It’s school holidays, so prepare yourself for an avalanche of experts expressing their concern about mothers drinking wine! A few days before holidays officially began, as I dragged my kids away from yet another kids carousel that I “didn’t have coins for” (they have PayPass now but I’ll never give in, NEVER!), I came across this comical ad:
It’s almost like they know! They can hear the clinks from their air conditioned offices already. And just in case your school holidays plans involve having a wine to regain your sanity, these fuckers are coming to tell you off.
It’s a thing!
Back in the midst of the April school holidays, I read this rad article by The Chicago Tribune’s Kate Thayer, republished in Fairfax, which decried the evils of “boozy mum culture”, saying that social media is rife with examples of mums boozing on to let off steam at the end of the day.
Even “one glass a day”, Thayer points out, is “moderate drinking”.
And you know what “moderate drinking” can lead to, ladies? That’s right! Alcoholism!
Of course some people do have a problem with alcoholism and their struggles shouldn’t be minimised or ridiculed. But those struggles should not define the social policing that the rest of us are faced with.
The article said – specifically to mums – your moderate drinking is concerning to the experts, especially when you laugh about it with other mums. You know, in the same way you might be concerned that your child spends too long on the internet – doing who knows what.
For many, a glass of wine each night is cheaper than a psychologist or a yoga class. For some it’s a means to reclaim their identity as an adult. But after you’ve spent the day talking with children, arguing with children, picking up after children and attending to their every need, think twice before you pick up that glass of wine to unwind.
We clearly need to be saved from the evils of the world, those evils that we’ve forgotten how to understand as our brains have inevitably turned to mush.
The online world is rife with mummy shaming – parenting choices, use of phones around kids, activewear, whether you cut your kids’ grapes in half… but why talk us down for drinking one glass of wine a night? And why tell us we’re triggering people into alcoholism if we share a meme about it?
I haven’t seen any other group of adults shamed for having one glass a night – sorry, “moderate drinking” – in such a way recently.
If anyone is saying fathers should reconsider having a beer after their long day at work, they aren’t getting it published in the Chicago Tribune or The Age.
These articles’ blatant infantilisation of mothers is mostly likely to be laughed off by their target demographic. And rightly so, because as far as “mummy wine” is concerned, their analysis is frequently laughably shallow.
The April article, which contained quotes from said ‘experts’ and a recovering alcoholic, ascribed mothers very little agency.
One expert briefly mentioned, in a deeply condescending manner, that, “there is anxiety around being a mother”.
Oh, really? Being responsible for the care of another human (or perhaps three) that is dependent on you might cause some worry? You think?
One of my favourite feminist slogans is “Every mother is a working mother”.
Anyone with two or more kids knows it can be bloody hard work, especially on your own. And it’s not just making the kids dinner, it’s doing the multitude of physical and psychological work to ensure that they, as little, dependent humans, survive, which philosopher Sara Ruddick described as ‘maternal thinking’.
Even mums in paid employment still statistically bear the brunt of the ‘maternal thinking’ and acting when it comes to figuring out school & daycare pickups, school holidays, and kids getting sick.
That’s on top of the unequal burden of general housework.
The article is just another example of apportioning blame and responsibility onto individuals for systemic problems.
You don’t need to be Rosa Luxemburg to see that a lot of stress and inequality in parenting derives from the way that childrearing is socially organised under capitalism.
The current prevailing housing culture in Australia – the one where we live as nuclear family units in separate dwellings, each of which survives on their own salaries, looks after their own children, makes their own entire meals, washes, dries and sorts their own laundry, mows their own lawn (if they’re lucky to have one), and a multitude of tasks that are done separately but would be better off if they were done collectively – has us all living as separately from our fellow humans as possible, and ensures that all those tasks are constantly done in the least efficient manner possible.
Alienation, distance, loneliness, ennui and anxiety are the hallmarks of work as a mother as much as working as a wage labourer.
This lack of efficiency, as Adrienne Rich notes in her seminal text Of Woman Born, became more prominent in the West as people were forced to move to cities for waged work. Whereas previously it had been normal for people to live with extended family on a farm, where work, chores, the gathering of food and the rearing of children were shared collectively, it became the norm under the wage system for people to move their immediate families into single family dwellings in cities.
The various economic and housing policies of neoliberal governments of the last few decades have only widened this isolation. Even networks that had previously supported mothering, such as supportive neighbourhoods, or even just living near parents, in-laws or extended families, have disintegrated. Even if I could afford the million dollar mortgage it would take to live near my mother or mother-in-law, they both still work full time anyway.
Which, you guessed it, leaves the brunt of the child rearing and housework up to individual women with their individual families.
We won’t go back to living in agricultural collectives. But a bit of a shake up would be nice. Or even just a bit of recognition from the moralists that there are systemic causes to these social problems.
If there is problem drinking and drug abuse it is not caused by memes and the Bad Moms movies.
We need to recognise that the way we organise our society has flow on effects, right down to the amount of stress we feel mothering our darling offspring.
If you have a spare day to write a piece on anything, experts, make it about that.
Until then -and until you start telling everyone else not to have a single glass of grog at the end of their working day – stay the hell away from my mummy wine.