Confessions of a Pothead Mom

In light of our very recent emancipation from the illegality of pot, I say it's high time that we lift the veil on marijuana and motherhood.
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This is not easy to write about.

First off, I'm worried that readers are going to question my parenting and that I should prepare myself for a visit from Child Protection Services.

Secondly, there is my family, some of whom know me very well and others who might find this completely shocking. Not to mention my immediate family and, yes, my children, who might catch some ricocheting flak.

Lastly, there is my career. Even though I am only writing about a small part of my life, for a small part of the time, it could affect ALL of my professional life and have lasting implications.

Let's face it: My use of the word "pothead" probably dropped my IQ in your mind by several points. Despite compelling research that suggests marijuana has no lasting negative effects on brain function, unlike alcohol or tobacco, it still conjures up images of potato chips and sweatpants, struggling to get off the couch at 2 in the afternoon. And I'm a little concerned that everyone I encounter from now on, personally or professionally, will be asking themselves if I'm stoned at that very moment.

But someone has to start talking about it, and I've never been one to choose the easy way.

(Plus, I figure it should be someone living in Colorado or Oregon, so that no one gets thrown in jail or loses custody of their kids for being honest.)

So here goes, I'm just gonna say it (sorry mom!):

I'm a stay-at-home mom and I'm a pothead.

(My friends tell me a pothead is defined as someone who smokes pot more than three times a week... which means that some weeks, I'm a double-pothead.)

It's both liberating and terrifying to write those words. But why? It's now legal for me to buy it, possess it and smoke it in my home (I live in Colorado). I can literally add a stop to my errands and pick up some quality weed between the gas station and the grocery store.

So, in light of our very recent emancipation from the illegality of pot, I say it's high time that we lift the veil on marijuana and motherhood.

(Yes, I know dads smoke pot too, but this blog isn't about them.)

It's not uncommon for moms at school pickup to discuss their evening plans: "Heading out this evening for a few drinks with friends, you should come!" Or, "I can't wait to get home and have a couple glasses of wine after the day I've had!" Or, "Boy, I could use a drink later, are you free?"

Often, I'd like to respond with, "You know, alcohol doesn't really make me feel very good, how about you come over and we smoke some organic, shade-grown Indica that I just picked up?" But I don't dare.

(And now I'm thinking of the actual moms at my daughter's school who might read this, discover what I'm really thinking and judge me for it... Ugh, am I really writing this blog?)

Being in Boulder, I'm obviously not the only mom who smokes pot. In fact, I'm guessing that there are a lot of us out there. Sometimes we recognize each other and, in doing so, enter into a sisterhood of winks and whispers, complicit in our mutual understanding and our public shame.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a fully acceptable way for moms to relieve stress and relax after a long day of parenting and/or working. Most of us grew up with moms who drank openly and every major parenting show on TV today depicts moms drinking (sometimes at dinner when still in charge of their kids, sometimes after bedtime, when they can really "let their hair down"). It's normal and customary, because motherhood is hard and we all need to let loose sometimes.

Now imagine if one of those fictional moms lit up a pipe, right there at the dinner table with the whole family sitting around. Viewers would be up in arms and the show would be taken off the air, labeled a bad influence on our kids.

Or would it?

I'm a big fan of the TV show "Parenthood." This past week's episode depicted two of the older kids, both over 21, showing up to family dinner super stoned (they took a cab). Twenty years ago, when I was a teenager, that scene would have erupted into a huge family feud, ending with some larger, moral message about why weed is bad and destroys families.

But times, they have a-changed. In last week's "Parenthood," the kids were chastised for showing up to dinner in an altered state but, in general, it was taken lightly and not focused on for very long. It takes place in California, after all, and most of the parents on the show have smoked weed in a scene or two (in fact, medical marijuana was a huge help for one of the characters battling breast cancer last year).

What the TV parents were most concerned about was their kids' choice of when to smoke pot, not if they were smoking. And that is the subtle difference my generation of parents will have to make.

My daughter is growing up in a world where marijuana is legal and accessible. Just like liquor stores, there are eventually going to be pot stores on every third corner in our hometown. It seems like only a matter of time before marijuana is decriminalized nationwide and most of our children will live in such a world.

So how do we, as caring, involved parents, adjust to this reality?

Currently, when my little girl asks to have a sip of daddy's beer, we say, "No, that's a grown-up drink, it will make you feel sick," and she gets it. Those are the rules. Just like we taught her that space heaters can burn, and that the cleaners under the sink are strictly off-limits.

We could choose to hide our pot, like my parents did, shamefully sneaking out into the shadows to get stoned, afraid of what other people would say. But that only fooled my brother and me until we were about 10, which is the earliest memory I have of finding weed. It quickly became like a treasure hunt that only made us want it more. In my childhood, pot was illegal and taboo, but almost everyone's mom or dad had some hidden in their underwear drawer (I can confirm this after years of babysitting in my teens).

So I know from experience that if I hide it and refuse to talk about it, then it becomes an object of great desire. If I expose her to it openly, then I still feel like an irresponsible parent, even with it legalized (no matter how alternative my childhood was, Nancy Reagan's face pops up with "Just Say No" and "Gateway Drug!"). If I lie to my daughter about smoking it myself, then I'm a hypocrite who's not to be trusted... and we still have the teenage years to navigate.

There has to be a happy medium. Just as we can't protest the presence of kitchen knives because they could cut off a finger, we can't fight the weed tide that is rolling into our lives. We have to accept that marijuana is making its way out of the back alleys and into our homes, right next to the whiskey and the painkillers, and we have to prepare our kids accordingly.

The only way I know how to do that is to be completely honest, with my kids and with myself. Shame and secrecy only produce more of the same, and from what I've seen, as soon as our kids stop trusting us, they stop talking to us and we can lose them to abuse. We can abuse anything if we overdo it, and THAT is the important lesson to impart. We can't deny that we smoke, but we can have our own discipline around it and model healthy choices for our children... and to do that, we have to start talking about it.

So, Maya, when you are old enough to read this, I want you to know that I smoke pot. I am mindful about how much and when and where, and I always choose your safety and health as my priority, just as I do with alcohol. I promise to teach you how to do the same with all legal substances as you come of age; to value your health and longevity, while at the same time navigating this world from a place of honesty and strength, rather than shame and secrecy.

So there it is, my big confession.

Now that I've been brave enough to write about it, will you be brave enough to comment? Are you a parent who smokes pot too? Do you think I should be arrested for writing this blog? Do you still love me? (That one is directed more towards my mother-in-law than anyone else).


Kiri Westby


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