"Motherhood, powered by love, fueled by coffee, sustained by wine."
That's a common trope these days: Moms drink wine. Lots of wine, from the sound of it. Motherhood is hard, and nothing makes hard stuff easier than sipping a little rosé and watching Netflix. We know it, everyone knows it. Boozy moms are a thing, especially boozy millennial moms.
What's less commonly known is that moms, particularly stay-at-home moms, live with depression at a higher rate than other folks. And alcohol can increase feelings of depression because of the way it interacts with certain neurotransmitters. So stay-at-home moms sometimes struggle with depression and anxiety, then drink wine to feel a little better, relieve some stress, and relax at the end of a long day. But the wine they're drinking actually has a tendency to make them feel worse, not better.
For some moms, the answer lies not in the wine glass but in the bong. Today's mothers are turning to recreational marijuana to take the edge off after a long day of child-rearing, or even help treat more serious problems, like postpartum depression.
"Once I became a mom I never even considered using it, but I wasn't the same after experiencing postpartum depression with both of my daughters in various forms," says Celia Behar, a life coach and cannabis advocate. A friend recommended she try pot. "I balked at first but eventually, out of desperation, I did it and it worked better than anything else I had tried."
Indeed, cannabis has been shown to improve symptoms associated with clinical depression and some anxiety disorders. And the stigma surrounding marijuana is slowly disappearing. It is legal, either medically or recreationally, in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and 13 percent of all U.S. adults say they use cannabis in some form. As such, the weed industry is booming, with products from lip balm to infused cooking oil available for sale, and cannabidiol products are available over the counter, even in states where marijuana is not yet legal. In other words, weed is mainstream, and it's only getting more mainstream as cities decriminalize and states move toward legalization.
And yet, moms who choose to use pot are ostracized.
Jenn Lauder, founder of Splimm, a website about pot and parenting, has been snubbed by her fellow moms. "The most negative responses by far came not from my family, colleagues, or friends, but from parents of a few of my daughter's pals," Lauder says."'But you're a MOM,' they'd lament after I told them — even if they were sipping mimosas or nonchalantly enumerating the pharmaceuticals they ingested daily."
Lauder says the exclusion was immediate. "After they learned my secret, the moms would ignore my texts, stop inviting us on walks, change up the location of the regular playdate so we wouldn't find them. And while it was easy for me to depersonalize these snubs and chalk them up to misinformation, it was hard not to feel sad when my daughter lost a buddy because of stigmas that still surround parents who choose cannabis."
So what gives? We know cannabis is not the devil our grandparents thought it was: The days of "reefer madness" have passed. We've learned it's rarely addictive — far less so than alcohol or many other drugs. On the flip side, we know how dangerous postpartum depression is to both mother and baby. Babies of moms with PPD can experience delays in cognitive development. And we know that cannabis improves symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. What's the problem?
Part of the disconnect could stem from concerns about how pot could affect babies — especially nursing babies. There is surprisingly little research on this topic. Although studies are underway to determine how cannabis use changes breast milk, if at all, at least one study does seem to suggest babies who drink breast milk from a cannabis-using mother during their first month of life could experience developmental delays. But because the research is so sparse, it's impossible to know for sure. Until there's more conclusive evidence either way, perhaps it's best for mothers to use marijuana only after they've stopped breastfeeding.
But what about other side effects for kids? Could marijuana make mom lazy? Less interested in good parenting?
Mothers who use cannabis say it makes them better moms. They say it improves their ability to communicate with their children and focus on their kids. "Cannabis seems to help my brain connect to my emotions," says Behar. "It stops my cycling thoughts and anxiety and that helps me connect better with my kids. I'm able to be in the moment with them. If that doesn't make you a better mom, I don't know what does." Other moms say that after they've used cannabis they can understand their children better on an emotional level, which leads to more clear communication and a better overall parenting experience.
So, let's recap: This plant requires little to no processing to use, has scientifically proven medical benefits, alleviates mental health symptoms that can be dangerous to both mothers and their children, isn't addictive, has negligible long-term effects when used in moderation, and has the potential to improve a mom's relationship with her children. Letting moms enjoy cannabis — ideally once they've stopped breastfeeding — seems like a no-brainer. And yet it's still frowned upon thanks to some bogus war on drugs prohibition-style brainwashing.
Attitudes toward moms who take advantage of the benefits of pot need to change. Hopefully, sooner than later, wine o'clock will become 4:20, and moms who use cannabis will be able to do so openly and honestly, without fear of puritanical and overblown judgment.