In defense of mom pot

My toddler’s birthday party fell on one of those perfect Indian summer days. Old friends reunited in our sun-dappled backyard. Laughter and barbecue smoke rose into the warm, hazy air. I wiped icing from my daughter’s little mouth, bounced her on my hip, and chased her into the arms of her grandparents while she shrieked with joy.

And I had a beer in my hand most of the time, because that’s what you do at parties.

Now imagine the same wholesome scene, but substitute a blunt for a beer.

Cannabis is indisputably less harmful than alcohol. So why does our perception of this sweet slice of life change so abruptly when children are involved — as if someone snatched the remote and switched Leave it to Beaver to Intervention?
I’m not talking about intoxication. Reasonable people agree: Don’t get blotto while caring for children, no matter the substance. I’m talking about the double standard when it comes to social use of alcohol vs. marijuana.

As cannabis prohibition crumbles state by state, pot smoking is shedding its stigma. But weed is like hot pants—no longer shocking but still weird for moms.

That’s because motherhood is the screen onto which people project their own issues. Weren’t loved enough? Loved too much? Kids annoy you in restaurants? Hate minivans? By all means, let’s hear your edicts on proper parental behavior.
Pontificating on mom morality isn’t limited to the childless. Sadly, the world is awash in mom-on-mom judgment, as 30 seconds on the BabyCenter.com website confirms.

An unofficial and unscientific poll started by a hapless stoner mom queried fellow website community users if they would smoke marijuana once they were no longer pregnant. An enthusiastic (and probably stoned) 32 moms said, “Yes definitely!” while another 62 said “on occasion.” But a whopping 246 said “HELL NO!”

“I’m speechless that someone would even post this. It may be legal, but it’s a horrible idea to do so when with a child … definitely not the role model I would ever be to my child,” wrote one mom, as she presumably clutched her pearls and quite possibly her vodka soda.

By contrast, maternal drinking is a trope worn smooth and inoffensive by an avalanche of memes. There’s glamorous retro mom and her martini! There’s mommy juice, Mommy’s Time Out (an actual brand of wine)! Mommy needs a drink, y’all!
But what about mommies who prefer sativa to shiraz? I decided to talk to them.

Gemma, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom in the East Bay ‘burbs, has a 7 p.m. ritual. She tucks her kindergartner into bed and kisses her goodnight. Then she retreats to her garden, where she sparks up.

“That’s my alone time. I tell my daughter that in order to be a good mom, I need my time to be an adult,” she says, then admits, “She thinks I go out there to drink a cup of tea. I’d die if she found out.”

Like the California cannabis she smokes, Gemma finds herself caught between everyday acceptance and official illicitness.
“I enjoy it, but there’s a certain shame in doing it,” she says. “Growing up when I did in England, if you saw someone smoking weed, you would consider them a druggie.”

So what about moms in states where even recreational use is legal?

Kim, a 37-year-old stylist, lives with her husband and two daughters, 8 and 16, just outside Denver. She also uses marijuana to unwind at night.

“My weed time is my time. I have a little chair up next to my window where I smoke and relax, chill out with my cat and read Cosmo,” she says.

Cannabis may be just another retail business in Colorado. But at parties with other parents, discretion is still the rule—and moms are often left watching the kids while dads light up.

“At least with the people I know — Gen X and Y — it’s still very private, despite it being legal,” Kim says. “At a party, it’s usually the dads who to go to the garage to smoke, away from the kids.”

Then there is the smoking factor. The same mom who enjoys a guilt-free glass of wine at dinner may fret about the effects of second-hand smoke when it comes to cannabis. Or, perhaps worse, giving her children the misperception that she’s smoking tobacco — and thus tacitly endorsing cigarettes.

For some, edibles are the answer. But it’s harder to gauge the dose, and keeping the weed-laced treats out of little, prying hands triggers its own set of anxieties.

Our expectations of socially acceptable behavior around alcohol are clear. We know how to act at the business lunch and the bachelorette party, the winery tour and the college kegger. And why not? Drinking has been nearly ubiquitous since the Stone Age, and we’ve spent our lifetimes taking cues from drinkers on screen and in the pages of countless novels. Consuming booze has been marketed to us as a lifestyle, memorialized in song, and integrated into nearly every facet of our lives.

But navigating the proper behavior with marijuana, particularly as a mom, is more like driving without road signs: Confusing, fraught with anxiety, and full of assholes who are honking and yelling at us when we inevitably make the wrong turn.

These are the rocky years that mark all societal transitions. The good news is if we can wait them out, stoner moms may soon find themselves free of judgment even amidst the sweetest of family rituals.

My daughter is still tiny, and change is slow. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to publicly eschew Manischewitz for Mary Jane at her bat mitzvah, but I just might be able to enjoy both a toast and a toke at her wedding someday.

Feedback@SFEvergreen.com