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{Confessions of a Food Allergy Mom} 5 Things I Wish Other Moms Knew

food allergiesOnce upon a time I looked forward to those tiny bags of honey roasted peanuts served on airplanes. Oh, how so much has changed. Now I pre-board to wipe down my family’s seating area and do the best I can to remove any trace of peanut.

I am a Food Allergy mom. I am still figuring out how to navigate it all, but I’m doing my best one day at a time. Some days I wish I could wish away my son’s allergies, but I know that won’t happen. Other days I just wish that others could understand. Here’s five things I wish non-food allergy moms knew:

I didn’t get it before either. 

I’ve been the eye roller. I’ve been annoyed at the inconvenience. I can’t be mad at you for not understanding, because I didn’t understand it before either. I didn’t understand the life changing diagnosis of a peanut allergy until my son ended up in the ER during a family vacation. Instead of sightseeing, we were eating takeout in a hospital room and clueless about when our son would be discharged or how much the medical bills would be.

I’m obsessive because I have to be.

My son can’t eat the food at your house or party unless I can check the ingredient list or ask about the recipe. In addition to peanuts, my son is allergic to cow’s milk. So many packaged foods, like those cute dino shaped chicken nuggets, surprisingly contain milk. And even if a product doesn’t contain peanuts, if it was manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, our doctor said he shouldn’t eat it. I ask about hand washing because if someone else touches dairy and then touches my son, he will swell up or break out into hives.

It’s my new normal.

Managing food allergies is a daily battle. I pack safe snacks, even if there will be snacks where we’re going. I bring safe treats to birthday parties. I don’t leave the house without Benadryl and EpiPens. I consult online menus before selecting a restaurant. I ask the waitress questions. I try to cook more things from scratch, because food labels are incorrect sometimes. I’m always careful. Managing food allergies is a lifestyle.

It’s harder than you think.

Managing food allergies is not just the logistics. It’s the underlying fear of lurking peanut butter and dairy treats in social situations. It’s the tinge of sadness that my son can’t eat the birthday cake like everyone else. It’s the uncertainty of how it will all work out when my now toddler eventually goes to school and won’t have me policing everything for him. It’s the disappointment that food allergy bullying is a thing.

food allergiesI am thankful.

I am so thankful for those who get it. It’s the little things that fill me with gratitude. It’s the friend who had vegan cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday party. It’s the mom at the playground who put her daughter’s peanut butter sandwich away without me asking. It’s the grandma who took her grandaughter to wash hands after eating string cheese at playgroup. Thank you for your help.

Dear moms, I wish you knew how scary food allergies are. I wish you knew it doesn’t take much to make things a little easier, more inclusive, and most importantly, safe.

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6 Responses to {Confessions of a Food Allergy Mom} 5 Things I Wish Other Moms Knew

  1. Haley September 7, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    This is a really helpful perspective! I can imagine this is really challenging and stressful. I don’t have this personal experience but will keep this in mind as my son ages and is in environments with other kids. Speaking of inclusiveness: may I make a gentle request to refrain from using OCD as an adjective/metaphor versus its actual medical definition? Using the names of mental illnesses this way can dilute the seriousness and increase the severity of these conditions. I am sure this was not your intent, but it is the only reason I would not choose to share this article with my circle of friends.

    • Haley September 7, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

      Oops – meant stigma, not severity!

      • Laura
        Laura September 8, 2017 at 9:43 am #

        Thanks, Haley, for bringing this up, and starting a dialogue about a very important issue. I am embarrassed to say I did not think twice about this insensitive usage that sadly has been normalized by our society. I am so thankful to learn from other mamas like you!

    • Rebecca
      Rebecca September 8, 2017 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Haley! You’re right that this was not the author’s intent, and so she’s changed it to “obsessive.” Feel free to share 🙂

  2. Jessica September 22, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi Laura, thank you for this. My husband forward me your article when I was having a particularly challenging day — it made me feel a little less isolated. We have a 16 month and almost 4 year old.

    Our 16 month old has many life threatening food allergies. The 4 year old has no known allergies. In addition to nourishing a highly allergic child, we struggle with every meal and snack, and the possibility of cross-contamination – we opted to keep most of his allergens in the older child’s diet, because so far he has only 7 safe foods and 1 oil.

    Thanks for bringing awareness and helping one mom feel less alone in this challenging journey. 🙏🏽

    • Laura
      Laura September 23, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

      Thanks for reaching out, Jessica! Your situation sounds so difficult. You work so hard! Since writing this, I’ve seen other food allergy moms come out of the woodwork, and it feels comforting to know we are not alone. It also has been encouraging that non food allergy moms have been supportive or have told me their eyes were opened after reading this. Feel free to share with friends, family, or your school community who might benefit from better understanding all that you do for your precious little one. You’re doing a great job.

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