- I lost my vision in my early 20s after I caught a virus. My husband is also blind.
- We’re raising two kids, and we’ve devised nonvisual ways to parent them that work for us.
- Parenting while blind is challenging, but what’s more frustrating is other people’s judgment of us.
Commotion swirls around me as I work standing at my desk. The chatter of my two kids is a constant buzz in the background. I’m focused on my task when I hear a noise out of place. It filters through the chaos, alerting me to something. I check on the boys, and sure enough, they’re sneaking into my room to pilfer hidden treats. I ask what’s up in a stern voice, and both jump up and chitter “Nothing!” in a refrain.
Parenting is challenging. Parenting with a disability is no exception and brings unique challenges.
I’m blind, and I’ve devised a variety of ways to keep track of the two boys I’m raising and to ensure their safety. I wasn’t always blind. In my early 20s, I became sick with a viral infection and pneumonia, which resulted in my losing my vision. I adapted and adjusted.
Blindness has its challenges. And once I became a parent, the challenges streamed into this new aspect of my life.
We’re 2 blind parents raising 2 seeing children
My husband is also blind, so we rely on nonvisual tools and methods to parent. When we decided to start a family, the fact that we are blind was not a deterrent. We expected a variety of challenges to present themselves; some we’ve anticipated, but others have come out of nowhere, stunning us.
My fingers tap steadily on my laptop as I work. The kids romp in the playroom on the other side of the glass wall from me at McDonald’s. I need to focus; they need to blow through energy. It’s frustrating that I can’t just turn my head from time to time to check on them through the window. I have to get up, go into the playroom, and verbally and physically check in every 10 minutes or so.
My oldest is autistic and was nonverbal for the first three years. Before we could check in verbally with him, we used a child harness and bells on his ankle, and we even got up on playground equipment with him.
But we’ve never been able to sit back like other parents. Even now that they’re older, I have two sly foxes — at some point they need supervision, and I can’t do this visually.
But at the end of the day, this is all an inconvenience, not a struggle — and certainly not a life-shattering situation. A major inconvenience, for sure, but just that.
Other parents pity us
What’s more frustrating are the attitudes my husband and I encounter about nonvisual parenting.
Like the woman across the street who grilled my grandparents about our ability to parent. She noticed I was pregnant and wondered if she should call the authorities.
Or the runner I passed while jogging. I stopped after a mile to sit for a few minutes, rubbing my pregnant belly. She approached and asked if someone like me should have a baby.
Or the fellow mom on the playground stalking behind me. When I turned to say hello, she asked if my kids are safe.
These mindsets are my struggle. These mindsets are my obstacle. Dealing with these attitudes every day is like pushing through quicksand.
I get to be a parent at home. It’s our haven where the outside world doesn’t exist. I am Mom here. And my boys see me as their mom. My blindness is not startling or disturbing; I’m not different to them. They wish we had a car, sure — so do I. But here, at home, there’s no distinction between me and sighted people.
My dewy dreams of parenting are shattered outside though. Regardless of how I act and present, I’m viewed as having no agency. I’m not broken. I’m not half a person. I want to enter a space and be accepted as a mom, a woman, and a human. I don’t want to always cling white-knuckled to my agency, forcing others to see me as a whole person.
This is the challenge of blind parenting in a world programmed to assume that seeing is the only way to exist.