Mother’s ruin. #Wineoclock. Drinking and parenthood – specifically, motherhood, have a long and not always very proud history. The ‘glass of wine once the kids are in bed’ trope isn’t just a stereotype – it’s a fairly accurate description of evenings when you’ve got children.
The excellent Not Another Mummy Podcast tackled this issue recently; a great discussion covering the nature of alcohol and modern motherhood.
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There’s so much to say on this subject – once you start digging, the two areas are absolutely bound up with issues of identity, reward, routine – that two of the YesMore team, Zara and Claire, both with young kids, listened to the podcast and found there was plenty more to unpack….
Zara works at YesMore and has one son, Asher, who is almost two.
Claire does the PR for YesMore, was once a drinks journalist, and has two kids: Rose, who is four, and Rory who is four months.
The podcast, and our drinking histories…
Claire: So you listened to the podcast. What did you think?
Zara: It was really interesting. Some parts really resonated but others just felt like quite a different experience. I wonder if it’s because of an age difference. It sounds like most of the people in the podcast drink to really get drunk – whereas I can count on one hand the times I’ve been drunk. I’m not that kind of girl.
Claire: How old are you?
Zara: I’m 30. But I’ve never been a big drinker – I enjoy a drink, but I don’t drink to get drunk. I always find myself stopping when I begin to feel like I’ve had a little too much.
Claire: That’s funny. I’m just a few years older than you – I’m 36, almost 37 and wonder if even in those few years there’s been a generational change. I hardly drink right now, but I used to. Going out to get drunk was a standard part of my life for a long time.
Zara: Looking back on uni days, me and my flatmates were quite sensible. We all liked to exercise and had long term boyfriends, and while we liked to have a good time we could always make our way home.
Claire: That’s quite different to my university experience. We definitely got drunk and it was the alcopops era. I drank a lot of Bacardi Breezers, and Hooch. And gained a lot of weight. And then I got my first job post uni, and that was as a drinks journalist. So I definitely had a few years with a lot of alcohol… Do you drink the same way now as you did before pregnancy?
Zara: [LAUGHS] Definitely not! I drink a lot more now. My husband and I go to Majestic and buy a case of wine more often than we probably should.. I wouldn’t say I drink a lot – we go through about a bottle a week, so a glass most nights, and maybe two glasses for my husband. God that sounds like a lot doesn’t it?
The small baby years…
Claire: Was it the same when your son was a small baby?
Zara: No. Now that he sleeps from 7 at night and I rarely see him before 7am. So I feel like I can confidently have a glass of wine, watch Netflix and relax. And if something where to happen in the night, I could still drive in an emergency.
Claire: My son is four months now, but I’ve still not really got back my taste for booze. Which is funny because when I was pregnant I really craved a drink. With my first pregnancy, with my daughter, I could not have faced a glass of anything. Obviously there’s a lot of debate about the safety of drinking in pregnancy, so I’d never have more than a few sips in any case. But this time I really wanted a drink for the whole pregnancy, but never had any.
I even made a list of things I wanted to eat and drink when the baby was out and I think the only food on there was proper sushi and the rest was really specific drinks – Cremant and vermouth and Breton Cider! As soon as the baby was out it all disappeared and I have almost no desire to drink at the moment. I had half a glass of wine when he was a few weeks old and hated it, and I’ll now just have half a small bottle of beer on a Friday or Saturday.
Zara: They do say once you have a kid your body doesn’t want certain things – it’s a protective mechanism. My friends and I joke that it’s the reason you physically do not want to have sex just after a baby – well, maybe just on birthdays, if you have to! You just had a baby, your body feels weird and it’s not even instinct – you just don’t want it. Maybe it’s the same with wine!
Claire: [LAUGHS] I was so desperate for a drink with this pregnancy that I even bought wine ready for when I got home from the hospital! And I just couldn’t drink it. Practically, it’s still not a time to drink much – he sleeps well, but he still wakes once or twice a night for a feed and it’s just not good trying to wake up after even one drink.
Have you had a post baby hangover?
Zara: Yes, once. It was actually after a work party, and it was one of my first nights out since having him. It was such a good night, and I didn’t feel like I’d had that much, and was home before 12. It was a Thursday and I don’t work on Fridays, I felt so awful the next day when I was looking after my son, I felt guilty for not having the energy to play with him properly and I knew it hadn’t been worth it.
Claire: They’re just so much worst post kids – and you aren’t expecting it.
Zara: Exactly! And it would have definitely been as good without drinking so much, because I was with people that I genuinely like. I hated how I felt the next day. I’ve got Christmas parties coming up and I’m actually planning excuses for those, so I can’t drink that much. It feels antisocial when the drinks are just flowing, but it’s not worth it and it’s hard to know how to justify not drinking.
Just a glass of wine?
Zara: What was really interesting was how the podcast made me wonder what is classed as a dependency. I had always assumed that it was when you had drinks with the intention of getting drunk. But it made me wonder if perhaps a dependency is when you feel like you need a drink as a reward of some sort. Which is something I definitely do – though I would never drink if my son was ill, or when he was a newborn.
I wonder whether it would be the same conversation if we had single mums involved. I wonder if it would be judged differently, a single mum having a glass of alcohol most evening like I do with my husband. Society can judge single mums so harshly.
Claire: You can replace it with other dependencies though. Right now I have a bath every night and have a posh bubble bath habit. Pretty lame eh.
Zara: I’d love a bath! But my son shits in the bath so I can’t bear the thought!
What about the kids?
Claire: You mentioned that you’ve never drank in front of your son?
Zara: Well, only because he goes to bed so early… But no, we haven’t yet.
Claire: That’s interesting and brings me to another point I wanted to discuss – how you talk to your kids about booze. So, for example, we do drink in front of our kids, as they go to bed later – so my daughter has seen us both drink, though never drunk of course. But both of us only drink moderately, and only at weekends. I’m not drinking now really, and my husband has maybe three beers on weekends and Friday nights.
Once when she was a small toddler, we were in the supermarket and passed the booze aisle, and she shouted at the top of her voice: ‘Mummy wine! Daddy beer!” which definitely made the other customers laugh, though I felt pretty embarrassed. But now she’s four and she knows Daddy likes beer. My husband actually brews beer and she’s been around him doing that and now helps him sterilise the bottles and things. Which is something I did as a kid – my parents homebrewed beer and wine when i was younger. She knows it’s something for grown ups and that she isn’t allowed it yet.
Zara: I’m a big believer that the more relaxed you are with your kids the better it will be. The more you say “no”, the worse they’re going to be when they are allowed it. My mum would literally get home from work and pour a glass of sherry. So I think that having alcohol around was probably healthy for me. I knew someone whose parents were so strict and is now a nightmare with drink.
Claire: At the moment we’re just trying to model good drinking behaviour in front of her. My parents drank – and brewed – in front of me, but I don’t think I saw either of them tipsy or hungover until I was a teenager, aside from one memorable Christmas hangover for my dad
Zara: I never saw my parents drunk either. I just saw them often enjoying a drink at the end of the day.
Claire: I do worry about the intergenerational rebellion. Like – my husband and I probably drink less than our parents do – but what if our kids rebel and go the other way?!
Zara: I think it’s probably going to go the opposite way. It’s already started. I feel like I’m maybe quite different to the podcast hosts and guests even though we’re just a few years apart in age. I definitely don’t drink like that. And a lot of the younger team here at YesMore are even more conscious drinkers and their attitude towards alcohol is very different to mine, even though we’re again just five or seven years apart in age. They are a lot more conscious of when they drink and the non-alcoholic alternatives available to them.
So as the generations change, it’s going to be about drinking in different ways. I think there’ll be so many more options for non alcohol brands – low alcohol, low cal that it won’t just be about drinking versus not drinking.
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