I am a mother of children with food allergies. Allergies, plural. It has been a challenge to say the least. It’s like learning to parent in the middle of a minefield. Good times. Oh, but I’m not alone! One in 13 kids has at least one food allergy. That’s roughly two in every classroom! That’s a LOT of mammas walking around the same allergy minefield.
So, that’s the good news–you’ve got a lot of support in this crazy food-allergy-mom-world. The bad news–food allergies are handled differently by every mom. You’ll discover that there’s no “right” way to navigate this brave new world of food allergies with your kid.
Every Food Allergy (FA) Mom seems to follow her own playbook of rules, and you will, too.
Here’s the scenario: Your child eats something normal like a cheese stick or a PBJ, and then they start puking. (Mashed avocado made my baby puke for hours on end…that was our first encounter with food allergies. But, it could’ve been worse.)
For some, the child may have a hard time breathing. Maybe your kid has eczema, and it takes you months or years to nail down the culprit is his favorite food. Or, maybe it’s just a scary hive situation. (As was the case with three of our kids’ food allergies: sesame, peanuts, and eggs.)
Bottom line, your life changes.
Priority or Pacifist?
Every kid responds differently to their allergy. One kid may only get a few hives, but another may go in to straight up anaphylaxis. So, it should come as no surprise that every allergy mom’s response is also different.
Some food allergy moms are incredibly laid back about their kid’s allergies. They aren’t the slightest bit concerned about the potential risks. Usually, this is because the reaction has been pretty tame. And for those families, food allergies are simple to tackle. They just don’t give their kid the actual allergen.
However, some parents ONLY see the risks. They practically turn their child into the boy in the plastic bubble to keep him safe. They are obsessed about where their food is made, threats of cross contamination, and restaurants are usually avoided. Food is a BIG deal, and there’s a lot of anxiety that comes along with it.
Many of us Food Allergy Moms (FA Moms) tend to ONLY see the risks. And, risks are everywhere–preschool snacks, playgrounds, playdates, processed foods, potlucks, resorts, festivals, birthday parties, food trucks, carnivals, ice cream shops, resorts, and on, and on…
Finding a Balance
So, what’s the playbook? Believe it or not, there’s no one-size-fits-all path for navigating food allergies. It may only be an inconvenience for some. It may be terrifying and life altering for others. Or, if you’re like me, it may start as an inconvenience then move straight into your worst nightmare.
Sometimes, your perspective will change over time. It took me about six months to compute my youngest child’s egg and peanut allergies. I didn’t really think of him as a kid that could go into anaphylaxis.
I mean, I understood: Peanuts = bad. Egg = bad. But, other than not giving him scrambled eggs or peanut butter, not much changed. Then, a switch flipped. I went from one extreme to the other.
I would wake up in the middle of the night realizing I had forgotten to check the back of the box of rice we had for dinner. What if it had egg? I’d shoot up out of bed and go check my toddler’s breathing. Was it labored?
I spent about two years like this–walking on eggshells. It can be exhausting, limiting, and incredibly difficult to navigate.
After being the laid back mom, then the boy-in-the-plastic-bubble-mom, I have finally landed somewhere in the middle. I became more analytical and less reactive. I balance all the perceived risks with the actual risks. Then, I just try to make the best decisions I can.
Like most things in life, experience will shape your choices. You’ll start to see the forest for the trees, and you’ll find your groove.
If your child has become part of the growing statistic, then know you’re not alone. One in thirteen kids is the current statistic, and it is only expected to increase with time! Sad. True.
Don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out. None of us do. It’s a scary, exhausting ride that can be unpredictable and confusing.
Unfortunately, time is really the best teacher on this one, and with it, you’ll learn to trust your instincts. You’ll change and grow in your attitude about your kid’s allergy, as he changes and grows with it, too.
That’s gonna be your new normal–taking it one step at a time. Better yet–one meal at a time.