Why, When We Have Children, Does Our Attitude To Alcohol Become So Tribal?

Anne Hathaway has vowed to quit drinking until her son turns 18. But as Alexandre Holder discovered, once you're a mother, your decision to drink or not places you firmly into one of two camps...

Anne Hathaway

by Alexandre Holder |
Updated on

Anne Hathaway has given up drinking. ‘For eighteen years’ she told Ellen De Genres, ‘I’m going to stop drinking while my son is in my house just because I don’t totally love the way I do it.’ Apparently it was a bad hangover that did it for Anne. ‘I did one school run one day where I dropped him off at school,’ she said, ‘I wasn’t driving, but I was hung-over and that was enough for me.’ I get it Anne, I have sworn off drinking so many times since becoming a mum because there really is nothing that makes you regret over doing the Aperol Spritzes like a 6am toddler ‘Why?’ marathon.

But I’m secretly glad I’ve never quite stuck to my promise because, and I realise that I’m putting myself up for the wrath of mumsnet by saying the next sentence, but sometimes having a drink makes me a better parent. I’ve found playing a repetitive game of stack the Jenga blocks with a toddler is easier with a glass of wine to hand. I find it hard to admit this fairly innocuous behaviour because mothers are meant to be flawless. It feels un-motherly to acknowledge that den building doesn’t set my world alight and that something alcoholic can take the edge off the boredom of two-piece jigsaw.

The most annoying thing about Anne Hathaway’s words is that they come with a judgement that I doubt Hathaway had any intention of making. This is the most ridiculous thing about modern day parenting – how you parent should be just how you parent, but it isn’t, how you parent is a judgement on how other people parent. If I invited another mum over for a glass of wine and she said ‘I don’t drink’ I’d like to think I wouldn’t feel judged, but deep down I know I would. Perhaps that’s the reason alcohol has become almost tribal with mums, rightly or wrongly it’s become almost short hand for ‘I’m a fun mum’. I don’t own a fridge magnet that says ‘Hurrah for Gin’ nor do I ever use the phrase ‘Prosecco o’clock’ but I am a mum who drinks occasionally and that places me firmly in a certain camp of mum.

Since my son came along I have thought about my drinking a lot mainly because it’s just not something I can do casually any more, it requires strategizing. For one, as Anne found out, there are no positives to having a toddler and a hangover, this makes me short, sharp and anxious, the worst kind of parent. I now save real drunkenness for when my son is staying with his grandparents. And l never drink on flights because all l want to do after a beer in an airport is snooze on the plane and that's not an option with a kid to entertain and sticker books to complete. But still there are plenty of times when alcohol doesn’t clash with my family life – it provides the ultimate bonding ease with other mums and spending an afternoon with friends drinking Prosecco while our kids run around a garden is genuinely a highlight of my week - everyone goes home happy and fulfilled. And I try to remember that some of my own favourite childhood memories are of racing around raucous family parties terrorising drunk aunties and uncles.

It’s taken me three years to realise that every decision as a parent doesn’t have to be divisive. Drinking doesn’t make me a bad mum, nor does it make me a cool one, it just makes me a mum who occasionally drinks. When Anne Hathaway said she’d given up drink I first thought, ‘another fucking flawless celeb’, but actually in her admittance Hathaway became more relatable than ever before, because what mother hasn’t uttered those words the morning after the night before?

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