Pot and Parenting: Mommy Smokes Medicine by Aliza Sherman
When I was a in fifth grade, I won Honorable Mention for a science fair exhibit called “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind.” My entire exhibit was a regurgitation of the information I found in 1980s publications stating that marijuana was a “Gateway Drug” to heroin, something that has been disproven many times over since then but is still a falsehood perpetrated by our government today.
I smoked a little pot back in high school and college – always someone else’s. I smoked joints, tried some bong hits, and I ate a brownie once and remember laughing and bumping into walls. But the purpose back then was entertainment and escape.
One summer off from college, I worked in a head shop above a record store. I was educated about cannabis accessories, and well versed in recognizing undercover police officers trying to get me to say the products were for smoking “dope” so they could shut down the store. We marketed everything for “tobacco” use.
All of this to say, I’m not entirely ignorant about cannabis. Yet in my early 50s, I felt lost and embarrassed and somewhat afraid to look into this ancient medicinal plant to relieve the pain that was eroding my spirit and casting darkness over my life. The pain – literally in my neck – made me feel hopeless and helpless, particularly since I did not want to take synthetic painkillers. The pain made me angry, short-tempered, sleepless and depressed. The pain was my motivation to seeking an alternative path to pain relief.
Finally, I connected with several women who were incredibly kind and generous with information about cannabis. One explained to me the various compounds within the cannabis plant that can be released when consumed with potentially positive effects including anti-inflammatory, analgesic and sedative. Another woman agreed to be my “caregiver” to provide me with legally grown cannabis. The state where I live has a caregiver model versus a medical dispensary model for medical marijuana. Individuals are allowed to grow a certain number of cannabis plants for a limited number of patients.
When I finally mustered the courage to try it at home, I made sure I consumed only three to four puffs off a vaporizer (also called a vape pen) at bedtime after the kids were asleep. Then I read or worked on crossword puzzles until I drifted to sleep. The first time I tried it, I slept through the night, and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night from the pain. I did not have night sweats, something that happened usually after I consumed my regular glass of red wine for relaxation. I woke up clear headed and rested.
That first morning when I realized I had slept an uninterrupted eight hours, I cried.
Realities of Motherhood
Getting a good night’s sleep can seem like a miracle for many women, especially moms. Dealing with the stresses of day-to-day managing a household, a career, relationships and the multi-faceted lives of our kids can overwhelm us and create anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and chronic pain. We persevere because we have to, and we ignore the symptoms of burnout, continuing to take care of others around us without stopping to take care of ourselves.
On top of all of this, add the stresses of aging. If you’re reading this on Motherhood Later, you’re most likely an older mom. I had my daughter at 41. My husband and I adopted our teenage son when I was 50.
Aging is not for the feint of heart. Between post partum depression, peri-menopause, and menopause, I’ve had my share of physical stressors that have compounded the stressors of everyday life. No wonder women like me often reach for the wine in the evenings to decompress, wind down, and mellow out.
But What About the Kids?
I think I’m a good mom. I’m a better mom when I’m well rested and not experiencing chronic pain from arthritis in my neck. Using cannabis as a sleep aid has helped me tremendously but also brings up a lot of questions as a parent. Do I tell my kids, and if so, what do I tell them? How can I reconcile doing what is legal in the state where we live but illegal federally while telling my pre-teen daughter and teenage son not to do drugs at all?
Right now, my kids know that I have a few clients with cannabis-related businesses. I’ve explained to them the legal issues around cannabis and pointed out that I’m not selling the plant itself or handling it as part of my business. I’m marketing cannabis companies, products and services, all legitimate businesses in legal states.
My son knows what cannabis is and was exposed to it in his “previous life” pre-adoption. He says he has no interest in using it. He finds it amusing that I’m in the cannabis industry, and always gives me a knowing smile when the subject comes up.
My daughter isn’t 100% sure what cannabis is. She does know that drugs are bad after several grade school programs that told her so. I’ve asked my son not to talk about his knowledge of drugs around my daughter simply because he doesn’t have the ability to properly communicate the information to her.
I recently spoke with a client of mine, who runs a traditional, non-cannabis smoke shop, about how he handles using cannabis around his kids. He has two young daughters, under 10, and said that from the start, he has explained to them that cannabis is a medicinal plant and is medicine for grown ups.
“We don’t make a big deal about it,” he says. “We don’t treat it like it’s a anything out of the ordinary.”
He admits that he leaves smoking accessories around the house in a casual and normal way like you might leave a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter, but he keeps the cannabis safely out of reach. When I have a little, I keep it in a locked box.
I think normalizing the conversations around cannabis is important – not just amongst adults but with our kids as well. When we tell them not to drink before the legal age and never to drink and drive if they do drink, we should say the same things about cannabis.
We can tell our kids the facts: that cannabis is actually safer than alcohol overall but still can alter your senses and impair your brain function enough that they should avoid it until their brain is fully formed, at least until their early 20s. And they should avoid operating a car if they do use it.
I think explaining the medicinal benefits of cannabis and modeling responsible use and behaviors around it can speak volumes. At 4 years old, my daughter knew that “Mommy loves wine, and Daddy loves beer.” It was normal and not stigmatized. Someday, responsible cannabis use will sound just as normal. “Mommy smokes medicine.”
I want my kids to be informed and to know the law of the land and the rules of our house and to obey both. I will continue to speak to them about the medicinal benefits and explained why the laws around cannabis are the way they are and why they must change. Open communications is key. At the moment, my kids haven’t directly asked if I use cannabis, and I’m not offering that information…yet.
Aliza Sherman is a writer, entrepreneur, wife and mom living in Alaska. Her favorite things to do are RVing, yoga and karaoke.