I’ve been a food allergy mom for over ten years. Even though I have the best intentions, I still fight misconceptions about why I do what I do. And now that I'm a Food Allergy Consultant and AllerCoach, I'm realizing I'm not alone, and these are very common feelings with other food allergy mamas too! Because of this, I thought I'd write it all down in hopes of giving a bit of insight into the life of food allergy moms (FA moms).
1. Food Allergy Moms Love Thier Kids
FA moms love their kids. We want to nurture and protect our kids. We don’t know why our kids have food allergies, but we know we’ll do our darnedest to keep the impact to our kids minimal. This includes everything from excessive cooking and baking for social events; to teaching our kids how to keep themselves safe; to packing all the food required to go on a trip, and everything in between.
2. Food Allergy Moms Have Kids With a Disease That's Real & Serious But Misunderstood
FA moms have kids with a disease that's real and serious. This disease has the possibility to create a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. A trace amount of our child’s allergen is enough to cause anaphylaxis. This means if my child is allergic to milk, even that small drop of milk that dried on a countertop earlier (the one nobody can see), is enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction if my child touches it and then gets it in their eyes, nose or mouth. There are other food conditions that are not life threatening like food intolerances which are often confused with food allergies. This confusion makes it harder for FA moms because people often feel like we’re overreacting, or being a helicopter mom.
3. Food Allergy Moms Are Not Perfect
Just like everybody else, FA moms are not perfect. When we’re trying to explain what our child needs we may use the wrong words or say the wrong things. Then add fear and overwhelm, it comes out wrong: A LOT. Whether we’re new to this or a seasoned FA mom, explaining food allergies is hard to do. If we end up offending or demanding, please give us the benefit of the doubt. We are honestly fumbling through this most of the time.
4. Each Food Allergy Mom's Comfort Zone is Different
Each FA mom’s personal circumstances and number of food allergies their child has are different. Some of us might have seen our child having an anaphylactic reaction, and some may not. Some may have to handle several allergies. Some may have several kids with food allergies. Each FA mom works with their specific circumstances, and some situations may be more difficult than another. For example, having a peanut allergy may seem similar to having a tree nut allergy, but in fact, they are very different, and although many products are labelled “peanut free” this can actually be very different from “tree nut free”. This causes confusion and dangers for a child who has a tree nut allergy. There are other examples of this too. Which is why FA moms will have different comfort zones. Some FA moms might need to ask about every ingredient in what you’re serving at your child’s birthday and will need to teach you how to use an EpiPen. Other FA moms might just drop their child off with an EpiPen. Please don’t compare or judge either of us because we do things differently. We all do what we have to do to keep our child safe.
5. Food Allergy Moms Are Lonely
Social situations with food allergies are hard, especially with multiple food allergies. FA moms are forced to either host most of the time or take the time to teach each host about food allergies. This is time-consuming and can take a huge toll on us. Add the time it takes to prepare and research food daily; now our time to actually go out and meet people is limited. We want to have a group of besties too, but it’s often harder because many times others are overwhelmed with the safety precautions too. Please keep this in mind when you meet an FA mom. If you look past the demands, we are some of the best friends around.
6. Food Allergy Moms Are Overworked and Tired
FA moms may be overworked and tired. We don’t get breaks from food prep. For example, when our kids are invited to a party we not only need to buy a gift for that birthday child, but we also have to email those parents, talk about the food being served, and explain EpiPen use. We may also prepare our child’s meal for the party and bake safe birthday cake for our child to bring (safe options are not always available to purchase or they might be expensive). And this isn’t just for kid’s birthday parties, it’s for all social situations & school too. We want to celebrate with you and your kids, but given the amount of work we may not seem as enthused as we should, especially when it's high birthday season.
7. Food Allergy Moms Appreciate Your Efforts
FA moms appreciate any effort you make to help us. One year I had a non-food allergy mom at school who was the most thoughtful, helpful person. She would text me with all the ingredient labels anytime she was making something for the class. She would clean her whole kitchen and wash all the dishes prior to baking. I honestly get brought to tears whenever I think about how kind she was. And I know that everyone may not be able to go to this extent, and I completely understand, but FA moms appreciate anything you do to help, big or small. It truly has a deep impact on us. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to be in contact with the FA mom to talk about what would help most because of the last point below.
8. Food Allergy Moms Might Not Trust You To Cook For Their Child
Yes, it's true; food allergy moms may not trust you to cook for their child. But the LAST thing we want is for people to be offended. It takes some time for a FA mom to trust that someone knows exactly what needs to be done when preparing safe food. This in no way says they're not capable, and please don’t take it that way. It’s just that there are nuances and particulars that need to be understood when cooking for food allergies and we need to be 100% confident that people KNOW these things before giving our child the food you lovingly prepared. We’re not trying to be demanding or insulting, and as much as we hate being so particular, it comes with the territory. The best way to get around this is to ask the FA mom lots of questions and show them you’re willing to learn what needs to be done. Keep talking about it and be open to learning, and trust will come!
As I mentioned in point number one above, FA moms love their kids; just like all moms. This is one common ground we can all understand and celebrate! Even though we have differences, I hope this shows a little about what FA moms are thinking and why we do what we do. And by creating better understanding, hopefully, we can also create better community.
Is there anything you wish you could explain about being a FA mom? Or something you are wondering about FA moms?? Post in the comments below!
Corinna Meckelborg lives in Calgary, AB with her two daughters and wonderful husband of 16 years. Although she lives close to the mountains, she doesn’t like skiing or snowboarding but does enjoy snowshoeing and playing driveway basketball with her family. Food allergies have been a part of her life for over 10 years and she enjoys advocating for and teaching others to live full, enjoyable food allergic lives through her company, Friendly Pantry Consulting Inc. Check out Friendly Pantry on Facebook & Instagram. If you're a food allergy mom and want a great group of supportive moms to chat with on Facebook, consider joining the Friendly Pantry Community on Facebook.