Like most North American mothers, Nicolette, a 31-year old healthcare administrator juggles the workload of a job and motherhood. After a day of work and patience-testing traffic, the family prepares dinner, enjoys some quality time together, and like most households, a taxing bedtime routine. Once her kids settle into bed, she finally has time for herself. So she reaches for her glass pipe, loads the bowl with her favorite strain takes a hit.
“For every ‘stoner’ skipping class, there is one on their way to becoming valedictorian,” says Nicolette. “Drug use isn’t an indicator of wasted potential.”
While the mainstream portrayal of the typical weed-smoker might conjure visions of a college-kid with a longboard and a sublime t-shirt, there is an emerging category of cannabis-user. Of the 10 suburban mothers interviewed, nearly all used cannabis for both recreational purposes and medicinal reasons. All the mothers believe the stigma is a major barrier to entry for many women.
“It’s not typical to see the soccer Mom kicking back at the end of the day and smoking a bowl,” Karen, a medical management professional stated. “People who smoke pot are depicted as 20-something, lazy individuals who hang out and play video games. I think it’s the fear of stigma that keeps me from sharing with most people I know.”
Layla, a small-business owner says, “people assume that if you smoke, then you are lazy, slow and foggy in the mind,”. The cliche has been present in the popular imagination ever since the premiere of Reefer Madness and the continuation of that stereotype by stoner films like “Harold and Kumar”.
“Cannabis is a victim of ignorance. Ignorance is the real-life ruining drug here,” says Nicolette.
She believes this is the main reason why more mothers aren’t coming out as green. But if there exists a stereotype for cannabis users, then so too does one exist for suburban mothers; queue the middle-aged woman holding a glass of red wine. Nicolette believes that a double-standard exists between wine and weed, despite that alcohol has been proven to be worse for human health.
“A mug of wine to get you through the next Wiggles episode? That’s fine, a puff before you settle in to read Chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? Heck no!” Nicolette says. She has had to listen to people talk about the negative connotations of cannabis while binge drinking and using cocaine on the weekends, stating that these activities were just “having a good time” while cannabis use was just someone “trying to escape reality.”
Kelsie, says that she uses cannabis on a regular basis for self care.
Some might find it surprising that many of the mothers revealed they only began using cannabis in adulthood, choosing to forego joints passed in the backyards of college house parties. What some might find even more surprising is that five of the mothers disclosed that they used cannabis during their pregnancies.
Layla, who used cannabis during her pregnancy as a result of being rendered unable to walk due to hip pain, said that her decision to do so didn’t come easily. She had become concerned about the potential harms of the Tylenol the hospital had advised her to use. A Canadian study found that the use of Acetametophine (Tylenol) during pregnancy can increase a child’s risk of developing ADHD. A Norwegian study also found that Tylenol use during pregnancy increases a child’s risk of developing asthma by 13 percent. While it should be noted that there are some studies that suggest that there are inherent risks to smoking marijuana during pregnancy, many mothers, like Layla, are wondering why more comprehensive research hasn’t been done on the effects of specific strains or cannabinoids.
“Every mom that I spoke with in my community who purely used cannabis during pregnancy, even several times a day and while breastfeeding had happy, healthy and well-mannered and often advanced babies and children.” While the advice was anecdotal, Layla felt that cannabis was the best option to treat the pain, and soon she was able to walk again.
Nicolette believes there is a gap that exists in research on cannabis and women’s health. For Nicolette “postpartum anxiety hit like a load of bricks”. She describes her experience as “suffocating, but not paralyzing anxiety” that would constantly make her run mental exercises of having to save her child’s life in an outlandish situation. She began using cannabis with her husband as a route to reducing stress and maintaining sanity. “For the first time in a long time, I felt like myself again,” Nicolette says.
Karen only uses cannabis when she isn’t around her kids, believing that she “wouldn’t be as effective in an emergency situation”. However, there are others who see cannabis as a tool to achieving better patience. Layla believes that cannabis made her “a more patient and creative parent,” adding, “I am still able to make rational decisions, be quick on my feet, and care for my child, only with a calmer, more patient mindset than if I didn’t smoke.”
Nicolette says cannabis “helps me to be insightful about my skills as a parent; where I am doing well, where I need to improve.”
Both Layla and Nicolette think that when they under the influence of cannabis while with their children, they feel they have a stronger connection to their role as a parent with their kids. “Cannabis allows me to let go of everyday stresses and to be more understanding of the children,” Layla says, “[it] allows me to find my inner child when around children. I’m motivated, upbeat, and clear-minded when I smoke.”
Nicolette agrees. “I am more empathetic. These moments bring me closer, not farther, to who I want to be as a parent.”
However, some if these suburban mothers found themselves conflicted when it came to their own children using cannabis. Karen, wants the stigma to end with legalization and says she’ll address cannabis in their household the same way alcohol is discussed. Still, Karen is unsure how to broach the subject of her own use with her teenagers.
Another mother, Stephanie said that when she found that her son was using cannabis, she “gave up the fight and opened up the dialogue” instead of throwing away his bongs to only have them be secretly replaced. Having an open dialogue around moderation with cannabis is just as important as conversation surrounding responsible sex and alcohol.
Rebecca and Marie don’t agree. They believe it’s crucial that cannabis use isn’t explored until adulthood. Their prime concern with legalization is cannabis retail compliance efforts to restrict sale to minors. They also have concerns about teenagers driving while high.
“I don’t want them to give into peer pressure, as much as I don’t want to give in to parental pressure,” says Nicolette.
Tessa was the only mother, with adult children in their 30’s that had family smoke sessions.
With an emerging demographic of weed-smoking, dab-ripping, and edible-eating mothers, so too comes the need to have important conversations around how we frame cannabis use.
With the current epidemic of opioid addiction, it’s never been more important to reconsider how the U.S. schedules drugs.
More moms than you think are pulling on pipes or bongs and exhaling fat tokes. Most people will recall trying to hide their weed from their mothers. Perhaps they could never have predicted that they might be missing out on some profound motherly advice.
*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the families involved in this article.