I’m Stacy Cervenka – and I’m a Bad Blind Mom.
From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I’ve pretty much been a hot mess. Between three complicated pregnancies, several years of 2 a.m. feedings, dragging the kids around on public transportation to endless school and community activities – all while working full-time – I don’t think I’ve had a decent night’s sleep in eight years. Also, the fact that my husband and I are both blind has not exactly made the journey more convenient.
In most respects, we’re a happy, tight-knit family and we feel so fortunate for everything we have. My husband and I have good jobs, a nice house, beautiful children, and the ability to pursue a few interests of our own. (My husband does woodworking. I figure skate.) However, my parenting journey has also included physical and mental health concerns, multiple miscarriages, and a lot of coming to terms with exactly how much expense, energy, and self-sacrifice are involved in being a parent.
Getting by with a little help from my friends
Since the day I became pregnant, having close mom friends has always been a necessity for me. When my son was born and I had significant post-partum depression, it was the support and empathy of my mom friends, both blind and sighted, that got me through the hardest days. I have mom friends who share my free-range parenting philosophy, other mom friends who share my hobbies and interests, some who share my faith, and some who share my passion for political activism. I’m also blessed to have several mom friends who are blind. Although my relationships with my mom friends are based on different facets of my life, the relationships I have with them are all based on kindness, empathy, and a desire to see one another happy.
Finding a kindred spirit – with kids!
One such friend is Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter. For the last several years, we’ve lived about an hour apart from one another. Like my family, Bridgit’s family also includes two blind parents and two sighted children who are around the same age. Our families often spend long holiday weekends together and our kids have become friends. There are several other blind moms in southeastern Nebraska, and we’ve all enjoyed getting together for movie nights and wine brunches and trips to the zoo every now and again. We don’t see one another as much as we’d like; between work and kids, it’s hard to find times that work for all of us. But, when we do get together, it’s magic!
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit and most of the nation was shut down, many of us began to feel very lonely and isolated. To combat this, Bridgit, several other blind moms, and I began holding Saturday night teleconference calls just to chat, laugh, commiserate, vent, and drink wine or hot cocoa. We often stayed on the phone until well past midnight, sharing our goals and our perspectives on a wide variety of blindness, parenting, political, and societal issues. We never criticized each other’s parenting philosophies or lectured one another on how they should live as a blind or low vision person. We mainly just listened and empathized with one another, whether we completely understood them or not. We began referring to our group as our Mom Squad.
Eventually, most of the country opened back up; activities resumed; kids went back to childcare and day camp; our lives got busier; and our calls became less frequent. However, all of us agreed that our weekly virtual get-togethers had been a source of encouragement and support during a very difficult time.
Building a community of Bad Blind Moms
Bridgit and I wanted to give other blind mothers a place to feel understood and connected. We came up with the idea of starting a YouTube series that felt like a coffee date. We wanted to chat about topics that matter to us and invite other blind moms we know and love to join us. We wanted to share our perspectives on parenting, blindness, and life.
There are quite a few blind parenting podcasts and blogs that focus on the logistics of feeding and diapering babies, helping children with their homework, and traveling with children on public transportation. These are critical resources for countless blind parents – and there needs to be more of them. However, we wanted to do something different.
Something authentic, not motivational. Something vulnerable, not persuasive. Something that feels like a conversation, not a class. We also want to delve into topics such as mental health and wellness, ableism and stigma, prenatal and post-partum depression, miscarriage and stillbirth, from the perspective of moms who are blind. We want our listeners to feel understood and to know that they aren’t the only imperfect parents who sometimes struggle with difficult experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Bridgit and I don’t have all the answers. The two of us and our guests have had different parenting experiences and different blindness experiences. We don’t all share the same parenting preferences, philosophies, or techniques. And we all make different choices about how we live as blind or low vision people. However, what we do is genuinely care about one another, encourage one another to go after what we want in life, and see one another happy, regardless of what parenting or blindness techniques we might use.
Unfortunately, we also know that, regardless of what moms do or say, there will always be a chorus of judgmental voices telling us that we’re doing it all wrong and our kids will DEFINITELY grow up to be maladjusted serial killers! So, we’re just going to lay it all out from the beginning: We are some bad blind moms! There is nothing you can say about us that we don’t already know! We are imperfect and you definitely won’t agree with us about everything. But that’s okay. We’d still love to get to know you.
So pour yourself a cup of coffee and join the conversation! There is a place on the virtual mom squad just for you!
About the Author
Stacy lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Greg and two children, Leo and Josephine. She has worked as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate, a government program analyst for the California Department of Rehabilitation, the executive officer of the California State Rehabilitation Council, and most recently as the Director of Public Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind. She now works as a public policy and planting consultant for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and is active in local and national politics. In her free time, she competes in adult figure skating and watches way too much Netflix. You can follow her on Twitter at @StacyCervenka.
About Bad Blind Moms
Stacy Cervenka and Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter are two blind moms just trying to figure it all out. (Emphasis on trying.) They’re excited to share their experiences, foibles, concerns, mistakes, and wisdom with you on their YouTube series, Bad Blind Moms. If you’re a perfect parent, this is probably not the show for you. But if you too are a hot mess just wandering your way through parenthood, join them as they discuss parenting, blindness, and life in general with some of their other favorite blind moms.