Have you tried to say the words, “I’m going vegan Mom”? Or are you still waiting for the right moment? And why is it especially hard to tell Mom? Maybe it’s because Mom was the first person to feed you. At the start, she fed you from her own body. Then, she fed you in the high chair until the day you graduated to the dinner table. She fed you when you were sick, and she fed you when you were well. Through all your highs and lows, Mom fed you. There are a lot of emotional elements wrapped up in the relationship between food and Mom and you.
Now, you’re on the verge of telling her you want to do things differently, that you want to try a whole-food, plant-based diet – a diet perhaps much different than what she fed you. Looking back at my own experience, and those of some close friends, the near-universal initial response from Mom to your announcement is “Why?” Be prepared. When Caroline and I initially made the switch, it was for health reasons. For you, it might be for the ethical treatment of animals, or for the environment, or for all of the above. In any case, I think it’s important for you to explain your choice with your best reasons – without criticizing Mom or her status quo. Yes, it is a “teachable moment”, but don’t push too hard or make your Mom feel that your concerns about health, animal cruelty, or the environmental impact of factory farming are somehow her fault. Give her the benefit of the doubt that she has done the best she could knowing what she knows. And don’t expect her immediate acceptance of your reasons or your new lifestyle choice. You didn’t become a vegan instantly, either.
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Mom (and Mother-in-law too), and I hope you have also. The “I’m going vegan Mom” talk wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I guess I should have known better. By necessity, Mom has adapted to me for my whole life – as I’ve grown up, gone to school, left home, … all of life’s changes, planned and unplanned. After the initial impact, Mom moved fairly quickly to the pragmatic question of “What do we need to do for you for lunch and dinner?”
Ways You Can Help Mom
Reaching this point is great progress because there are many terrific ways you can help with the transition – whether you’re living at home or just visiting now and then. You can offer:
- To shop for food (whole-food, plant-based shopping together with Mom can be fun)
- To cook meals (again, try it together)
- To bring vegan dishes to family dinners
- Recipes you like. Start by sharing those that are easy to make, filling, made with familiar ingredients, and that can please the non-vegan crowd (especially Dad)
- Restaurant suggestions where everyone can get what they want
- A single book, video or other info source on the topic. Familiarity helps, just don’t overwhelm.
In the end, I believe the best advice for “the talk” with Mom is to be honest, be generous, be kind, and be helpful. After all, she is your Mom.