Are you the only vegan in your family? Are you in a relationship with someone of differing dietary inclinations? How do you navigate this challenging and complex landscape?
Being the only vegan at work, amongst your friends, or at social gatherings can certainly be a challenge. But nothing seems to be quite as difficult as being the only vegan in your family, or with a non-vegan significant other. How do you navigate these relationships and interpersonal interactions? I spoke with vegan author, speaker, and joyful vegan Colleen Patrick-Goudreau about this very subject.
Being the lone vegan is something I’m personally very familiar with. Growing up, I was the only vegan in a family of meat-eaters and continue to be the only vegan, or even vegetarian, in my family to this day. I’ve never really had vegan friends in “real life,” though some of my friends went vegan after years of knowing me.
I’ve never lived in very vegan-friendly areas, spending almost a decade in Iowa, the heart of my country’s industrial agriculture and pig slaughtering. It’s my belief that I can create more change in the thick of the problem. Fighting from ground zero, so to speak.
But one of the greatest challenges for new vegans, and even long-term vegans, is how to navigate our relationships with our non-vegan family and significant others. Maybe you’re a teen or preteen, still living at home with non-vegan parents.
Or maybe you’re a vegan parent raising meat-eating kids. These relationships can be difficult, to say the least, so when I spoke with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau recently, I asked for her unique insight into this issue.
Check out the video above for all of Colleen’s insights, but here are some select quotes:
“A lot of parents have this guilt around what?: feeding helpful food to their children?; food that would reflect the values they’re actually teaching their children? And yet there’s guilt around it, like, “But I don’t know if they’re going to like it, I don’t want to push it on them.” Well, you pushed on what was part of the status quo for you before and so, that’s what being a parent is.
“On the flip side, the kids come home and they want to be vegan, and the parents are like, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to cook for you.” Okay, depending on how old that child is, it could be a young adult, it could be a kid who is already helping in the kitchen, you do have to take a little bit of responsibility. Especially if you’re a teenage, you’re older, you can cook, you could shop, you can show them that you’re getting the nutrients; make it easier for them.”
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Colleen on this matter. Be sure to watch the video for her full insights.
You may deal with your relationships differently than Colleen–we all have to find our way in navigating this–you can check out my video post with Gary Yourofsky on how to deal with non-vegan friends and family for a different perspective as well. You may also find the Vegan Parenting Series and Videos for Kids Series helpful.
Feel it out, see what seems right to you. There’s no perfect answer, but I think keeping the lines of communication open at all times is essential.
If you’re in a situation where your family or significant other refuses to respect your choice to live a compassionate lifestyle, especially if they are aggressive or demeaning, I’d personally advocate removing yourself from that situation if at all possible.
Choosing to live a life free of harming others is something to respect and admire, not admonish and condemn. [tweet this]
When you go vegan, you are no longer impeding the lives of others with your dietary choices, and that is an incredible decision, one that impacts far more lives than your own. So whatever your family circumstances, I hope that you can find comfort in knowing that when you go vegan, you are making a difference where it really matters. [tweet this]
Because the animals of this world deserve to have their families as well. And meat, dairy, eggs and honey, rob them of that right. [tweet this]
I’d love to hear from you on this complex topic. What has your experience been with your family? Do you come from a mixed home or relationship? Have you had challenges? Perhaps you are the non-vegan in your household. How has your loved ones’ choice to go vegan affected you? Let me know in the comments!
— Emily Moran Barwick
Thank you for this post. After being vegan for more than three years, I’ve been dealing with some pretty nasty familial backlash lately. I think it’s a combination of realizing that it’s not just a phase and that it’s also not just a diet. They’ve been both aggressive and demeaning, attacking me personally in ways I never could have imagined and certainly don’t deserve. I’ve been holding onto some hope that they’ll come around (not to veganism necessarily, but to understanding or being supportive), but every time I try to explain how my feelings have been hurt (in a very tentative, careful, non-confrontational manner), they lash out harder. I haven’t wanted to give up on them, primarily because I have a young son and I don’t want to add depriving them of their gransdon/nephew to their list of complaints, but the whole situation has become emotionally debilitating. This line from your post really resonated with me: “choosing to live a life free of harming others is something to respect and admire, not admonish and condemn.” And that’s what it truly comes down to.
Thanks again–both for the work you do for animals and for the vegan community.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
you are so welcome and thank you so much for sharing your experience, Britt. sorry to hear it’s been rough. but so glad this resonated for you :)