vegetarianism, marriage & babies

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

10 comments:

  1. This is so interesting.

    I knew very few people who are vegetarians or pescetarians, but it seems like a challenge at times. Funnily enough, I used to want to be a vegetarian as a younger, growing girl and my parents would not allow it. They always said I needed meat to grow and be healthy, so living under their roof, I had no choice but to eat meat, but I came to the conclusion that I would at least get rid of one meat out of my life, which was pig - I haven't eaten pig for approximately 5 - 6 years now.

    I loved reading this. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks for sharing! I love reading how other families negotiate these areas - it's such a tricky area isn't it! My husband was vegetarian when I met him and I had not long become vegetarian (occasionally eating fish, so quasi-pescetarian I suppose), and so for the first 6-7 years of being together it was easy! Then, when I got pregnant I craved meat like crazy (just chicken and lamb), so I incorporated chicken and lamb back into my diet, buying only organic meat, and infrequently, and I have maintained eating it here and there while breastfeeding over the last 2.5 years. I don't feel my body would have coped with extended breastfeeding without the extra 'boost'. I do most of the cooking in the house, and I don't cook alternate meals, so my lovely hubby has slowly incorporated lamb and chicken back into his diet too. Sometimes I feel very guilty about that, because I know his preference would be to not eat it all, but he says that if I cook it, he will respect the animal and eat the meat... so, I think he has chosen a perspective that works for him. Our little boy has been extremely slow to like meat, and even now (at 2.5) will only eat a small amount of chicken - everything else gets politely refused. I don't push the issue with him... it will be interesting to see how things develop over the years ahead with him... I suspect he might choose vegetarianism early on. For myself, once I am done with breastfeeding and pregnancy, I think I would like to try a raw/vegan diet for a little while... and then move forward from there and see how my body feels/responds :)

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  3. I've actually had to start eating a little meat in the last year. I usually do salmon or turkey! After my health problems I developed adrenal fatigue and eating meat healed my body. I tried to stay vegan but it wasn't working. I was only getting sicker, interesting right?! As for dinners at our house? When I was vegan I'd make dinner as usual and Martin would either add shredded chicken to his meal or a burger. He's not much of a cook so he's just happy I've made something for dinner!! ;) Really interesting to read how you guys are navigating through this and I agree it's so important to show respect for each others individual decisions!! xo

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  4. What a fantastic post and so nice written. I have often thought about converting to vegetarian.I am a meat eater but have several vegetarian friends who I have just spent the past 2 months living with in London. I love to cook and they love for me to cook for them and I quite effortlessly can switch up my cooking to exclude meat just for them. And actually I like it too. I love vegetables and it is somewhat of a personal challenge to see what I can do with veggies and how I can make them a fulfilling and delicious meal. But then I moved to Dubai to join my husband who is most definitely a meat eater and I have slipped back into my meat eating ways. I wonder if I could kick the meat habit with so much temptation under my nose. Your story is a big kick up the ass to at least try. So thank you! xx

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  5. This is such an interesting topic. I have really thought about becoming a vegetarian because of the reasons you mentioned. The meant industry is sick and I haven't been able to get through a whole documentary about it. It was so horrifying I had to turn it off, but I definitely saw enough to know that I should not buy into it anymore. I have yet to make the change though, because I don't want to inconvenience anyone and think I will miss meat. That's not an excuse though and I really should give it a fair shot! I think it will be difficult with my boyfriend though since he has no interest in changing his lifestyle and we make a lot of meals together. Thank you for sharing bits of your story! Very inspiring and has made me think a lot.

    xoxo Jess
    Foreign Room

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  6. I can imagine this could be complicated but this you say: "What's important is that we show respect for each others' decisions, and model that for Clementine." I think is the key to maintain everyone in the family happy and healthy.... thanks for sharing

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  7. This is something I always wondered about for myself should I have children one day. I've been a vegetarian for nine years now and when my partner (who is not a vegetarian) and I discussed how we might bring up our future child/children we had a little dilemma. Ultimately I think that I will always educate my children to be aware and to make their own choices. If they want to eat meat I'll try to find the most ethical way of providing it for them. As you said, respecting each others decisions is what is most important. Thanks for bringing up a tricky subject :)

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  8. I was vegetarian for many years, and full fledged vegan when I married my husband. He is, as yours is, a meat-loving kind of guy. We experienced the same strain of disagreeing on such a huge topic. Not to mention, we missed breaking bread at the table together- sharing the same foods as a family. So, I made a different sort of familial compromise than you. It started slowly, with adding a bit of cheese back in. Then eggs. Then a bit of bacon. Lastly, beef.

    I embraced the circle of life aspect of living on this earth, found ways to source "ethical" meat, and began to thank the animals for growing strong and giving me strength in turn to live my life. I don't feel any dissonance, and I'm so happy my husband and I are able to enjoy the same meals. Our daughter shocked me by being a huge meat lover right out the gate as well (I had hated meat since I was a babe, according to my mom, and I'd assumed my daughter would take after me!), so it's just as well.

    I think you're exactly right that it's not *just* about animal welfare (though that's huge)- it's about peace and respect for differences within the family.

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  9. Lovely piece Gaby! I had baked beans the other day which came as a side dish to my brunch, and every time I eat baked beans, without fail, I am reminded of you and our first days in Australia - living off beans and toast (and an egg or avocado if we were feeling fancy) sitting on an air mattress on the living room floor watching Summer Heights High. Miss you! XO, Nessa

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  10. It was so interesting to read about your experience! I've always hated difficult or picky eaters and now, being vegetarian myself, I really dislike that people have to go out of their way to cook for me when I'm invited somewhere.
    My boyfriend and their siblings were raised vegetarian and have never had the tiniest piece of meat in their lives. Not intentionally anyway. It's been quite a challenge to adapt both our expectations regarding food and eating and I think it was only possible because he's got such a tolerant attitude towards other's behaviours and beliefs.

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