Childrearing

I Quit Smoking For My Kid But The Stress Of Parenting Her Has Me Smoking Again

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quit smokingIt’s 11 at night and my 10-month-old daughter won’t go to bed. My husband is preparing to sleep on the couch, yet again, so the baby and I can have the bed to ourselves. He’s been doing this for months now, and in turn, he’s been getting unbroken sleep —meaning he’s prone to Hulk syndrome, liable to morph into an unrecognizable mass of angry green husband at any given moment. This is one of those moments. Between our yelling and the baby’s crying, I’m genuinely shocked our neighbors haven’t called the police or CPS.

My husband self-medicates with cigarettes and video games. My only respite since Goober’s birth has been the shower, and my dry skin is starting to hint that I should find a new form of stress relief.

So when I took one of my husband’s cigarettes out on the balcony that night and smoked for the first time in two years, I guess I had finally just snapped.

As I took one drag after another, I remembered the night long before I was a mom when I had decided to quit. It was January of 2011 and I was standing outside of a Border’s bookstore (remember those?). It might’ve been the caffeine buzz from my Americano, but I had two epiphanies, both of which are probably going to sound stupid.

One happened after I saw a family of four entering the store holding hands. The two doe-eyed brunette children raced ahead of their parents. The parents followed, looking healthy and fit. I hid my cigarette behind my back to keep from offending them. Then I realized I would have kids one day, and how could I possibly keep up with them and snuggle them close when I reeked of cigarette smoke?

The other was when I saw a seriously disabled young woman riding her scooter around inside the store. I realized she was probably born with her disability and sentenced to a short life—and here I was, healthy as could be, intentionally filling my lungs up with smoke.

Yeah, it was definitely the caffeine that lifted off that thought-rocket.

But somehow, those epiphanies were the pushes I needed to start my journey as an ex-smoker. I spent the next couple of weeks manically chewing on cinnamon sticks and eating Krispy Kremes to keep myself distracted. I gained a couple pounds and felt sick from the doughnuts, but I kept reminding myself I was doing it for my kids, the imaginary kids of my future.

And wouldn’t you know it? I got pregnant two months after quitting.

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24 Comments

  1. Ellie

    October 10, 2012 at 11:02 am

    I quit 19 years ago, and sometimes I still crave it. But I don’t give in because I know it is bad for me, my husband, and my kids. Don’t blame the situation, this is a conscious choice you are making. And you are both CHOOSING to expose your child to all those harmful chemicals by indulging in this selfish habit. If you don’t care about you, think about her. You both quit once, you can do it again. Sometimes this is a choice you have to make every single day, but it’s time to put the big kid pants on and do it.

    • Amanda Low

      October 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      I don’t expose her to the smoke; we smoke outside, wear coats, and wash our hands and brush our teeth before holding her. Both of my parents smoke more than a pack a day and they are as healthy as can be. I realize it can be harmful, but so is overeating, and failing to exercise, and drinking alcohol. And these types of parents aren’t criticized about their lifestyle choices as much as smokers. Ever.

    • Sue

      October 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      You’re so defensive because you know it’s irresponsible.

    • alice

      October 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      She’s defensive because people are attacking her for deciding to have one cigarette a day. Is having one cigarette a day irresponsible? Maybe.

      But I’d say it’s probably HEAPS less irresponsible than the millions of American moms who are overweight and not making any strides to exercise or eat healthy.

    • Heather

      October 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Maybe your parents are as healthy as can be. Or maybe they just seem that way. My mom looked after my kids for 3 hours on Friday, baked them cookies on Saturday morning, and had a stroke that night. No apparent warning signs. She was active, thin, ate the right foods, didn’t have a history of high blood pressure, wasn’t a drinker. The only risk factor this seemingly healthy woman had was a history of smoking. All I’m saying is why take the chance? Because it won’t happen to your parents, who are healthy as can be, or it won’t happen to you, because, well, that would suck? Because it wasn’t supposed to happen to my mom, either.

    • Ellie

      October 12, 2012 at 11:16 am

      I think you’re taking my comment way too negatively. What I am saying is that you have the power to change this thing you know you want to change. And you can do it! You did it before.

  2. Heather

    October 10, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Would you still have that nightly cigarette if you could look down the road 30 or 40 years and see yourself paralyzed by a stroke and having to watch your daughter bring her babies to visit you in the hospital, and know that you would never walk those babies to the park again? Would you still have that nightly cigarette to make up for the disappointments of parenting if you knew that 3 months after that first paralyzing stroke, you’d have another, fatal stroke? And that at age 71, you’d be gone, leaving behind grandchildren you’d never see grow up? Yeah, yeah, it’s only one cigarette a night and this will never affect your health because you’ll quit long before that can happen. Maybe that’s what my mom told herself. She only smoked a few cigarettes a day and quit 12 years ago entirely. Maybe the strokes would have happened anyways and had nothing to do with the smoking. But maybe those years of light smoking did do irreversible damage that no one saw coming. Parenting can be tough, I’ve got a 3 year old and one year old and sometimes they drive me absolutely bonkers. But I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up. I owe it to my kids to do (or not do) whatever it takes to make this happen. Because no one should have to go through what we did a few months ago. And that brings me peace.

  3. Eve Vawter

    October 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Awwww, this is so sweet. To be honest I’m more concerned about your husband turning into a hulk monster and yelling at you than you sneaking an occasional cigarette on the balcony. He needs to realize that your baby will only be ten months old a short period of time and things may be stressful now, but they won’t be forever. You quit once, you will do it again, when you are ready. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

    • Amanda Low

      October 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Thank you! This means very much to me. Love your writing, by the way.

  4. idiot smoker

    October 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    it’s time for me to quit, too. my daughter is almost 6. i think about quitting every day, and in fact, my intake has increased pretty severely in the last few months. used to be a pack every 5 days, not it’s a pack every 2. and i actually have blood issues that will surely guarantee me a stroke. i’m an idiot. reading this has been helpful. very helpful.

  5. DadCAMP

    October 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    What a sad commentary. Sad sad commentary. A deadly drug addicted habit is nothing to take solace in or be proud of.

  6. Melanie

    October 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    It seems to me like you are trying to justify the fact that you’ve given up or failed to quit smoking. Perhaps you’d like support from others who will agree with you here, but I don’t think that’s what you need. I personally think you are stronger than that, and that if you’ve realized the implications of smoking once in your life when you had an epiphany and you could quit then, you can do it again. Don’t give up, don’t worry about justifying yourself to others (especially people on the internet who don’t even know you), stop making excuses and have faith in yourself that you’re strong enough to do this.

  7. Cassy

    October 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Amanda, I have to say I feel this is your most open, raw and honest piece yet and I love it. I can’t believe the negative comments I’m reading on here. As a non-smoker, I don’t condone you continuing to smoke but the reality is we all do things on a daily basis that could be interpreted as harmful. And we all know we shouldn’t do those things, but we do them anyway.
    I especially appreciate that last paragraph. Parenting is HARD. It isn’t what I thought it would be, either. I mean, loving my daughter is everything I thought it would be and more. But if I had known it would be a challenge to my marriage in the way it has been, things might have been different when I was planning a family.
    All I can say is that even though I don’t know *exactly* what you’re going through, I sympathize. I’m more than willing to talk it out with you any time you want to! And I appreciate everything you’ve put out there about your take on motherhood, but especially this. A million times this. Keep up the good work!

  8. Courtney

    October 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Keep on, keepin’ on. I just read your piece & loved it. I’m sure many can relate. Isn’t it sweeter to rest your head at night knowing that it’s okay to not be perfect? You will never find me shaming a woman who spoke of her own truths.

  9. Ordinaryperson

    October 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I used to smoke too, not very much, maybe 2-3 a day. I was never worried about quitting because I figured I’d stop and never start again once I got pregnant. My husband on the other hand would go on these quitting sprees every now and then, and of course, I went along with him for support, but eventually we’d work our way back to the smokes. One month into one of our non-smoking periods, I found out I was pregnant. Awesome! That was over two years ago, and I’ve not had a smoke, or wanted to have one since. My husband… not so much. He started smoking again while I was pregnant, that jerk, after I stopped because of him! He did stop when our daughter was born, but he did still smoke from time to time with friends, or if he was away for work. I eventually had to tell him it wasn’t fair for him to keep smoking while I had quit. I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did off the cig train with your husband smoking in front of you, I don’t know if I would have. You’ll quit when you want to, and not any sooner, don’t worry about it. I found it was easier to quit for someone else (kids) too, so just think of your daughter, and don’t beat yourself up over a few cigs.

  10. LiteBrite

    October 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I liked this piece Amanda. It was honest and heartfelt.

    Every night, after our son goes to bed, my husband goes out to the garage and has a cigarette. I wish he’d quit for good, but I also know I’m in no position to judge when I’m reaching for my second glass of wine some days. Let the judgement begin!

    The truth is, none of us are perfect, no matter how hard we might try to convince others. We all have our faults. We all struggle for control in our lives. We all have crap in our lives that stresses us out. Sometimes we make good choices to combat that. Sometimes we make not-so-good ones. All we can do is keep striving to be better.

    You quit smoking once. You’ll quit again, when you’re ready.

  11. bumbler

    October 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    idk if this is a stupid idea or if it might be worth a try, but why not get a wallet sized pic of your daughter and stick it inside your pack of cigarettes? I don’t know how deep your addiction runs, but I’d like to believe that at least some part of you would hesitate to light up if the innocent face of your baby was staring back at you from the pack. Everyone tries to talk down “mommy guilt”, but sometimes a little guilt is exactly what you need to get back on track. After all, guilt is often our subconscious trying to guide us to a better place. Just a thought, hope it helps.

  12. Jules

    October 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Honey, I think you are seriously deluded. If you would rather escape into a deadly habit that shaves minutes off the life you will spend with your daughter every time you light up then go to therapy or kick that hulk monster to the curb, you should reevaluate your priorities, and quickly. My heart breaks thinking of your daughter who will have to see you with a tracheotomy, an oxygen tank, or (heaven forbid) lung cancer. Why would you willingly subject her that because of your choices? What are you going to tell her when she’s old enough to ask why you are smoking? What are you going to do when she gets the D.A.R.E talk and knows what you are doing to yourself? I totally understand that you need a stress reliever, but there are far healthier ways. Please, get therapy, for yourself and your spouse. And if you don’t think parents of obese children you are seriously mistaken.

  13. kylie523

    October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Ugh. Good article, clear and honest. Don’t listen to these self righteous posters.

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  15. anonymous

    October 12, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I am the anti-sanctimommy, but I am so sick of reading articles and blog postings about parents who’ve taken up smoking as some symbol of independence or stress relief. It’s no better than a teenager taking up smoking as a symbol of independence. I don’t think being a parent is any more or less of a reason to smoke, nor do I think pointing out that people slowly kill themselves in other ways — by overeating, not exercising, etc. — is an argument that smoking is any less deadly. Lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases are some of the most widespread and preventable causes of death in America. Articles glorifying smoking, as well as comments such as “my parents smoked for years and are fine,” are a slap in the face to anyone who’s lost a loved one to smoking. I truly don’t care if you smoke or not, but it bothers me that you use the power you have as a writer for a highly-trafficked blog to showcase your habit as an appropriate form of stress relief. I know that no one’s perfect, but why help create a culture that normalizes smoking? There is no such thing as a safe cigarette. And again, this has nothing to do with the fact that you’re a parent. Two people very close to me have died of lung cancer this year, one in her 50s, one in her 60s. One was a smoker and one was a non-smoker, but lived with one for most of her life. Please try to have some sensitivity towards people who have been affected by this issue. I suspect that the negative comments are trying to add to the ANTI-smoking culture, not attack you personally.

  16. South Beach Smoke

    May 21, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I recently gave up smoking with the help of electronic cigarette, the carvings are going down and I don’t feel like puffing a real cigarette anymore.

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