Parenting is hard enough (especially when you’ve got a challenging toddler or preschooler), but what about when they also have a serious food allergy? Here are ten truths that mums of food allergy kids will know ALL too well!
1. Childcare is stressful
You have lengthy conversations with all the preschool carers, dissect the meal plan, inspect the kitchen, check that all the teachers know how to use an epi-pen and hang around outside for a long time at each drop-off. And even then, you worry at home all day that somehow the wrong food will sneak its way to your child and the daycare won’t be able to find the epi-pen.
2. You constantly chaperone
Until they’re old enough to know not to eat the wrong foods or anything placed in front of them, you have to stick around at every play-date and party to check what they’re eating, just in case. Other parents think you’re way too precious and over-cautious, and you feel super awkward that the host has to entertain you as well. Often, you end up waiting around outside or in the car.
3. You bring ‘safe’ snacks to parties
Rather than interrogate the birthday boy’s mother about every item in her food and kitchen, it’s easier to bring your own lunchbox of party treats for your child (which they will totally hate you for). Because even when people are aware of your child’s allergy and cater especially for them, they almost always get something wrong and there’s no way to check there hasn’t been any cross contamination.
3. Restaurants aren’t fun
Ordering food is like an interrogation, investigation, explanation and negotiation all in one. You see the annoyed look on the waiter’s face and have to patiently wait while they go back and forth to the kitchen to check with the chef. And then when the food arrives you nervously watch your child eat to check for any reactions, like a complete weirdo, and can’t enjoy your own meal.
4. You’re always explaining
Friends, teachers, family, strangers – you always have to tell people about the allergy, why it’s so serious, what your child can and can’t have, what an epi-pen does, and more. “It’s not an intolerance; it’s a serious allergy.” “Yes, they can go into anaphylactic shock.” “No, I don’t know what caused their allergy.” “Sorry, they can’t eat that.” You feel like a broken record.
5. Shopping takes forever
Your new pastime is standing in supermarket aisles scrutinising labels on every food item. A trip to the store for a few groceries can sometimes take you three hours and forget about shopping online, way too risky. You need to inspect the ingredients up close.
Read more about allergies:
- 10 things you probably believe about allergies that are totally wrong
- Baby poo has changed since last century which could explain increased allergies
- Science may soon be able to “turn off” allergies AND asthma
6. Everyone’s an allergy expert
“You should have eaten peanuts when you were pregnant.” “If you give them more of the food they will grow out of it.” “A new study says that food allergies are just a myth.” Suddenly everyone knows more than you and the doctors about your child’s allergy. You get tired of correcting, so you just smile politely.
7. Epi-pens are a handbag essential
Most people leave the house looking for keys, phones and wallets – you look for an epi-pen (or five). You religiously check the expiration dates and make sure you don’t leave them in places too hot or cold. And become almost like a stalker with your local pharmacist, continually checking when their new supplies are coming in.
8. You hate being the fun police
It’s awful being the bad guy who has to tell your child they can’t eat the pretty birthday cake, go ‘trick or treating‘ or have the latest cool snack every other kid is munching on. You hate being the helicopter parent but you don’t want to risk your child dying either.
9. People don’t take it seriously
Even when you explain that your child could die, there are still those parents who think it’s fine to bring peanut sandwiches to school just because they did when they were young. They think it’s a lifestyle choice you’ve chosen for your child because you’re a control freak who wants them to be healthy. Your extended family members conveniently forget too, or they think just a little bit of the offending food is okay – even when you’ve told them a million times that it’s not.
10. You lie awake at night
“Will you recognise the signs of their throat closing? Will others?” “How will their allergy affect them emotionally when they’re a teenager?” “What exciting, safe new dishes can you make that they’ll actually want to eat?” “Has the epi-pen expired?” The worry is real, and the thoughts are endless.
It’s tough being an allergy mum all right!
What’s your experience of being a mum of a child with a serious food allergy? Share your experiences on our Facebook page.