At what time is it acceptable to pour your first glass of Pinot Grigio after a bad day with the children?

Ellen is looking forward to her alcohol ban being lifted

Ellen is looking forward to her alcohol ban being lifted - Credit: Archant

Most parents of small children will know all about whine o’clock, writes Ellen Widdup.

It’s that hideous point that occurs on a daily basis round about 3.30pm and involves a battle of wills with a bad-tempered baby, a tantruming toddler or wild child.

You grit your teeth and get down to business, entertaining, feeding, bathing, burping and settling them until about 7pm, when your husband breezily walks through the front door and you unleash all your frustrations in a torrent of swear words.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

Things are different now. So I’m told.

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Stressed mums are now regularly treating whine o’clock as an opportunity to pour the first glass of a beverage of the same name.It sounds hard to believe, doesn’t it?

Surely, after the school run there is barely time for a cup of tea, let alone a slurp of Chenin?

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But a survey of parents reveals most are merrily hitting the sauce come teatime. I can’t quite fathom it.

Sure, parenting can be so stressful it could make the best of us want to turn to the bottle.

But I like to relax and enjoy my first tipple after my little ones are safely tucked up in bed - like some kind of consolation prize for making it through another trying day.

Besides which, I have yet to source a bottle whose label suggests: “A hint of apple and aroma of lemon. Serve with chicken, fish or a small child poking cucumber batons in your eyes.”

Having said that, I can imagine a session at the church hall Baby Bounce would be vastly improved if there were vodka on tap.

Parents’ evening would benefit from an open bar.

And I might even be convinced that a manic meltdown from my five-year-old in front of my mother-in-law was more amusing than mortifying if I were slightly fuzzy round the edges.

Slap on the wrist for me! How irresponsible to even suggest such a thing! And yet we mothers do it all the time.

On social media, our tales of the trials and tribulations involving our offspring will often prompt friends to send messages telling us to pour a stiff drink.

“My kids have just shaved the dog.”

“Oh God! I think a glass of Pinot is in order.” Smiley face.

“I’ve had the day from hell.”

“Nothing a Chardonnay can’t fix.” Thumbs up.

“I’ve run out of wine!” Cue a barrage of sympathy and plenty of bottle shaped emojis.

Naturally I accept these virtual glasses of plonk in the spirit in which they are intended.

Rather than justification for behaving like a raving alcoholic in the playground, it’s shorthand for a virtual hug, isn’t it?

So I can’t help but wonder – as the survey suggests – about all these many women who admit they regularly partake before sundown.

The research suggests it starts for most middle class mummies when they begin socialising their toddlers.

This is called a Prosecco Playdate. Instead of nursing endless cups of lukewarm tea and instant coffee while the little ones throw wooden blocks at each other’s heads, these mums are airily sipping flutes of fizz.

Now I have a little confession to make. This is actually something I have done.

Back in 2007, when my eldest was a babe in arms, I lived for Thai Thursdays.

This was a weekly lunchtime get together of new mothers at a Hampstead pub which served noodles, ramen and those lovely dumpling things stuffed with prawn alongside a rather reasonably priced bottle of bubbles.

I can’t remember who suggested the addition of the booze. But I do know nobody expressed outrage at the proposal.

There was something very civilised about indulging in a single glass mid-maternity leave as we shared stories about our hopeless husbands, who, incidentally, benefitted hugely from the a rare sense of domestic serenity that occurred as a result once a week.

Of course then our babies grew up and were no longer sleeping soundly or cooing contentedly, allowing us to indulge in our weekly pub excursion.

I missed the routine and the company more than I missed the drink.

But I can see – having experienced the soothing equilibrium that accompanies a midday tipple - why so many parents might feel otherwise.

Which brings me back to the après school “wind-down wine” cohort.

Alcohol Concern claims this is a “Bridget Jones generation” who have hit the age of parenthood without reining in dangerous habits.

They have also voiced fears that this antidote to parental stress could detrimentally affect the children involved.

Personally I can’t see the harm in a single lunchtime beverage once in a while.

But I also think you need to be on your toes when you’re around young kids.

It takes all my mental capacity to follow the plot of Pokémon on CITV come 4pm.

And I couldn’t possibly cook dinner and take on the bedtime battle after savouring the delicate balance of juniper in a refreshing G&T.

After dark however? Well, once this baby arrives and my stone cold sobriety is lifted, that’s another matter altogether. Chin chin!

See more from Ellen Widdup here@EllenWiddup

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