Quite simply: mums of kids with food allergies live in a different reality than those whose kids can eat anything, anytime. It's just the truth. It's hard to explain the fear that comes with learning that a smidgen of peanut butter, a single sesame seed, or a bite of a cupcake could be fatal for your child. I also know it's equally hard to empathise unless you're dealing with it yourself — I never got it until my son was diagnosed with a life-threatening food allergy. You may not always get it either, but being more understanding never did any harm, so check out a few things that I wish non-allergy mums understood a little better.
1. We're not trying to be rude
Your homemade baked goods look absolutely divine, but please do not take offence if I kindly refuse them for my child. It's nothing personal, and the truth is that it probably makes us feel worse than you. So unless you know exactly what went into those goods, then we're not going to be taking any chances.
2. We're not trying to ruin birthday parties
Birthday parties are a mine field for food allergies, but trust me, we are not trying to ruin it for everyone. Angry you can't bring cupcakes for your child on his birthday at school? If it were your child who could suffer a life-threatening reaction to homemade cupcakes, then you'd probably be less upset.
3. No, it's not a myth
I'm sorry that you feel like the whole allergy industry is just another way modern medicine is trying to take our money, but I've seen what a food allergy can do firsthand, and I've got a child to protect.
4. Epipens are only for emergencies
Yes, I do have my Epipen! But no that does not mean it's OK for my child to eat anything. An autoinjector is for emergency situations when a person starts to have a life-threatening reaction that may (or may not) buy you time as you rush them to the hospital.
5. Doc appointments are the worst
Allergy and food allergy appointments are not your run-of-the-mill trips to the doctor. Although they play a vital role in keeping your allergic child healthy, these visits can also be quite traumatic for a tot (and mama) as well as downright confusing, since things always seem to be changing as your little one grows.
6. Travel is tough
Most mamas of kids with food allergies have their safe places figured out in their own suburbs, but venturing out into unchartered territory with a severe food allergy can be pretty darn scary. It doesn't mean we're gonna stay home, but you can bet we're going to be very careful and ask a lot of questions.
7. We're worried about them feeling left out
Kids with food allergies can be targets for bullying, and the last thing we want is for our child to feel left out or be the at the centre of such cruel treatment. It's a scary reality and one that we'll do anything to try and avoid.
8. And then there are the bees
Bee stings are especially scary for mums of kids with food allergies because kids with food allergies tend to be allergic to other things as well — so we're just afraid of buzzing insects. This may not even be rational, but as long as blood tests and prick testing are not reliable for diagnosing allergy to bees and wasps, we will remain on high alert.
9. We're not trying to be dramatic
For someone who has never experienced a food allergy, the whole thing (checking labels, refusing food, etc.) might seem a bit like a song and dance, but unless you've ever experienced your child going into anaphylactic shock, please don't judge.
10. I have no idea if it was something I ate while pregnant
A common question other mums ask food allergy mamas is if they think it was a result of something they did or did not eat while pregnant. No one knows what is causing all these food allergies, but the last thing we want to think is that we've somehow caused our child to have it.
11. Peanut butter is not the only food allergy
While peanut butter is undoubtedly the most common food allergy right now, there are many, many, many others too. Please don't assume that because a food doesn't have peanuts in it that it's safe for a child with food allergies.
12. We didn't choose it, and it really stinks
It's not a choice, like avoiding meat, dairy, or sugar. In fact, I wouldn't wish food allergies on my worst enemy, especially not another mama. There is nothing fun about worrying about a child with a food allergy — and it's constantly in the back of our minds.