Medicated Moms Face A Double Standard

by Tara Wood
Originally Published: 
medicated moms
Tara Wood

I wanted to do something sweet for my kids on the first day of school. I woke up extra early to get a jump-start on frying bacon, warming croissants, and slicing fresh fruit. If I didn’t dawdle, I could maybe even manage a cup or two of coffee before our school-aged kids started filing down the stairs all sleepy-eyed and bed-headed, equal parts excited and nervous to start a new academic year.

My hope was to prepare a lovely breakfast to nourish my darlings’ minds and bodies before sending them out the door. They’d all feel well-loved and self-assured as they dripped honey on their flakey, half-moon bread product. We’d talk about all they’d learn and who might be in their class. They’d give me sticky kisses and hug me with their bony little arms after they thanked me for making their morning extra special.

The reality was that I was delusional. Two kids slept through their alarms. There was a mighty row about which sister used all the hot water. One kid peed the bed. He was urine-soaked up to his neck. The bacon was undercooked and I burned croissants. No one ate the fruit. The morning spiraled into the antithesis of what I’d imagined.

We’d just moved two weeks before the start of school and I hadn’t thought to alert our school’s transportation department or find out where the bus stop was. Instead, I took my 10-year-old daughter’s word that she was certain she knew exactly where the bus they’d never ridden before would pick them up. I kissed our three elementary school kids “goodbye” and brewed myself that cup of coffee I hadn’t been able to chug earlier.

Just as I stirred in the Stevia, my daughter burst through the front door and announced that the bus driver didn’t see them. The bus passed by and the driver never looked their way.

School was scheduled to start in 10 minutes.

I, barefoot and braless, scooped up our two youngest daughters (who aren’t yet school-age) and barked at the remaining three to hustle to our 15 passenger van. I shouted rhetorical questions at my girl: How could she have screwed up so royally on the very first day of school? Didn’t she know they were going to be late on the first day of school — all because she didn’t know where the bus stop was? My words mixed with her own sense of failure and new school year apprehension opened the floodgates.

We made it to the school with one minute to spare before the bell rang. I was curt as they struggled with gigantic backpacks and new lunch boxes, commanding them out of the van and into uncertainty. I apologized to my daughter as she hopped out, but it wasn’t enough and the damage had been done.

On the drive home, I realized my shoulders were tense and up near my ears. My fingers gripped the steering wheel much harder than necessary. My heart raced, my brow was furrowed, my jaw was clenched. I knew I’d mucked it all up.

Parental guilt and anxiety swept me up and swallowed me whole. Man, I hate that feeling.

It wasn’t until I was back in my driveway that it occurred to me I hadn’t taken a single photo of any of the kids. I was too distracted losing my mind to ask them to pose for my iPhone.

Within an hour or so, there would be dozens of flawless, staged photos of coiffed kids — little boys with their shirts tucked in and wearing belts, girls with grosgrain bows larger than their own heads smiling all pink-cheeked and sparkly eyed — holding chalkboards or Pinterest-worthy framed prints listing the year, their age, grade, and new teacher’s name.

I decided to post a back-to-school photo of myself with a caption about how I’d obliterated the morning for my children. I stood outside of my van, still braless plus a halo of frizzy hair that had escaped my Mom-bun, held up my prescription bottle of Xanax, and took a selfie.

For the most part, the comments were and continue to be supportive with moms and dads alike thanking me for “keeping it real.” Eventually, though, there were bombs from strangers calling me “an addict,” “a bored, pill-popping housewife,” and a “bad mom.” A commenter wagged her finger at me to not drive my children while taking Xanax because it makes her sleepy so, certainly, my reaction to my dose must be exactly the same as hers. One woman, who eventually deleted her comment, promised to pray for my “innocent children who are being raised by a weak mother.”

I typically don’t engage with trolls or commenters who seem only to leave provocative comments in order to start a shitstorm, but I was genuinely surprised and then pissed off by some of the accusations and labels being hurled my way.

I had to wonder if these people felt compelled to leave comments on photos of a mom holding a wine glass at the end of the day or, hell, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon? Are there nasty accusations and questions about her capability to parent when she writes a status update proclaiming she’s “ready for a Mom-garita!” or what about the photo she shared of a coffee mug that reads, “There’s a chance this is wine,” or the meme she posted that says, “The most expensive thing about parenthood is all the wine you have to drink”?

In all the years I’ve been on social media, I’ve never seen anyone call into question a parent’s moral compass, decision making ability, or their competency to care for their children when it is alcohol being exalted. I’ve never once read a comment shining a spotlight on the side effects of drinking or anyone sitting in their glass house promising to add the drinking mom and her innocent children to their prayer list. I’ve yet to see a metaphorical finger being wagged at a Mom posing with a Bota Box.

What’s with the double standard?

Moms drink and it’s celebrated — it’s adorable, and silly, and playful! There are dish towels, T-shirts, and tote bags dedicated to moms and wine, moms and mimosas, moms with straws sticking out of an entire bottle of rum — it must be okay!

Hold up, though…you use prescribed pharmaceuticals? Tisk, tisk. That’s not cute at all, sinner.

Why, you might as well be cooking, selling, and snorting meth while your baby, who’s been sitting in his own shit diaper for six hours because you’re dreadful and debilitated, watches goat porn and chews on shredded tire in the middle of the highway during a thunderstorm.

How dare those of us who take medication tend to ourselves, manage our mental illness, or find relief in something that must be picked up from a pharmacy and not by the case at Costco? I mean, how can it be that we’re good and decent, fun-loving mothers with the amazing and (apparently) surprising ability to care for ourselves and our children all while not drinking.

The simple truth is that alcohol is applauded and encouraged while those who rely on psych meds are scoffed at often jeered.

This is not another mommy war. I am not condemning drinking. I’m pissed off about this idea some have that those of us who use prescribed pharmaceuticals are weak or perpetually high or addicted. It’s gross, ignorant, dangerous, and unfair.

I am a better parent because I am medicated.

Put that shit on a dish towel.

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