I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I’ve been really apprehensive about it. But, now is the time. If I don’t get it off my chest then it will never make me feel better about it.
For quite some time I have always felt a little bit different. I guess “alternative” (but that doesn’t sit right with me). In all stages of life, school, teens and into adult hood you’re surrounded by groups of people and “cliques”; something I’ve never fit into. But when I had a baby 3 years ago and was suddenly labeled a mum instead of just an adult than I definitely realised just how different I am.
Let’s start by saying everyone is different. I get that. The world is a wonderful place and if we were all the same then that would be a bit weird. But there is a “norm” and this norm is where the “typical” expectations come from. And then when I became a parent at times I’ve felt embarrassed or isolated because of these differences.
Rather than be ashamed about them it’s better to talk about them. Other people might find it interesting, or if you are curious about any of these things then hopefully it opens your mind more to the way people do things which aren’t “the norm”.
I’ve been vegan for 2 years now. We’re a vegan household so not only am I vegan but Ollie and Eric are vegan, too. And I don’t see this ever changing… I honestly believe once you are vegan you can’t really ever go back because of what you know.
Lots of people have had things to say about how Eric is vegan or plant based. I’ve even had messages/comments accusing me of being mean or forcing my beliefs on him. “It’s not right, he should have a choice”, “children are not meant to be vegan”, “why would you decide that for him, he should be able to choose”. I understand it all… but people don’t seem to understand it from our point of view.
He does have a choice, he can choose to eat meat/dairy whenever he wants when he is old enough to make an informed decision. I don’t believe children need meat or dairy in their diet, so that’s something I chose not for my child to have. Not anyone elses child, but mine. Just like how I decide what clothes he wears, what treats he has, how I decide to teach him about the world, my decision to raise him without any religion; these are all my decisions based on who we are and what we believe is best for him as OUR child.
I will never put words in his mouth and I am very open minded. If he wishes to take a different path in life, whatever it may be, vegan or not, then he will always have my love and support. However, it is the same with anything… whatever religion you are, what you teach your children about equality, race… we all make these decisions and we should respect each others differences to how he bring up our children.
At the end of the day, he’s 3 years old and he can’t really be vegan until he is old enough to make informed choices and know what veganism is. Because vegan is a lifestyle and not just a diet. So, of course he is going to be influenced by our lifestyle which is vegan… just like anyone else’s lifestyle influences their children, however they choose to live their lives.
As for what he eats… I have no concern at all and don’t think anyone else should worry, either. Think about it this way; whatever diet you chose to give your child; I’m sure you make choices for them based on what you believe is best. Some parents don’t let their kids eat XYZ, some parents do. That’s just the way it is.
What other parents feed their children is up to them and it is their business just like it is our business what Eric eats. I don’t suggest other people feed their children a certain way because their child is their child.
People who are not vegan think it’s okay to say to me, “I think it’s cruel you don’t give your child the option to eat meat or dairy” but what if I said, “I think it’s cruel you feed dead animals and milk from a cow to your child?” I know exactly what people would think of me… but how is it any different?
So how about, let’s all just get on with what we’re doing and stop caring about what other parents choose to feed their kids.
- Don’t drive
A bit of a funny one, as lots of people don’t drive but the majority of people do. Not having a car can be seen as weird to some people especially if you have children. I get lots of questions especially this one: “why don’t you learn to drive? Surely it’s easier?” Yes, it would be a whole lot easier to drive, trust me. A completely different lifestyle, too. But driving lessons, licenses, cars, petrol, MOT and insurance all cost money. And some people don’t have that money.
Not having a car and not learning to drive, at this point in my life is not even a choice I’ve made because I think it’s better to use public transport. Everyone knows driving is more convenient and I’m sure every parent who doesn’t drive would love to drive. But it’s not as easy as just getting a car.
For those who drive and don’t realise how much it costs, add up the driving lessons, licenses, car itself, petrol, insurance, etc., and all the extra bits. That would cost me years and years to save up and pay for and I still would be priced out with insurance.
I breastfed Eric until he was 3 years and 3 months old. I didn’t decide to stop or anything like that; he naturally stopped breastfeeding when I was 16 weeks pregnant (well, I say naturally; he said there was nothing left and he refused to latch, almost like he had an aversion).
Extended breastfeeding is always a little bit strange to those who haven’t been around it or don’t agree with breastfeeding. That’s just a fact.
I’ve been told in the past that I breastfed just for myself and was keeping it going much longer than I need to. I’ve been accused of being a sadistic parent and breastfeeding for my own benefit.
I don’t feel like talking about why extended breastfeeding is so brilliant because I’m sure most of us already know that and it gets boring. But it’s definitely just another reason why I’ve felt different to the majority of mums in the past.
Breastfeeding at times has been really isolating especially around those who don’t understand the relationship. Some parents can’t (or don’t want to be) separated from their baby, if they are exclusively breastfeeding. And that’s completely normal.
But in the early days with Eric, I was often looked at like I had 4 heads when I explained this to those who were apart from their babies and invited me along with them. I had no envy for these people at all; that’s their life and I live mine; but we aren’t all the same… and some people (like me) did it a little bit differently.
- Low income
I grew up living in council houses and I’ve never been fortunate enough to be rich or have lots of money. Instead, I’ve known what it’s like to be homeless and live on benefits. I’ve never had a salary and the jobs I have had have been working 50 hours in cafes and restaurants.
I’m clever; I went to university in London and I graduated with a degree. I have A levels and I did my GCSE’s. It has nothing to do with how smart you are… some people are just less fortunate than others.
When I was in University, no one understood why my family didn’t have money to support me. Whilst everyone else’s parents gave them allowances or put down house deposits for them, I had to get it from loans, working full time as well as university and bank overdrafts.
This was fine to me because I didn’t have another option. But the amount of times I was asked “can’t you just ask your mum?” or “what about your parents, can’t they lend it you?” ended up getting really annoying, actually. When I explained the situation, some people assumed my parents were sponging off the government and choosing not to work which is why they didn’t have the extra cash to give to me.
I am a hard worker and I don’t sponge off anyone. Although I don’t have a salary or I haven’t gone back to work (in a restaurant) after I had Eric doesn’t mean that I am privileged not to work; quite the opposite.
I’ve never known what it’s like to have money and to be honest, that doesn’t bother me at all.
- My family
I hardly have any family. My dad died when I was in University, my parents never married. I was brought up in a single parent family with my mum, who is now ill and struggles to look after herself. Apart from my own family now, and my mum, I don’t really have anyone else.
It really sucks when people assume you have loads of family to help out and think it’s weird when you don’t. Especially when I don’t have parents who drive; because it seems that if you, yourself, don’t drive or have money; then surely your parents will/can?
It’s not just me that doesn’t have lots of money or a car, but my parents never did either. I was always the kid in school whose friends thought it was weird I lived in a council house and my family didn’t have a job. We didn’t have a car, we had benefits, and I never went abroad on holiday.
I was always the weird kid and then in university this doesn’t change either, even though I assumed by the time you get to university… people would be more understanding. My dad died from drug use whilst I was in university and the amount of judgement I got for this was awful.
It has been really difficult to have my own family without having much of a family myself, but it is what it is. I’ve learnt to be independent because I have to be and do everything without relying on other people. And that doesn’t even sound good, trust me, it sucks.
I’ve had many nights of tears wishing I had more family help but, you can’t just create something like that. It is what it is. I have to be happy for what I have and I am grateful, as some people don’t have anything at all.
Eric was in bed with me from day 1 as a newborn in hospital. He never went in that plastic crib next to the bed; mainly because if he did, he screamed bloody murder, but also because it didn’t feel natural.
Once we got home, Ollie put him in the crib next to our bed, we turned the lights off and thought we could go to sleep. We were so naive! Eric hated the crib (it was a next-to-the-bed-co sleeper) and was in bed with us from that day.
It just felt so natural to co sleep so we never got him another crib or bed. He’s now 3 and bed shares with us. He doesn’t have a bedroom or a bed of his own and I think this is completely normal; but I know it isn’t the norm.
- Mental health
I’m not going into depth here because I just don’t feel like explaining myself. But I’m sure if you struggle with your mental health, you’ll feel the same way. It’s just “not normal” to be depressed, anxious, paranoid, tired, overwhelmed; whatever it may be. Others struggle to understand it and don’t realise how it impacts on your daily life.
People online have suggested I seek medical help because of the way I talk about my struggles in the past. I’ve even had people suggest I have post natal depression or something else. I know I have issues; I was diagnosed with BPD when I was a teenager.
Let’s stop diagnosing people online.
It’s the same with Eric, now, when I mention what I struggle with and what he struggles with… people think he has XYZ and label him straight away. Don’t get me wrong, it can be really helpful to receive advice from friends and family that suggests you might need to support; but when someone is already feeling down or already struggles with mental health… hearing suggestions that you have XYZ just highlights your issues even more.
Plus, I think we should all be allowed to express ourselves in whatever way we wish, talk about our struggles and our feelings without having other people tell us it’s because we have a disorder or because we need some medication. It’s much more helpful to listen and understand, that try to suggest a fix.
And just for fun, here’s some more differences about me/my family!
- We don’t do matching pyjamas on Christmas
- Or take flattering family photos for Instagram (or my blog!)
- We don’t live in a routine. In fact, this would be impossible; my OH works in a pub, working shifts that can change week to week
- Eric doesn’t go to nursery or childcare
- …And he’s going to be home educated (until he wants to go to school, or doesn’t)
- I’m dyslexic in maths which affects everything from dates in the calendar, making plans, basic maths, finances to shapes and telling the time. I get really frustrated when any maths is involved and mess up things with numbers without realising
- I have anxiety which makes me unpredictable and unreliable at times; so if I’m difficult to get in contact with… I’m sorry!
Besides that, I’m just like you. I believe we all have our similarities, and I find people very interesting. I would love to study humanities and dipped into behaviour of people whilst studying culture in university.
In this life I don’t believe anyone is ‘right’… I don’t think I’m better than anyone for any of the things I do or any of the things I’ve talked about above. I can’t help, at times, to wish things were different and yes, I admit I envy those (sometimes) who have a different life to me… but that’s normal. I know the grass is not always greener on the other side. And the only way I’m going to be able to bring up the family I want to bring is to be more confident, rather than hide behind my differences with shame.
If you read my blog and follow me online, I do hope this was useful in getting to know me and understanding my life. And if you are just reading this but we have never met, let’s be friends! I love meeting new people. I would love to know if you are similar in any ways.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and it didn’t annoy you! Sorry if it did. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more normal, honestly!