parenting

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.

The Happy Holiday Toddler Monster

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Holidays tend to be a special time when family gets together and magical characters (like Santa) appear.  Many parents had hopes and dreams of what the holidays would look like when they started a family. Maybe it included everyone getting along, a beautifully decorated tree, appreciative kids opening gifts. Perhaps your child is old enough to be excited about the holiday cheer and all your holiday hopes seem within reach....when reality happens: your toddler is freaking out!  


3 things to keep in mind this holiday season with toddlers: 

1.     Toddlers are amazing feelers. They express unrestrained joy and sadness with equal intensity. All of these holiday rituals are new, intense, and stimulating events for their little bodies and brains. They may be surrounded by family members, off schedule and full of sugar, and have a lot of new, exciting items that their brains will think to climb, play with, and destroy. In experiencing their pure joy, you will also witness the crash (which may lead you to believe that your child has been replaced by a monster). 

a.     Tip: Add some down/quiet time before and after the ‘main events’ to help give their little brains time to recharge, helping minimize the intensity of the crash. 

b.     Tip: Try to keep to schedules and routines as much as possible in a new environment.

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2.     Your feelings matter, too! Your dreams of a perfect holiday may be influencing your feelings around the holiday time. There isn’t a way for your toddler’s brain to understand how much time, love, and effort you put into a magical experience, which can be infuriating if things all go wrong. 

a.     Tip: Take time for yourself so you can recharge and have space to feel all your feelings. Holidays also tend to bring up feelings of loss that may impact your ability to respond to the toddler monster. Maybe it is disappointment from when you were a kid or grief from the loss of a loved one with whom you used to enjoy this holiday time. When you are experiencing some big feelings it can be harder to respond patiently to a toddler meltdown.

b.     Tip: Talk to your partner/family about supporting you in ways that will fill you up if your toddler drains you. This may include stating/showing their appreciation on all the work you have done or taking your child so you can get a break. 

3.     Create your own traditions that work for all of you. This may or may not look like what is portrayed in our popular culture, and that’s ok. Breakable ornaments and shiny lights may be torture for your toddler (and therefore you) and not joyful.  Try making your environment work for all of you and find the connection and laughter if it all goes wrong. You are learning how to be a parent and that will always be a journey; you’re not supposed to get it right all the time. 

a.     Tip: Read my article, Sometimes Getting it Wrong is Getting it Right, in case you lose it with your toddler.

b.     Tip: Talk to your partner/family about your intentions and goals for the holiday season and reflect if your actions and environment are in line with your intentions.

Remember that toddlers will tend to express their negative emotions and experiences more often with their primary caretakers. It means you’re doing a good job making them feel safe enough to express how they feel. So if they do well with the grandparents and are monsters with you, just remind yourself it means you’re an AWESOME parent and they trust you can handle it. 

Sometimes Getting it Wrong is Getting It Right

As parents, we are bombarded with information  telling us how to do things right, or all the things we are doing wrong. In the era of information overload, parenting guilt and worry are taken to a new level.

But there is a simple truth in parenting that is so powerful, it is often forgotten:

Good parenting means you get it WRONG at times so you can make a repair. You acknowledge what happened and  honor your child’s experience. This is more powerful and helpful than always getting it ‘right’.

When you notice yourself feeling guilty or bad about snapping at your kid, remember that this is a POWERFUL moment to acknowledge how you feel and how you behaved is not ok. And then you make amends. This skill will help your child in every aspect of his/her life and strengthen your relationship. So take a deep breath, and show your child that it is ok to not be perfect, to make mistakes and make amends.  This is has more impact in teaching your child how to navigate life when he/she loses it. It demonstrates how to be accountable, how to acknowledge someone else’s experience without it defining oneself (i.e, if they feel bad that means I am bad), and how to use the important emotion of guilt that will make a relationship stronger. Parenting is tough. Hopefully knowing that it is beneficial to mess up (and make a repair) can hopefully make it a little easier.

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