Being a Single Mom Who Also Happens to be Blind
By Kelsi Hansen
I am Kelsi, and I am a mother. A mother who happens to be single, and a mother who also happens to be blind. But first and foremost, I am a mother. People are constantly praising me for what a wonderful job I do as a mom. They couldn’t do it. They couldn’t be a single mom, let alone one who has a visual impairment. (Their words, not mine.)
My feelings on this sentiment are complex at best. On one hand, I am proud of my abilities and enjoy being complimented, but on the other hand, I feel mildly irritated by their praise. They could do it. It’s not that different from being a sighted parent single or otherwise. Most of their challenges in raising a child are the same as mine. How do you deal with a tantrum? How do you grow four arms? It is more a matter of mind set. If you put your mind to it, you can do it. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, right?
This being said, here are some of my worries and challenges I have faced as a mother who also happens to be blind:
Growing up all I ever wanted was to be a mom. Even after I went blind as a preteen, it never crossed my mind to wonder how a blind person could be a parent. Yes I had worries, a lot of worries to be honest. How would I change a diaper; how would I know if they had a rash; what would I do if they were sick and needed to go to the doctor; how would I find them once they started to be mobile; how would I know if they were bleeding, and where to put the band aid without hurting them; the list goes on and on. But I never thought that it couldn’t be done.
I did not plan on being a single mother. My ex was sighted, and a lot of my worries just got swept under the rug. I had a sighted partner, he could help me. He would know if there was a rash, he could drive the baby to the doctor, and so on.
I became a single mother when my son was three months old. At that point, I had learned how to do diapers and baths and some of the things that I was worried I would never be able to do. Ultimately though, I was thrust into having to navigate my life, my motherhood, as a blind person with no sighted shoulder to lean on. Yes I still had family and help that were sighted, but ultimately it was just me.
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 hot to the touch, and He was extremely fussy when changing his diaper if he had a rash. If he hurt himself, I could feel the sticky blood; and putting on a band aid… well you have to clean the wound first anyways right? So from that I knew how large the owie was, and the location of it. I did it all. Me. No one else. ME!
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. I also learned that when he has a fever, his hands and feet are abnormally warm. So if I couldn’t tell if he actually had a fever, I could just feel his hands and feet and know for sure. One other challenge has been when a doctor asks what color some bodily fluid of his was … gross I know, but important nevertheless. So I tell them about the consistency. Or if it was something ahead of time that I knew was important, there is always Facetime, or the handy dandy Be My Eyes app.
Now my son is four, and there is a whole new battle ground to walk. Though not because I am blind, or because I am raising him alone, but because he is four. And with that comes a lot of energy, tantrums, and unpredictability in his behaviors. Life is always interesting. He definitely keeps me on my toes!
I do find a lot of external challenges though. 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. How do you tell someone that your child is not your helper. I did not have a child so that he could help me. So that I could become dependent on him. But worst is how to explain to my four year old that he is not here to help me, I am here to help him. How do I inspire confidence in my ability to be his mom, if everyone else is telling him that he has to be my eyes. That I look to him for guidance, when it should be the other way around.
I know that people are just trying to help, and are not thinking of the implications of their words, or the consequences their words have on our life. I have to remind myself of this a lot. So what I do is talk about it with my son in terms that he can understand. I tell him that mommy doesn’t always need his help. That I appreciate him helping, but mommy does know that the stairs are there, or that we are crossing a street. I think it gets through to him. But a further complication of this is: how to teach him to be a good helpful human, without coming across as dependent on him for his help. It is a delicate balance. I want him to be a nice person who is always willing to help, but at the same time he needs to learn that his mother is independent. Most parents don’t have to worry about this fine line, but it’s something that weighs heavily on my mind as a blind mother.
The bottom line though is that external challenges have proved more of a difficulty for me as a mother who is blind, than the internal ones.
This is me! Hope you enjoyed the read. I love questions, so if you
have any, or just a comment, feel free to email them to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, Kelsi.