When the Netflix movie Bird Box started streaming on December 13, 2018, people learned about the storyline pretty quickly: Sandra Bullock and her children have to wear blindfolds so they don't see monsters. The movie has gotten so popular and has been talked about so much that it's been impossible not to have a friend recommend it or read about it online. Some people have even tried out a "Bird Box Challenge" which involves wearing blindfolds which, of course, isn't a good idea at all and should be avoided.
Being able to see is definitely something that people (and parents) take for granted. Being a blind parent has many challenges. It's tough to imagine a mom not being able to actually look at her children or be able to watch them play, eat dinner, or see the changes as they grow up and get older. Moms also have to deal with what other people say, which is really unfair. But just like parenting in general, there are still beautiful and amazing moments despite the times that are difficult. It's just a different experience.
It's good to hear stories from moms and hear about their experiences. Here are 20 ways that parenting is different when mom is blind.
As a mom wrote for The Guardian, being blind means that everything can feel tiring and tougher. She said, "The truth is that some aspects of blind parenting are a frustrating slog. It is, of course, harder for me than it is for other mothers to do all sorts of things. This is life as I know it, though. I am not surprised by struggle and difficulty. They are old adversaries for anyone determined not to be excluded from life by a severe disability."
That last part is definitely important because, sure, being blind will present unique challenges, but moms are doing the best that they can and raising their kids like anyone else.
A mom wrote for Vision Aware that she has her kids talk to her a lot so she always knows what's going on. This is one way that parenting is different when mom is blind.
She said, "One of my favorite stories to tell is about how Steve, as a 3-year-old, would make sure I knew where he was at all times. when he was outside playing, I followed him around, so I could keep an ear on him. 'I’m over here Mommy,' he would call. "Now I’m over here," he would shout as he ran to the next toy or piece of playground equipment."
This mom also found that it works well to have her husband do certain things, and so it sounds like they split up some of the childcare duties between them.
She wrote for Visionaware.org, "So when it came to reading notes from school, teaching them how to ride a bike, or driving, it was their dad who took care of that. When it came time for changing a diaper, kissing a booboo or making dinner, that was my department, and blindness was not an issue. It wasn’t even a consideration. I have my husband’s positive attitude to thank for that."
Moms know that even leaving the house and going to the park, school, or supermarket can take lots of preparation and can feel like a really big deal. Going on a trip either by car or plane can be really tough and exhausting. There is so much to keep track of, so much to remember, and you always feel like you have forgotten something... but of course you only remember once it's too late to go back home.
For blind moms, traveling with kids is a challenge. As one mom wrote on the forum on Afb.org, "one of my biggest challenges is traveling with my toddlers."
Kids definitely make a mess when they play. It's just a fact, right? It can feel tiring to even think about cleaning up all those toys and games.
This mom has some ways that she is better able to clean up after her children. She wrote on the forum for Afb.org, "Playdoe [sic], puzzles and other messy or little things are played with in a small room where mommy can find the mess better. When they were little, I even put them in the bath tub, with no water, so i could find the puzzle pieces in or near the tub."
Once kids are old enough to help out around the house, whether with small chores like making their beds or even just putting their plates and cups in the dishwasher, it can be a big help to moms.
Another mom says that she has her kids help out at home, especially in the kitchen.
She wrote for Visionaware.org about her children, "They both learned to read at an early age, because by the time they were of school age, I had been asking them to help me read the labels on canned goods. I particularly remember asking Kara to help me pick out a can of chicken noodle soup. At that time, I hadn’t yet learned how to be a blind person and mark my cans with braille."
Another way that parenting is different when mom is blind is not driving and having to put more thought into getting around. It really makes you think about how easy it can be to just hop into your car and drive to the grocery store or to take your kid to an activity.
A mom wrote for Blind Motherhood, "Being blind, I don’t drive. I am forced to rely on my husband, neighbors and public transportation to get around. With two kids in tow, traveling without the help of another adult is practically impossible. If I can’t walk there, it’s easier to stay home."
According to a story on Cnn.com, it becomes really important and necessary to talk to your kids all the time: "Communication is a big issue. Tracy says, "I'm always wondering, 'Are my kids happy? Are they sad?' When you can't see their faces, you have to build a deeper dialogue. There's much more talking."
That last part does explain really clearly how parenting is different when mom is blind. It's easy for moms to read facial expressions for sure and be able to tell what's going on, so when that's not possible, we can see how moms and kids would talk a lot more often.
A mom writing for Family Connect says that things do take longer but there is a silver lining. She says, "We talk a lot about patience in our house, not because of my vision but because I think it is an important trait to have. The fringe benefit of having a vision impairment is that my children have learned about patience from day 1."
Teaching your kids patience is a really admirable thing because as moms know, it can be tough. Kids definitely find it hard to wait for things, whether they're counting down the days to their birthday or even just waiting for some ice cream after they finish their dinner first.
This mom also wrote for Family Connect that she learns about her children by touch. She says, "For me, touching is my way of seeing. I touch my children all the time. When Sam is sitting and playing on the floor, I reach out and feel his little hands to see what he is holding. I rest my hand on the top of his head or the side of his face to learn where he has turned his attention to."
She continued that she can feel her children laugh, and she put it beautifully: "When they laugh, I reach out and touch their cheeks to feel them smiling. Smile cheeks are the absolute best."
A siblings' bond is really sweet, although of course sometimes sisters and brothers do argue and moms can wonder if they will ever see eye or eye or be nicer to each other. When a mom has two kids and they're both little, she has to do a lot for them, but once the older one grows up a bit, they can definitely help out.
This mom also wrote for Family Connect that her older son helps her with her younger son. This is especially helpful with getting dressed. She said, "Now that he knows his colors, I have him help me pick out outfits for Sam to wear."
It's challenging to parent on your own and get used to the situation. For this solo mom who is blind, she adapted to her circumstances. She did what she had to do and figured it out.
She wrote about her experience for Blindabilities.com, "Almost immediately though things got easier. I didn’t worry so much about how I could do something. I just did it because there was no other option. I learned that you can feel rashes, especially diaper rashes. They are rough and [very warm] to the touch, and he was extremely fussy when changing his diaper if he had a rash."
For the same solo mom writing for Blindabilities.com, the thing that was the toughest for her was when she had to take her child's temperature. This seems like something that we would all take for granted, right? When your kid gets sick, you just assume that you can take their temp, but this is a challenge.
She wrote, "Honestly, the things I found hardest as a blind mom, was taking my son’s temperature. I’ve had a hard time finding an accurate talking thermometer, which is really just a tech issue. So I mostly do things the old fashioned way and feel his forehead."
As a mom shared with The Guardian, sometimes her children will try to get around the fact that their mom is blind and will try to be a bit sneaky around her. She found that this tends to happen around the dinner table sometimes.
She wrote about what she has taken from the experience: "I am working hard to establish good enough relationships with my daughters that they don't get any ideas about taking advantage of my blindness. So far, I've come down hard on Sophia's "I've finished my food but I don't want you to feel," (obviously unfinished food then)."
A blind mom with two daughters wrote about her experiences for Parents.com and she has a very positive outlook. She wrote, "Today, my family is stronger than ever and we are happy. Our journey to get here was not a smooth one, but one that has revealed our true characters. We learned that feeling joy is a choice. No matter the challenges we faced, we chose joy and found the light in the midst of the darkness."
This is inspiring and also really beautifully said. Whenever you face adversary in any way or go through a hard time, it's definitely hard to stay positive and see the good, but it's also necessary because it will feel impossible otherwise.
This mom also talks about how other people aren't so nice about the fact that she is blind and how that has given her the opportunity to teach her daughters about being kind and compassionate toward others. That is a really great lesson for moms to teach their children for sure.
She wrote, "I’m judged by strangers on a daily basis, so my experience has taught my girls from a very young age to be nothing like the world when it comes to judging a book by its cover. If we want this world to change, we need to show love to everyone we meet."
For the mom writing for Blindabilities.com, the tough part is that other people don't think that she can do anything on her own. That sounds very frustrating.
She wrote, "Challenges with people, not being blind, but how people interact with my son and me because I am blind. I often hear: help your mom; take your mom; you forgot to tell your mom about that curb; etc. This is an extremely difficult situation. It implies that I do not know where I am going, or want to go; that I always need help; that my will is not my own, and that it is my child’s duty to help me."
The mom writing for Parents.com about staying positive also mentioned that she knows that people wonder how she is able to parent as a blind mom. She explained, "Over the years I have gotten plenty of questions about raising my children: How do I keep them safe? How do I feed, bathe, change diapers, get them dressed, know when they are sick?" She continued, "All of these are legitimate curiosities. I can guarantee you that at the beginning of this journey I had the same ones."
When it comes to which parent takes the kids to the park, for example, it sounds like some moms have their husband do that. A mom writing for Yahoo mentioned that her kids go to the park with their dad/her husband.
An ABC News story about a blind mom being able to actually see her daughter walk down the aisle is incredible. Joy Hoke lives in Pennsylvania and became blind in her 50s because of a "rare condition." She bought glasses that allowed to see that cost $15,000 and could afford it because of donations.
She said, “It was just so amazing to see my husband and my daughter and without the glasses they would have looked like just two white blobs. I felt my throat close with tears and my eyes start to well.” This is something that moms would take for granted but it would be so hard not to be able to watch this big moment.
Moms assume that they will be able to watch their children grow up, and it's hard to imagine that not being possible.
A blind mom who shared her experience with Yahoo mentions that it's normal to wish that you could see and this seems like something that is very relatable. She said something that is very inspiring and powerful: "But it’s OK to still wish sometimes or even much of the time that you had vision. I don’t think that makes you weak or cowardly or second class to your sighted family, friends or colleagues. I think that just makes you human."