At a party recently Nutter Butters were served. I knew they were going to be there. As an “Allergy Mom” I had spoken to the party mom before hand and sat my kid at the table with my eyes wide open. The mom next to me started to panic when she heard me turn down the passed treat saying “no thank you, he’s allergic”. She asked me questions about if it was ok for her son to eat the treat next to mine, did I want them to move, why can’t her son take peanut butter to school, etc. The normal questions that I’m always happy to answer.
I wasn’t prepared for our next meeting. At her own son’s party she came up to me and said “I told my friend about what happened at the other party and she was shocked that you let your son sit there and that you were actually nice about it!”
I think that was a compliment.
I wanted to face palm.
“Actually nice”. Like it’s surprising that a mom of a child with food allergies is nice. Not the impression that we, as a group, really want to hear.
It made me think. Why do we get such a bad rap? Why do we need to stand tall and shout and demand? Why as a group can’t we work together to educate others and enjoy life? Why is this such a battle?
I started to think about other groups of moms. Thanks to social media and the internet we have grouped ourselves off pretty well. We are Breast feeders, stroller users, cloth diaperers, extended car seat safety moms, baby wearers, co sleepers, formula feeders, and home-schoolers to name a few. In each case we have labeled ourselves by a CHOICE that we made and gathered up with others like us to discuss our bond. There will be arguments between those that wear their babies and those that use a stroller. Crib sleepers and Co-sleepers are sure that the other one will be killing their child and let’s not even talk about the breast vs. bottle debate. But here’s the thing, those in your group mostly agree. You have a united front.
This is not the case with “Allergy Moms”.
None of us chose this label. In fact, nobody wanted this label. We got stuck with this label. We are in a group we don’t want to be in with moms who aren’t anything like us in our parenting styles. Here’s where the problem begins. We fight with each other. There are so many food allergies, symptoms and sensitivities it’s hard to lump us into one group. These people over here don’t care about the “may contain” statement while these families only use allergy free factories. This group is allergic by contact while this group by ingestion. This group has been to the emergency room while this group only has testing that says their allergic. My head is starting to swim just thinking about all the categories I could list. Everyone has a different comfort level based on their experience and their doctor. No two “Allergy Moms” are the same. Without a united front, we are still alone, fighting for our child. We want to advocate but honestly, sometimes I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision. Sometimes, I just hope for the best. It’s hard to worry ALL.THE.TIME. It’s daunting.
I can understand why the non-allergic world is confused by us. We all want safety for our children but we don’t agree with what is the best method. And if those of us that live it everyday can’t agree, how are we ever going to educate everyone else? How are we ever going to get others to understand what is acceptable behavior and what is not? How can anyone understand any sort of protocol?
They can’t. And we can’t.
So the next time you see one of us in high alert, instead of thinking “there they go again”, ask us. Ask us about our personal situation, our beliefs and our experiences that have led us to where we are today. That’s all we want, we want understanding and compassion for our situation. The one we didn’t chose. The one we live with every day.