I am a mom and I smoke

By Jennifer Hatala


Salon Staff
July 17, 2000 11:42PM (UTC)

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Smoking three cigarettes outside, away from your children, does not make you a bad parent. What concerns me is the parents who smoke a pack or more a day in front of the kids. Knowing the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and still subjecting your child's growing lungs to it is an unforgivable sin. And yes, it does make you a bad parent.

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-- Eric McIntosh

Just like Jennifer Hatala's kids, my friends Lily and Anne (not their real names) had a good mother. In fact, their mom was wonderful: smart, funny, sympathetic and genuinely interested in the ideas and experiences of her young daughters and their friends. I rarely saw her smoke, but we all knew she did -- intermittently, of course.

But then, when my friends were in their teens, their mom got lung cancer. Her agonizingly painful death took months. I don't think Jennifer Hatala would be so smug about her fine mothering and her "adult" lifestyle choices if she had seen my friends' devastation as they watched their mother die.

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Being a good mother takes more than crocheting baby blankets and baking bread. It's just a little bit more important to stay healthy and alive. For the sake of those three little boys of hers, Hatala needs to quit kidding herself.

-- Catherine Murphy

It's easy when your children are young to think that as long as you wake up in the morning and hug them, you're doing your job. But being a parent isn't just about having little kids around the house. It's also a lifetime commitment to be present and available to those young adults and new parents of your grandchildren as they continue to find their way in the world.

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Long after your little ones have flown the nest you'll continue to be their parent and to offer guidance and serve as a role model of womanhood. That's a tough job to do with an oxygen tank or after you've had a stroke.

This is the same selfish and shortsighted thinking I see in parents who justify using that old clunker car with the bald tires because they "never put the baby in it." Parenting is more than just keeping your kids whole and healthy. It's also making sure you stay whole and healthy so you'll be there for your kids when they need you in different ways.

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Sorry, Jennifer, all the rationalizing in the world won't change the fact that you're putting your own addiction to an unnecessary drug ahead of the welfare of your kids. And that is the very definition of diminished fitness as a parent.

-- Michele Mann

Good lord, has it really come to this? You'd think Jennifer Hatala's son came out on the deck to find her molesting orphaned kittens or something. The occasional cigarette does not require soul searching and apologias.

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-- Susanna Beiser

Reading Jennifer's article on being a good mom and smoker too, I must say rang true for me also. I live in California. (I went to Missouri last summer, by the way, and on the way to my destination, we stopped at a small store and I smoked outside. The proprietor came out and said "You must be from California! Get in here!") In California you almost cannot smoke anyplace.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for the great article. These days the guilt we moms feel about everything from smoking to the "right" diaper or the "right" types of food can be overwhelming. This article was full of honest common sense. She sounds like a great mom to me!

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-- A.R. Manns


Salon Staff

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