Vegan Parents Spotlight: Ashley Makridakis – Never Stop Being a Role Model for Your Kids!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Ashley! I live in Millbury, MA and I’m a stay at home mom to 3 awesome kids and another one on the way in November. I am also a state wildlife rehabilitator (check out my wildlife rehab account @freshstartwildliferehab !) and teach Pound fitness classes…needless to say I’m a busy Mom! 

What lead you to veganism?

When I was 8 years old, I began to question where the food my parents served me came from. When it finally “clicked” that I was eating dead animals, I became vegetarian immediately, which was tough in a big family who definitely didn’t understand my choice. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating meat anymore so my parents had no choice but to be supportive! It wasn’t until college that I learned about the horrors of the egg and dairy industries and I began to dabble in veganism. In 2010  after my daughter was born, we visited a local family friendly farm that I witnessed first-hand the tiny baby cows crying endlessly for their mothers and trying to nurse on each other.  As I held her in my arms, I pictured someone taking her away from me and her crying out for my milk. That day I went vegan and never looked back! 

How many children do you have? Were they born vegan?

I have 3 children ages 9, 5, 2 and one coming soon. Since I was vegetarian for a short time when my oldest was born, she had some non-vegan first finger foods but Other than that they were born and raised vegan! 

Did you have a vegan pregnancy?

My pregnancy with my oldest was vegetarian but my following 3 pregnancies were totally vegan. No issues, no complications, all born healthy breastfed babies! 

What are some of the challenges you find raising a vegan child? How have you dealt with these challenges?

There are too many challenges in raising vegan kids but I’d say the biggest one is finding the balance between instilling vegan morals and compassion for animals in them and also having to teach them that some of the people they love might not have the same morals and compassion for animals as we do. It’s really hard explaining why some of our family and friends eat animals because there’s a fine line between reasoning and judging that sometimes little ones are too literal to understand! But raising them to be the change they want to see and teaching them acceptance and gentle, effective advocacy is what I’ve found works best. 

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into products?

I think that the way a parent effectively instills vegan morals in their children depends entirely on the child. For some children, showing them graphic factory farm footage will make them never want to eat animals, for some it may desensitize them into simply not caring and for others I think it can actually be very traumatizing and manifest into resentment towards the parent. I personally don’t think showing children footage of how animals are slaughtered is a necessary. The only thing I ever did show one of my kids was some dairy farm footage to my oldest daughter (she asked to see it) of a baby calf being ripped away from its mother and how awful it was because she wasn’t understanding why dairy was cruel since it’s not killing the cow. I am very open with my kids about the process of animal agriculture and we talk a lot about why it’s not ok. We do things like walk down the meat isle of the grocery store and say a little prayer for all the dead animals in packages, volunteer at sanctuary farms, remain active in our vegan community and attend as many events as we can. I’ve also brought my oldest along to a dairy protest once and I was so proud of her take on it! 

What does being vegan mean to you?

For me personally, being vegan is an all-encompassing lifestyle that exudes respect, compassion and advocacy for all living things. We do not kill bugs; we do not wear animal products and we do not support zoos or circuses. I try very hard to gently educate my kids on why we live the way we do so they don’t look back on their childhoods negatively but o think the best way to make a lasting impression on them is to simply be a good example of what you’re preaching. 

Any recommended vegan books, social sites, or blogs?

We love the book “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals” by Ruby Roth. 

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Our favorite vegan restaurant is Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, MA and Like no Udder ice cream shop in Providence, RI 

Please share the vegan recipe your kids love most.

My kids LOVE my tater tot casserole! From bottom to top, it’s a layer of Gardein veggie crumbles mixed with vegan brown gravy, a layer of peas, a layer of corn and a layer of tater tots 

Some encouraging words or advice for vegan parents.

I’d encourage vegan parents to never stop being a role model for your kids! They are our legacy and the future of the change we want to see. 

Have you connected with other vegan families in your city? If so, how did you meet?

We have been able to connect with lots of other vegan families through social media groups as well as just word of mouth. It’s really awesome for kids to not feel like they’re the only vegans in the world so vegan friends are important. 

Do you make any exceptions for your child’s veganism? School snacks? Family gatherings?

No, we do not make exceptions to our vegan lifestyle for school snacks, family gatherings, birthday parties etc. I personally feel that’s pretty confusing to teach a kid that it’s only ok to do things we don’t believe in sometimes. 

How do you think you will react if your is out with his/her friends and they eat animal products?

I am completely confident that if there is a solid foundation of true understanding of veganism laid early on in a child’s life and they are truly clothes with a cloak of compassion for animals, they will not ever stray from it. But if one of my kids ever did, I’d obviously be hurt but love and accept them, nonetheless. 

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