The Kids Are Alright. But I’m Not.

When it's my turn to take the kids, I'm a master of routine. When they visit their mom, things fall apart.
Family Guy | posted by Douglas Cootey

I focus here a lot on ADHD hijinks as a single dad raising kids, but my girls aren't always with me. Many divorced parents deal with times when their children are with the other parent, but this on again/off again parenting wreaks havoc on an ADHD adult's rhythm. I rely on my daughters' school schedule to help me stay on task: I wake up at right time, and put them on the bus at that time. We eat and sleep on schedule. When my girls return to their mother, my external routine is gone, and if I don't prepare for it, I flounder until I adapt to my new child-less rhythm.

The other week I had some time to kill before my youngest daughter's bus arrived. She was staying with her mother, but I usually get her off the bus and watch her until her mom arrives from work. I ran through some possible projects I could accomplish in the short time I had, but I opted for the one that would not distract me: I decided to climb up and down our apartment's three flights of stairs while reading. I climbed stairs for the 10 minutes before the bus arrived. I could easily hear the bus arrive. The plan was perfect! However, 30 minutes later the bus had still not arrived.

I stopped, out of breath, and noticed how much time had passed. That's when I suddenly remembered that my girl was home sick with her mom. There was no bus coming that day. Oh well, at least I got some exercise.

It shows how ingrained routines can be for ADHDers, but also how much time we can accidentally waste when our schedule is interrupted. The weeks when I prepare to take the kids are much more productive and happy. Here are three steps I take to keep that rug from being pulled out from under me:

1. Make it a habit to update your to-dos and calendars on the day your children leave. This helps you mentally prepare for the change. It also gives you a chance to free up your calendar from scheduled events that don't need to beep at you. Push them forward until the next time your children stay with you.

2. Give yourself a day or two after the switch to get back into the adult-without-kids rhythm. I find it helpful to not schedule anything out of the ordinary for a few days after the switch because adapting is already going to be taking up a lot of my extra time.

3. Don't change your lifestyle too drastically when your children are away. Although you may not need to wake up early anymore to put kids on the bus, or run them around here and there, maintain some semblance of a schedule. This will minimize the shock to your rhythm. Morning workouts, eating times, work, and sleep, are all important activities to keep on schedule.

Even without ADHD, being separated from your children is hard to experience. With ADHD, the disruption schedule can be detrimental. I like to prepare beforehand so that disruption is minimal. This also helps me adapt when they return.

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