Today I was asked to be part of a discussion on BBC 5 Live about the #wineoclock phenomenon and motherhood and drinking. The lovely Amy from Surviving Motherhood asked me to fill in for her because she was sick. The question posed at the top of the show was, “Is #wineoclock damaging or just a bit of fun?” Sorry BBC, but you’re missing the point.
You see, my own struggles with alcohol are well documented here. Have I ever used #wineoclock as a way to justify cracking open a bottle of Malbec at 4pm? Sure I have. Does that mean I can blame my issues with alcohol on a hashtag on social media? Absolutely not. If #wineoclock didn’t exist, you can bet your ovaries that I would have found another reason to justify it.
In my humble opinion, the #wineoclock hashtag has, almost certainly, come from a place of good. It wasn’t that long ago that mothers were too busy competing with each other to consider supporting each other through the tough times. We’ve been pitted against each other for so long now that breaking the cycle and standing up to say, “Erm, this motherhood thing is tough and I’m not really enjoying it right now,” has been really hard. There are days when you’re too tired to deal with their shit, maybe they’ve really ramped up their level of shit-giving that day, maybe you’d just love to take your own shit by yourself. Whatever the reason, sometimes motherhood is hard and it’s only recently that it’s been acceptable to say it and even more recently that other mothers will support you in doing so.
So, maybe the #wineoclock hashtag is our version of saying, “Jeez, this is tough, right? Who’s with me?” Is it perfect that it’s framed within the context of alcohol, maybe not. Is it great that, overall, it’s been a way for mums to open up, talk about motherhood in real terms and support each other? Absolutely.
When it comes to the point that BBC 5 Live missed today, here it is: it’s not about whether people are drinking too much and why. If people have a problem with alcohol, they’ll have that problem regardless of what they use and see to justify it. There’s only one thing that will help them tackle that – their own determination to make a change. We can’t remove all the temptations regarding alcohol that the world offers. Anyone who has made a decision to stop drinking will know they have to make that decision a thousand times a day whether it’s because they’ve seen an advert, walked passed an off-license, met a friend for a drink or seen the #wineoclock hashtag because this isn’t an argument about normalising drinking.
People aren’t alcoholics because they see drinking being normalised. They’re alcoholics because of trauma, circumstance, abuse, genetics and a million other reasons none of which are the #wineoclock hashtag. We can’t fall down the rabbit hole of demonising drinkers, and specifically drinking mothers, because the reality is that the majority of people (men, women, parents or not) drink responsibly and healthily. The worry isn’t whether we’re normalising drinking or not, the worry is why aren’t we normalising not-drinking?
My biggest problem when I’m not drinking is people’s reaction when I tell them I’m not drinking. They’ll almost always look shocked and feign total bewilderment. This is often quickly followed by an effort to cajole me into trying to have a drink. By this point I’m either a) giving in or b) wanting to leave. Why isn’t it ok to order a mocktail or a cup of tea without encouraging an interrogation? And while we’re here, why aren’t pubs, restaurants, clubs, bars, airplanes, and all the rest of those places offering a decent selection of non-alcoholic options that extend beyond a diet coke or a sickly combination of fruit juices?
So rather than demonise those lucky people that can have a drink responsibly, let’s start normalising the choice some people make to not drink. Let’s not make them feel like lepers or make them explain to you why they’re not drinking. It shouldn’t need an explanation and the fact that it does is the real problem here.