Has ‘mummy wine culture’ gone too far?

We all love a good laugh, but new research has found ‘mummy wine time’ memes on social media may be harming, rather than helping, our parenting.

It’s the end of a long day and the juggle has been real.

As we flick through socials, we smile at memes with slogans like “using wine to deal with the whine”, “wanting our kids to be good at math but not so good they can count how many glasses we’ve had” and “technically we’re not drinking alone if the kids are home”.

It’s 5pm somewhere, we’re reassured, as we reach for the bottle and get ready to pour.

But drinking alcohol to self-medicate our stress as we white-knuckle our way through motherhood (and let’s face it, life) often does more harm than good, experts warn.

Mummy needs a wine … or not?

A new study by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol Policy Research found some social media sites claiming to support mothers were “actively promoting risky drinking”.

While acknowledging Facebook pages with names like “Mummy Needs Wine” give mums with a chance to “communicate with other women without expectations of perfection and often with humour”, they say there’s also a darker side.

“There’s no doubt women welcome a break from maternal pressures,” says Dr Anne-Marie Laslett, co-author of the study published in the Drug and Alcohol Review.

“But, encouraged by the alcohol industry, drinking is portrayed as a symbol of that freedom, especially through products such as a champagne, a glass of white wine or a ‘skinny rose’.”

And that, the report found, can “normalise risky drinking and minimise alcohol-related risks”.

Not just a fun meme

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Caterina Giorgi says the study findings are not surprising.

“We conducted our own research during COVID last year and found that during one hour on a Friday night, 107 sponsored alcohol ads were displayed on a personal Facebook and Instagram account,” Caterina says.

“That’s an alcohol ad every 35 seconds. And 16 per cent of them were promoting drinking as a way to cope, survive, or feel better.”

While some people use drinking as a way to cope with anxiety and stress in the short term, alcohol actually contributes to anxiety and poor mental health, she says.

New Australian alcohol guidelines says healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and four in any one day.

Sober curious? You’re not on your own

Sobriety coach Mags Sheridan says there’s another worrying aspect to “mummy drinking” memes.

“Parenting is really hard work and can be pretty isolating sometimes and these sort of memes can make mums feel like it’s so horrible they have to escape it somehow, which is a pretty depressing outlook,” she says.

But rather than help, she says alcohol can magnify feelings of isolation and desperation.

And most who stop drinking experience improvements in their sleep, relationships and work performance, Mags says.

“What they learn when we work together is how they can skip the alcohol and still unwind after work and go away for the weekend and sing karaoke and all the other things they used to do,” she says.

“Being alcohol-free can be rich and colourful, not a ‘grey’ life.”

How to spot signs of a potential drinking issue

Experts say signs you may be consuming too much alcohol include:

  • Having a strong urge to drink.
  • Needing to drink more over time to get the same feeling.
  • Feeling anxious about when you will be able to drink.
  • Lying about how much you drink.
  • Drinking while you’re alone.

“There’s a stigma around asking for help, but if you’re starting to question your drinking, then getting help can be enormously productive,” Mags says.

If you are concerned about your drinking, DirectLine provides links to 24-hour, free phone and online advice and counselling.

Written by Liz McGrath