Mothers’ alcohol consumption has often been portrayed as problematic; firstly, because of the effects of alcohol on the foetus, and secondly, because of the association between motherhood and morality. Refracted through the disciplinary lens of public health, mothers’ alcohol consumption has been the target of numerous messages and discourses designed to monitor and regulate women’s bodies and reproductive health. This paper explores how mothers negotiated this dilemmatic terrain, drawing on accounts of drinking practices of women in paid work in the early parenting period living in Northern England in 2017-2018. Almost all of the participants reported alcohol abstention during pregnancy and the postpartum period and referred to low-risk drinking practices. A feature of their accounts was appearing knowledgeable and familiar with public health messages, with participants often deploying ‘othering’, and linguistic expressions seen in public health advice. Here we conceptualise these as Assumed Shared Alcohol Narratives (ASANs). ASANs, we argue, allowed participants to present themselves as morally legitimate parents and drinkers, with a strong awareness of risk discourses which protected the self from potential attacks of irresponsible behaviour. As such, these narratives can be viewed as neoliberal narratives, contributing to the shaping of highly responsible and self-regulating subjectivities.
|Journal||Sociology of Health and Illness|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 27 May 2021|