Being a mom is a hard job, whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a busy professional trying to balance a career, kids and everything else. It's doubly hard when you're a mom with ADHD.
If you have a child with ADHD, there's a 60 percent chance that either you or your mate also qualifies for diagnosis. And it's not always Dad. Doctors have found that in families that have two ADHD children, there was an equal chance that either the mother or the father had ADHD.
Surprised? Just because ADHD is often missed in women doesn't mean that it isn't there. On the contrary, overlooking ADHD in women only creates more problems. To make things even more entertaining, many women who have ADHD also have depression, anxiety or some other condition along with it. Treating depression might make them feel better, but it won't take care of their ADHD symptoms.
Medications that make it through the day at the office may not hold long enough for the "second shift" that most mothers face once they get home. We may like to think that we live in an enlightened, egalitarian society, but the reality is that women are still the primary caregivers. After an exhausting day at work, moms with ADHD are expected to make meals, organize activities, motivate others, pay bills and do other household chores — none of which is very ADD-friendly.
"ADHD must be addressed as a family issue rather than a child issue when the mother also has ADHD," says Patricia Quinn, M.D., the director of the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD. Quinn points out that a mother will often go to any length to find help for her child with ADHD, and yet leave her own ADHD needs unmet. "Supporting the mother's needs becomes an integral part of helping a child with ADHD," says Quinn.
Unfortunately, few of these women get the support they need. There are few support groups that focus on the unique needs of women with ADHD. Husbands may not understand what they could be doing to help their wives and may have unrealistic expectations of the relationship and responsibilities. In-laws and other family members may criticize the way the house looks or other obvious signs of ADHD problems. "We need to remedy this situation by becoming more aware of and providing more support and understanding for women with ADHD," says Quinn.
Stop being super-mom!
Terry Matlen offered survival tips for women with ADD in her presentation at a recent conference sponsored by the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Her first tip: Accept that you have ADD.
"As women, we're so used to tending to the needs of others that we tend to overlook our own needs," says Terry. "It's hard to admit that you aren't perfect, that you can't do it all, and that you need help. Accept your ADD and go with it."
Terry encourages moms to simplify their lives by enlisting the help of other family members. This helps you and teaches responsibility at the same time. This delegation also includes solving problems together. Families work best when they work as a team. Choose tasks that you enjoy and trade with others in your family. For example, you do laundry and your husband cooks. Don't hesitate to get outside help for chores that create tension in your relationship. Consider hiring a maid if neither of you is good at cleaning up.
Having ADHD doesn't make you a bad mother! On the contrary, having ADHD gives you the ability to empathize with your children, come up with creative solutions for problems, and create a loving, nurturing and exciting home for you and your family. Learn to appreciate the gifts and minimize the weaknesses of ADHD.
In the long run, your kids won't remember that your floors weren't always perfectly waxed. But they will remember that you loved them.
Here are more tips of Terry's tips for moms with ADHD.
- Explain ADD symptoms to your family.
- Solve problems together — no finger pointing: "This is the problem — how should we solve it?"
- Learn communication strategies.
- Keep a calendar, and use different colored inks for schedules.
- Have down time to re-energize.
- Take time to cool down before getting into a family argument.
- Use a babysitter when you're working on something at home.
- Have family meetings.
- Get professional help with managing ADD kids.
- Work as a team.
- Get outside help for chores that create tension in relationships.
- Don't fight with picky eaters — use vitamins and frequent healthy snacks.
- Pick your battles.
- Establish quiet time/zones (no TV while eating).
- Establish routines. Write them down, but be flexible.
- Keep explanations short.
- Enlist the 'no interruptions rule" at dinner table or use passing stick method.
- Be consistent — even if it's difficult.
- Get partner to take over when you feel you're losing it.
- Problem solve ahead of time. If your child can't handle crowds, shop off-hours or leave him home.
- Do as much the night before to avoid morning chaos: packed lunches, backpacks and briefcase near door, clothes laid out, and so on.
- Use humor.
- Take time away together with spouse.
Visit Terry's website at addconsults.com for other helpful ideas.