28 Sep Is social media normalising drinking to get through parenthood?
Scrolling through our newsfeeds, there’s rarely a day goes by when we don’t see posts from parents documenting their stressful days … and treating that stress with alcohol.
Post after post references wine ‘rewards’ after a long day of parenting battles, a dinnertime wine to aid us through bedtime, or an afternoon gin and tonic just because we can.
But is this trend on social media normalising parental drinking?
Alcohol counselor Tabitha Corser says that “wine o’clock” has become about women drinking to relax, and is one of the biggest growing demographics of drinkers. And a lot of these women are mums.
“The term ‘wine o’clock’ is used to signify the growing emergence of women ‘itching’ for their first glass of wine to sign the beginning of ‘me time’,” she says.
“The anxiety-based triggers of parenting is precisely why wine o’clock has resulted in the increasing number of women drinking.”
Corser notes that social media is contributing to this worrying trend.
“There’s an increasing trend of parents posting alcohol-related posts on social media, and there are even memes online outlining how children drive parents to drink,” she says.
“The number of likes and comments seems to indicate that it’s a way of parents connecting and expressing their frustrations.”
Corser believes that by venting parenting frustrations in the context of needing alcohol to cope, there seems to bring an element of humour into it.
However, she says that in seeking support via ‘humourous’ alcohol posts, it’s having an impact on changing cultural norms.
“These posts are suggesting it’s okay for parents to rely on alcohol as a coping strategy,” she says. “And, let’s face it, for busy, tired mums, drinking alcohol is easier than going for a run or focusing on meditative exercises.”
Similarly, Corser notes that drinking alcohol slows down our brain activity, which elevates our mood and masks feelings of anxiety, stress or pressure.
“At Whitehaven Clinic we’ve seen an increasing number of mums in their 40s who’ve used drinking as a coping strategy, which has meant an ever-increasing reliance on alcohol,” she says.
Despite appearing to be “super-mum” on the surface, a lot of these women are highly stressed and feel constant pressure to meet the ever-increasing demands placed upon them.
A lot of mums experiencing some form of disconnection socially will also drink as a way to connect, particularly in social situations with other parents.
“Anyone using alcohol to regulate their emotions, to fit in and to reduce stress, is risking walking a slippery slope in the long term,” says Corser.
“It’s far better to put healthy strategies in place to address the underlying reasons for the stress in the first place.”
But it’s not just our own health we’re putting at risk. It’s potentially the health of our children too.
“Children get their attitudes towards drinking by watching us. So if it’s seen as an effective coping tool for stress, then children will automatically think it’s okay to do the same,” says Corser.
“As parents, we need to be mindful of what behaviours we’re normalising and making okay for our children to participate in.”
Karen Phillip, parenting expert and psychotherapist, agrees that social media has become a way of parents reaching out for sympathy and connection.
She believes that the more we use social media, the more common it will become for parents to post alcohol related updates.
“Once other parents see these kinds of posts they receive a green light to also share, especially after reading positive or supportive comments from the post.”
Phillip says that normalising alcohol consumption is never a great idea, and is particularly concerning when advocated as a crutch to get us through the day
So what advice would she give?
“Consider your posts and remember that they’re there forever, so potentially setting an example to your children,” she says.
Instead, Phillip suggests showing yourself as a strong person who chooses to manage parenting pressures in ways other than drinking.
“While conservative amounts of alcohol is fine, excessive alcohol posts can indicate a parent not in control, and we never want to post these scenarios of ourselves,” she says.
Other tips for cutting down on alcohol:
- identify why you’re drinking – is it stress, to relax, to unwind?
- observe when you’re at the most stressed, and then look at ways to prevent this from occurring, such as going for a walk
- consider your alcohol consumption – is it within the two standard drinks per day guidelines?
- substitute or alternate water for wine to keep you hydrated
- if cutting down on your daily wine o’clock frightens you, you may want to consider seeking professional counselling to look at the underlying cause of your drinking.