Whoever you are, parenting is one of those ‘jumping in at the deep end’ type of things. No matter how many articles, books and blogs you read, nothing really prepares you.
Mums everywhere should be celebrated this month, but none more so than blind and partially sighted mums, who have an extra level of challenges to contend with. So how do those challenges change things? And how do real life visually impaired mums overcome them?
We talked to three mums who’ll be celebrating (and celebrated) this Mother’s Day, in the hopes of picking up some parenting hacks…
Monica, mum of three.
Parenting hack #1: The pram is your friend.
When my children were little I used to use the pushchair like a sort of a bumper. The kids were safe in there but if we smashed into a lamp post or something, Scott’s little voice would shout “Bump!”, which was fun as well as useful. So when they started walking I had to adjust, I did miss having the pram to carry all the bits you need – as well as the children.
Parenting hack #2: Buy a lot of wipes.
I always said I probably used 10 wipes when two would have done. With particularly nasty “number twos” when they go up the back, I would just strip them down and put them in the sink. The only problem would be when we were out and about and that happened and I didn’t have a sink to dump him in. But you just work something out and do your best. It’s like anything.
Parenting hack #3: Realise that different can be good.
When my daughter was first old enough to get the train into town with her friends, they were all amazed that she knew which platform they needed and where to look for train times. She’d always had to do that with me, so it was normal for her. They do have to do extra things to help but they don’t really think about it, so they become more independent and empowered.
Anna, mum of 1, grandmother of 1 (8-month-old Frank).
Parenting hack #1: Teach your children to read numbers as early as possible.
Train your children to be your expert bus-spotters. When you’re out and about they can be your eyes and it’s really useful. Giving him that responsibility helped my son to learn road-sense pretty quickly and he really knew when it was safe to muck around and when it wasn’t.
Parenting hack #2: Look after your body.
When you’re blind you don’t drive. So all shopping has to be carried. A good quality rucksack and a sturdy pram is a must. And it has to be well-balanced so it doesn’t tip when you’re loading it full of groceries twice a week. I do have some shoulder damage now as a result of all the lugging around I did. Look after your body, especially your neck and your shoulders, you need them to be strong in the long run, so get a system that works for you.
Parenting hack #3: Get creative with tactile affection.
When you’re blind, loving gazes are out, so I was always very tactile with my son and I liked us to be in close proximity to eachother. Rubbing noses, butterfly kisses, blowing raspberries on their skin or simply using fingertips to check they’re clean and well; variety makes affection fun. Sometimes, by the time he was two, my son found it all rather irritating but I’ve noticed he’s now a very tactile parent himself. Frank, my grandson, finds it hilarious that I’m touching him all the time.
Joy, mum of 1.
Parenting hack #1: Think practical.
Without careful planning my day would be much more tricky. It’s all about the details. I always had to pull my pram behind me rather than push it, so I could use my pimp stick (that’s what I call my white cane). When Janelle was little, the nappy changing kit all lived in a bright pink box, so I wasn’t scrambling about for nappies and wipes and Sudocrem. Now she’s out of nappies I use the same box for her hair bobbles. When we’re out and about I dress her in bright colours, so I can make out where she is in the playground. That doesn’t work for some of my blind mum friends though, so when their children were toddlers they put little bells on them (some people do that for their guide dogs too), so they knew they were always nearby.
Parenting hack #2: Find different ways to read together.
Sharing stories with children is a really special part of parenting, and I don’t want Janelle to miss out. We have books with accompanying CDs that we can enjoy together. Also whenever anyone who’s sighted pops over, like my mum or her dad, I’ll get them to read with her. Her nursery always send her home with books, so now she can sound out the alphabet we work through them together. It takes us a little longer but her teachers tell me she’s doing really well in her class.
Parenting hack #3: Remember you’re not just a parent.
Just because you have a child it doesn’t mean you’re not still the same person you’ve always been. I always tell my friends to be confident and make time for yourself. If you don’t look after yourself then you can’t look after anyone else properly.