Becoming a parent was one of my proudest moments. From the time the strip turned blue until I was heading into the birthing room, I was in a flurry of preparation. I was preparing for this little person, who I would be responsible for – this tiny human, who I had vowed to passionately protect and defend for the rest of my life.
What does it mean to have a disorder that impacts your ability to parent in a way that is considered “normal” by society? How does it impact your self-esteem, your day-to-day life, and the way you and your child interact with the world?
These are just some of the questions mothers, like me, have. The truth is, ADHD affects every aspect of your life – even the joyful ones like becoming a parent.
In other words, having ADHD can be a challenge for those of us, who are dealing with this disorder. In fact, many of us have issues with time management, staying on task, concentrating, and completing projects. It is an everyday challenge that never seems to let up. In addition, the daily tasks required to keep our lives flowing smoothly can leave us feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, at times.
So, what happens when we become parents? If it seems impossible to manage ADHD on our own, how will we manage the disorder, once we have a little person to guide through life?
These are just a few of the challenges that face us – ADHD mothers.
Table of Contents
One thing we are always told is that children thrive on structure and scheduling. However, if you have ADHD, you probably struggle with maintaining these boundaries for yourself let alone your children. Time “blindness,” a general lack of structure, and an inability to concentrate on tasks can make managing time complicated – but not impossible for people, who are trying to cope with ADHD, while parenting.
Proactive measures like setting timers, making lists, and reaching out for additional support can help ADHD moms, like me, develop and maintain some semblance of structure in our children’s lives. A big part of time management, for me, is keeping a calendar with all my important tasks and notifications on it. This is perfect for me, because it keeps me moving in the right direction – the completion of my tasks.
If you have a hard time keeping track of your child’s belongings, well, keeping up with your child’s things is even harder when you have ADHD. We regularly lose track of items, and with the amount of moving pieces required to keep a child functioning properly, it become a serious challenge. Truth-be-told, I’ve always struggled with purchasing seasonal wardrobes (i.e. winter coats, shorts, or summer tanks) for my children, in time for them to wear them.
But by preparing ahead of time, I don’t feel so distracted, which is a great way to ensure that my children have everything they need. On the other hand, procrastinating prevents me finishing projects and completing tasks on time. Therefore, I try not to be too hard on myself, when I forget things, and thankfully, many of the items that babies need are readily available at my local store.
Truthfully, there are days when my children defy me. More specifically, there are days when no one seems to understand – and everyone is a critic. Being a parent can be frustrating, but for people, like me, who have ADHD, it can be even more challenging to manage our emotions, than it is for our “neurotypical” peers. This is not a slight against ADHD parents, who have heightened emotional sensitivities, which make it easier for them to empathize with and understand the needs of their children.
In my case, however, not losing my temper with my children has always been a challenge. Thankfully, I learned early on to not stress about things. That is why I believe it is important for people with ADHD to make time and space for themselves. We need this time to thoroughly process the complicated emotions that can sometimes accompany parenting.
The thing about ADHD is that it makes you more sensitive to sights, sounds, textures, and tastes. When life is coming at you super-fast, it can cause you to experience sensory overload. That means that when you have a screaming toddler, the heat is blazing, your shirt is itchy, and there’s an irritating toy singing an even more irritating song, you get a little bit overwhelmed. In other words, sensory overload can make you feel irritable and frustrated.
So, when that happens, I simply take a step back to assess the situation and then I remove the overwhelming sensation, as much as I can. For me, this means knowing when I need to step away for a minute. When I have one of these moments, I duck into the bathroom, or find a quiet place in my home, where I can get away for a few minutes.
I can’t stop my toddler from screaming, but I can turn the heat down, change my shirt, and silence my child’s toy. I just give myself the space I need to reduce my stressors.
The Pressure of Other People’s Opinions
Just like every other mom on the planet, I have a ton of information thrown at me on a weekly basis. Some people give well-meaning advice, while others, give completely unsolicited, unnecessary, and even cruel opinions. Truthfully, I do not need people in my life, who are only there to critique my capabilities, as a mother. This is where establishing boundaries becomes important. We all need support, but what we do not need is people, who are only there to tell us we are doing wrong.
“Negative Nellies” can put a lot of pressure on us, forcing us to make decisions that aren’t in alignment with the way we prefer to parent. As a result, some of my more critical relatives have had their time limited with me and my children. In other words, I avoid spending time with family members, who always have something negative to say about me, my children, or my parenting style, because I just don’t need the added stress.
So, I suggest you get the “pressure” out of your life, as soon as possible, if you want to be the best parent you can to your children. And, if you are unable to completely rid yourself of them, limit your interactions with them, so you aren’t walking around feeling guilty most of the time.
Keep in mind, people with ADHD struggle with self-criticism almost every day. We expect perfection from ourselves, probably because we care so much. When you are struggling to be on time, get the job done, and concentrate, it is easy to fear that you’ll never get it all done. That is how many, if not most, of us feel, but truthfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So, what I did to combat my own self-criticism tendencies is use my children, as a gauge, rather than relying solely on my own opinions. In other words, if my children are healthy and happy, I am successfully doing what I think a mother “should” be doing. In other words, you are so much more capable, than you may think.
Still, for those of us with ADHD, feelings of inadequacy can be daunting… and very intrusive. They can even block our ability to think critically about our lives and the decisions we must make. But, I want you to know that women with ADHD are incredibly talented, empathetic, and sensitive people. We are enough, and it is time you know it.
Because ADHD so often causes us to miss the mark, we oftentimes become our own worst enemy. As a result, our risk of becoming depressed is heightened. The truth is, no one deserves to feel inadequate. It is a fear of being a “bad mom” that prevents us from enjoying some good times with our kids. So, the way I handle “mom guilt” is to surround myself with other moms, who I can share my fears and self-doubt with.
These wonderfully supportive women help me see that it isn’t just my struggle – it is the struggle of many moms, some with ADHD and some without. Therefore, these women support me, when I am having a hard day. Honestly, at first, “mom guilt” took up a considerable bit of my time – valuable time I could have had my children. I mean, we could have been laughing and playing, but instead I was worrying and feeling guilty.
But one day, I decided I was no longer going to allow “mom guilt” to rob me of precious time with my children. So, my first step was to let go of my expectations and deal with the reality of motherhood. I was no better or worse, than any other mom – even though I was a bit scattered at times. Hey, no mother is perfect! And, you’re no different.
Yes, perfectionism is a struggle for many women with ADHD – but it is also a struggle for many women without ADHD. So, let go of your need for perfection, and do the very best job you can do at that moment – that’s what I did and still do. If you do this, you will find that your “best” will vary from day-to-say, and guess what? That’s perfectly ok. Being hard on yourself will only make things more difficult for you and your babies.
The Balancing Act
As any mom can tell you, being a parent is a ton of work. You have soccer tournaments, dinners to cook, homework assignments, and school projects to complete. The key to success, however, is time management. The thing is, time management can be especially challenging for women with ADHD. But, guess what? That’s perfectly ok too!
It is possible to manage the hectic schedule that comes with having children. But, if I could suggest something that could possibly make your life a whole lot easier, it would be this – keep it simple. You may want your children to be part of every activity, project, and play, and that’s wonderful, but that can be hard to manage.
Hey, I get it. I used to be a super-busy mom, always struggling to complete every task and get my children to all their activities – on time. However, I have learned, over time, that I was forcing myself to do things – not because I wanted to do them, or because it was beneficial for my children, but because I thought it is what is expected of me.
The truth is, my children did not benefit from me being pushed to the max. And as a result, I learned to slow things way down, and stop being so “busy.” So, give yourself a break. You don’t have to be “busy” all the time. In other words, it is ok to have some downtime. It is ok to keep your schedule light. There are no rewards for being so overwhelmed you’re at your breaking point all the time.
Therefore, simplify your life – and your children’s lives – by any means necessary.
Putting it All Together
First, don’t listen to the naysayers! You can be a great mom, even if you have ADHD. All it takes is a little extra assistance in the areas you struggle in. The key is managing your ADHD. In other words, getting it under control, as much as you can.
Listed below are some tactics I use to pull it all together:
● Rest: Nothing can tank your ability to pay attention, especially to detail, then a lack of sleep. It is so much more difficult for us to function, if we are tired. This is a really difficult thing for any mom to do, but especially for new moms – and moms with ADHD. So, ask for help. I did, and it helped me tremendously. We need support, if we are going to pull it all together.
● Develop a Time Management Plan: Whether it is a timer, an organizer, or to-do list, you need to know what needs to be done. And, keeping track of tasks is hard enough without having to try to think of everything that needs to be completed and all the due dates. So, develop a plan that works for you, and stick to it.
● Relax: Being a mom is no easy task, but you’re doing as well as you can with it. The key to success, however, is freeing yourself from self-criticism. Remember, we all have areas that we struggle with. And, everyone makes mistakes, so relax and give yourself a break.
● Make Time for Yourself: Stress and overstimulation makes me depressed. And, if you never make time for yourself, you’re bound to lose patience. In other words, you’ll find your ability to be a patient and kind mother ebbing away from you. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you make time for yourself once-a-week, or once-a-month, just do something you enjoy. It could be a mini vacation, a day at the spa, or just vegging out with pizza and Netflix at the house, whatever makes you happy – just do it!
• Ask for Help: I bet you’ve heard repeatedly that it takes a “village” to raise a child. So, why are you trying to do all by yourself? When things get too tough for me, I reach out to my support system – i.e. other moms, my spouse, and/or my mother. Let’s be real – we all need help to get everything done.
● Have Fun: Being a mom isn’t only about changing diapers and disciplining you child for “bad deeds.” Nope, there is so much joy in just spending time with your children – i.e. soaking in their smiles and playing with them. And, just like we need a break, our children do too. In fact, bonding with our children and learning what is important to them can be a lot of fun.
● You are More Than “Just” a Mom: It is common for us, moms, to lose sight of who we were before our babies came along. Remember, you are an individual with thoughts, needs, feelings, desires, wants, fears, and aspirations. If you lose sight of that, you’ll lose track of who you are. So, remember you are more than “just” a mom, the next time you feel the real you slipping away!
● Keep Learning: Just like any other part of your life, being a mom is a lifelong exercise in learning. The way I keep learning is by reading parenting books and reaching out to other moms with ADHD. Give yourself a chance to learn new techniques and tricks for maintaining your lifestyle. And, just like you need a village to raise a child, you need that same village to support you, during your journey through motherhood. That is why working with other moms with ADHD can help you learn and grow. It can also encourage you to add a little creativity to your parenting style.
In summary, being a mom is a serious job, and not everyone is up to the challenge. As a mommy with ADHD, you are going to have a few more challenges, than the “average” mom, however, you can do it! Truth-be-told, being a mom is fulfilling, and it’s probably one of the most important things you will ever experience, so learn, grow, and get the help you need to be the best mommy you can be. And, before you know it, you’ll wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.
Bottom Line – ADHD moms absolutely rock, just ask their kids.
Takeaway from our Parenting Pod Psychologist
This article was written by a young woman, who is coping with ADHD while parenting. She decided to share her story with others, in hopes that it could make a difference in someone else’s life.
If you’re desperately trying to parent with ADHD, I encourage you to develop a strong support system. I also encourage you to read this mom’s story in its entirety. Truthfully, it is always inspiring to hear the personal testimonies and suggestions of those, who have or who are also weathering the storm.
And, even though the hallmark symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, these symptoms can manifest in different ways, based on the individual. For instance, one individual may exhibit a lot of inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, yet only exhibit a few impulsivity symptoms. Keep in mind, an individual with ADHD must exhibit all three symptoms (inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) to some degree to be diagnosed with the condition.
In addition, if inattention and impulsivity are both present, but hyperactivity is not, you or your loved one may have ADD (attention deficit disorder – without hyperactivity), instead of ADHD (attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity). Therefore, if you have not been diagnosed with ADHD, but suspect that you may have it, it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor – for yourself and your child.
Moreover, the key to parenting with ADHD is to not only seek professional help, but also learn healthy coping mechanisms. With treatment and coping techniques, you will not only be able to properly manage your condition, but also become the best mom possible.
So, the first step is to determine if you do have ADHD, and if the answer is “YES” or “probably so,” you will need to make an appointment with a doctor, so he/she can confirm the diagnosis. After that, you will need to follow a prescribed treatment plan that may involve medications, dietary and lifestyle changes, therapy, or in some cases, nothing at all. Than, once you have done all that, you will need to give yourself a break – and a much-deserved pat on the back. Because, you deserve it, Mom.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that it is crucial that you develop a strong support system. Why? Well, mainly because you will need it to survive the ups-and-downs of the motherhood rollercoaster. But, most of all, remember that you’ve got this, Girl! You are enough, heck, you are doing great! Now, get out there and be the best mommy you can be!!!