In this paper we explore the importance of relationality and care for understanding women’s alcohol use, using a theoretical framework comprising concepts from feminist ethics of care, the sociology of personal life, and feminist approaches to governmentality. A key focus is how care giving responsibilities and expectations in families appear to be particularly significant for creating or constraining possibilities for drinking practices. We draw on findings from a qualitative study about alcohol use and stress with 26 women, aged 24-67 years, in the North East of England, UK. We consider how care practices in families feature in the accounts of alcohol use by women with and without children, and how the symbolic and material aspects of social class interact with care to alter the drinking practices women engage in. The interpretation extends scholarship on women’s drinking, by adopting a relational approach to identity and linking private care practices and alcohol use to social and political structures. Public health approaches for preventing or reducing heavy drinking practices are predominantly situated within biomedical or psychological paradigms. Intervention approaches to reduce women’s drinking that draw on our theoretical framework could offer potential for reducing harmful alcohol use in a more meaningful way.