Mummy’s little helper: How well do you know her?

After the wine started flowing, so did the confessions.

In the suburban book club, buoyed by the intimacy of shared confidences amongst mothers in similar circumstances, the women started opening up about their private drinking habits. A glass of bubbles in the afternoon, a shot of amaretto in their mid-morning coffee, wine in the coffee mug while their kids’ friends came over to play after school.

None of these women actually thought they had a drinking problem, or that they drank too much, and none of their confessions involved more than a glass or two. The embarrassment for them was that they were drinking during the day, having a drink to dull the quiet roar of demanding children, or to break the monotony of a day punctured by piles of laundry and school pick ups.

They are not alone either, in turning to booze to take the edge off a demanding day.

So why the stigma?

None of this is a new phenomenon. In the 60s the Rolling Stones we singing about mummy’s little helper (although they were talking pills not booze). Today wine distributors are appealing directly to the harried mother, producing labels with ‘Mommy’s Time Out’ (‘A Mommy’s Time Out is a well deserved break’) and ‘Mommy Juice’ (‘So tuck your kids into bed, sit down and have a glass of Mommy Juice – because you deserve it!’). Some would suggest that choosing your wine based on its ‘mommy label’ may suggest a bigger problem than just the drinking.

Recently I was lightly admonished when I offered a glass of wine to a friend who popped over in the early afternoon, apparently before a ‘reasonable hour’ to be cracking open a bottle. I was embarrassed – not because she was surprised but because she’s the life of a party, able to make a serious dent in any cocktail menu while I’m making my way through my first drink. If a woman who can party till the wee small hours while I’m comatose on my couch was thinking it was a bit strange then perhaps I did have a problem.

Yet when I was working in a ‘real job’, one that involved wearing suits and a city commute, boozy lunches were par for the course, a way to cosy up to a client or celebrate an office victory. It was an important training ground for me to increase my alcohol tolerance up from being a one-glass-drunk to a three-glass-tipsy. Yet there is something about a mum drinking during the day that screams quiet desperation rather than working lunch.

So does a glass of pinot grigio during the day mean you have a problem? Or is it polishing off a whole bottle over dinner that is a sign you may need some help? Is it drinking every day that carries the stigma or just what time of day you do it? Or does using alcohol as a way to numb a racing mind means that it’s a problem, regardless of when in the day or how much you tipple?

If you’re worried you may be drinking too much you can check out the official Alcoholic Anonymous test

Mihal is a freelance writer from Melbourne living in the Netherlands. You can check out Mihal’s work here.

How much do you drink? What do you think about drinking during the day?

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