Recently, Cosmopolitan magazine published an article called “Marijuana Makes Me a Better Mom.” Setting aside the fact that Cosmopolitan seems like the last place on earth one should go for reliable parenting advice (those “Cheat on Daddy While Baby Naps” type articles just aren’t helpful), has Cosmopolitan hit on something more moms should be doing to get through those grueling hours spent with young kids?
Cosmo writer Lea Grover’s “Fast Times” logic goes something like this: When I smoke pot, I’m like…so much nicer and I get connected with the child inside me and then, like, I enjoy, you know, doing things that kids like to do, like playing with toys and stuff.
You know, I get it. I really do. Sometimes I think I’d be a much better mom (and much more fun!) if I took a few mood-stabilizing pills chased with a nice, tall glass of straight vodka (the kids will think it’s water!). But, then I remember I’m a mom and motherhood means more than just being a good playmate for your kids. Well, that and it simply doesn’t seem appropriate (at least until the sitter arrives).
Yet, Grover definitely taps into something here. Most moms feel guilty about being impatient around the kids, yelling too much, or not being a fun-enough mom who plays instead of just agonizes about the cleanup that will be necessary after play. Moms also constantly doubt themselves and wonder: am I doing enough for my children? Am I reading to them, playing with them, providing enough stimulating activities?
These are all normal emotions and questions but moms should also know that kids want more than a playmate in a mom and perhaps more importantly, kids aren’t damaged if you fail to maintain a playful and happy attitude. Frankly, my kids rarely see “happy mom.” More often than not, they see “slightly annoyed, often yelling, grumpy, please-leave-me-alone” mom. Of course, Grover thinks I’m a real drag and suggest she might even be the better mom for smoking pot. She says:
With marijuana, I have more patience. I’m slower to get angry or frustrated, because I understand their frustrations. I am able to see the world through their eyes, to remember how hard it is to be a preschooler or toddler, how things that seem obvious to me aren’t yet known to them. We all have a better day.
I say yes to more requests for childhood fun. To baking cookies, craft projects, trips to the park, board games, fashion shows … any of the things that under normal circumstances make my shoulders tense up as I contemplate inevitable messes and tantrums. When I’m a little stoned, there are no fights. My catchphrase goes from, “Thirty-second time out for everyone,” to, “Let’s all take a deep breath and count to four.”
Of course, that all sounds great and I suppose most moms strive for that sort of relationship with their kids. But falling short of this isn’t the end of the world. And contrary to what Grover suggests, being an enthusiastic playmate to one’s kids doesn’t make you a better mom.
Understanding my own disinterest in playing with my own kids led me to make other arrangements for my first-born: I decided to have another kid, and then another. I was sick, gained a ton of weight, got blotchy skin, endured months of bed rest, swollen ankles and other unappealing side affects, and then I had a C-section. And then I did it again. Haven’t I done enough?
According to Grover, I haven’t. I now need to be part of the fun. I need to get down on my hands and knees and play a part. And I need to enjoy it! I need to say yes to more things and be calm when they make a mess and be a Zen master when the kids act out or have tantrums. And if I can’t do that on my own, I can just buy some weed. What’s the harm, right? Sure, it might be a bit on the trashy side to run off to the coat closet to secretly take a few tokes. But is it really doing anyone any harm?
Like Grover, we can pretend that pot is a harmless “natural” drug, but we know that even casual use of marijuana alters the section of the brain that governs emotions and motivations, two areas that seem pretty critical when it comes to parenting.
Grover glosses over how this habit will affect her children’s perceptions of what’s appropriate. In the Cosmopolitan article, Grover claims she never smokes weed in front of her kids. Perhaps Grover’s kids think the fact that mommy occasionally smells like a potpourri sachet is normal, but kids aren’t dumb. I suspect they know or will soon.
We know that parents set standards for their kids and by smoking pot—even out of eyeshot of the kids—Grover risks legitimizing the practice, which could lead to their own kids doing drugs at an earlier age. A recent Duke University study found that pot use significantly reduces the I.Q. of users who start early. Changes to the adolescent brain are no laughing matter.
If Grover really wanted to help moms, she’d work to dismantle the idea that we have to be perfect, present, enthusiastic, playful parents. Tackling that myth seems better than advising parents that getting high is the way to get through the horror of playing with one’s kids.
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