Tuesday, June 24, 2014
When my husband and I met, dated, and got married, I was an omnivore. We bonded over food right from the beginning; one of the first times we hung out, he brought my friend and I to a pub that served $5 meals (which was great news to us poor backpackers). I'm pretty sure we had burgers, or maybe steak. Because he had a real home with a functioning kitchen, he also liked to cook for me. I clearly remember the morning he made me scrambled eggs with chorizo and avocado for breakfast. I thought: this is the man for me.
Fast forward a couple of years and I found myself training to become a yoga teacher. Vegetarianism was an important focus of the course, and we read books and watched videos that showed us, no holds barred, where our meat came from. Eating meat had always made me uncomfortable, but it was the easier choice so I suppressed that little voice that told me it wasn't right. Once I learned about the horrors of factory farming I knew I had to make a change. And while there certainly are options for those who want to eat meat and not support factory farming, I couldn't bring myself to eat an animal when I could be just as healthy and happy without taking an animal's life.
My transition was slow. I started by cutting down on meat consumption, then I became a pescatarian and finally, months later, I converted to full fledged vegetarianism. While I admired my vegan friends for their moral consistency, I knew I could never be vegan myself.
Immediately, our marriage came under strain. I couldn't understand why my husband didn't seem to care about animal welfare, and he was annoyed that I was no longer the girl he married. Cooking for me had always been one of the ways he'd shown his love, and now he couldn't make any of our favourite meals. We both had to make some pretty major compromises.
To this day, I describe myself as a reluctant vegetarian. I miss cooking with meat, and sometimes I even miss the taste of meat. But even more, I miss being the easygoing 'eat anything, anywhere' kind of person I used to be. I hate that now I'm the one with special dietary requirements, and that people have to go out of their way when they invite me over. They do, though. My friends and family make special meals just for me or cook vegetarian, which I appreciate so much.
During my pregnancy, I maintained my vegetarian diet until the last few months, when I started eating small amounts of seafood again. I'm still a pescatarian, and while it causes me some cognitive dissonance, I'm going with it for now because it makes my life a lot easier. As for the baby who was growing in my belly, we had discussed how we wanted to raise him/her before I was even pregnant. I wanted to raise vegetarian children; my husband did not. We compromised and decided that our babies would be vegetarian for their first 2 years of life and then we would re-assess. Of course, I knew that at some point it would no longer be in my control. Children will make their own choices eventually, all I could do was gently guide them.
Things were going to plan with our little pescetarian. She was happy, she was healthy but she wasn't putting on any weight. To be fair, she's been a slow gainer since birth. Even on a mixture of breastfeeds and breastmilk/formula top ups she never put on the "required" weight each week. Finally, shortly before her first birthday we weighed her at the doctor and discovered that she had hardly gained any weight in 2 months. I decided then and there to offer her meat and see if that made a difference.
It did. She took to her new diet immediately and started to put on more weight. Nowadays, this means that there are many nights where the three of us are eating three different meals, or variations of the same dinner. It's not ideal, and it's not what I would have chosen, but it's yet another lesson in surrender. Parenting is hard, and sometimes you have to make compromises for the wellbeing of your whole family.
I do wonder how this will play out in the future. I imagine that Clementine and my husband will remain omnivores while I continue to eat a pescetarian diet. I have come to accept that my husband and I will never be on the same page, and that that's ok. What's important is that we show respect for each others' decisions, and model that for Clementine.
I know that many of you are in mixed marriages and families as well, how do you handle it? Does it cause conflict or is it just accepted? How did you deal when babies came along?
p.s. the first post I wrote on marriage and vegetarianism
p.p.s. my friend Katie has a new website filled with lots of helpful info on vegetarianism, animal rights, parenting, natural birth, activism, yoga and more… check it out here