What would you think if your neighbour - a stay-at-home-dad - lit up a joint every morning while his young child played in the back yard? Would you judge him negatively? Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren did, in the case of her own neighbour who did this, until she got know him a little better.
In a recent column, McLaren uses "Joe" as a narrative hook for a piece about what she thinks might be a growing trend in her social circles: dads who use cannabis to help them cope with the stresses of child rearing, or because it makes them more creative and playful with their kids.
At first she portrayed him as a typical "stoner," someone who, "in his dungarees, goatee and trucker cap, looks like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie." After she watched him around his child for awhile she realized he was a responsible, caring parent, even though he smokes marijuana around his daughter.
"...after observing Joe for more than a year, I must acknowledge he's a great dad: attentive, cheerful and engaged without hovering or being anxious. His daughter, a smiling, confident little chatterbox, does not show signs of being the neglected child of a chronic drug user. In fact, she seems closer to her father than most kids that age.
Watching her flourish under his benevolent, weed-baked gaze has made me wonder: Is marijuana the new Mother's Little Helper for the emerging generation of stay-home dads?
McLaren then goes on to write about how she started seeing more dads like Joe in her social spheres.
"Since meeting Joe, I've spotted stoner dads everywhere," she wrote. "The guy on paternity leave, loping down the street, pushing a buggy with one hand and smoking a doob with the other. Two dudes on the park bench overseeing an afternoon play date and passing a pinner. A group of fathers at a Sunday afternoon backyard barbecue, sharing a joint on a picnic blanket before dispersing to change diapers or jump on the trampoline with the kids while their wives drink wine and chat over the grill."
Fathers and mothers use cannabis to relax
She does say that she knows moms who smoke up a lot themselves, something that has been noted in other feature articles on the subject of parents and their cannabis use. A highly shared Guardian article from 2014 included testimonials from many British and North American parents who smoked marijuana - men and women alike.
"I usually smoke after they've gone to bed," said Buddy from Los Angeles. "Weed is my private time in the last few hours of a day. I wouldn't smoke in front of [my kids] at this point. I'm not sure it would instill confidence and consistency in them and that's my job being a parent."
"I light up a spliff when they have gone to bed and I'm outside with my husband," said Merry from London. "I don't get totally blitzed out of mind. If parents can sit about and have a moderate drink of wine or beer around their kids then smoking a joint shouldn't be classed as anything different."
The Guardian article doesn't distinguish between men and women. McLaren does, saying she sees women being more discreet about their pot smoking. She also said mothers still seem to prefer drinking as a form of relaxation. The men McLaren talked to and observed also seem more comfortable doing it (responsibly, mind you) in the presence of the children.
"Why is it okay for moms to joke about 'wine o'clock'," says Matt Austin from Toronto, "but we can't talk about taking the edge off with pot?"