As the holidays draw to a close and parents and children prepare for the return to school, it would be true to say that many parents have turned to alcohol to ease the stress of parenting this summer, using it as a form of escape during moments of respite from their motherly responsibilities.
What starts as a harmless coping mechanism can sometimes escalate into excessive drinking, often fuelled by the rise of the “wine mum” culture, which normalises alcohol use for stress relief among parents.
Initially, this sense of camaraderie can foster connections among parents, but it’s crucial to distinguish when casual drinking becomes problematic. , Lee Hawker-Lecesne MBPsS, clinical director at The Cabin in Chiang Mai, says: “The increase in high-risk binge drinking, particularly among mothers, is alarming. The acceptance of the “wine mum” culture unintentionally perpetuates the notion that alcohol is the default solution to the challenges of parenting.”
While the humour associated with being a “wine mum” can alleviate the pressure of perfect parenting, it’s essential to question whether this culture implies that alcohol is the only way to manage the demands of motherhood. Do these jokes normalise unhealthy drinking as an integral part of parenting? Does the imagery of a wine glass perpetuate the stereotype that mothers need alcohol to handle the chaos of raising children?
The impact of parental drinking on children’s mental health cannot be underestimated. Children’s development is influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors, in which parents play a central role. Misusing alcohol disrupts this development by introducing unpredictability and neglect into a child’s life. Impaired judgement from alcohol can result in neglecting crucial aspects of parenting like safety, nutrition, and education.
Parental drinking also shapes rule-setting and monitoring, as children model their behaviour on their parents. “Using alcohol as a coping mechanism teaches children unhealthy ways of handling stress,” suggests Lee. “Reduced emotional availability impedes emotional growth and can raise the risk of problematic adolescent behaviour.”
While many believe alcohol helps them unwind after parenting challenges, it’s important to delve into the reasons behind turning to alcohol. Is it an escape from problem-solving or trauma? Is alcohol genuinely essential for motherhood, or does it mask underlying issues?
Regular alcohol consumption can increase tolerance, dependency, and negative health effects, especially for women. Self-soothing with alcohol can lead to a struggle between managing stress and overconsumption. The internal battle with the “devil voice” urging “just one more drink” underscores the intricate relationship between alcohol and emotional well-being.
As many parents prepare to return their children to school over the coming week, the allure of this drinking culture may continue. “I do believe that this phenomenon necessitates critically examining its implications,” says Lee. “Relying on alcohol to navigate parenthood deeply impacts both parents and children. Ultimately, coping with parenting challenges requires healthier alternatives that cultivate resilience, emotional growth, and strong family bonds.”
Lee Hawker-Lecesne, 55, is the clinical director at The Cabin, Asia’s most respected rehab. Located in Chiang-Mai, Thailand, and with a clinical team that has more than 50 years of experience, The Cabin has successfully treated over 5,000 inpatients. Lee heads up the clinical programme and works individually with clients, creating bespoke treatment plans. His areas of expertise include mental health, addiction, and trauma.