Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feature: Vegan Parents #1

Welcome to my new feature!
Lately vegan parenting has been in the media for all the wrong reasons, so i think its about time we saw some positive news about vegan parenting and what better way to do it then hear from vegan parents of happy healthy vegan children!
For the first installment we hear from renee who blogs over at Veganza.

1: Name and age of your little person(s) and your family.

Alice just turned 2! And a son, due June this year. And our adopted cats, of course! Mao (10) - a white fluffball - and the-cat-who-thinks-he's-a-dog Fuji (5).

2: Was your pregnancy vegan?

Absolutely. There was never any question of it. I already knew there were happy, healthy, vegan-raised children out there, thanks to the internet, and Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven came out while I was pregnant the first time, too. It was always going to be a question of "how do I have the healthiest vegan pregnancy I can manage?" rather than "can I be healthy?" 

Veganism and eating more raw food improved my health so much. With my experience of overcoming a lifetime of chronic seasonal allergies practically overnight, it's difficult to imagine why it wouldn't be a good idea! I'm certain I'm giving my child the best start in life, and the information to make informed, healthy, ethical decisions about their consumption habits when it comes time to do that on their own. I'm confident they'll make the best choice! Alice loves animals, just as I did when I was young - I saw animals as different sorts of people, and our cats as family members, which is what led me to veganism in the first place.

3: Do you have support from family/friends? If you have made new friends since becoming a vegan parent please add how you met and how helpful it’s been to have like minded friends.

I had lots of vegan friends before I had kid, so I've got plenty of support there! Most of our family had some pretty decent vegan food at our wedding in a 5-star restaurant on the river. It hasn't been a hard-sell since! My husband David and I are healthier than we used to be, and Alice grows like a weed and never gets ill, so it's been easy. 

There is a shortage of vegans who are also parents in my area, though. The internet is so helpful for networking! There are lots of vegan parents out there, scattered around the globe. Alice has one little vegan friend, a few months younger than her. The large volume of positive vegan parenting articles on the internet makes it easy.

I feel like the odd one out where negative reactions are concerned sometimes. The only incident that stands out was someone telling me I was "forcing" my diet on my children - and it came from a vegetarian! By that logic, a non-vegan diet was forced on me as a child - so anything you feed your children or companion animals is done by force? It doesn't make sense. Vegans - by definition - strive to not participate in violence, which includes imposing force on others - including animals.

4: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being a vegan parent and how do you handle moments when you might doubt yourself?

Being vegan is living outside the box - boxes of fast food anyway! - so it's not always comfortable under pressure... and there's no pressure like a hungry infant going through a growth spurt interrupting your sleep several times a night! It makes the "where do you get your protein?" clich├ęd harassment seem like child's play.

When I'm tired as hell after a few sleepless nights I've had doubts, thinking I need more iron or B-vitamins or something for energy... but my levels are always high when I have them checked. All parents have doubts. It's healthy to question things. 

The hardest thing is reading media beat-ups about sick children of "vegan parents." Anyone who knows anything about veganism knows it's rubbish. Where are the headlines criticising "non-vegan parents" with sick kids? Or praising vegan parents with exceptional children? The fact is there are parents who stuff up or do silly things diet-wise, and their veganism or non-veganism has nothing to do with it. It can be difficult not be irritated by the "infotainment" that passes as "news" when it's implying an ethical, healthy, eco-friendly diet is a form of child abuse.

5: What do you consider to be the best thing about been a vegan parent?

The general consensus seems to be that vegan kids are rarely ill. I feel awkward when parents are commiserating on common childhood illnesses - I never have anything to add to the conversation! Alice has usually been a good sleeper, too. It seems like a relatively low-drama lifestyle, contrary to the fear-mongering rubbish in the media. I think most vegans with kids are more determined than average to prove how fantastically healthy a plant-based diet can be and are extra-vigilant about maintaining a good-quality diet. But hopefully the best part about being a vegan parent will be having an actively compassionate kid who respects all life - when they're old enough to understand more about what's going on!

6: Please add any tips and favourite shopping and eating places that are child and vegan friendly?

We've found Loving Hut to be kid-friendly - they have an excellent play area and collection of toys out the back of the restaurant in Brisbane! In fact, all vegetarian restaurants seem to want to give free food and extra attention to our vegan kid!

Yum cha is a fun way for a kid to get to try a huge range of foods - Alice loves Easy House on the Gold Coast - lots of different foods to try - she always asks for tea and a bowl of corn soup! Fresh produce markets are great for that, too - lots of interesting fruits to sample that stupormarkets never stock.

Online, Herbivore Clothing has good quality vegan tees for kids, and is handy for book ideas! It's surprising the number of children's books around that promote objectifying animals... but there are a few surprisingly vegan-friendly classic books as well, like Horton Hears a Who!

7: Do you have any no fail foods for your fussy eater? Or please name some of your child's favourite meals/snacks, if possible please include recipes for other parents to try.

Alice loves avocado! On toast with lemon, thyme, and nooch is a favourite. She loves pudding! Tapioca, blancmange, rice, raw - whatever it is, she'll eat it. One of her favourite recipes (adapted from Ani Phyo):

Chocolate Pudding - serves 4

2 avocados
2 large ripe/sweet bananas
2 soft dates
3 tablespoons carob powder
1 tablespoon cacao powder

Process everything in the food processor until smooth. 

Add a dash of agave for sweetness if necessary, and top with sprinkles of coconut, sliced fruit, goji berries, buckwheaties... or whatever you like! 

8: How have you have adjusted to having children? feel free to describe your style of parenting. because we know it’s not always just about veganism, being a parent is a whole new world.

We're somewhere in-between "attachment parenting" and Dr Spock's approach. Dr Spock also promotes a vegan diet from birth as the best option, which is good to tell people! The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedoff has influenced us a lot - it's a fascinating anthropological study of peaceful parenting in an old tribal culture. We've not stuck to anything too religiously: we co-sleep on and off depending on what suits everyone, and switch between slings, in-arms, and strollers as circumstances and sub-tropical weather permits.

Breastfeeding is the single most important part of early parenting, I think, for future health, bonding, and ease of care.  Alice was breastfed until this pregnancy began to interfere with my milk production. She didn't quite make the 2-year minimum I had in mind, or the full-term feeding I was ultimately hoping for (contrary to what goes on in western society, the world average is 4.5 years). After the new baby is born, we might mix her various nut/soy/rice milks with expressed milk.

Parenting is more difficult than I expected, but not in the ways I expected. I don't cope well with any level of sleep deprivation! A prolonged labour followed by emergency surgery coupled with an infant - and my complete lack of experience with children of any age! - made recovery a very drawn out process.

It's easy for people to say "always accept help" but when that help is conditional on conforming to parenting styles and lifestyle choices that suit the helper, it's a problem. Living by non-violent principles is more important than fitting in, and I won't compromise my child's future for a few extra moments of peace on the hard days... which, thankfully, there aren't too many of them in the end! It's taken me these 2 years to adjust... I'm sure I'll still be adjusting for years to come! Children are always growing and their needs change

*if you would like to be apart of the vegan parents feature please send and email to stuff-about-stuff@hotmail dot com


  1. What a wonderful and inspiring interview and thanks for the vegbooks tip!

  2. What a great interview w/ Renee! This is going to be a great series of posts!

  3. Yay! Nice photo choices. I <3 that last one.

  4. :) i thought it was the perfect photo to finish with. glad you like it

  5. Your blog is gorgeous and I LOVE this post. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  6. I loved your long, well thought-out answers, Renee! There doesn't seem to be too much information about vegan parenting so it's nice to read first-hand experiences!

    And Sarah, your blog is super lovely :)

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