The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: homemaking

My ADHD Home: A Visitors’ Guide

My attempts at effective homemaking with ADHD could fill a memoir. I long for a tidy, peaceful home where guests always feel comfortable and welcome. My grandmother would tell you I make this look easy.

We should all have someone like my grandmother in our lives. For everyone else, I give you this visitors’ guide. I do like you, and please don’t let me drive you crazy.

 

Never be afraid to ask.

Before I say anything funny, allow me to say: I want to be a good host. I try to provide the essentials: towels, toothbrush/toothpaste, a bed, and fresh coffee in the morning. I’ll even pick the coffee mug I think suits you best today.

I’m also forgetful. I miss social cues. Some aspects of my lifestyle are a little weird. If you want it, and I haven’t offered it, I guarantee I a.) have no idea and b.) want to make it happen. A polite request for something to make your stay more comfortable is always welcome.

You’d be surprised by what throws me off my game.

Once, my mom brought her own pillowcase to my house. I had a newborn, and she wanted to save me some laundry. I spent the next four years searching for one of the pillowcases to that sheet set. Apparently, I cannot handle washing part of the set without losing the rest.

I recently found it. I wish I could tell you where, but this happened a couple weeks ago, and I forget. I know I found it somewhere in my house.

Also, now I have anxiety every time someone suggests using a partial sheet set. Guests have said, “oh, it’s just me, you didn’t need to use two pillowcases.” Or, even more terrifying, “I don’t really need the top sheet.” I always wonder: should I admit that I’m afraid of losing the unused piece of the set?

Don’t worry, I love going out. I just hate getting ready.

I love showing you around town. I love thinking about my guests, and what they might enjoy, and designing a weekend to suit them.

That said, I hate getting out the door. I fuss over departure times, even when they don’t matter. I overthink how many and which cars we should drive, or whether we should walk or take public transit. I get cranky with my family for taking too long to pack up. Generally speaking, I don’t go with the flow.

I apologize. I’ll try not to be unpleasant, but I have a terrible track record. If (when) it happens, it’s not about you, or my desire to do the thing. It’s about getting out the door, which is not my favorite.

Keep me up late at your own risk.

I have a bedtime, just like my kid has a bedtime. It’s around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. If I stay up too late, I’ll be a hot mess the next day — especially if we need to get out the door for anything. Lack of sleep intensifies pretty much every ADHD symptom, and sometimes I feel like it increases my meds’ drowsiness side effect.

However, most social nuance is lost on me. I have no idea how to extricate myself gracefully from a conversation. If you’re up, and you’re talking to me, chances are I’ll stay up until you say it’s time for bed. If you want to be super helpful, try to wrap up our friendly chat around the aforementioned time window. Say something like, “alright, well, I’ll let you get to bed.” Everyone will thank you in the morning.

I love offering you a private space…for both of us.

I feel rude even typing this, but I get a little batty about clutter. I find it visually overstimulating, and it makes my brain go haywire. I spend a lot of my life battling clutter, if only to clear my own head.

For our first several years in our house, we didn’t have a dedicated guest room. By necessity, guests tended to spread their belongings throughout the house: a keyring here, a newspaper there, a colony of duffle bags in the corner. I hated myself for how cranky this made me.

Now, I offer guests a semi-finished basement room with their own futon, side table, and bathroom. A handful of guests have told me, “oh, you don’t need to set all that up for me. I can just sleep on the couch.”

Trust me: I love making you a little nest, and it makes me feel like a nice friend. It also gives you a place to put your stuff without cluttering my living space. I’m not a terrible person, but my neurochemistry places certain demands on my environment.

Before Coffee vs. After Coffee.

There are two kinds of time in my day: the time before coffee, and the time after coffee. Before coffee, I like to hang out in the kitchen, cook breakfast for everyone, listen to NPR (or music, or nothing), and put a kettle on the stove. Then I eat my egg and toast and take the remainder of my coffee to the couch to read a magazine.

During this time in the kitchen, I feel happy and pleasant — unless someone harshes my mellow. This isn’t the time to start an important conversation. My brain isn’t warmed up yet. While I’m measuring out the coffee or pouring water into the French press — this is an especially bad time to throw me off-kilter with idle chit-chat. If I pour too much water and have to start my coffee-making routine over, I can’t promise I’m going to be able to deal.

Decompression is a good thing.

After all the drama of pre-coffee chit-chat, lost pillowcases, cluttered side tables, and expeditions out my front door, I need a breather. Seinfeld put it best: it’s not you, it’s me.

I’m an introvert with ADHD. This means I’m easily overwhelmed and worn out by all the hurly-burly. My kid no longer takes a nap in the middle of the day, but I still appreciate a slice  of quiet time. If I sneak off to my office to read a book on the loveseat, or to a backyard hammock for a 30-minute rest in the sun, I probably don’t want you to come keep me company — though I do want you to find me if you need anything! Likewise, if there’s something you want to do — take a walk, read a book, spend some time checking your email — feel free to set aside some time for it. I won’t be offended if you want a little down time that doesn’t involve me.

I like you, please come back.

Bottom line: I love having guests. It’s way more relaxing than getting my entire family out the door (see above) for a weekend away. I love sharing my home and my city. I don’t always have my act together, and sometimes that makes me feel disappointed and angry with myself. It’s not because I don’t want you there, it’s because I have this internal struggle happening: I want to cling to my routines and my familiar environment (ADHD’ers don’t always deal well with change, and someone leaning back in a reclining chair can feel like too much change for me). I also want to be the world’s best host, and I don’t want my ADHD to make me look like a failure as a friend or a grownup.

So welcome to my home. I hope you’re 100% comfortable and happy and well-fed, but if you’re not, I hope you’ll ask for whatever you want. I also hope you’ll be sensitive to the fact that I might act weird sometimes, or seem overly rigid about the little stuff, or get cranky and overwhelmed while we’re getting out the door. I don’t mean to be off-putting. I appreciate you, and I hope you’ll come back.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestGoogle GmailInstapaperBufferRedditTumblrStumbleUponShare

Why I don’t commiserate with friends about my ADHD partner

It can seem like a favorite pastime for the over-30 set: we commiserate with friends — almost always same-gender, often accompanied by alcohol — about our spouses’ foibles.

We’ve all done it, and we’ve all nodded along while someone else aired their grievances. In the sober light of day, we might wave this grousing off as harmless. It’s not, especially when someone in the relationship has ADHD. Taken too far, it can be as toxic as the ADHD itself.

happily-married

 

Here’s the problem: We view the world through our lens, and others through theirs. It’s easy for neurotypical third parties to misinterpret ADHD behavior. A well-meaning friend may jump to our defense, labeling our ADHD spouse as abusive or manipulative, selfish or inconsiderate. Surprisingly few ADHD behaviors are intentional or calculated, but most of the world reads it that way. We may read it that way. Our friends, eager to support and defend us, reflect it back.

To clarify: I’m not condoning bad behavior. Poorly managed ADHD can make the whole family miserable.  I’m also talking about my own experience in a normal, loving, ADHD-afffected relationship. ADHD affects all kinds of people, including selfish, abusive jerks. I’m not married to one of them.

ADHD hides other sides of the story.

ADHD can color the way I perceive and react to domestic negotiations. Last fall, I wrote about the challenges of being a workaholic homemaker with ADHD. I lamented the loss of our twice-monthly cleaning service, which was supposed to be temporary but which I tried to make permanent. I wanted more time to write, and I thought paying a cleaning lady could give me just that.

Imagine me telling this story, fresh off the original confrontation with my husband, to a supportive stay-at-home mom friend. What might she say? That my dreams are important, too? Who is my husband to deprive me of this over a relatively minor expense? That it’s 2016, and he shouldn’t expect a woman to be a full-time homemaker while he continues to advance his career?

Here’s the truth: My husband is incredibly supportive of my writing on a daily basis. This summer, he took time off from work to stay with our son while I attended a writing conference. He didn’t think twice about spending the money on the conference, nor did he complain about staying home with R. He has complete faith in me and admires my dedication to my work. As for which parent stays home, he would’ve been happy to do it. Our decision was made on the basis of money and, at some level, who was more in control of their ADHD symptoms.

Here’s another truth: Being a homemaker for an ADHD household takes a lot of time and effort. Having ADHD myself makes everything harder. When a spouse has ADHD, the other partner usually picks up slack from them, too. I’m pulling more weight than the average stay-at-home mom, plus I have my own impairments. Not only that, my ADHD hinders my ability to roll with the punches. I had more trouble dealing with the argument about the cleaning lady than the loss of her services.

If I lack adequate time to write, the culprit isn’t ideology, it’s poorly-managed ADHD. I shouldn’t be asking for a cleaning lady, I should be demanding that X, Y, and Z ADHD symptoms be brought under control. Most important, I should wait for a calm moment to plot my way forward. The problem is, I doubt that’s what a girlfriend would tell me over a glass of wine.

Don’t judge: our worst is the worst.

The bottom line: our family is mutually supportive and egalitarian, and we’re doing the best we can. We make mistakes, we overreact, but we apologize an move on. We know and honor each other’s true selves. Both my husband and I admit we have ADHD, admit it’s a problem, and make an effort to manage the symptoms that negatively impact others.

ADHD happens to good people, and it can make us look bad. In our worst — usually unmedicated — moments, we can look downright monstrous. I’ve dealt with this all my life: an outburst, a temporary loss of myself, an irrational response, and suddenly that’s what defines me in someone else’s eyes. It feels awful, and it’s why I try not to complain about my husband to my friends. Because he’s a great guy, and most of the time my life feels inappropriately fortunate. He’s my family. I don’t want ADHD to define him as anything other than that.

Do you struggle to be fair to your partner while satisfying your need to vent? What have you learned?

You vs. the world: lets discuss ADHD for at-home parents

“Our family needs a homemaker.”

I love to be needed, but those words stung.

I was trying to convince my husband to keep our twice-monthly cleaning service, but he wouldn’t budge. It was a temporary arrangement for a tough time: during the first nine months of our son’s life, my husband finished a master’s degree and broke his collarbone.

I needed help.

The problem was, once things returned to normal, I viewed this extra help as a small price to pay to get my writing business off the ground. My husband reminded me of our agreement that one of us would be a stay-at-home parent. It didn’t seem fair for me to claim I “didn’t have time” to clean the house.

Maybe it wasn’t, but providing sanity and order to an ADHD household, day in and day out, is exhausting.

Because it’s true: our ADHD family does need a homemaker. We need one adult holding down the fort full-time to keep everything from exploding (or imploding) into chaos.We need someone cleaning, coordinating home repairs, paying bills, opening the mail, and making sure everyone eats — among many, many other things.

But I have ADHD, too, and I have big plans for my life. Specifically, I want to do all the things, and I want to do them yesterday.

In the two years post-cleaning lady, I’ve found a better groove. I’ve forced myself to keep trying. I figured out a way to keep writing while (usually) keeping the house (relatively) clean. R. grew up into a little boy and stopped nursing, which meant I could resume taking my ADHD meds. I’ve mapped out a longer-term plan for my writing that allows me to feel like I’m making daily progress. I’ve learned to accept incremental progress, even if I want instant gratification.

Being the homemaker is still hard. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for more reasons than I can count. My husband has unbeatable job security, and my salary wouldn’t have supported us. I prefer to be in charge. I’m better at structuring my own projects and time.

Our family doesn’t just need a homemaker, we need me. And to be there for our family, I need to be there for myself, too. That means making time for my writing, but also taking care of our home and family. Taking time for myself, but not leaving everyone else to pick up my slack.

It’s a lifelong pursuit, finding balance. I’ll never quite get there. I’ll never perfect the art of slowing down, of accepting imperfection, of resting, of moderating — in any of my roles. All I can do is try.

Lately, I’m trying to be honest with myself about what it means to be a workaholic homemaker with ADHD.

And what does that mean, exactly? If you have ADHD and you’re a stay-at-home parent, I’d love to hear about your experience. How do you make it work? Have you struggled to reconcile your partner’s expectations with your own? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned?

Is homeschooling right for your family?

Last week, we heard from Meg about homeschooling her oldest child, who has ADHD. Figuring out whether homeschooling is right for your family can be overwhelming. Checking in with Meg as we go, let’s explore a few questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

home schooling

photo credit: Lynde Pratt

Do you have time?

ADHD is highly heritable. If a child has it, there’s a 30-40% chance at least one parent has it, too. We ADHD’ers are notoriously time-blind, making it hard for us to look before we leap.

You need at least one full-time homeschooling parent,” Meg warns. She works part-time managing her own business while her husband works full-time. For now they divide teaching duties to form two halves of a whole.

If you’re already feeling frantic, over-committed, or just too busy most of the time, something will need to give. Force yourself to imagine the day-to-day grind of your new homeschooling life. Do this several times, and with as much detail as possible. Fight your natural tendency to say “oh, I’ll figure it out.” ADHD severely impairs your ability to think through long-term consequences of your actions, and it’s your responsibility to counteract that.

“[Homeschooling] isn’t something you squeeze into your day,” Meg reminds us, “it’s a lifestyle.” Make sure that feels okay with you.

Do you have money?

You don’t have to pay for an expensive curriculum, but newbies may appreciate the structure at first, if only to teach them what does and doesn’t work for their child.

Don’t forget the other costs associated with homeschooling, either. Ideally, you’ll want to take your child on regular field trips, many of which cost money. Group activities, like karate or Boy Scouts, provide vital social outlets for homeschoolers.

And there’s that prickly time question again: will you need to hire help for household chores?  ADHD adults often struggle with household maintenance, and adding to your responsibilities at home may force the issue. Meg’s family discovered they’ll need to pay around $300 per month for cleaning help. “We have two other children and a large, old house/property that requires a ton of maintenance,” she explains. “There’s too much on our plates right now.”

Have you included your child in the decision?

If you haven’t read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting, I recommend it before proceeding with your homeschooling decision. In business and in parenting, buy-in is critical — and too often overlooked. Your child, no matter his age, needs to feel like an important part of the process. Homeschooling is something you’ll do as a team. If he lacks ownership in this decision, you’ll have a very hard time indeed.

How’s your ADHD management?

Homeschooling requires some minor red tape, but it’s “no big deal,” says Meg, thanks to copious online resources.

Like so many things, poorly managed adult ADHD will make this easier said than done. In Pennsylvania, where Meg’s family lives,  you must keep records for 185 learning days each year (these can include field trip days).  Many families hire a certified teacher to review these records annually. Parents must also notify the school district of their intent to homeschool via an affidavit at the beginning of the year. These steps aren’t difficult, but you’ll need to remember to keep records and complete time-sensitive tasks every year.

Adult ADHD can also cause impatience, irritability, and strained family relations, not to mention poor social skills extending far beyond your front door. Be honest with yourself: will you be able to work with your child, often enduring intense frustration on both sides, while maintaining a healthy relationship? Will you be able to tolerate being together all day? Are you capable of making the necessary social connections with other parents to cultivate friends for your child?

Is school really the problem?

Even if you send your child to traditional school, you’re not off the hook: just ask any parent who’s tried to get everyone out the door in the morning. Then there’s checking in on homework, fielding teacher concerns, attending disciplinary meetings (my parents especially loved those), and helping your child develop coping mechanisms to succeed in a learning environment that seems utterly incompatible with ADHD.

It’s tempting to throw up your hands rather than tackle these challenges. Just remember, homeschooling won’t make the root issues go away, it’ll just give you a different set of puzzles. (I’m reminded of when, as a beginning skier, I got frustrated with the learning curve and decided a snowboard would solve all my problems.)

“I don’t have leisure or rest anymore,” confesses Meg. This is part of her motivation for hiring someone to help around the house. “It’s an unhealthy way to live…I don’t plan to live this way forever, but for now it is what it is. When you believe you’re doing the right thing, you make it work at any personal expense.”

Meg’s steadfast belief that this is the right thing for her son keeps her going when things get tough. If that’s the case for you, too, that’s great. But do some soul searching before pulling your kiddo out of school. Make sure you’re truly acting in your child’s long-term best interest, not out of desperation to offload a set of overwhelming challenges.

Have you considered homeschooling? What would you like to say to parents considering teaching a child at home?

Home economics: small hacks make a big difference

If you feel like you're working too hard to maintain order at home, there's hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

If you feel like you’re working too hard to maintain order at home, there’s hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

When it comes to ADHD in the home, the key is to work with it, not against it. Let go of expectations and figure out what really works for you.

Most importantly, make it easy on yourself. When something’s not working, don’t beat yourself up, refine your process.

Here are a few tips for a more peaceful, organized home.

Create supports where you need them

If you or your family struggle with the same thing(s) every day — like picking out clothes in the morning — you need strategy and communication, not tough love.

Example: after reading a parenting book that told me a five-year-old should be able to pack his own lunch, I decided my husband should, too. Except he often didn’t. Instead of berating him or just continuing to do it myself, I put a dry erase board (pictured below) on the fridge. He uses it for lunches, but I actually appreciate it most on weekends and on nights when he gets home late. Instead of interrupting me to ask, “what can I eat?” or “what can I give R. for snack?” he can assemble something from the food categories on the list.

DSC_6072

Keep rags, cleaner, and an old toothbrush under your bathroom sink…

…and if you have young children, clean during bath time. Every ADHD parent has gotten bored during bath time, so why not fidget with something productive?

Even if you don’t have kids, keeping all the supplies within arm’s reach allows anyone to clean up when they see a mess. Often, ADHD’ers notice the toilet could use a quick swish with the brush, but we’ll forget by the time we open the bathroom door. Once you remove this barrier, you might be surprised at the cleaning help you receive!

Use a highlighter

A highlighter can help you slow down, mark things you need to remember (like deadlines or supply lists), and catch important details.

I learned about highlighters’ magic powers in college. It was senior year, and we were learning to write grant proposals in Business of Art. Our professor suggested color coding with highlighters: using a different color to call out phrases we should regurgitate in the proposal, documents we’d need to attach, important dates/deadlines, etc.

In the years since, I’ve used this strategy to win thousands of dollars in grant funding, file my tax return, complete complex banking documents, and bring all the required items to our orientation meeting with R.’s preschool teacher. It’s probably the most practical skill I learned in college. Go figure.

DSC_6067

Fill donation bags as you receive them in the mail

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: never trust yourself to drop anything off at Goodwill. We live in the city, and we often receive printed plastic bags from charities seeking clothing and houseware donations.

The charities mailing out these bags will pick them up — full of distracting, unwanted clutter — right from your doorstep. The bags are preprinted with contact information to schedule your pickup. It doesn’t get any easier.

Every time you receive one of these bags in the mail, unpack it right away and look for things to put into it.

Contain clutter and distractions (literally)

Baskets can save an ADHD household. Whenever I see a clutter hotspot forming, I ask myself, “would a basket solve this?”

For example, my husband used to store a lot of clothes on the floor. His reason: he planned to wear them again, thus they belonged to neither the closet nor the hamper. I bought him a basket for his in-use clothes and the clothing-on-the-floor issue disappeared.

Baskets and other open-top containers also help with out of sight, out of mind issues. If your family resists putting something away, they may just want to be able to see it (i.e., remember it exists).

If you feel like you're working too hard to maintain order at home, there's hope: you may be right. Minor tweaks can lower tension and chaos exponentially.

A less conventional idea: create a home for distracting objects to get them out of your hands. Smart phones can kill your focus, not to mention family dinners. Our cell phone bin invites anyone in our home to deposit their phone, reduce distractions, and enhance our time together. It has made a huge positive impact on my everyday life.

What about you? What small change has delivered huge benefits to your household?

Stop waiting for a good time to fix it

I’ve been looking forward to preschool.

First and foremost, I feel compelled to point out, because R. will love it. He’s smart and extroverted and he recently asked me to read Maisy Goes to Preschool four times in a row.

I’ve also been counting the days for my own sake. I feel totally scattered, behind on everything, and exhausted by the needs of an ADHD household. Surviving until preschool became my primary goal.

stop waiting

I put all my eggs in that basket: soon, I’d gain four hours per week in a cafe with my laptop. Alone.

Of course, ADHD never gives me a good basket to put my eggs in. The bottom fell out last week, when I received a welcome letter from R.’s preschool listing his first day a full two and a half weeks later than I’d anticipated.

This wasn’t my first time at the “I just have to keep my head above water until _________” rodeo. Still, my reaction wasn’t great.

It stings, when you’ve switched into a time-bound survival mode, to watch the rescue boat disappear back over the horizon.

This experience reminded me why survival mode is a bad idea.

My approach: if you’re struggling and something isn’t working for you, change it.

Now.

If you don't like your fate AIDA

Sure, extenuating circumstances happen. But more often than not, we ADHD’ers create a perpetual state of extenuating circumstances. We erect barriers to productivity like it’s our job. The challenge is to figure out what we can do right now.

If you’ve been wallowing in a pit of chaos and discouragement, ask yourself: how can I make my current situation work for me? What small thing can I do right now? How can I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for external factors to change?

In other words, if you don’t like your life, change it. Even if you can only manage tiny, tiny stepsDon’t wait for change to come to you, and don’t leave your own happiness and productivity in the hands of fate.

© 2017 The ADHD Homestead

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑