Confessions of an ADHD Mom
Last year, after I described what it was like inside my head (which included the word "circus"), my doctor handed me a piece of paper. "Take this. I am going to give you a few minutes. Answer honestly."
After a few questions I realized what it was.
An ADHD checklist.
One was lowest on the scale and five was the highest. My answers? Fours and fives.
Hi. I am 38 years old, and I am a mom who has ADHD.
This actually put ALL kinds of pieces into place in my life. I had a name for something that wasn't very real before. Naming gives hope. Naming acknowledges reality. Naming was necessary.
Since then, I have read a lot about ADHD in adult women. I have listened to a variety of podcasts and resources. I have subscribed to ADDitude Magazine (with an ADHD in adults section) with tips, resources, and ideas on doing life well.
I have embraced the gift and curse of ADHD—especially as a mom. One of the biggest light-bulb moments was hearing that just about the time many boys are "growing out" of ADHD in their 20's and early 30's, women are "growing into" ADHD. They explain more here on Women and ADHD from the podcast "Stuff Your Mom Never Told You."
Typically girls with ADHD are dreamers; they are not disruptive, even as every tab is open in their mind. And typically boys with ADHD can be more boisterous and unable to sit still with their very busy brains. But for women, as responsibilities are added to their lives—relationships, careers, children, schedules—the balancing act starts to fall apart. They find themselves defeated. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Because they are unable to do everything they think they should be doing and find failure at every turn.
After a lot of frustration and freedom, I have made peace with a few things. The biggest thing I know: As moms who have ADHD, we live in vibrant paradoxes.
We know where everything and nothing is located. I can be searching for my keys (again), but as I am looking, my husband may ask me where his computer charger is. I can tell him the exact shelf and row it sits on in the art room. Because I have the "where everyone's crap is tab" open in my brain, along with 200 other tabs. Except for my own "car keys tab." Ironically, that tab cannot be found.
We are both under and over prepared. If I am doing something that brings me life or matters to me, I am very prepared. I will come with research, charts, ideas. But when it comes to knowing what rotation we are on for school, I am lost. Is it an Art day? Music? P.E.? But we had a holiday, so does it skip that day? Or does it save that day? Or did the fog-delay make us start over? Just take your violin, wear your gym shoes, and put on a old shirt. You'll be golden.
We get everything and nothing done. We all have "non-preferred tasks" in our lives. But those who don't have ADHD can do those pretty well. Me? I despise putting away groceries. It's just too many things that need to go too many places. So, in between putting milk and broccoli away, I will write a chapter of a book. And this was how half of "Chin Up: Wearing Grace, Strength, and Dignity When Motherhood Unravels Our Souls" was written. Between storing butter and tumeric, I avoided non-preferred tasks and wrote chapters instead.
So how do we cope? These are my top three must-haves in my life:
Learn to fail well. Everyone fails, forgets, and falls flat on their faces. But for one who has ADHD, it seems way more often. Failing well means we do not beat ourselves up. We also do not try to be perfect to cover our shame. Instead, we extend grace to ourselves. Apologize when needed. And we get up and keep on moving forward. We fail forward. I don't easily go this direction, but it's my compass.
Treat others the way you would like to be treated. This means we are grace-givers and grace-receivers. When someone fails or forgets something around us, let's extend grace. Because in about six seconds flat, we will be flat on our face. We will need grace and forgiveness. It's easy to want to celebrate when someone else finally forgets something, but this is keeping a record of wrongs. We want to ditch the record, and pass out the grace. We all need it.
Find friends who will say, "bummer" with you. I used to get so mad and beat myself up if I wasn't perfect in certain areas. Because I wanted to stop looking like a fumbling idiot. But a dear friend and counselor taught me to just say "bummer" and let it be what it is. Don't sweat the small stuff. And I have friends who also don't lose their minds if they lose their keys. Or wallet. Or purse. Bummers are handed out, hugs are given, laughs are plentiful.
If this speaks to you in anyway, my hope is that you are freer.
That you know you are not alone.
That you give grace, say bummer, embrace the vibrant paradoxes of your life.
To encourage you: my ten year old listed "ADHD" as one of my "skills" in a paper about his family life. This is amazing. He has seen all the ways I do make things happen, all the things I have access to in my brain, all the ways I can zero in and move our family along.