While ADHD might lead to me forgetting my diaper bag, ADHD helps me rock this parenting thing.
— Elizabeth Broadbent, ADDitudemag.com
I’ve heard it many ways: “let it go,” “say yes to the mess,” “just be you.” It’s tempting to embrace that mentality. There’s even a little moral high ground, isn’t there? I’ve heard plenty of moms take pride in letting go of housework, keeping a messy home, enjoying more quality time with their children.
I receive all of this with envy and befuddlement. I’m an ADHD mom, too, but we’re not all the same.
And that’s okay.
Even if you’re the kind of ADHD mom who expends a Herculean effort to maintain your tenuous grasp on order, structure, and cleanliness, you can still be cool. You might not be the cool mom, but here are a few reasons to pat yourself on the back anyway.
Your family vacations are the best.
No dry museums here. You plan family trips that sound like fun to you — and your kids. You’re never too old to hike to the top of a mountain, take snowboarding lessons, or go rock climbing.
Sure, you’re easily overwhelmed by the logistics of a big vacation. You obsess over packing lists and driving routes. You explode at anyone who creates an unwanted distraction. But those checklists you use to compensate for your brain’s foibles really come in handy — even if no one else wants to admit it.
You’re young at heart.
You’ll still roll around in fresh snow with youthful joy, even though you’re a grown-up and you have to shovel it, too. You swim in the ocean even if it’s cold, build epic train tracks and Lego structures, and occasionally let your kids have a turn with their own toys. Maybe you’re just playing with the train set because you’re avoiding the laundry, but the little ones don’t know (or care) about that.
You pick kid-friendly activities and reject unrealistic expectations.
Some parents force their kids to endure activities that aren’t fun or developmentally appropriate. Maybe they think attention span is learned (it is, but to a point), or maybe they’ve lost touch with what it’s like to be a kid.
ADHD parents have a built-in BS detector: if it’s not fun and engaging for you, you know just how your kid feels. You’ll probably find something better — where you’ll both be able to behave yourselves — rather than try to stick it out.
You empathize with all-or-nothing emotions.
A toddler’s world is intense. They live moment-to-moment and can’t see past their present emotional state. A minor setback can send their mood into a tailspin, and they fly off the handle at the most unexpected times.
Sound familiar? More than the average parent, you know just how exhausting this fast-cycling emotional landscape can be.
You understand kids’ need for order and routine.
Some ADHD adults roll with the punches if their routine gets screwed up. I say, good for them. The rest of us can empathize with our kids, who thrive on predictability and can turn into cranky jerks when something throws their routine out of alignment.
You look for help.
Parenting is hard, especially when you struggle mightily with organization, impulse control, and communication.
If you’ve sought help or treatment for your ADHD in the past, you’re well-accustomed to asking the experts for advice — whether it’s a book or a professional coach. Chances are, parenting isn’t the first time your life has felt upended, nor is it the first time you find yourself asking someone wiser for help. Far from a sign of weakness, this is the first step to being the best parent you can be.
You’re trying to be your best self for your kids.
As a more anxious-leaning ADHD parent, you worry about the person your kids see in you every day. You fear they’ll remember you as overwhelmed, unpredictable, unreliable, short-tempered, impatient, or irresponsible.
Parenting may push you to seek professional support to manage your own ADHD symptoms. You might decide to have only one child. No matter what, you’re trying to find a balance and limit ADHD’s negative effects on your family.
You’re doing your best, and that’s what matters.
Whether you’ve said yes to the mess, as they say, or you work extra hard because you know an uncluttered home improves your mood and patience with your kids, don’t neglect your own needs. Often this means taking the more difficult route. You may not feel like the world’s greatest parent, but as long as your kids see you continuously striving to be the best you can be, you’ll be just fine.