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Dealing with in-laws opposed to a vegan lifestyle

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I'm wondering if anyone out there has advice or a story of their own that relates to this.

 

My partner and I plan to raise our son vegan and his parents don't agree with our decision. They are extremely close-minded and refuse to believe that we know what we're doing, despite all the research we've done. I hope they will come around once they see that a vegan child is just as healthy as a child raised in a traditional household. I worry that if they don't start to accept and respect our choices that it will create a rift. My partner and I realize that not everyone is going to understand the commitment to veganism, which is why we feel it's important that our family doesn't criticize our lifestyle, especially in front of our child. We want our son to trust family so that when other people respond negatively to the vegan aspect, he can always turn to his family for reassurance. It's hard for me to know how to deal with my partner's parents because I've never had that issue within my own family. I made the choice to become a vegetarian when I was 8 and then last year I became vegan and while they don't always understand, they still respect my choice. I know that even though they eat meat and dairy, my family will never speak negatively about our lifestyle in front of our son. My partner's parents are so difficult that they won't even try the food we make, simply because it's vegan and therefore "must taste weird". They always speak negatively about not eating meat, as if we're doing something wrong, even though they haven't researched it. If that sort of attitude towards our lifestyle continues, I'm not going to be comfortable having my son around them for fear that they will express disdain in front of him.

 

Any advice or similar stories out there?

post #2 of 12

Like yours, my inlaws are opposed to our being vegan.  They always treat it like something that is a huge pain, and they make it clear that they think that we are not eating properly.  However, our kids don't spend so much time with them, and they really pay any attention to the grownup's talk about food, so I don't think that the kids "get" the disrespect anyway. 

 

However, my MIL really wants our son (8) to take a plane up to visit them in another state.  She doesn't understand why I won't let him come up there alone.  I don't think my son understands why I say no either.  But the disrespect has a lot to do with it.  Grandparents need to learn to respect the younger generation's choices if they want a close relationship with the grandkids.  Your inlaws will have to learn that lesson the hard way just as mine are.  It's sad but true.   

post #3 of 12

hug.gif I know how hard this issue is. I've been dealing with it with my own in-laws for 10 years. I've been a vegetarian since I was three, and I started dating my husband when we were 15; right from the start his family was totally baffled by my diet. They were sort of disrespectful and awkward about before we had our daughter, but after it got much worse. They were shocked that we wanted to raise her vegetarian, despite the fact that it's something I've felt strongly about basically my entire life. Just last weekend, DH took DD out to eat with his brother and when DD showed interest in chicken fingers, his brother told my DH that she should be allowed to have them and said, "I won't tell if you won't!" Not sure why my husband passed on that little anecdote since steam practically came out of my ears. (Obviously he didn't let her have them--I have a great DH!) That's just a minor example--there have been comments that were much, much worse. Oh, like the time my FIL told my husband that raising DD vegetarian was "a terrible thing to do to a child" and that he could show him "pictures of bloated African children who eat nothing but vegetables and are starving." Yeah. That was a bad day. 

 

Sadly, my point is this: perhaps your in-law's attitude will change, but probably not. You will have to be vigilant about bringing food for your son to family gatherings, and not leaving him alone when food is being served (I'm sure you already know this). As he gets older, you will have to decide if you trust them to be alone with him and feed him only the food you provide. As dovey said above, and I think she said it really well, if your in-laws can't respect your choices and refuse to research them, they will have to sacrifice time with their grandchildren. 

 

Badmouthing your diet in front of your son is an issue I have less experience with; if it really continues to be a problem after he can understand what they're saying, you can try to have a civil, kind conversation with them, but it may have no impact. Most likely, you will have to help your son understand that many people, even some of his family members, will be difficult about his diet, but that he can turn to you and, it sounds like, your side of the family for support.

 

I hope your partner is on your side about this; that's really the only thing that helps me put up with the condescending comments. I have put so much thought and effort into my ethical choices, it makes me want to scream when people talk down to me like I'm a child who decided to blindly follow some stupid fad. My husband's support reminds me that I know what I'm doing and that I am proud of my choices.

 

I try really, really hard (and sometimes fail) to be positive and friendly to my in-laws when they bring it up. Engaging with them and getting mad will only reinforce the crazy, hippy zealot daughter-in-law image.  

 

I know a lot of people here have gone through similar things (about food, breastfeeding, everything!) so it's a good place to come for support. I'm sorry you have to go through this--it can be maddening!

post #4 of 12

I think the best thing I've been able to tackle in dealing with this issue is focusing on giving my kids confidence and understanding in their being vegetarian.  I knew there would end up being quite a few things that my IL's wouldn't really know or bother to learn about, so I made sure that my kids knew that those things weren't vegetarian and that we simply ate other things instead.  We let them know which kinds of foods were good to ask someone whether they were made vegetarian or not.  My dd1 has confidently stated to my MIL, several times, that "I don't eat that, I'm vegetarian (of course)" or similar.  It makes sense to her, that's what really matters to me.  It's not my crusade to make my IL's vegetarian, but I do appreciate when they make the effort to be polite about it and I return the favor about their meaty foods.  

 

I make the effort to find the favorite foods or eating traditions that my dh's family has that we can accommodate (favorite bakery goods, junk candy that doesn't have gelatin, other treats I know my MIL keeps around that are a non-issue in our home, vegetarian recipes that will round out and complement meat entrees we might have at the same meal).

 

 

Yeah we've still had our share of weird and insensitive comments, but dh & I have handled cooking for many holidays and get-togethers since there are more of us so there hasn't ended up being any major food issues.  At worst, we've had to monitor the amount of candy given (and when, like right when we're sitting down to eat dinner eyesroll.gif) more than non-veg food in the long run.

post #5 of 12

Neither myself or DH are vegan/vegetarian, although I don't eat large quantities of meat.  When DD was born, I learned pretty quickly she had issues with dairy and since I was BFing I had to cut all dairy from my diet.  Made a HUGE difference for her.  She's 10mos now and eats just about everything we give her (which has been mostly vegetarin based), but my IL's just don't get what constitutes dairy!  They took her to lunch last week and when I got home and saw the leftover soup on the counter, I took a whiff and I could just smell the butter - and that is what they gave her!  Poor baby her stomache was in knots for days after that.  So in our house, it's not even a lifestyle choice - it's a necessity that she avoid dairy and they still can't understand it.  I'm convinced some days they want this to turn into a full blown allergy and not just a sensitivity.  My parents are super vigilant, they read all the lables and pretty much only give her things that I leave for her.  They know I can't eat dairy so they make an effort to accomodate me as well.  The IL's?  They've poured me a glass of milk at dinner.duh.gif

 

Some people just don't get it and unfortunately never will.  We have friends that are vegan and always make sure to have things on hand for them at gatherings.  But I'd say we're the exception.  Most of our other friends and family would purposely avoid having vegan/vegetarian foods just because they don't agree with it.

post #6 of 12
Some thoughts:

1. The older your son gets, the easier this challenge will be.
For starters, people who disagree with your diet will likely see that your son is healthy and energetic and happy so they'll have to accept the fact that veg diets can be perfectly healthy.
Also, your son will be able to communicate his wants and needs. If he's used to vegan foods then that's what he'll ask for (in some cases, he'll demand it).

2. Stay firm. If you can't trust them to feed veg foods, don't put them in a situation where they can feed nonveg foods. Let them babysit inbetween meals, etc. don't send him to visit them unless you're coming too.

3. Remember that even if they sneak a few bad foods to your kiddo chances are your influence can overcome the damage. Generally, parents are number 1 in kid's eyes, not grandparents. What you say and do matters more. It's just that simple.

4. Remember to help develop your kiddo's compassion for animals. This will plant the empathy seed that will grow to ensure your son stays vegan into the teen years and as an adult.
Edited by marsupial-mom - 9/13/12 at 5:29pm
post #7 of 12

My kids are 1 and 4 and I have been raising them on a mostly plant-based diet for the past two years. I have heard all kinds of things such as 'give that kid some meat', 'he needs meat', 'they are going to be smaller if they don't eat meat'. So frustrating. Thankfully they are open to tasting the food - they just consider most of my plant-based dishes to be side- dishes, and that meat is still the main attraction. At first I would preach, and state facts and arguments. It didn't help. I have found over the past year or so, I stopped preaching and only responded to questions when asked. I decided to lead by example, not force my beliefs on anyone. Kathy Freston said to remember 'before you were vegan, you weren't'. I make a conscious effort to bite my tongue and only offer my opinion if I am asked. This is definitely easier said than done. I have learned to ignore the comments of 'just give them some milk', and 'cheese doesn't really bother them' and just laugh it off. My choices have been received much better after they have seen how healthy the kids have been over the past few years - avoiding most illness, antibiotics, and most near-and-dear to my heart, skipping surgery. I blogged about my son's experience with removing dairy from his diet to avoid a completely unnecessary tonsillectomy - http://barefootessence.com/2012/06/20/change-your-diet-skip-surgery/

 

Best of luck to you. It is so challenging when everyone opposes you. Give it some time, smile and lead by example. xoxo

post #8 of 12

I'm not vegan but vegetarian and that's how I've raised my son all eleven years of his life.  My parents don't live near, but when we've seen them, they've been supportive of the vegetarian thing (even though they're not).  I'm divorced though and my ex and his parents (thankfully his parents live far so it's only an issue about twice a year) are a different story.  Generally it appears that my ex goes with it (surprisingly since he's been very difficult in other ways), but has this thing about giving our son bacon.  And on their visits to the ex in-laws, of course they don't even attempt to respect my "kooky" ways (not sure if they've used that word but I know that's the attitude) and get a kick out of introducing new meats.  My son doesn't even like them but has tried them - and I don't really have a problem with that, it's his right to - what bothers me is that his parents are purposely disrespecting my wishes. 

 

But those of you who are still married - can your husbands speak to their own parents about this?  What kind of stand do they take?  This stuff can't happen if it's not allowed to.  I've observed that usually if there's a problem with in-laws, it really stems from a spouse's unwillingness to stand up to them.

 

As for me, I figure I'm setting an example and that trumps, by far, some rude grandparents as far as the values I'd like to have modeled. 

post #9 of 12

I believe this is an American site so I am unsure if information from public health is any different but I am from Atlantic Canada where the government is now telling people that a babies first food should be meat!  

I have been a vegetarian since I was eight years old. I come from a family of "hippies" so this was a welcomed lifestyle. My husband however, was raised in very traditional meat and potatoes family. 

My dd is 9 months old, so she has only been eating solids for about 4 months. My husband is a meat eater but supported my decision to want to raise our daughter a vegetarian. I have not discussed this with my IL's as of yet but am pretty sure they just won't say much but try to feed it to her when I am not around. This is what my MIL does with sugar, etc. I tell her she can't have it but over time it comes out that she put it on her cereal or fed her cheesies. Any time she spends with them I send all her meals and snacks.

I have a wonderful relationship with my IL's and don't want to ruin that so it looks like it may have to be my husbands job to discuss it when them. 

It's too bad that this even has to be an issue for us!

post #10 of 12

I think as a mother, it's up to me to support my child's choice and lifelong commitment to refuse to eat meat. I can't control what the grandparents do, what the public schools do, I can't even control what my child does, not really, not considering that eventually she will outlive me. At first she was vegetarian because I didn't feed her meat, but now she is vegetarian because it hurts animals when you eat them. And she'll tell her grandparents in her own way.

post #11 of 12

I think , when a child is small , it is the parents choice , what they eat and what they don´t eat , when they get older , it is up to the parents to explain to their child , as well as lead by example , and once they get to a certain age , they make their decision . 

For example , my DS2 ( who suffers from ulcerated colitis like me ) was always quite defiant about the foods I told him he  should eat ( and the ones he shouldn´t ) but now , at 14 , he sees my reasoning . I have been med-free for many years simply b/c I really keep to a strict diet , that has been proven to work for me and now he understands , why !

And for those , who give you a hard time , you should ask them " if you were in my shoes and somebody would watch your kids , and feed them only the food , they want them to have , but not give a damn about what you deem appropriate for your kids to have , but tell the kids on top of it , how dumb , they think , your food choices are , how would that make you feel ?" 

post #12 of 12

well I think I must have been very lucky - in NZ they suggest kids avoid meat at first so most kids are veg until one anyway. My in laws are very traditional but do their very best to deal with the whole unmarried vegetarian thing - we know they didn't approve (esp as their son is a meat eater) however the proof has been in the pudding. Our kids are in the upper scale of growth so that helps plus we don't really talk about it - simply as yes please or no thank you at meal times. the fil is always commenting on dd's growth and intelligence and over the last two years have become quite supportive of our diet - bless them they even took her to subway instead of macdonalds when they looked after her while our son was being born (sounds small but was really a massive sign of acceptance.)

 

I think if your partner is on board then it might be up to him to fight this battle - my dp is not vegetarian and has no intention of becoming so but he is 100% pro bringing our kids up this way.

Anyway my point is - you may have to smile and nod a wee bit - trust your doing a great job and let your children's health do the talking. If they don't back down you could try telling them that you are very grateful for the love and concern they are showing toward your children and that you appreciate their input. of course you will seek their help if you ever have any concerns about their health blah blah blah,

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