When I was pregnant with Leilani, I only knew one other vegan and she was definitely not about to start breeding little vegan buddies for my kids to play with. Although a lot of my friends were pregnant at the same time, I felt somewhat alone with the intention to raise my child vegan let alone being pregnant and vegan.
I had been vegan for 6 years or so already and I cannot tell you how many people tried to convince me that my child would be born boneless from lack of milk, muscleless from lack of protein, and ironless from lack of steaks. I spent a good majority of my pregnancy worrying if my baby would be born normal, if she would automatically be a social outcast – a freak even! And thinking about all the birthday parties, Passover dinners, dealing with day care centres, Christmas lunches and school excursions to the zoo sent the adrenalin pumping through my veins.
First point of contact
When Leilani was 8 months old I was eating lunch at Lord of The Fries – a vegetarian and very vegan friendly chain. There I met Amanda Kubik and her 16 month old son Sascha, sitting at the next table. She asked me if Leilani was being raised vegan, and told me about a vegan family picnic day that was to take place the following week. She also introduced me to a Facebook group called Vegan Parents of Melbourne, a group started by a vegan woman, Amy Shaw, while she was pregnant with her daughter Evie, just to connect with other vegans as she was in a similar situation to me. I joined the group and came along to the picnic where I met, among many vegan families, Amy and Andrew with Evie (6 months), and Shaun and Patricia Durrance with Katarina (7 months).
You might also enjoy these related articles:
- Choosing Vegan: Are We Imposing Our Beliefs on Our Children?
- Raising Vegan Children? Been There, Done That, The Kids Are Fine
- Preparing for (Another) Vegan Pregnancy
Amanda also started a vegan playgroup and via the playgroup and several potlucks we all started to get to know each other and hang out regularly. We started talking about how awesome it is to have a vegan network and how nice it is for our children to have other vegan friends to relate to. And this is how VPA (Vegan Parents Australia) was born.
Establishing new friendships
So many friendships have been formed via these meet ups and they have been so successful , we thought it would be a good idea to register the group as an organisation and make it Australia wide, not just in Melbourne. The purpose of this organisation would be to connect vegan families- parents and children to form friendships, give support and advice and also to set an example to the community that veganism is easy and that vegan children are healthy. With this organisation comes the ambition to normalise veganism and bring it into the mainstream.
What this organisation has personally brought to me is the obsolescence of any anxiety I felt through my pregnancy. I have not once had situations where Leilani, now almost 3, has been deemed a social outcast and so far her bones, muscles and blood cells are well intact. People understand when I explain to them that we don’t go to the zoo or the circus and people oblige when I tell them to serve her pasta without cheese. Her ballet teachers understand that she wears canvas ballet slippers instead of leather and at her non-vegan friend’s birthday parties they use Nuttelex on fairy bread instead of butter. This has all been possible because I gained confidence to stick up for our ethics after I connected with people who were like-minded.
The kids benefit too!
I realised I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t the only one in the world who was feeling the way I feel and the benefits to Leilani have been countless! Her best friends in the world are Evie and Katarina and the three of them have grown up together. There are so many other vegan friends for her as well! Without the group, Leilani (and Malia, now 8 months) would most likely be the only vegans that they know in a non-vegan world and at least now they have a basis – they know that there are plenty of people out there living the same way, being raised with the same values, totally taking away any essence of isolation or feelings of seclusion.
So now for every birthday party they go to where they can’t eat the cake there will be two or three vegan parties where there will be chocolate galore for them to pig out on…and this is thanks to all the amazing people we have met through Vegan Parents Australia!
So if you are raising a vegan family without much support I urge you to connect! Facebook is a great resource for finding vegans in your local area, and if there are no existing groups you can always start your own. And if you are in Australia there is always us, veganparents.org – we have regular meet-ups in Melbourne and Sydney (We are currently working on other states as well) and we are always happy to welcome new families to our group. You can contact us via our website or our Facebook page.