For many parents, eating their child’s allergen is a source of great guilt. They struggle with whether or not to have the food in their home, with whether their other children should be allowed to enjoy the food and the terrifyingly large grocery bill for the allergy-safe meals. When parents are balancing their allergic child with their own wants and needs and those of their other children, they can often find themselves stuck with no right answer. We have taken a look at some of these issues and have tried to come up with creative solutions. After all, we all do the best that we can and can still find ourselves stuck with impossible dilemmas.
Having it at Home
One of the main reasons parents worry about having their child’s food allergen at home is because of the potential danger it can pose. An allergic reaction is a parent’s worst nightmare, and that reality should not be taken lightly. However, with larger families and other people involved, it can be difficult to cut food groups out entirely - e.g., dairy. So, what is the right answer? Should yogurts and ice cream be allowed in the home? Or should the homestay strictly vegan?
Well, the right answer is that there is no right answer. There is so much pressure from parents to be perfect, but it is important to remember that we are all human, and nobody is perfect. The key is to find something that works best for you and your family. If avoiding dairy is the answer you feel most comfortable with, then avoid it. If keeping the dairy ice cream out of reach of your allergic child is what works best, that is fine. The most important thing to remember is to have an open conversation with your child and make sure that they know the dangers of their allergies and how best to keep them safe.
He Said She Said
Picture this: one of your children is allergic to fish. Your other child won’t eat anything other than fish sticks. What do you do? This is obviously an extreme example, but the idea remains. How do you choose between your children? Many parents feel a lot of guilt over this. They fear that by taking away their children’s favorite food, their other children will feel ignored. On the other hand, by continuing to have the food in your home, parents are worried about their food-allergic child getting into the wrong foods.
Again, the most important thing to remember is that your decision does not reflect how much you love your children. We are all looking to do the best that we can, and sometimes that means making decisions that hurt one of our children. In this situation, we recommend keeping the lines of communication open. No matter which child you end up appeasing, it is important that the other child knows how important they are to you and that this decision in no way reflects your relationship with them.
For many families, their grocery bills are one of their biggest bills. For parents of children with food allergies, this only increases. Allergy-safe food is significantly more expensive than other food, and it doesn’t cook as well – which means the potential for more waste. So not only are you spending three times the amount on that vegan cheese, but you’re risking your children not being willing to eat it. Given this, many parents struggle with whether or not to cook with allergy-safe foods for the whole family or only for their food allergic child. On the one hand, parents don’t want to single out their child for being different, but on the other hand, the price of feeding an entire family on allergy-safe food is astronomical.
Here is where we reiterate that there is no right answer for the third time – only the right answer for you. This situation truly depends on your child. Some children would feel ostracized with being fed a different dinner every night. Others wouldn’t even notice. For some, allowing them the freedom to choose what they want instead of eating what everybody else is eating can even feel like a treat. Know your child, know yourself, know your family, and you will be able to make the right decision.
For parents of children with food allergies, there is a lot of guilt. On top of all the regular pressures that come with being a parent, they are also forced to deal with the food allergy community's added pressure. But that is why we are so adamant about there not being one right answer. Sometimes that mom that seems to have it all together wouldn’t survive a day in your home. Plus, social media has a way of making things seem more perfect than they really are. So, give yourself a break, because you’re already doing an amazing job!