Generally, mums are known to talk a lot. They call for a chat about anything: to tell you a trivial incident that happened at the shops; to remind you to pay your health insurance bill, or pester you to take back a stored box of clothes in your old room. But because mums are so used to helping others and putting themselves last, it can be hard to turn it around and open up a conversation with mum about how she may be drinking.
We spoke with mother, Australian journalist and Hello Sunday Morning ambassador, Talitha Cummins, about why there is a stigma attached to mums who drink and why it’s so hard for mothers to accept that they may need help to change their relationship with alcohol.
“We’re very good at drinking but we’re not very good at acknowledging the problems that come with it,” Talitha said.
“There’s a tendency for people to sweep this issue under the mat because it’s a little bit too confronting. Research shows that women in their late 30s and early 40s have caught up to men on the drinking front for a number of reasons, like women entering the workforce and equality. I also think there’s an extra layer of stress on women who do a lot of the work looking after the children as well as working full time and that adds another layer of pressure. Alcohol is used to relieve that pressure. Too much of relying on that to relieve the pressure creates a problem.”
Talitha described herself as the definition of a high-functioning drinker, a category that we find often gets overlooked by GPs and social groups because they break the traditional stereotypes of alcohol dependency: a bedraggled man carrying a paper bag with hard liquor around the street.
“I would get up in the morning and go for a run no matter how much I’d had the night before. If I could get up and go for that run and turn up to my hair and makeup and present well, then I thought the alcohol wasn’t having an effect on me,” she said.
“I’d still be able to work all day and it wasn’t until I got home that night that I’d start drinking again. So on the face of it, I was still doing my job, perhaps not to the best of my ability, but it wasn’t a problem until it was. Things became unmanageable for me.”
Talitha thought she was the only one who knew that her drinking was getting out of hand. It took an intervention from her chief of staff at work who sat her down and asked her if she was okay, for her to allow herself to accept the situation.