- I lost my sight in my early 20’s after catching a virus. My husband is also blind.
- We are raising two children and we have developed non-visual methods to raise them that work for us.
- Being a blind parent is challenging, but what’s even more frustrating is how other people judge us.
Excitement swirls around me as I work standing at my desk. Both my children’s chatter is a constant hum in the background. I’m focused on my task when I hear a strange noise. It filters through the chaos and draws my attention to something. I check on the guys and sure enough they sneak into my room to steal hidden treats. I ask in a stern voice what’s going on and they both jump up and babble “Nothing!” in a chorus.
Parenting is challenging. Parenting with a disability is no exception and presents unique challenges.
I am blind and have developed several ways to keep an eye on the two boys I am raising and to ensure their safety. I wasn’t always blind. In my early 20’s I contracted a viral infection and pneumonia which caused me to lose my sight. I’ve adjusted and adjusted.
Blindness has its challenges. And as I became a parent, the challenges poured into this new aspect of my life.
We are 2 blind parents raising 2 sighted children
My husband is also blind, so we rely on non-visual parenting tools and methods. When we decided to start a family, the fact that we are blind was not an obstacle. We expected a variety of challenges; Some we expected, others appeared out of nowhere and blew our minds.
As I work, I constantly tap my fingers on my laptop. The kids are having fun in the playroom across the glass wall from me at McDonald’s. I have to concentrate; You have to blow through energy. It’s frustrating that I can’t turn my head every once in a while to check on them through the window. I have to get up, go to the playroom and report back verbally and physically every 10 minutes.
My oldest is autistic and was nonverbal for the first three years. Before we could even get in touch with him verbally, we used a child’s harness and bells on his ankle and even stood on playground equipment with him.
But we’ve never been able to sit back and relax like other parents. Even now that they’re older, I have two smart foxes – at some point they need supervision, and I can’t do that visually.
But at the end of the day, it’s all an inconvenience, not a struggle — and certainly not a life-threatening situation. A major inconvenience, sure, but just that.
Other parents feel sorry for us
What is even more frustrating are the attitudes my husband and I face towards non-visual parenting.
Like the woman across the street who questioned my grandparents about our ability to be parents. She noticed I was pregnant and wondered if she should call the authorities.
Or the runner I passed while jogging. After a mile, I stopped to sit for a few minutes and rub my pregnant belly. She approached and asked if someone like me should have a baby.
Or my fellow mum on the playground, stalking after me. When I turned to say hello she asked if my kids were safe.
These mindsets are my struggle. These ways of thinking are my obstacle. Dealing with these attitudes every day is like struggling through quicksand.
I can be a parent at home. It is our sanctuary where the outside world does not exist. I’m here mom. And my boys see me as their mother. My blindness is not frightening or disturbing; I am no different from them. They wished we had a car, sure – me too. But here, at home, there is no difference between me and sighted people.
However, my fresh dreams of being a parent are shattered outside. Regardless of how I behave and present myself, I am seen as actionless. i’m not broken I’m not half human. I want to enter a room and be accepted as a mother, woman and human being. I don’t want to always stick to my agency with white-knuckles and force others to see me as a whole person.
Such is the challenge of raising blind in a world programmed to assume that seeing is the only way to exist.