The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: chores

Chores, gender norms, & ADHD

ADHD sabotages marriage relationships on (at least) two fronts: the emotional and the practical. One can precede or exacerbate the other. Sharing domestic responsibilities is far from mundane. When we feel unsupported — or worse, cut off at the knees — by a partner, our relationship can drift toward a parent-child dynamic. Not good news for emotional intimacy.

Partners of people with ADHD often complain about division of labor in the home, but it needn’t remain a sticking point. It’s easy to restrict ourselves to two options: continue to nag and get angry, or do it all on our own. Our ADHD household has taken the road less traveled. The house stays relatively clean, most urgent maintenance is addressed in a timely manner, and the bills get paid. Sometimes friends look at me funny, and one fellow at-home parent even told me, “I’d never put up with that [behavior].” But it’s not about “putting up” with anything. We’ve figured out what works for us, and we’re doing it.

If you’re struggling to maintain domestic peace and basic sanitation, you’re not doomed. You just need to figure out what works for your family. This often requires us to reject gender norms and other meaningless expectations. We need to experiment, be realistic, and find our ADHD superpowers.

Chores, gender norms,and #AdultADHD

What’s your ADHD superpower?

ADHD superpowers aren’t gifts. ADHD doesn’t make us special or superior. In his book, I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not, Dr. Wes Crenshaw describes superpowers as places we depart from the diagnostic criteria. For example, ADHD’ers are stereotypically terrible with money. I’m not. I could write a series of posts about finances, and maybe I will someday, but for now, know this: no matter how small my paychecks, I’ve never been broke. ADHD has crippled me in other areas, but not my bank account. ADHD superpowers are more like dodged bullets than gifts.

At home, this means my husband and I — both ADHD’ers, but very different people — break down responsibilities by strengths, not tradition. His perfectionism and hyperfocus — sometimes a terrible Achilles heel — makes him a great fit for jobs that require a fine touch. My ADHD makes me the bull in the china shop. That same hyperfocus makes my husband completely time-blind. If something needs to happen at a specific time, it’s my job: taking out the trash, verifying bills are paid on time, mowing the lawn. I rarely force myself to do nit-picky jobs, but if I get him started, my husband can’t put them down until they’re done. He won’t vacuum without moving all the furniture, and he’ll spend an entire day tracking down an error in our accounting ledger.

You may have noticed, I end up with many of the “man” jobs. I need physical activity to function, and my body type makes me the muscle of our small operation. My husband is the engineer. He’s the person reminding me to slow down and make sure the job is done right. Dividing tasks along gender lines feels arbitrary at best, intensely frustrating and counterproductive at worst. Why set each other up for failure? Why not let everyone have the job they want? Both failure and success have inertia, dragging us toward learned helplessness or self-efficacy. We choose the latter, even if people look askance at a woman mowing the lawn.

Experimentation is key.

Our household may be up and running now, but we learned most things the hard way. For example, we began with my husband managing our online bill-pay accounts. He insisted mailing payments was antiquated and silly, but since it worked for me, I told him, “you want a new system, you set it up.” He did. We stopped getting bills in the mail because he got them via email. Would you guess that someone with ADHD can both forget to log into his bank’s bill-pay system and get behind on his email inbox?

These snags are best dealt with calmly, without finger-pointing. If your ADHD partner lets the grass grow knee-high or forgets to pay the electric bill, he knows it’s a problem (even if he won’t admit it). She feels bad about it (even if she won’t admit it, or even blames you). When we hit a snag, I try to remember it’s a clue to a puzzle we need to solve. Yelling at your spouse, expressing disappointment and shame, or telling her she needs to act like a responsible adult only damages the relationship.

May all expectations be realistic…

Above all, an ADHD household needs realistic expectations. This doesn’t mean resigning ourselves to a lower standard of living. It means being realistic about which responsibilities our partners can take on and how they’ll get the job done. Forcing a square peg through a round hole is a recipe for argument, resentment, and less stuff getting done. What works for me rarely works for my husband, and vice versa. Rather than dwell on the downsides, we use our strengths to fill in for each other’s weaknesses. My husband may never take the trash or recycling out on the correct day, but it’s all good. When I encounter a problem in the house and think, “I can’t even imagine dealing with that,” he’s my man.

Do you or your partner have ADHD? How do you manage household chores? Do you feel like you’ve hit your stride, or are you still looking for a solution?

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Skip the donation bins & declutter without leaving your home

I don’t know about you, but for me, packing up those unwanted items for donation is only half the battle. Decluttering experts suggest several ways to make sure this stuff actually leaves your house: for example, keeping it in the car or dropping it off that very day.

For people with ADHD, it’s not that easy. After my son’s birthday party this year, I shoved six pizza boxes into my car to drop off at the sanitation yard “on my next errand.” I do a lot of errands and the sanitation yard is a five-minute drive from home. The boxes sat in my car for weeks.

When it comes to ADHD decluttering, I’ve found one thing that works: whether you’re throwing away or giving away, do it without leaving your home. Here’s how:

declutter without leaving home

Charity pickups

Many charities offer pickup services. After you schedule your pickup, you just need to put your items out on the appropriate day. Organizations with pickup services include:

If you live in a city, charities may even send you postcards with dates when their trucks will be in your neighborhood. Some charities include a large plastic bag with the postcard. Why not set a goal of filling these bags with clutter when they arrive and setting them out on the designated pickup date?

Freecycle

Freecycle is a grassroots network of communities dedicated to giving (and getting) stuff for free to keep usable items out of landfills.  The process is simple: post an offer on the site, receive emails from interested parties, choose someone who seems sincere, and coordinate a time for them to pick it up from your porch/front yard/etc.

Freecycle also makes it easy to declutter piece by piece. Rather than setting aside time to fill a big box for charity pickup, you can harness your impulsivity and rehome unused items one thing at a time. No matter what it is, there’s a good chance someone out there wants it.

A word of warning: be careful not to acquire items from Freecycle unless it’s already on a shopping list and it’s close to home. If you need to, unsubscribe from all email alerts except those in reply to your own offers. I once drove a half hour across town for a new set of shower curtain hooks I had no idea I needed — until I saw them advertised for free on the internet.

The bottom line: there are many ways to donate or give away unwanted items without leaving home. For people with ADHD, this is the way to go. Freecycle and charity pickups allow you to complete the decluttering process more gracefully, without adding an errand to your list or junk to your car.

When you’re decluttering, how do you make sure unwanted items actually get out the door?

Why this ADHD mama loves cloth diapers

It was a typical Monday morning for me and my son, tackling some quick chores and our weekly trip to the grocery store.

We’d just returned home for lunch and nap when I noticed we were out of diapers.

Again.

When you only use two diapers a day (nap and bedtime) it’s easy to lose track. My husband used the last diaper and forgot to tell me, and I forgot to check. Can you tell we’re an ADHD family?

It wasn’t always this way. For a year and a half, I never, ever had to worry about running out of diapers.

cloth diapers

That’s because we used cloth diapers, and I positively loved it.

ADHD’ers may shy away from cloth diapering because it means more laundry. “Piles of laundry, unknown whether clean or dirty” feels like it should be in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. But let me tell you, cloth diapering was amazing for our family.

I’m not saying we never ran low on diapers, or I never forgot to wash them.

However, when that happened, I didn’t need to run to the store. I spend a lot of time home alone with a sleeping kid, and hitting the grocery store at all hours isn’t always an option.

Even if I can take my child to the store with me, it’s not worth the hassle for just one thing, even if that one thing is clean diapers.

Now that we use too few diapers for reusables to feel worth it, I appreciate what I missed for the first 18 months of our son’s life: husband promising to buy diapers on the way home, then accidentally working until 4:00 a.m. Running out of diapers right before our Amazon Subscribe & Save is scheduled to arrive. Borrowing diapers from a neighbor because I don’t have time to buy more before nap time.

Back then, forgetting the diapers had little or no negative consequence. Even if I was already in my PJs for the night, I could run downstairs and throw them in the washer.

Not only that, I had something to do while I was watching TV.

I enjoy television in theory, but in practice it’s unpleasant to sit still for long enough to watch even a 20-minute sitcom. I watched a lot of great shows while I folded and stuffed clean diapers.

Cloth economics

Cloth diaper advocates also love to tell you how much money you’ll save with cloth. Nay-sayers will toss out counter-arguments that cite pricey all-in-one diapers, high water bills, and the like. In reality, your results may vary.

If you play it smart, though, cloth diapering can save a lot of money.

That’s no small consideration for ADHD’ers, many of whom struggle with finances. If you plan to have multiple children, reusing the same batch of diapers for two or more kids can make a huge difference in your bottom line.

So what should a beginner look for?

All the cloth diaper terminology can be overwhelming, as can the wide spectrum of costs and materials: all-in-one, all-in-two, microfiber, cotton, wool, PUL…huh?

If you want the simplest, cheapest option, there’s one word you need to know: prefolds.

Prefold diapers are basically just cotton rectangles. Buy a bunch of these, a few waterproof covers, and a pack of Snappis, and you’re ready to go. This is the cheapest, most durable diapering option you can get.

If you’re not sure where to shop, try finding a natural baby store in your area. They usually have a team of helpful, knowledgeable staff to point you in the right direction. I’ve also ordered some great diapers at very reasonable prices from Green Mountain Diapers.

As tempting as it is to jump right in, make sure you learn how to care for your investment.

Don’t be fooled into paying a ton of money for special detergent when you can really just use Tide. At the same time, don’t be fooled into thinking your diapers are clean when they’re not (yuck). My go-to resource for diaper care is Fluff Love and CD Science. These ladies are committed to proper diaper care for real people.

The bottom line, though — the one thing I want everyone to know about cloth diapers — is:

It’s nowhere near as confusing, inconvenient, gross, expensive, or difficult as you think it’s going to be.

For ADHD families, the flexibility and cost savings can be a lifesaver.

If you’ve tried cloth diapering and something went wrong, or if you’re interested but don’t know how to get started, please share in the comments! I had a great experience and I’d love to help others do the same.

Note: while some posts may contain Amazon affiliate links, I only link to products and vendors I like, use, and support. If you’re able to support a local independent business instead, please do!

Do what works

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. -- Bertrand Russell

It’s so easy to nag, demand, berate, or give up on our ADHD loved ones. I mean, really, how hard is it to…

  • get home from work on time?
  • stay sitting at the table for dinner?
  • stop picking fights?
  • keep track of your keys?
  • take out the trash?

Before I go on, let me tell you, it’s okay to feel frustrated.

But then ask yourself this: am I trying to solve the right problem?

Is getting home from work on time really the issue? Physically sitting at the table? Or do we need to dig deeper, discovering that our true meaning is really…

  • I want to feel like you value our family as much as your job
  • I want to connect as a family
  • I want a peaceful, effective morning routine
  • I want to trust that you’ll fulfill your commitments to our household

When we consider what’s really bugging us, the conversation shifts. It becomes about us and our feelings, not others and their faults.

Next time you’re tempted to nag or criticize, pause. Challenge yourself to open up about the real issue and listen to your ADHD’ers’ suggestions.

Of course, you’ll need to prepare for the “I don’t know” answer, too. Working from honest feelings rather than accusations, assumptions, and judgments creates a safe space for you to solve the problem as a team.

These conversations require self-awareness and emotional availability — two tough spots for ADHD folks. If you struggle with communication, I suggest reading Difficult Conversations as a family.

Experiment, observe, and find what works

When troubleshooting in an ADHD household, be prepared to experiment.

In a science experiment, you don’t work from what you want or what you think should happen.

You observe what is and you work from there.

For example, we don’t do family dinner at our house. I grew up with family dinner, and everywhere I looked, someone was holding it up as the gold standard for healthy, functional, connected nuclear families.

Well, guess what — family dinner doesn’t work for us right now.

Did I fret over how I could make it happen so we could be a “real,” “normal” family?

I sure did. But did it help?

Nope.

Eventually, I realized family dinner wasn’t the problem. It was the need for a family meal.

The solution: we eat family breakfast together seven days a week. My husband gets our son out of bed and dressed, giving them extra time together in the morning. Our weekly family meeting happens after breakfast on Saturday because that’s when we know we’ll all be together.

It’s a little unconventional, but it’s what works for us.

 Forget expectations

If you’re still obsessing over how “normal” or “responsible” people solve problems and organize their lives, try to let it go. Step back, observe, and look at what really works for your family.

Make sure you’ve defined the real problem, then work on a real solution.

Don’t let external judgments and expectations define how you run your home and family.

Find what works and let go of the rest.

Book Review: Duct Tape Parenting

Cover image: Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle Do you yearn for less chaos, more connectedness, and a more fulfilling life with your children?

Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids might turn your current parenting philosophy on its head. Or it could reaffirm what you’ve always believed but never translated to reality.

Reading a parenting book may feel like a chore, but it can be a game-changer for ADHD families. Agreeing on a consistent strategy with buy-in from both parents will generate immediate rewards. You’ll also gain a common language to discuss those inevitable parenting challenges. As a bonus, parent educator Vicki Hoefle‘s suggestions for family meetings, road maps, and sharing appreciations will benefit everyone — not just kids.

Duct Tape Parenting‘s central conceit is that kids need autonomy and responsibility. Also, attention of any kind — negative or positive — reinforces their behavior. Our job is not to nag and con children into doing the right thing, it’s to guide them toward self-actualization.

Hoefle’s hands-off approach requires a paradigm shift and a willingness to endure messes and imperfection. It also helps kids develop resiliency and executive function that will set them up for a lifetime of success. Perhaps most important, it takes the pressure off of us to keep the whole family organized.

Duct Tape Parenting will be difficult for ADHD adults. That duct tape in the title? It’s for you. In other words, success with Hoefle’s method relies on impulse control at just the moment when restraint feels most difficult.

Don’t give up, though — it’s worth the effort. Parents with ADHD will love the end result: a family where everyone contributes according to their ability and takes responsibility for their own needs.

Once you step back and let your kids show you what they can do, you’ll be amazed at how capable even young toddlers can be. Divvying up responsibilities and letting your kids take ownership of daily activities saves you a lot of grief trying to keep track of everything on your own.

Teaching kids to be resourceful and independent will also give them a boost in executive functioning skills — a gift that will benefit ADHD kids for the rest of their lives. A parent who coaches, nags, reminds, and bails out an ADHD child robs him of a safe, supportive environment to learn coping and organizing skills. He’ll need to succeed without you eventually — now is the time to let him practice, make mistakes, and build his confidence.

While Hoefle lays out a solid, sensible, high-impact plan for family effectiveness, I found a few key points missing. For one, Hoefle doesn’t thoroughly address behavior management in a  social group. Children are often part of a regular social group with its own expectations and norms. What if my two-year-old spars with a friend’s toddler over a toy and we have differing ideas on how (and when) to intervene?

My weekly playgroup might be open to discussing these issues. One-time events like trips to the playground or birthday parties present a different challenge. At some point I’m willing to let my child lose a friend over poor behavior, but preschool seems too young. I would’ve appreciated advice on how to guide my child’s behavior in a group setting without being overly directorial.

Speaking of age, too many of Hoefle’s anecdotes omit the child’s age. How to implement Hoefle’s ideas at each stage of childhood is largely left up to the reader.

Overall, Duct Tape Parenting is worth a read for exhausted ADHD parents everywhere. Fair warning: Hoefle’s tone can be off-putting. She begins the book by pointing out far more problems than solutions and has a habit of quoting herself at the beginning of chapters. Parents already feeling downtrodden may find themselves feeling more so, and attachment parenting devotees may not make it past Chapter One.

I hope these issues of tone and structure won’t discourage too many parents from finishing the book. It will change the way you view your job as a parent and lead you to a more fulfilling life with your family.

Any other duct tape ADHD parents out there? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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