Mothers with ADHD
Mom, can you pick me up after school? Mom, you need to fill out this paper work for school? Mom, what are we having for dinner? Mom,
I need help with my science project, Mom, have you done the laundry? Mom, did you sign me up for summer camp?
Being a mother is not easy. Add Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to the mix and motherhood becomes more than just a challenge. It stirs up feelings of self-doubt, overwhelm and anxiety. Constantly forgetting things, having difficulty in planning, following through and making decisions are compounded with having to deal with an entire family, a situation that only becomes more stressful. Mothers with ADHD often feel daily life is just too complicated. And on top of everything else, wonder when will they get the chance to relax, socialize with friends and enjoy life. Trying to balance a personal life and family life is incredibly hard. And the guilt is endless!
For Sheryl Greenfield, who was not diagnosed with ADHD until after her 7-year-old son's diagnosis, it was trying to keep up and never knowing why she couldn't. "I had been trying to be that super woman we all think we re supposed to be. I need to do it all and, of course, I didn't recognize the limitations of my executive functions. I could never keep up and didn't know why, she said.
Also creating feelings of inadequacy and self-hate was not knowing ADD is a challenge of interest. There was a lot of guilt around that, Greenfield said. I often found myself feeling bored staying home with my children.
On the surface, I appear to be just like any other normal mom, with a normal child, Sharon Brown, another mother with ADHD says. But every day I struggle with the ins and outs of daily life and parenthood that others, and especially other moms, seem to breeze through effortlessly. Brown admits that because of the stigma of ADHD, she tries to hide her struggles and how much harder it is or how much longer it takes her to accomplish everything.
At the same time, however, Brown acknowledges that there are other moms who carry much heavier loads than hers and this only adds to her guilt. "I try not to complain and just continue to try to cover up my struggles, but all of this makes me feel alone, confused, anxious, depressed, and often inadequate and misunderstood."
Far-Reaching Changes Can Have a Significant Effect
Brown and Greenfield are certainly not alone. Many women, particularly those with ADHD, also feel shame when the cultural message for women is to be nice, help others, never say no, don't ask for too much and don't hurt anyone's feelings. For women with ADHD, these cultural messages can have an even greater impact, creating an internalized sense of self-blame, of not being good enough. It is essential for them to confront these messages in order to create the necessary changes to make their lives work for them, says Sari Solden in her book, Women with Attention Deficit Disorder, Embrace Your Differences and Transform Your Life. Changes must be made at home, at school, at work and in relationships, Solden points out.
Staying Last on the List Never Helps
Mothers with ADHD also tend to put their own needs at the bottom of the list, and since it often takes them longer to get things done, their needs are never met. Cathy Riehl, a writer, rarely finds the time to get into her studio to write because she feels that she has to take care of the family first, and yet writing is something that gives her great joy and a sense of peace. "I have no trouble focusing when I'm writing", she said. "And when I'm done, I feel rejuvenated."
Having a child with ADHD creates another layer of self-blame, Greenfield acknowledges. Raising her ADHD son forced Greenfield to see herself as if looking in a mirror every day, and at first she said she didn't have the tolerance for that. Advocating for him, however, became much easier with practice, and you can hear the pride in Greenfield s voice when she talks about how important it was for her to stand up for her son and get him the accommodations that he needed in order to succeed.
ADHD Can Provide Insight
An ADHD coach now, Greenfield has learned so much about her own ADHD that she can also appreciate the upside of being a mother with ADHD. She says she is better able to accept her son's unique talents and allow him to grow. She feels her role is to let him do his own thing without getting in the way. Greenfield is proud her son has learned how to manage his ADHD and even uses some of its characteristics to allow himself to shine.
Brown agrees. Having ADHD herself allows her a better understanding of her 9-year-old ADHD son, and is one of the reasons she is working with an ADHD coach. She wants to be a role model for her son, to show him how he can overcome the challenges of ADHD. On good days, she can also look at some of her ADHD traits, such as her creativity and intuition, as blessings and great assets to have when parenting. "My creativity and intuition help me to be more resourceful, to let go of things and have more fun, especially at homework time with my son."
Support is a Team Effort
Both Greenfield and Brown encourage mothers with ADHD to find or establish their own support system as well. And I m talking multi-model, Greenfield said. It s not just going to a support group, not just taking a pill thinking that is going to manage your ADHD. It means working with someone who knows what you are talking about, someone who can help you build your self-esteem.
You need a support team, Greenfield insists. Work with a psychiatrist who knows how to handle your medication, a therapist who understands ADHD and an ADHD coach.
"I love my coach because she really understands ADHD, so I get better results from our sessions and especially out of myself," Brown said. "It is very empowering."