephanie on Facebook and Twitter for more great advice and inspiration.

Commissioned post

* ONS (September 2011), Women and Drinking: An Enquiry on Behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security (1981), in 'From underwear to aircraft noise: logging 70 years of social change'

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