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When You Have Different Belief Systems, Who Gets the Kids?

lisa_the_vegetarianLately I have been having a huge issue with a topic that Daddy and I just don’t see eye to eye on.  Since it directly involves the kids  I am not sure what to do.  No, this is not a post about religion, but it does have to do with my core values and beliefs, my love of animals.

If you read by blog regularly you probably know these two things about me, I have been a vegetarian (no meat, chicken, fish etc.) for over 21 years, and while I am steadfast in my beliefs I understand that I cannot force those beliefs on others.  While I can educate them, ultimately everyone has the right to make their own decision about how they live there life.

So it probably comes as no surprise when I tell you that Daddy is not a vegetarian.  Understandably so, since in his previous life he was a chef, and really you cannot do well in that industry without consuming a boat load of animal products.  While I never loved it, I loved him, and I made peace with it.  He loved me enough to keep his meat-eating down to a minimum (only a couple of times a week) and was very careful to clean up right after (cross contamination is a big worry for me because I will get very very sick).

But, since maybe November I have taken up real issue with his meat-eating.  Perhaps it’s because I am back at work and I run with a crew of vegans/vegetarians, or perhaps because I have watched a lot of good documentaries lately including If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls with Sir Paul McCartney.  After some thought, I think the biggest reason is because the girls are getting to that age where they can eat meat, and my son has started eating more of it.

Of course I know that I can’t keep them vegetarian forever, but the thought of putting dead animal flash in their little precious bodies breaks my heart, both for them, and the animal that had a horrible life and death so they could eat it.  At Christmas we hosted the in-laws for dinner and they brought and cooked a ham, and I was literally brought to tears watching them “enjoy” the poor dead pig.

A picture of me with Baby Wiggles

A picture of me with Baby Wiggles

It’s not even that I have a problem with eating animals per se, it is the way that they are treated while alive and inhumanely slaughtered that bothers me.  You know, I actually helped nurse a pig myself.  Her name was Wiggles, and she fell off a truck on the highway and shattered her leg.  I had no idea how intelligent or caring pigs could be.  She loved her sweet potatoes and at night before I would go home she would get upset if I didn’t tuck her in.  She was eventually adopted by a hobby farmer and is now a happy and healthy thousand pounds.

So while I could sit here and tell you stories about all of the baby raccoons I have bottlefed or the baby chicks I have rescued, I will get back to the topic.  What do I do about feeding the children?

Do I just go back to pretending like it doesn’t upset me when Daddy feeds my son bacon?  I mean, it’s one thing for him to choose to eat the way he does, but these are MY children too.  This weekend he went away with the kids and much to my horror gave the twins meatballs.  I would have sobbed since they have never had meat before technically, but I consoled myself by realizing that despite our best efforts they have likely eaten at least part of a dog kibble at some point (and yes, I feel bad about feeding my animals meat too, but cats are carnivorous so you can’t get around it).

Am I a hypocrite?  Partially.  While I don’t feed my kids meat, they still drink milk, and I hate the dairy industry too.  Like I said, I am not against milk, just the way animals are treated.  If I knew a better way around it, I would take it, and I am looking into other options, but I feel that my kids need milk to be healthy and that’s where my mothering instinct kicks in and overrides my natural opinions.

vegetarian kidsHowever, lately I have been feeling like maybe I can raise healthy kids without meat, it’s just that our society has been brainwashed into thinking you can’t.  Our version of “normal” really isn’t so normal, but we can’t approach it critically anymore.  I definitely think that’s part of what’s got me upset.  Everyday I see lots of great vegetarian recipes for kids and I think, hey, if I am actually going to cook, wouldn’t it be great to cook something we can all eat???  Meanwhile, Daddy is cooking steak for him and my son while I silently stew in the corner.

So while I struggle with these demons I am interested to hear what you think (NOT about being a vegetarian) but how you can come to terms with your partner when you don’t agree on some of your core philosophies.  Especially, what do you decide to do with the kids?

Bon Appetit!


About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


24 thoughts on “When You Have Different Belief Systems, Who Gets the Kids?

  1. I wish I had an answer for you. Our biggest issue came with religion. While neither of us is very religious and most of our beliefs are the same, some of our beliefs are very different. We agreed that we would raise the kids on the basic bible stories that we both agree on and when they are old enough we will explain that everyone has different beliefs, talk about our differing beliefs and let the kids make up their own minds. Unfortunately I don’t think that’s a solution that would work in your case. Best of luck to you and your husband though. Disagreeing about the bigger things is never easy!

    Posted by MommaNeedsCoffee | February 21, 2014, 8:21 am
    • Thanks so much for your support. I realize it is going to have to be me who concedes defeat since him and most of society is against me, but unfortunately that doesn’t make it any easier. Have a great weekend 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 8:25 am
  2. My first husband was a vegan, and I was not. I only ate meat outside the house, and only fed my son meat outside the house. I did find A LOT of vegetarian products that looked and tasted like meat and I was OK with that. It was all about compromise and I was able to. Now that we are divorced I am a big chicken eater but the funny thing is that my oldest is not so into meat products. Not an easy answer. For not an easy problem. ,,,,,wish I could be more helpful!

    Posted by Abby | February 21, 2014, 9:12 am
    • Thanks! Just knowing there was at least one other person in a similar situation is helpful since I know I am definitely in the minority on this. Have a great weekend.

      Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 9:40 am
      • To you as well…I have a very good friend that is a vegetarian and her husband is not and he just does not eat meat in the house. Her kids dont eat meat-it made her uncomfortable and I am not sure if he agreed because he agreed or he just wanted to make her happy! LOL.

        Posted by Abby | February 21, 2014, 9:43 am
      • Yeah, I guess we will see what happens after hubs reads this post! Lol

        Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 9:45 am
      • HEE HEE GOOD LUCK!!!

        Posted by Abby | February 21, 2014, 9:46 am
  3. Since your a vegan since the last 21 years it could be that you had all the meat products and milk before, so when your children are old enough and they see that Mommy is not eating the meat , let them make the choice then.Currently i think you can use the weekdays for vegetarian food and the weekends for the non-veg so then it’s lesser quantity.

    Posted by khushnumab | February 21, 2014, 10:51 am
  4. I know that it is a little late in the game for what my wife and I did. We discussed most potential child raising issues over during premarital counseling with our pastor. We then reviewed these issues to see what we missed and to confirm the agreements we came to when we were expecting our first. At this point, all I can think of is to discuss the way you feel with him and come to a point of consensus. You are raising them as a team, and teamwork requires communication.

    Posted by Brain Drippings | February 21, 2014, 11:37 am
    • Thanks for the input. Since we are not married we never had any premarital counseling 😉 even if we had, I never really thought it would be that big of a problem until we got here so it probably wouldnt have helped. I am glad you are able to make things work in your situation. The problem is, even a compromise won’t make me feel any better since we are talking about abusing and killing innocent animals, but who knows maybe when they are old enough to choose all the kids will be vegetarians! Have a great weekend 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 11:50 am
      • True, but in cutting down his own consumption, he’s shown a sensitivity toward your beliefs as well as an adaptability to them. Maybe he would consider weaning them off the meat he has introduced until they can learn where the meat comes from. Just an idea. In any case, I hope it works out.

        Posted by Brain Drippings | February 21, 2014, 12:03 pm
      • Thanks, and you are very right. He has been and is very considerate towards me. Thanks for pointing that out. 🙂

        Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 12:04 pm
  5. Let me first start by saying that I am not a vegetarian. I love meat. I also understand that too much meat is not good for you, so I try to limit my meat intake and look for lean cuts of beef, chicken, pork and fish.
    I am also an animal lover. I have raised chickens and worked on farms and cared for the very same animals I later had for dinner. No, I’m not a hypocrite. Let’s face it. We are way more humane to our feed animals than if they were left in the wild. At least we kill our food BEFORE we eat it, unlike other predators.
    As humans, we often impose on animals our feelings and beliefs. While you might think that pigs are intelligent (and maybe they are) most animals we eat are downright stupid. I’m not trying to be mean, they just are. If you’ve ever stared into the dull eyes of a cow or watched a chicken try to figure out how to go around a fence, you will undoubtedly know that these are not smart animals. They also do not have the same feelings we do.
    That said, I agree as humans we should try to be a little more humane.
    Perhaps a compromise for you and your husband is to choose meats that are locally raised, organic and free range. They tend to be a little more expensive, but if you are only eating meat a couple times a week, it shouldn’t cost too much, and it is better than eating meat that has had chemicals and hormones added. Since you seem to have an affection for pigs, suggest that pork be taken off the menu. There’s nothing nutritional in pork anyway that you can’t get somewhere else.
    I always have a hard time when vegans won’t eat fish. I still don’t understand the reasoning for that one. But, to each his own.
    We know we can get most of our proteins from grains and vegetables. Meat just happens to be an easier (and some would say tastier) way of getting it. I will not argue that being a vegetarian is a healthier option.
    As long as your children are healthy, that is what really matters and there is nothing wrong in standing your ground on eating a mainly vegetarian diet. Just be aware that as they get older, your children may want to expand their menus.
    Good luck!

    Posted by CindySheaNH | February 21, 2014, 11:51 am
    • Wow. I appreciate your comment even though I completely disagree with it. I agree that we do compromise and buy free range eggs but any meat in my house makes me very upset so I realize in the end that is something I will have to work on. Of course when my children are old enough to choose I will support their decision, just as my parents supported mine (I became vegetarian at the age of 12). Have a great weekend.

      Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 11:58 am
      • Well, I think we can both agree that a vegetarian diet is a healthier diet, hands down. And if having meat in the house upsets you, I would hope your partner would respect that. You can’t make someone a vegetarian, but you can have guidelines on where and when meat is served.

        This is a tough one. Let us know how it works out.

        PS. A friend of mine is doing research on wheat and reading a book by a scientist who likens wheat to crack cocaine and all the health detriments of wheat and wheat products. My go to food when I’m having a meatless day is bread. Sounds like I need to forgo that too. 😦

        Posted by CindySheaNH | February 21, 2014, 1:18 pm
      • I think people are too hard on wheat. Gluten free is the new fad, but I have read lots of things that caution because it is good for us (in moderation like everything else). I am definitely a carbo loader myself lol. Luckily I don’t get time for meals so it works out. Cheers!

        Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 5:11 pm
  6. Unfortunately I don’t have the answer. I can only share some thoughts: the 3 girls and I don’t consume any meat until dinner time. We have 1 grain (normally gluten free but sometimes whole wheat) and normally 1 organic dairy with breakfast and lunch and the rest fruits/veggies. Dinner is the only meal we consume meat. We do also try to have a meatless meal once a week. We strive to choose locally raised animals for our consumption and don’t purchase bulk meat from the major produces where ethics go out the window most days. You could maybe compromise with their dad and allow them to consume meat as long as it’s less than a certain amount of their diet and only high quality, organic meats.

    Also, fwiw, my BFF and her husband are very opposite religions. They’ve decided to teach their boys both options and once they are old enough to understand, they get to choose their own path.

    Posted by Heather C | February 21, 2014, 3:17 pm
    • Thanks for sharing. I totally agree and once the kids are old enough to choose for themselves I will support them no matter what. I think insisting he buy organic/ free range would at least give me a little peace. Great suggestion 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | February 21, 2014, 5:20 pm
  7. Wow! That is a tough one! It so hard to compromise when it something you are very passionate about. Maybe a don’t ask, don’t tell kind of policy until you can come to terms with him feeding it to your children??? I don’t know just a thought…

    Posted by Mom 2 54321 | February 21, 2014, 3:26 pm
  8. Ah, this is the tricky one. I guess it all depends how much of a core value it is. Seems like it’s important enough to affect your behaviour, but not to the extent of campaigning for changes of behaviour in others (including individuals, businesses and institutions) so maybe this is one to discuss with them as they grow and let them make their own choices?

    The biggest thing to decide is your own behaviour. Will you be involved in the buying and cooking and serving of meat, or will you be preparing only vegetarian yourself, but turning a blind eye to what others prepare for them?

    I’m sure you can put together a healthy vegetarian diet if you want to and are prepared to do your research on vegetarianism in children. They do need more proteins than the average adult and animal proteins are often more bio-available so you’d want to be thoughtful about it.

    Posted by Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist | February 22, 2014, 8:16 am
    • Thanks for your comment. This is definitely one of my core values. I do not take part in any purchasing or preparing meat. As I mentioned I have devoted my life and career to saving animals and I have been a vegetarian for almost 22 years. While I promote my lifestyle as well as educate people about the meat industry, the only person I can control is me so I do not believe in “forcing” my beliefs on others and I hate it when people try to “force” their beliefs on me. The same goes for my children who I will allow to make their own choice when the time comes. The problem is that until that time I am torn. That said, everyone has been very helpful with their comments so at least now I have some options. Thank you for your support and have a great weekend.

      Posted by Shannon | February 22, 2014, 12:24 pm
  9. Best thing I ever learnt – from 2 yogis who have been studying with Tibetan lamas. Whether it’s true or not, it’s helped me go through a similar issue. They say…a child’s spirit chooses it’s parents and life path before it is conceived. Everything from whether their parents will split up, to where they will live and what they will do with it. You can only teach them but can’t change their life path nor their relationship with their father (something I always remind myself of) and probably nor their relationship with meat. My boys are intolerant to so much (& yes it’s like they’re on crack when they have gluten!!) so I’m educating as much as I can while they are young but know they’ll taint their bodies with it as they get older and need to experiment/fit in.
    I have the issue of my husband killing spiders in front of them when I teach them to let them be…but that is the relationship with their dad and I have stayed focused on being the best role model I can…and that is it!!!
    And my son loves when I say at night, thanks for picking us to be your parents!!!!

    Posted by heidelightful | February 24, 2014, 6:42 am

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