Parenting with ADHD

· ADHD,Motherhood,Parenting,Therapy,Mental Health

With my CityMoms blog woefully overdue, I sit staring at my computer screen spacing out and willing myself not to open the six other tabs on my web browser. It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s that I’m overwhelmed by how big this blog feels.

Writing something this personal and wanting to get it right has sent me straight into ADHD paralysis. So instead of outlining, I clean the dirty fridge in my office instead, (if you know you know). The little dopamine hit of quickly completing a task from beginning to end has helped get me on track, so now it’s go time!

Welcome to my brain—I liken it to herding cats or the book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Nothing is straightforward and tasks often take longer than I would like because of the mental gymnastics I have to do before my brain locks into “go mode.” ADHD touches every area of my life, and though I recognize every person’s experiences are different I hope by sharing a few moments here you might feel less alone.

My official ADHD, anxiety, and depression diagnoses are very new for me though I’ve known for a long time I’m neurodivergent. My quirks growing up were explained as part of my personality. I was often described by my family as street smart, a hippie/artistic type, a great reader of people, a skilled listener, a daydreamer, scatterbrained, a great performer, and a somewhat introverted person. What I’m coming to learn is a lot of those personality traits are an undiagnosed genetic, neurodevelopmental disability.

Because I didn’t know my brain was different, I developed a negative voice that told me I would “never get it right or be good enough.” I remember feeling so alone, inadequate, and like I didn’t belong anywhere. But now, as an adult, I’ve been taking time to tend to and care for all my younger selves and let her know she’s not broken, help is on the way, and that she can learn to love herself just as she is. 

I was a mama for nine years with three children before starting therapy, being formally diagnosed, and allowing myself to try medication– Nine years of that crappy narrative about being alone, not good enough, and broken. I’m not going to lie, this s*** has been heavy and hard to unlearn.

Before receiving treatment, I was in a constant state of sensory overload. I would become so overwhelmed because of an inability to engage the executive functioning part of my brain that I would either zone out and detach or act outwardly angry at everyone. All the while, another part of me would whisper, “You’re a good listener. Why can’t you focus on what everyone is saying?” or “Why are you yelling? You aren’t a yeller.”

Another ADHD discovery is that I have a tough time with short and long-term planning and memory. I find hard deadlines, challenges and games, and the possibility of disappointing others super motivating. So if you tell me you’re coming for a visit in 90 minutes and my house has been a mess for a week, you better believe I will make it sparkle before you arrive. (Just don’t look in any of my closets, please!) But I struggle to find balance with my weekly tasks. I am either going to scrub the entire house in 90 minutes until it sparkles (hello hyper fixation) or leave six cups on my bedside table and not see my pile of laundry for three weeks.

I’ve gotten better at being consistent, but it takes a lot of work to get there. The ADHD brain struggles immensely with consistency, so one of the biggest shifts in my life has been to give myself permission to be just that: inconsistent. I have to show myself a lot of grace to avoid feeling shame about all the things I haven’t done so I can take one small step towards organizing myself.

This is another space where therapy and medication have helped me as a partner and parent. I’m better able to recognize where I would like to be more consistent and how to teach my children the systems that work. Something as simple as everyone picking up their plates after a meal or doing a ten-minute clean-up at the end of the night is obtainable now, and those moments feel so good and connected. I’m also able to communicate my moments of hyperfixation to Mike, my husband, so we can work with it or put it on pause.

I could go on and on about my symptoms, but I think the most important thing I’m learning is that when I don’t tend to my ADHD, my anxiety and depression symptoms become loud and impact my relationship with my husband and children. Like with so many other aspects of motherhood, if I don’t care well for myself, I cannot care well for everyone else.

We as humans all have different things we struggle with and if this was at all connecting for you, I encourage you to find people in your life who will help you put the pieces together so you can live your life with more moments of relief, ease, and joy. 

Talk to your primary care provider, a psychiatrist or therapist, look into psychological testing, and share with your friends and family. Put together a treatment team that wants you to succeed and will cheer you along and hold you accountable to caring for yourself as you discover more about your beautiful brain.

And above all, give yourself the gift of loving care and kindness as you discover new elements of being neurodivergent. You are worthy of learning to love yourself just as you are.