I am a vegetarian (non-vegan) and a new Mom. My husband became a vegetarian before I met him, but was not raised a vegetarian as I was; his family still eats meat. I am not one of those sanctimonious vegetarians that everyone sees in the news and assumes that all vegetarians are like that. I eat a vegetarian diet because it is how I was raised and I believe in the health principles of a plant based diet. Numerous studies have shown that red meat is not a healthy choice, and most of the animal products farmed today are full of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals that are not good for our bodies. These are the reasons my parents went vegetarian, raised me vegetarian, and why my husband and I are raising our daughter vegetarian.
My mother-in-law, “Francine” cannot understand the value of a vegetarian diet and has accused us of “abusing” our baby daughter because we are not feeding her meat. I have tried to explain to her that as a newborn she should not be getting anything but breast milk and that once we start her on solid food she will eat a plant based diet – grains and veggies at first, and legumes when she is old enough. Francine insists that a child needs meat to grow up healthy and strong.
I have heard Francine’s rants before – all through my pregnancy, when she insisted I needed to eat meat “for the sake of the baby” – and I can turn a deaf ear to them, but she has crossed a line and I am not sure how to deal with it. Francine called child welfare services on me (making no mention of my husband, her son) to ask for a welfare check on my baby, claiming that I was abusing her! When child welfare arrived they obviously found nothing wrong. They refused to tell me who made the complaint, but I was able to figure out that it was Francine when they told me that someone complained that I was “starving” my child.
Hen my husband got home from his office that night, I told him what happened and although he was upset he said we had no proof that it was his Mom who called; it could have been one of his brothers, but yes it would have been at Francine’s bidding. I would like to approach my mother-in-law about this matter, but my husband would prefer to let it go, claiming no harm; no foul. What’s your impartial opinion?
Dear Feeling Fouled:
As offensive as Francine’s behavior was (and yes, I too believe that she was behind the complaint; if not directly than indirectly) there is not proof that she actually reported you to child services. However, if she did I am sure she is just dying to find out when it happened, what was said, and how you reacted to the visit. Don’t give her that satisfaction! By leaving her to wonder about the outcome she will undoubtedly find a way to bring up the subject, at which point you can thank her for her concern and explain that child services is 100% on your side. Try not to argue with Francine about this matter, but plainly state that her job as a grandmother is to love the child; the job of raising her belongs to you and your husband. As embarrassing as a visit from social services must have been, they now have it on record that your daughter is healthy and residing in a good home.
I can see how Francine’s heavy-handedness will be a problem down the road – if she is ever left alone with your daughter through mealtimes, I can easily see her presenting your girl with a hamburger or a piece of fried chicken and suggesting that she give it a try. If your daughter grows up to be like most children, she will immediately reply “I don’t like that!” to any unfamiliar food that is presented. As a vegetarian parent, I am sure you already know it will be up to you to teach your child about her special diet; until she is old enough to understand and recognize these parameters on her own you may want to limit Francine’s mealtime visits.
P.S. NPR offers some great tips on raising a vegetarian child, starting with telling the pediatrician about it!
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