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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Good Moms Don’t Smoke!: Confessions of a ‘Bad Mom’

By Guest Blogger Aimee Whitefoot

Everyone knows that good moms don’t smoke, only the bad moms do! With growing number of smokers switching to e-cigarette use (vaping) in Canada, what how does the public perceive Moms who vape?

The overgeneralized perception that “good moms don’t smoke” is reflective of the patriarchal, judgmental, fast-paced, capitalistic, social media-oriented culture that characterizes mainstream North American society today.

The hardest part about being a mother in today’s world is the constant self-doubt mothers experience as they do their best to negotiate the labyrinth of challenges that comes with raising children. While we all know objectively that “there is no one right way to raise a child,” we so often feel like we’re getting it all wrong.

From the moment we bring a baby into the world – literally, the moment – we feel insecure about using pain medications during labour and so often feel like failures if our labours require medical intervention. Shortly after, we have to figure out how to feed these tiny humans, and if breastfeeding doesn’t go perfectly or doesn’t work at all for whatever reason, again we feel like total failures. When our babies don’t have the top of the line (read: EXPENSIVE) all terrain stroller, convertible crib or car seat, we feel like we are doing our children a disservice. When our toddlers freak out in public because they wanted McNuggets, not a hamburger, or because they don’t want to leave the indoor playland after 3 hours, and it’s already well past naptime, we are embarrassed by their behavior and feel the burning stares of onlookers (real or imaginary) judging our (lack of) parenting skills. When our school-aged children use curse words, we quickly collect the offending child and retreat for fear of anyone finding out that our kids swear. When our tweens and teens spend the entire weekend online playing video games, we are always cautious not to let anyone know that we allowed so much screen time.

As mothers, it feels like our every action is under critical surveillance, and failure to comply with the overzealous mainstream images of perfect moms who are always well groomed and well dressed, have successful careers, marriages, and children, leaves most of us feeling pretty lousy at least some of the time.

In truth, mothers are just ordinary people. Some of us are young, some of us are old. Some of us work, some of us stay at home. Some of us are married, some of us are single. Some of us enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage to relax and unwind, and some of us even smoke!
The image of the smoking mother is one of the most poignant images of society’s preconceived notions of what a “bad mother” looks like. Everyone knows, good moms don’t smoke!

“Doesn’t she know how damaging second-hand smoke is for her children?”
“Doesn’t she care about her health?”
“Doesn’t she know who terrible of an example she is setting for her children?”
These statements are the kinds of things commonly uttered by judging onlookers when a mother is caught smoking.

I know because I am one of these “bad moms.” I was a smoker. I always tried to hide my smoking from anyone who might pass judgment. None of my kids’ school friends knew I smoked, and nor did their parents. But it got harder and harder to keep my dirty secret the older my children got, and finally I got sick of it and decided I was going to quit smoking once and for all (I had tried many times previously – I successfully quit during my pregnancies, but it never lasted).

A little over two years ago, I was finally able to successfully quit smoking through the use of an electronic cigarette – though vaping. My mother in law introduced me to vaping (she learned about it as an effective way to quit smoking through her hairstylist), and when I saw how easily she traded in her tobacco cigarettes for an e-cigarette, I knew I had to give it a try. After a few stumbles, I had made the transition and was finally smoke-free. Hooray! I could finally shed some of my “bad mom” shackles … or could I?

Turns out that the public has been vastly misinformed about the health risks associated with e-cigarette use, and I continue to receive judgmental glances from onlookers when I vape in public in the presence of my children. Even friends – who smoke – have been appalled at my vaping, and doubt my explanations that vaping is 97% healthier than smoking.
For me, as a reformed smoker and vaping mother, I have always kept my vaping discreet when in public with my children. I never consciously planned to be a “closet vaper” – although I was intentionally a closet smoker – it just sort of happened that way. I think the shame of being a smoking mother has conditioned me to keep it to myself. I don’t want to be labeled a “bad mom, ” and currently, e-cigarettes are still relatively new and misunderstood by the general public, so my status as a vaping mom is uncertain.

I am hopeful that as vaping goes through regulations at the federal level in Canada, that Canadian legislators follow the example set in the U.K. and vaping is embraced as a useful hard reduction tool that is vastly safer than smoking so that the public stigma that goes along with vaping begins to fade.

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As always, happy vaping!