Deciding to raise your child vegan (on an entirely animal-free diet) is not for the faint of heart. Seriously mamas, it takes some real lady balls to stick to your honorable convictions and navigate the challenges and well-intentioned (or not so much) comments that inevitably ensue when you have plant-based offspring. Whatever your reason for going veg, be it health, the animals, this amazing planet we live on, much of society won’t feel this is a normal enough lifestyle to just leave you alone. Who knew that trying to bring a compassionate, health conscious, environmental steward into the world would be such a burden on everyone else? When you’re considering raising a vegan kid in a non-vegan society, here are 10 sneak peeks into what it’s like:
- For a while, you will be caught in an annoyance trap between people telling you that breastfeeding isn’t vegan, while also telling you that “breast is best” and, finally, shaming you for breastfeeding your kid after they turn 12 months plus one day.
- People around you will suddenly become super interested in what your family is eating, but not always in a productive way. It’s often in an “I’m going to make sure you know that there could potentially be milk protein in your croutons while I sit over here eating my double bacon cheeseburger and silently judging you” food-policing kind of way. Thanks for your weird concern, but I didn’t ask for your professional supervision of our 100% flawless (not) dietary adherence. We’re doing the best we can over here trying to save the freaking world on top of all the baseline parenthood challenges, thank you very much.
- Make sure that, before you have a vegan child, you know how to predict the future and have nailed down the details of exactly how you’re going to raise them through each stage of life. This will come in handy for questions like: “what are you going to do when he goes to birthday parties or a friend’s house?” and “what are you going to tell him when he asks to try meat?” oh and “are you going to force him to stay vegan when he goes to college?”
- You will frequently be the butt of overused jokes, usually revolving around bacon and how your child is going to miss out on one of life’s greatest pleasures because of your deprivational parenting choices. Plan to either develop a really tolerant sense of humor and let these comments roll off your back, or perhaps find a new circle now.
- Some people will stop inviting your family over for meals, pretty much immediately upon hearing the news. Others will start prefacing all invitations to social events with a sheepish, “I’m not sure that there’s going to be anything for you guys to eat there…”. Hey, it’s cool, because rule #1 of the Vegan Moms Club is to never expect others to accommodate your family’s dietary choices (but be totally ecstatic and appreciative when they do!). Don’t worry about us, we’ve got a purse full of veggie pouches and a sippy cup full of hemp milk rarin’ to go. Plus, I usually bring some kind of delicious cruelty-free dessert to share, so be nice to me.
- Even if your pediatrician is hip enough to be supportive of your dietary choice, be prepared to answer the same questions about what your kid eats and where they get their iron, fat, and protein at every well-child visit. Don’t let this offend you, because doctors are experts of medicine, not nutrition. Seriously though, if it bothers you, find a vegan doctor.
- Poop output is proportional to fiber input like woah. Your vegan kid will probably poop a lot more than other kids, though I admit that I’ve researched this hypothesis not at all. You may regret the decision to use cloth diapers unless you bought 100 of them.
- Friends will suddenly start feeling compelled to tell you that “we don’t really eat that much meat” and then go on to blame their kid’s chicken tenders obsession on the unbudgeable fact that kids are picky eaters and there’s just no way around that. Phew, thank goodness I was lucky enough to birth a rare blank slate and not a child pre-programmed to the Standard American Diet.
- At one point or another, you will feel pressured to give your kid all the dietary supplements, because how could they possibly meet their nutritional requirements otherwise? Between the doctor, the mom groups on social media, and your friend selling dóTerra, you may feel overwhelmed with advice regarding micronutrients. Get educated, have your kid’s labs monitored, see a dietitian, and do what you determine to be best (but please don’t skimp on vitamin D, B12, and omega 3s).
- People will assume that because your child is obviously a hippie nonconformist, that you didn’t vaccinate them. For the record, this assumption could not be further from the truth, nor does veganism have anything to do with being anti-medicine.
Despite the truths above, raising a vegan kid is a fantastic choice and an incredibly rewarding journey. Friends will start coming to you for advice about how to get their children to eat more plants. Your family will be a role model for people interested in reducing their meat and dairy consumption. You will undoubtedly inspire others to become advocates for their health, the animals and the environment. The plant-based movement continues to gain unwavering momentum and, in my opinion, the benefits of going vegan far outweigh the challenges of consciously going against the norm. Hang in there, fellow vegparents – your kid is a kickass world-changer.
Lauren Panoff is a plant-based lifestyle strategist and vegan educator. She helps busy families eat more plants and save the world, a mission inspired by her son who has been thriving on plants since before birth. Lauren enjoys taking on too many projects at once, giving pigs belly rubs, and weekend family naps on the floor. Find her at http://www.chronicplanet.net, Facebook, or Instagram.
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