ADHD

Motherhood & ADHD

People love the Mental Load Cartoon by Emma. It demonstrates how women are managing so many of the day-to-day ‘small’ tasks that often go unnoticed. These tasks can be making sure there is enough food, having enough clothes, researching which daycares are best etc.

‘Small’ tasks add up quickly. For moms who feel they have to do everything, and who take on the burden of care for baby and partner unconsciously, it’s one of the reasons why they become overwhelmed as a parent. This fact is hard to navigate for any mom, but to the ADHD mom brain, it can feel impossible. Why? ADHD brains ‘turn off’ (decrease in brain activity) when it comes to mundane activities. This makes it extremely challenging for many ADHD parents to handle the particular demands of child-rearing with ease, especially if they have not developed systems they need to help their brain complete these types of tasks.

TRAITS OF THE ADHD MOM BRAIN

Here are some common struggles I see with ADHD moms:

  • Feeling overwhelmed with organizing all the baby items

  • Feeling frustrated and self-critical when they can’t find things the baby needs (like a thermometer, etc.)

  • Not able to keep up with the extra laundry, dishes, and cleaning

  • Missing the energy and excitement that they used to experience when their brain was ‘turned on’

  • Struggling to maintain schedules for the kids

  • Feeling incompetent when forgetting to schedule or keep appointments, like doctor checkups

  • Struggling to self-regulate when their kid is pushing limits

On top of the largely unacknowledged mental load that is generally demanded of women in this country, society sends the message to women that they need to love being a parent and naturally excel at it, or there is something wrong with them (not the system). Hence, the ADHD brain may absorb these unrealistic messages and fall into a vicious cycle of self-criticism and feeling like a ‘bad’ mom. The truth is that many parents are not even diagnosed with ADHD until their kid receives a diagnosis—so it can take years of trying (and failing) to do what works for neurotypical brains, before getting the help they need to start enjoying parenthood.

STRATEGIES FOR THE ADHD MOM BRAIN

Once you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, there are tips and tricks to help you feel successful:

  • Talk to your psychiatrist/doctor about medication

  • Work with a therapist that specializes in adult ADHD to help build executive function and learn skills that will make the mundane tasks of parenting work for your brain

  • Talk to your partner about the mental load and hand off tasks that are more challenging for you (like buying clothes, picking up the kids from school, etc.)

  • Check out the resources for ADHD on my website

  • Learn to focus on what your brain does best! ADHD brains have a lot of strengths that can be challenging for the neurotypical brain

Not even Wonder Woman can do it all. Ask for help when you need it. We’re all responsible for raising the next generation together.

Marie Kondo for ADHD

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As the Marie Kondo craze sweeps the nation, a group of my favorite brains, ADHD brains, may once again receive messages that cleaning is simple. While the KonMari method appeals to many, this message may cause those with ADHD to feel like failures when they can’t effectively tidy up like on the popular Netflix show. There is hope for these ADHD brains. Here are some ways to adapt the KonMari method so it works for them.

People with ADHD normally need a different organizational style that works for THEIR brains. Small, mundane tasks actually decrease brain activity in the ADHD brain, making it extremely difficult for them to put things back where they belong. Their brains often need to actually see things in order to remember their to-do lists or know where things are.

Therefore, an ADHD brain may be more comfortable with lots of stuff lying around or piled up in a corner or on a desk. However, sometimes they need to tidy up,  either for hosting guests, or if their mess stresses out their partner or roommate.

Let me break down the ways I’ve witnessed ADHD brains try to force their brain to keep things tidy:

  • Crisis—They make doing the dishes a catastrophic event that induces anxiety in themselves and others. (Ex. if I leave this dish out my house will be infested with cockroaches and my partner will leave me!)

  • Big Projects—They begin to “organize” one room and make a complete mess. They then lose interest and leave the space worse off than before.  

  • Disaster Zone—They wait until the place is an absolute disaster AND a real crisis before they start picking up.

Because of these common ADHD cleaning styles, Marie Kondo’s method has the potential to help the ADHD brain, because having fewer items is helpful in general. However, the KonMari method requires some tweaking to work for the ADHD brain.  This is important to know if someone with ADHD is trying to implement the KonMari method.

  • ADHD brains will love the big project idea. However, without a coach or a T.V. show to motivate them to put everything away when they have purged the unwanted items, an ADHD brain may dump all their clothes on the dining room table and leave them there for months.  Ask a friend or hire an organizer to help with the last part. Setting a deadline can also be helpful.

  • ADHD brains do better with less stuff, but tend to struggle to find a good home when attempting to organize their stuff. Using a professional organizer who specializes in ADHD brains can help ADHD brains organize their homes in ways they can remember.

  • Marie Kondo’s sock drawers are beautiful, but folding and storing clothes that way is setting up an ADHD brain for failure. ADHD brains tend to work better with a “dump and search” method of  organizing. Try a sock box or basket instead.

Want more?  Keep an eye on my ADHD Corner for more tips for the ADHD brain.