In Part I I talked about all the struggles parents who make alternative choices in parenting might face, and the pain that might be caused by the reactions to those choices. I don’t have a thick skin and I don’t know, with ease, how to handle these situations. So I went to the experts – other parents like me – and asked for help.
“I am open minded. I thought about what you’re saying. You’re wrong.” Anonymous
First, I asked a group of moms of unvaccinated children what were some of the most insulting, dumb, ridiculous, rude and condescending things they had been told about the choices they had made for their families. Here are just a few:
- “The establishment agrees with me”
- “It’s the way it is done, you are just being a trouble maker”
- “You will bleed out and die after your homebirth, and all of your children will die from measles”
- “I was told that my daughter is probably sick of breast milk and I should give her “real food”.
- “Your baby is going to suffocate if you let it sleep in your bed.”
- “By you not vaccinating you are putting all of the other children at risk.”
- “If you don’t give your baby dairy he won’t get any of the daily vitamins he needs.”
- ”I would rather them get the vaccine then visit them in an iron lung.”
- “There is no such thing as organic, they just spray their crops at night when no one is looking”
- “Your children DESERVE to suffer from Polio, they DESERVE to get measles, because you their mother are not protecting them. The only reason they aren’t getting their just punishment is because the rest of us are vaccinating our kids.”
- And one mom was told by her pastor that homeschooling her son would make him “Gay” because of all the time he was spending with her.
- ”Your carrier monkeys shouldn’t be allowed in school or any public places.”
One of them pointed out a Facebook page called ‘Take custody away from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children’. It only had 7 members.
We aren’t making this up or being, as I have been called, ‘overly sensitive.’ At some point it was decided that our choices make us open prey. I have to admit that it often makes me feel defeated because there are so many more of ‘them’ there are of ‘us.’ And ‘they’ are so often so hateful.
“These things make me feel attacked to the point that I avoid outings where people eat “normal” food. Makes me sad.” – ‘A’ @ Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children
How to Deal
So I have to ask….what is the best way to deal with it? I don’t have a clue so I asked the same group.
Here are their coping skills:
- First remove yourself from being hurt. They can only hurt you if you let them.
- Unless people come to you and ask, there’s no point in having serious discussions with them. You’re questioning these people’s long held faith in how “it’s been done” they will cling irrationally. People view differences as judgments against them.
- Know your audience. You aren’t going to explain anything to anyone that is set in their ways or close minded. You are just going to make everyone uncomfortable and you are wasting your time if they aren’t receptive to learning.
- Be careful how you express yourself. You have to hedge when you explain. Because we have passionate opinions on the matters they will view it as a personal attack.
Use terms like:
“Well, I did look at it that way, but ultimately, I decided that for these reasons, I should….”
“…but, of course, I can understand making the other decision.”
“Well, I certainly understand that, but this is kinda what I felt like and why I made this choice, but at the end of the day, we all have to do what we all have to do. I wouldn’t recommend what you’re doing, but I also can’t say my way is the right way.”
“This is about us; not you.”
“This is something we’ve decided; you’ve decided differently. That’s fine. This is about us and our choices, not you and yours.”
The idea is to let them know that you have a different opinion on the matter but if you have any chance of them hearing you out you have to show that you aren’t judgmental.
Try “To start, I know that a lot of people are perfectly content with relying on others’ recommendations when it comes to these things and there are a lot of qualified people out there who support vaccinations/gen mod food/etc. I, personally, wanted to find out more for myself and having looked into things, I made a decision to go in another route. I don’t think you’re an idiot or “wrong” per se for following the government’s advice on this. Ultimately, it’s just each of our choice but, for me, based on what I learned, I wasn’t comfortable going that direction.”
Let the seed grow, make them ask, give and take sells better than lectures or harangues.
When It’s Not Working
But what if you are dealing with someone who refuses to be respectful?
“We’ve made this decision; it’s fine that you haven’t, but we’re not forcing it on you so please respect us.”
“I’d ask that you respect that since we respect that you made a different decisions than we did.”
“Sorry you’re upset. I have certain things I feel strongly about. I understand you don’t feel strongly about them. That’s fine. You have your way; I have mine.”
“Look, I know it’s not a big deal to you, but it is to us. We’re not saying you’re wrong; but you’re basically saying we are. That’s disrespectful. We’ve made a decision. We ask that you respect that. We haven’t tried to force our choices on you.”
“I’m not forcing my way on you, so I’m not really sure why you’re so upset. If people being different is that upsetting, I don’t know what to say.”
If you make it about mutual respect and show they’re being disrespectful there’s no legitimate argument against it. And if it gets truly awful:
“I just don’t like being around you because I find you to be combative and rude.”
“You’re really unpleasant.”
“You’re arguing with me when I’m not trying to even talk to you.”
“I came out here to have a good time with my family and with yours and instead you’re being rude and making this unpleasant. Don’t you think this is wildly unnecessary?”
There are always going to the situations when it is better that you say nothing at all. If a subject comes up that you don’t agree with don’t say anything. People are often self-centered enough they take silence for agreement. If you have to say something try “Well, that’s certainly one way of doing it.” They will assume you are agreeing with them. Don’t draw attention to differences that they don’t even fathom they’re there, they’re so concerned about themselves they probably won’t notice there are any. We may just have to accept that there are some people that it’s no point in discussing anything with and we have to accept having a limited friendship with them.
I chose a difficult path but I knew that. Once you’re aware of something, you can’t forget you’re aware of it. And once you’re down this particular path, there’s really no going back. Could you honestly say, “Forget it. Let’s get the kids vaccinated and just let them go hog wild at McDonalds all week?” It wouldn’t just make you irresponsible, it would make you an apostate. People who don’t know better aren’t “good,” but they’re not as bad as people who do know better and don’t do it because of convenience or public pressure.
And maybe as parents we have to remember that ‘we’ are all heading to the same destination but have just chosen different paths to get there.
Emily Martin-Johnson is a work at home mom to twins Gabriel and Beatrice, who are three, and wife to Michael. She has always had a passion for cooking which then became a passion for feeding her family healthy ‘real’ food. Emily is a MommyBlogger and you can follow what’s happening with the twins and in her kitchen at http://lifeastudy.blogspot.com/