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Dec 9, 2020 12 min read

‘Cannabis makes me a better parent’

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by Ben Hartman
father plays blocks with his small son

Images of dads cracking open beers on the couch after work and moms with thousand-yard stares drinking wine at the kitchen table are so common in popular culture that hardly anyone raises an eyebrow. Yet for a variety of reasons, parents using cannabis to relieve their stress has long been taboo — at best, something one doesn’t discuss. 

This, despite the fact that cannabis consumption has become more mainstream and accepted than at any other point in modern history. Or the fact that 54% of Americans who use marijuana are parents, according to a 2017 poll.

But because so few people talk about parenting and cannabis in the same breath — at least in any positive way — we wanted to know how moms and dads who do use marijuana feel it affects their parenting. So we put out a call on social media, and the responses were immediate, overwhelming, and enlightening. 

We heard from parents who work in fields as varied as hi-tech, the legal profession, sales, entertainment, and public school and daycare education. We learned that this is clearly a subject people feel very passionately about, that they were willing to go out of their way to talk to us about, yet also don’t want other people to know about. Most asked us not to use their real names. 

Their stories are important. Their reasons for using cannabis are ones most parents can relate to, and the ways they describe how it affects their relationships with their children are downright moving.

The patience to answer the same question 50,000 times

Tired parents with small children
Patience isn’t a virtue for parents, it’s a necessity that can at times be hard to find. (Illustrative photo by nd3000/123rf)

Patience isn’t a virtue for parents, it’s a necessity that can at times be hard to find. Telling a 4-year-old for the 50th time in 10 minutes that they cannot eat handfuls of salt directly out of the shaker, only to then be asked, suddenly, as if struck by lightning, “what happens when we’re dead?” can wear on one’s patience. The problem is, not everyone is patient by nature. For many of these people, marijuana helps. 

“The most valuable tools (imho) as a parent are patience and understanding. I have no patience, weed gives me an *abundance* of patience,” said Joel Hernandez, aka Mero of the Showtime show “Desus and Mero” in a tweet responding to The Cannigma’s query about cannabis and parenting. 

Hernandez, a father of four from the Bronx, also said that weed “makes mundane daily tasks adventures,” and can help ease the anxiety of raising four kids and making sure they’re doing the right thing.

In March 2019, Hernandez responded to a news report that TV and radio personality Andy Cohen had quit smoking weed after he became a father by calling it a “rookie mistake,” writing in a tweet that “it grants u infinite patience and the ability to answer the same goodman question 50,000 times.”

In a correspondence with The Cannigma, Elizabeth (not her real name), a mother of three from Austin, Texas said that she started using cannabis after her divorce five years ago. It has helped her deal with the stress of everyday life, she said, making her a better parent as a result. 

“Pot helped me get to sleep and stay asleep better than anything else I had tried. It helped alleviate the worst parts of my anxiety so I was able to function as a parent. Life doesn’t slow down just because you’re going through a thing, you know? Kids still had activities and birthdays and school events and I had to be able to deal with all that.”

A Twitter user with the handle “Michael616J”, a father of 18-month-old-twins, told The Cannigma that marijuana “helps me with patience and to be kind with myself. Parenting is hard. We’re expected to know it all and weed helps with that anxiety.”

Bringing out your inner child 

One of the truly difficult things about being a parent is the simple reality that we are adults and they are children. We expect them to understand things that are obvious to us, and get frustrated when it doesn’t click. We are also often too stuck in our heads, and too incapable of seeing the world from the eyes of a young child — particularly without all the distractions of the adult world. 

In a direct message on Twitter, Nate (not his real name), a father of three kids aged 2, 4, and 6 from New Jersey, said he believes marijuana makes him a better parent, allowing him to focus on what they want to focus on and not get distracted by work or the outside world. 

“If they want to play a make-believe game or something, I think less about what I want to be doing and more so about what I’m actually doing,” Nate wrote. “Maybe it’s not ‘want to be doing’ but rather what is currently occupying my mind instead of them.”

Nic, a father of two from London, said that with cannabis, “I can be sillier and ‘zone in’ more with very small children. Get on their level and enjoy basic, repetitive activities.”

He also said he can be “just a bit happier when stoned,” and that “essentially it makes parenting easier because I am happier, more relaxed, and more childlike in how I experience the world.”

Marc Goldberg, a father of three young children, also from New Jersey, said he’ll never forget the advice a friend gave him when he said he was going to quit smoking pot ahead of his first child’s birth: “Bro, I promise, being a dinosaur for an hour is better on weed!”

Goldberg added that a calm, happier parent is better for the kids, in that “calm responses also keep your kids off edge, which is even more important this year.” 

He said that cannabis “helps me to gather my thoughts and stay in the moment,” and that at the end of the day “I say to my wife all the time, ‘give me 10 minutes and ill give you an hour’ which means, let me smoke a bowl and then you can go take a bath or whatever you need.”

Help getting through the difficult days

mother smokes a joint
‘Looking forward to smoking each evening helped me get through the difficult days’ (Illustrative photo by Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

Ellen, a 44-year-old mother of three from Indiana, said cannabis has made a major difference in helping her let go and live in the moment with her kids. 

She related how 15 years ago she was a stay at home mom with three kids under the age of seven, when one day her husband suggested she smoke some weed. 

“He talked me into it and I had the best time playing with my kids. In that moment, I was able to truly enjoy them as tiny people rather than playing out of obligation. Looking forward to smoking each evening helped me get through the difficult days and helped my stress level go from a nine to a one instantly. Fast forward 15 years, and all three of my kids think I am the ‘best mom ever’ who is a good listener and who never yells. Could have never done it without the stress relief of weed.”

For Shawna, a mother in Oregon, the convenience and accessibility of living in an adult-use cannabis state spurred her acquaintance with marijuana a few years ago after nearly a decade-long hiatus. She said that cannabis can help her readjust, and also compliments her other forms of self-care. 

“If I get too intellectually twisted with politics, the copious fears and anxiety that come with being a parent of a child I love dearly, I have cerebral spiritual tools I activate to help get out of flight, fight, or freeze. And sometimes those tools (like meditation, prayer, journaling, dancing, yoga, shamanic journeying) are greatly complimented by marijuana. I am a very light-weight imbiber — a tiny bud can take me a long way towards recentering my nervous system and enjoying the ebbs and flows of life.”

Help winding down after work, leaving drama at the door  

One of the most challenging aspects of being a parent is finding a way, any way, to somehow leave your work outside the house and to check the concerns of the outside world at the front door. That got more difficult with the advent of smartphones that make us available at all times, and virtually impossible if you’re working from home while taking care of young children. 

Several parents who responded to our social posts said that a small amount of cannabis after work, on the way home or just after they get in the house, can make all the difference during those crucial, especially tough late day scrambles for dinner, bath, and bedtime. 

David (not his real name), a 37-year-old father from New York with three children aged 3, 7, and 9, who works at a private venture capital firm, said he said he’s lucky if he’s able to see his kids at the end of the day. When he does get the chance to spend those two or so hours with his kids before bedtime, he said he needs a way to shut out the outside noise.

“That’s where I found [marijuana] helped the most,” David said. “Bringing myself down two extra notches before I come home, allowed me to enjoy my time more with my children, not to be so stressed from ‘life outside the home.’” 

He added that he doesn’t smoke in the house, rather, he finds somewhere along his commute to pause for a discrete smoke on his way home.

‘It makes me a kinder parent’

Two mothers laugh after smoking a joint
One mother said she found cannabis can be a good way to bond with fellow parents. (Illustrative photo by The Cannigma/Anthony Travagliante)

For Nathan (not his real name), an attorney and father of three small boys from Texas, eating just a quarter of a 10mg THC/10 mg CBD gummy helps “get my energy redirected” at the house. 

“When I get home from work, I am stressed and anxious,” he said. “The gummy just helps me transition out of that mode and into one where I can be silly and crazy with them.”

He said he doesn’t see it as any different “than the old-school 5pm drink,” and that the gummy dose isn’t enough to get him high — “it is enough for me to get more in my kids’ zone, which is way better than expecting them to exist in my stressy adult zone.”

Ryan (not his real name), a writer and 46-year-old father, said that he usually smokes cannabis after his kids go to sleep, but that on “the few occasions where I’ve used cannabis and then interacted with my children, I found my patience, understanding, and ability to connect with them to be vastly improved, especially towards the end of the day when exhaustion makes it easy to snap at them or get really flustered. I wouldn’t want to use it all the time or even every day, but occasionally it opens my eyes and makes me a much more relaxed, engaged, and kinder parent.”

Self-care for parents

smoking marijuana from a pipe in the bath
‘It’s in the category of self-care and wellness and a treat. I feel like I deserve it or earn it.’ (Illustrative photo by Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

They don’t always tell you this ahead of time, but when you have kids, “you” kinda ceases to exist. You have almost no “me” time, and when you do, it’s hard to not be preoccupied with the parenting tasks of the day. Remembering just exactly who you were before you were a parent can be tough, but for many parents, a late night smoke session after the kids go to sleep helps reclaim that sense of self. 

Josh, a 45-year-old father of two from Houston hadn’t smoked weed since college. When he and his wife had their first child and started spending more time in Colorado, however, he said he “discovered the wonder of light marijuana use after the kids and wife had gone to sleep!”

Josh said that a late-night solo session that helps him reset himself and turn off the outside noise. That is necessary, he said, for someone like himself “who has a large role in family care during day and then a job that’s very on your feet at night, running your own small [business], and then also being a creative. So a few hits or a light edible about two hours before bedtime is my jam. It has helped me in many departments, but definitely a big help in the maintenance of keeping balanced and calm through it all.”

For Emily, a 34-year-old mother from Canada, smoking weed doesn’t help her parenting directly per se, but she considers it important self-care nonetheless. She smokes in the evenings after her 3-year-old is in bed.

“Cannabis to me is like a warm bath or a face mask or glass of red wine or a nap or 10 hour sleep or yoga class or bowl of amazing pasta,” she said. “It’s in the category of self-care and wellness and a treat. I feel like I deserve it or earn it.”  

Emily also said that she has found cannabis can be a good way to bond with fellow parents. 

“Some of the parents from our daycare will smoke at the park or the beach on play dates. I actually think it helps us bond and connect and separate the adult zone from the kid zone,” she explained. “No different from having a beer — there’s a time and place for it. I wouldn’t do it if I was responsible for their kid at the beach, for example.”

Do your kids know you use cannabis? 

mother and father smoke cannabis
A mother and father smoke cannabis together (Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

David’s kids are too young to know what cannabis is, but his 7 year old “has told me on many occasions that some of her friends’ dads have the ‘same cologne/smell as i do.’ I don’t wear cologne.”

Howard (not his real name), a father of three from Long Island, who uses medical cannabis to treat health conditions including ankylosing spondylitis, recalled a similar situation. His older daughter, then eight, said that the house “smells like daddy’s medicine” on a number of occasions. 

“Now she knows about it,” Howard continued. “I’m not sure to what extent, but she knows I have a device that has my medicine in it. She knows it’s called cannabis, though I’m not sure she’s made the connection to “drugs.” Just not something she thinks about because she grew up with it and it’s not a big deal because we never made it a big deal.”

Stacey (not her real name), a 43-year-old single mom from New York, has been using medical marijuana to treat nausea and pain for nearly a decade. She said she first spoke to her daughter about it when she was a teenager.  

“My daughter was 13 and just learned about it at school,” she said. “She learned about medical marijuana and how it helps people with cancer. So I took her and sat her down and said, ‘listen I use medical [marijuana] too for the nerve damage to my head and face. She replied, ‘mom, I’ve known. I think it’s great it works for you.’”

The power of getting relief 

mother shops for cannabis
A mother shops for cannabis at a dispensary (Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

Stacey hit upon another aspect of how medical marijuana could affect parenting for the better — if it helps ease a parent’s medical symptoms, it can help free them up to be a better parent. Or in other words, even if it doesn’t directly help them parent, happier parents are arguably better parents.

“It makes me feel like I can function. It makes me feel like a human in control of a body that hates the host. It’s made me feel better and certainly the sativa is a very creative strain which is helpful during this pandemic to parent!” Stacey wrote. 

Jessica, a mother of two from a small, conservative town in southeast Texas, suffers from a number of health conditions including Ehlers Danlos, gastroparesis, and autonomic dysfunction. 

She said that cannabis has not erased her symptoms but it makes them “endurable, the edges are eased, and I can function with them and be productive. In that sense, I was able to get some type of life back, and be present again for my kids, and get out of my house and begin building a life again, which made me a better person and that made me a better parent.” 

She added “as a parent with an illness it has definitely made me a better parent.”

I don’t care if other parents know — but don’t put my real name 

Jessica said she “can count on one hand the amount of adults I have met that do not smoke.”

Yet other than Emily, very few of the parents we spoke with said they’d be comfortable if other parents in their community knew they use cannabis, despite its growing acceptance. 

Some of them work in the legal profession or are school teachers and fear it could jeopardize their employment. Some live in areas where cannabis is still illegal and being outed could get them in trouble with the law or even social services. 

But even among those in less sensitive professions and situations, there was a common reluctance to let the world know they are parents who like to get high. 

What emerged in the conversations was a truly candid description of their cannabis use and an absolute lack of shame about using it as a parent — followed by a request to not have their name used. 

Clearly, despite how much they believe cannabis can help and no matter the massive shifts in legality and stigma, we still haven’t reached a point where most parents feel comfortable admitting to it.

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