When I broke the news to my friends and family, “Mom, Dad, loved ones — I’m…vegan,” there was palpable worry across the board. Yes, there was a little “What about your protein?” or “Can you still have chicken broth?” But I think the bigger concern was over how many pamphlets and videos I would have on demand at family gatherings and dinner parties. Becoming vegan before getting married and building a family, of course, made self-righteous resolve very easy. I became comfortable fielding the questions or criticisms on my own and standing my ground.
But that was before I got pregnant. Let the self-doubt begin. Having just the resolve to be vegan wasn’t enough. I needed education. Could I have a healthy pregnancy? What are some deficiencies I had to avoid? Would I have to compromise my principles for the sake of the baby? Well, I turned to the trusty internet. And as predicted, I got way too much useful information. So between a lot of research and a number of discussions with my doctor, I was able to stick to the plan. It turns out, the pregnancy, food-wise, was a breeze. My diet had no negative impacts on my pregnancy, and my little girl was as healthy as we could’ve hoped for.
But then that baby was out in the world. With others. And once she finished breast-feeding, she was vegan too. Her pediatrician was, and is, in full support of her living a vegan lifestyle — in his words, “it’s just healthier.” And while I was confident that I could feed her a very balanced, healthy and delicious diet, I was more afraid of the social implications. I mean, there’s a stigma — oddly, sometimes people don’t take kindly to vegans. But also, I didn’t want her to become an oddball with a mom who would interrogate every food handler in her path, from halloween until graduation. It was time to really figure this stuff out. Now, I had someone else’s vegan experience in my hands and on my conscience. I didn’t want to blow it. And I certainly didn’t want to raise a food rebel. How would I keep certain foods out of her clutches when she’s out and about? How could I educate her about realities of the meat and dairy industry without scaring the crap out of her? And what about birthday parties and sleep overs and school functions and dinners out with friends and holidays, and, and, and.
Again, I turned to my friend, the internet. But this time, I came up empty-handed. I found a lot of discussions about how to keep a vegan kid healthy, but nearly nothing about how to keep them happy and socially balanced. I searched for ways to arm myself, as a mom, and my child in this diverse and reluctant world. I could not find those discussions. I was on my own. The bad news is that there are a lot unpredictable obstacles. But the good news is that they are easy to overstep with a little more thought and less panic. In other words, life.
For instance, when she became a toddler, she would toddle around the playgrounds making friends with anybody with a face. Her main objective was to scavenge food from them. One day, I turned my back in a, “let me grab your snack,” moment, and I was flummoxed when I found her close to being fed a forkful of meat/cheese enchilada by a very generous woman on the ground. I realized, “People will feed children.” I can’t police people. But I can train a child. It took a little repetition, but it wasn’t long before she learned to ask me before she ate anything. Crisis averted. And now, at 4 years old, all I have to say is, “No Honey, you’re vegan to that.” And she knows just what that means. That expression, “You’re vegan to cheese,” actually came from one of her BFFs, and it worked better than any lecture I came up with to date. It was so simple.
Her first Trick-or-Treat was no less anxiety inducing. For weeks I planned my candy coup and agonized over how she will hate Halloweens forever because of her dirty-hippy mom. But it was a fear unfounded. Because she had no idea how to Trick-or-Treat when she was 2. She had no expectations. In fact, after she got candy from the first house, she developed her own rules of the game. From then on, any time someone put candy in her bucket, she would put candy back into theirs — fair is fair, in the mind of a toddler. And by the end of the night she broke even, and I only had to secretly replace one chocolate nibble for one roll of smarties. The moral of the story, once again, a child solved a problem only a parent could create.
There’s a lot of stuff like this that crept up as life rolled on and as another human entered the scene.
So, if you want to know about this kind of stuff, stick around. I will share experiences and hacks and information that I’ve discovered along the way. And, if you have any questions about any of it, always feel free to ask. I will answer as honestly and thoroughly as I can.
I had 2 vegan pregnancies, and I have 2 beautiful, healthy and happy vegan children who never complain about food they can’t have. They do not feel like outcasts among their peers, and they enjoy eating as much as any kid I know. It’s been a very adventurous and rewarding journey, and it’s not even remotely as hard as my anxiety would suggest. It’s a hell of a lot easier than motherhood.