If you have any good stuff that you’ve been saving, perhaps it’s time to break it out.
No, there isn’t much in the way of good news when it comes to being an American living through the Covid-19 pandemic at this point. Instead, with little in the way of quick solutions on the horizon, it may simply be the right moment to dip into one’s household reserves of alcohol and cannabis purely as a means of enduring.
While all but a privileged few have had their daily lives upended over the past six months (and counting), the specific challenge of being a parent during a pandemic is one that’s been fodder for countless articles and headlines.
As debates over whether to reopen classrooms, unprecedented financial hardships, and the fact that children aren’t fans of keeping masks on their faces all compound into stress for parents, it’s no wonder moms and dads are reportedly being driven to seek relief from a trio of popular substances.
Writing for the New York Times, Jessica Grose details how a multi-year WhatsApp message group she shares with a “handful of fellow mothers of small children across the U.S. and Canada” nowadays serves largely as a way for the clan to acknowledge the “wave of inebriation[that] begins on the shores of the Atlantic and crashes across the continent” each night when their little ones are off to bed and the bottles and pipes come out.
One member, a mother in California, was stuck inside with her three children for days on end in early September as a result of the air being thick with wildfire smoke. In a post-midnight message to Grose’s group during said period, the mom in question celebrated being “really high” and eating cake.
“Since the pandemic began,” Grose continues, “members of the group have experienced job losses, wildfires, weekslong power outages from tropical storms, political unrest, elderly parents with Covid-19, a news cycle on turbo and unending days filled with educating, feeding and caring for their children while also trying to fit in eight or more hours of work.”
Julie Kortekaas, 36, is not in Grose’s group but told the reporter about her own new coping routine as a mother of two who also owns a health-food restaurant in London, Ontario.
“My hobby is doom scrolling and learning the science of Covid and smoking weed and sitting on the toilet staring at the wall,” said Kortekaas. “I just hide in my bathroom and vape.”
And, as Grose points out, such burdens are a privilege given “somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of parents of children under 5 have worried about their children getting enough to eat since the pandemic started.”
Add in additional challenges, like the logistics of childcare for those who cannot work remotely and the ways in which kids and germs seemingly cannot stay apart from one another and one starts to see the appeal of sneaking a joint, popping a prescription pill, or taking a few late-night sips of something hard. It’s a trend even health professionals are apparently hard-pressed to condemn.
Speaking with Grose, Jonathan Metzl — director of the department of medicine, health and society at Vanderbilt University — called the current rise in parental substance use “just kind of understandable.”
“This is an incredible, once-in-an-epoch stressful situation,” he added, “and the kinds of outlets people usually have in their lives are just not available. We can’t go to the office, we can’t go to the gym, we can’t really see friends or family, and we never get a break.”
Though there are not reliable statistics to cite when analyzing parents’ use of alcohol, cannabis, or anti-anxiety meds, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told Grose that overall, “adult use of these substances has gone up since the pandemic began.”
The relief provided by the substances themselves are also but one piece of a larger puzzle, with the act of consumption itself taking on a form of heightened importance as well.
Each evening at 5 p.m., Bree Sanchez joins her husband in their home’s backyard for a happy hour drink. As she explained to Grose, the act isn’t merely about getting buzzed but about the ritual it signifies as well.
“We need to shape this day a little, a transition to our next thing, which is laundry, dinner, cleaning stuff up,” said Sanchez.
The challenge, of course, will be in defining the point where understandable coping transitions into abuse. Regardless, it’s clear that parents in the U.S. are quickly becoming yet another demographic helping cannabis in its pandemic-quickened transition from outlaw drug to an everyday aspect of daily life.