London - It seems that wine is fast overtaking tea as women’s relaxant of choice.
In fact, the charity Alcohol Concern is so worried about the “wine o’clock” culture among middle-class mothers, it warns that many are risking their health and passing their habits on to their children.
Here eight women reveal their personal “wine o’clock”.
Leah Hardy, 52, lives in London and is mom to Henry, 13, and Cecily, 10.
My absolute favourite time to have a drink - just the one - might seem a little early to some. For me, the ultimate indulgence is an ice-cold, early lunchtime glass of Kir, the quintessential French cocktail of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur.
Ideally I would be sipping it at a pavement cafe on a glorious summer day but on a drizzly London afternoon, my kitchen table will also suffice.
I don’t do it every day, especially not in winter, but to me, a naughtily early kir symbolises that most precious of things; a day without work or responsibilities. If I am feeling particularly frivolous, I might, just might, swap the white wine for champagne.
The first sip of the rosy, fruity liquid floods my body with relaxation. It can’t be the alcohol kicking in immediately, so I know it is purely psychological.
For a few precious moments, I stop worrying about deadlines, housework, or picking up children. Unlike the bottle opened in the evening, it is not there to medicate away the stress of a long and tiring day but instead is pure pleasure.
If I’m drinking early, on an empty stomach, this single glass can be as potent as half a bottle drunk over dinner. This means it must be sipped slowly and yes, the afternoon may be a little hazy, but by evening my body has processed all the alcohol, so I sleep beautifully and wake up bright-eyed - which cannot be said of drinking in the evening.
Novelist Clare Mackintosh, 38, lives with husband Rob, 38, Josh, eight, and twins Evie and Georgie, seven.
If I’m at the first draft stage of a new book, nothing releases the creative muse like a liquid lunch. It has been several years since I quit as a police inspector but the freedom of being freelance still feels like a novelty.
Working in my pyjamas, keeping my own hours, raiding the fridge ten times a day...all hallmarks of a procrastinating writer, and none more so than the 1pm wine o’clock.
I love the decadence of daytime drinking and think nothing of pouring a small glass of wine to go with my lunchtime salad. I like to pretend I am in France, where such things are perfectly de rigueur, and where no one bats an eyelid if you turn up for the school run smelling faintly of Chablis.
With the children in school the days are my own. I might meet a friend for lunch at a pub or take myself out to a favourite cafe, notebook at my side in case inspiration strikes, and a glass of something chilled, including the occasional gin and tonic, to help to fire my imagination. Lunchtime wine both relaxes and energises me and I always write far more in the afternoon as a result.
It is not an everyday occurrence (my bank balance wouldn’t stand for it, let alone my liver) but I relish each occasion and look forward to the next.
Shona Sibary, 44, has four children and lives in Devon.
Many things which were all considered perfectly normal things to do in generations past are frowned upon nowadays; smoking indoors, smacking children and getting inebriated in the early afternoon to name but a few.
Perhaps it’s the fact I grew up in a colonial family where drinking before, during and after the sun had hit that proverbial yardarm was perfectly normal, but I do not see the problem with pouring myself a glass of wine at 2pm to break up the monotony of the working day. Roald Dahl did it, having a gin and tonic followed by Norwegian prawns before a nap at 2pm.
There is just something so deliciously naughty about drinking in the afternoon. Of course it is stupid and irresponsible but that is what makes it so much fun.
I will never forget one legendary occasion with a friend I had agreed to meet “for coffee” that ended with the waiters politely asking us to leave the restaurant because the dinner service had begun. My watch read 7pm; we had been there since 11.30am.
Somewhere between the third and fourth bottle of Pinot I had ordered a taxi to send the au pair to pick up the children from school.
I don’t do it every day (obviously) but God, if I didn’t have the commitments I do, I know that in the slither of time between lunch and the school run when it feels like the most rebellious, defiant gesture in my otherwise ordered world, I would knock back an ice-cold vodka and lime in a shot.
Jess Spiring, 39, of London, mum to Matilda, five, and Bibi, three.
I would not say it is stress that makes me and my momchums open the wine at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon, it is more sheer joie de vivre (Hurrah! We survived another week without getting divorced / fired /called into the headmistress’s office) and, er, sheer availability.
You see, my schoolgate sisters and I (our five-year-olds have just started Year One) live near a ludicrously pricey, members-only play café in West London. For £130 a month we get access to an incredible indoor playcentre - three floors of jungle gyms, ball pits, leather bean bags and faux treehouses - but, more importantly, the café with beer and wine on tap alongside the wholesome pesto pasta for the kids.
As soon as one of my friends forgoes tea in favour of a glass of vino, I am ordering my rosé with relish.
We don’t get hammered, we have to get the children home and into bed after all, so I usually draw the line at one glass, occasionally two. However, it is the perfect end to a crazy week. While our offspring hare around burning off the last of their energy, we’re letting off steam in our own way.
If the post-school playdate took place in my kitchen, I’d be likely to offer something stronger than a cuppa to guests and I wouldn’t even think about the time.
It is the same at children’s parties too. I haven’t been to a single birthday bash where there isn’t Prosecco being proffered alongside the Ribena for the kids. And that’s even at the parties that start at 11am! That’s a bit early for me but is there really anything wrong with a few swigs of the hard stuff to celebrate surviving another working week or our children getting a year older?
Author Tanith Carey, 48, mom of Lily, 13, and Clio, ten.
You can always tell what time it is in my house by the drink in my hand; at 7am, it’s an espresso to get me up and dressed.
At 8am, it’s a bottle of water on my dog walk to make me feel healthy.
From 9am, it is a continuous stream of filter coffee to keep me going at work.
However the second I am back from the school run at 4pm, I start thinking about a stiff drink.
Thankfully, that dilemma is solved for me at precisely 5pm, my wine o’clock (actually my cider o’clock but that variation hasn’t made the Oxford English Dictionary yet). Whatever and whenever we drink, we women know it is our reward to ourselves at the end of a long day for being a domestic goddess/working mother - often both.
Five is my wine o’clock because reaching for alcohol any earlier would sound indecently early. Five sounds civilised, like the start of the cocktail hour, even if I am swigging from a bottle (much quicker, and more decadent than pouring into a glass), rather than sipping from a thimble-full of Martini, decorated with an olive.
By this time, the children are home, the homework is under way and my husband Anthony is also hovering around the gin and thinking about a G & T.
After mainlining caffeine to tell my body “go, go, go” all day, booze is the antidote that tells it to relax. When it starts to numb my senses, it reminds me that anything I haven’t done today can wait until tomorrow.
Antonia Hoyle, 37, writer and mother of two.
My son Felix, two, is waging a war with his dinosaurs under the duvet while his sister Rosie, four, swings off her top bunk trying to fly.
My husband Chris gallantly endeavours to soothe them to sleep while I am in the kitchen uncorking the wine.
I don’t feel guilty; I have endured the bedlam of bathtime without him and besides, Chris has never understood alcohol, thinking it is something to be savoured moderately on social occasions, not sunk with medicinal urgency.
The timing of the first glass is crucial: to indulge before the children’s bedtime would prick my conscience but wait until they nod off and I risk being waylaid by the myriad chores I should be doing.
With that initial, much-anticipated sip (of Sancerre, Sauvignon, or anything similarly white and cold) I sink into a state of bliss, temporarily freed from the demands of motherhood.
I drink freely but with a fundamental caveat: I must stop by 9pm, to ensure I am hangover-free the following day, ready to be awoken at dawn by a kick in the shins from a toddler and for the whole shebang to start over again.
Author Jilly Cooper has two grown-up children, Felix and Emily.
I would really like to have a drink at lunchtime but if I do, that is the end of work for the day. I am writing a book at the moment, so I wait until 8pm to have a glass.
I like champagne best but I don’t have that. I will have a glass of Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio. And it’s a big glass too. I might have another half later on. You need a reward after work.
The thing is, we’re all made to feel guilty these days. A colleague of mine used to say she needed a gin and tonic before she faced putting her children to bed. But these days everyone is so respectable it’s Victorian. I love watching Mad Men because they simply drink all the time. In the old days people were so badly behaved.
We used to have children’s parties, when the children were young, where everybody used to get legless. We would have tea in the first couple of hours, and then drinks for the adults. I don’t think it matters very much.
The children never minded it at all, and it made Mommy and Daddy more cheerful, which was always a good thing.
Young children are lovely but I do find it easier to talk to them when I’ve had a drink. Children are always going around grabbing glasses and of course you have to keep it away from them.
Now that my own children are grown-up though, we have lovely times together over a few glasses of wine. I think it is nice to drink together.
Clover Stroud, 40, of Oxfordshire, has four children aged between 15 and one.
By 6.30pm, my kitchen sounds like a building site when the pneumatic drill is out. The clamour of four children all wanting a part of me is enough to drown out a single sane thought.
Dolly, 12, needs help with her science homework, while Jimmy, 15, demands I engage with him in a meaningful way about a skateboard he has seen on Amazon.
My three-year-old Evangeline is determined that I help her to make a costume for the rocking horse, while toddler Dash screams louder than all of them just to make himself heard.
And me? I’m whimpering by the sink, desperate for a drink to anaesthetise me against the concussion of motherhood.
Sloshing water into a saucepan to make yet another vat of pasta for the hordes, I’m secretly fantasising about diving into the bottom of a bottle of rosé.
Slicing up onions for bolognaise, I imagine my fingers clasping the sides of a cold glass of white and taking a big glug.
Dishing up plates of food while the children bicker about what they want to watch after supper, I am secretly lost in an alcoholic reverie of what that second, then third glass of wine would feel like.
By the time I am chasing them upstairs for their bath, I am imagining the short, sharp, invigorating jolt to my maternal morale that a shot of vodka would give me.
My heart is longing for a drink, but my head says ‘resist, resist’. If I can make it through to 9.30pm, when the house eventually falls silent, the siren call of Sauvignon Blanc and Stolichnya can finally be answered.
Then, after one glass, a hot bath and my darling bed are all I want.Daily Mail