Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

Addiction and The Bad Mother

School buses in Spain are super fancy, like this one that is parked in front of the Santiago Cathedral (!).
As I have mentioned early, I have been substituting as a Middle School English teacher at my children's school for the last week or so. I love it. The kids are fascinating, the other teachers have been very welcoming and I enjoy the challenge of trying to teach 12-year-olds how to use comparative adjectives.  If none of them ever utter the phrase, "My house is more bigger than yours," then my work has made a difference. However, it does stress me out a bit.  And when I get stressed out, my "go to" reactions are to eat chocolate, sleep less and yell at my husband. Not great coping mechanisms, especially the last one.  You know we're all dying to read Jaime's blog...

Anyway, last Thursday I was coming home on the school bus.  One of the perks of the teaching post is that I can ride the school bus to and from work.  Javier, my 10-year-old son, rides the same bus but has asked, in a nice way, that I not sit or talk with him on the bus. Too cool for Mom but that's OK, I get it. So Javier was seated in the back and I was seated near the front. I was feeling tired and stressed and thinking about chocolate. Specifically, I was thinking about these lovely chocolate covered caramels that are sold in Spanish candy shops.  When the bus got to our stop, I got off and beelined directly to the candy shop that is just beside the bus stop.  I went into the store and carefully selected my chocolate caramels, chatted with the shopkeeper a bit and then meandered back to my home, happily chewing my stress away.

It wasn't until I was putting the key into the door of my apartment that I remembered Javier.  Where was Javier?  Had he gotten off the bus? While he is perfectly capable of walking home from the stop alone, school policy requires that elementary school children are met by a parent and we always walk together.  When I got inside, Javier was sitting on the couch eating cereal.  Luckily, Jaime had been at home to let him in. "Mom, where did you go?  I was looking for you!"

Oh, Mom, where did you go?  Well, I'll tell you. For a moment there, I was so consumed by stress and my obsession with chocolate that I completely forget about my son. My baby. The person who I love most in all the world. Now imagine that I am addicted to heroin, not chocolate, and my son's father doesn't live with us.  Imagine my son is younger and unable to walk back home alone. He gets lost or hurt or maybe just sits on the rainy doorstep for 2 hours until I show up, or until a neighbor notices him there. And then it all starts, the DCF, the police, the labeling, the consequences of being a stressed-out mother with an addiction problem.

It is irresponsible and dangerous behavior to forget about our kids and leave them alone to score, but it happened to me and I love my son, I'm a great mom. An Aesop's Fable of sorts to remember the next time that the Bad Mom appears on the evening news.  She might be a Bad Mom, but she may be just a browner, poorer version of me who has a level of stress and a theater of memories that no bag of chocolate caramels can control.