Not Neurotypical: A Survival Kit for ADHD Moms

It may not be pretty, but we have our own way of getting through a day.
All Together ADHD | posted by Elizabeth Broadbent
Parents with ADHD

Elizabeth Broadbent, this month’s guest blogger, is a mama to three sons aged four and under. She dropped out of academia to procreate and to spend too much time tie-dyeing. A certified educator with Babywearing International, she still misses teaching freshman English. Elizabeth blogs at Find her on Facebook at manic pixie dream mama or Twitter@manicpixiemama.

Every ADHD parent learns to compensate. Faced with disorganization, difficulty focusing, habitual lateness, and distractibility, we can’t function the same as those darn neurotypicals. So we come up with ways to work through, around, or straight over our disability. It may not be pretty. It may not be convenient. But we’ve all been there.

Super Messy House

The best way to compensate sometimes is to not compensate at all. And for some of us, that means embracing the chaos. Cleaning house is like scrubbing sand out of the Sahara, we figure, so why bother? Forget washing the baseboards. You can’t see the baseboards. As long as you can keep your sanity amid the clutter, you might do well to make “Bless this Mess” the family motto.

Super Clean House

The pendulum swings the other way on occasion. Your house must stay clean, or everything will fall apart. That means scrubbed walls, stowed toys, and swept floors. Martha Stewart might not live there, but you’ll do your best to make it look that way. You’re the person everyone else sort of hates, because you make it look effortless. They don’t see the eye-bulging terror with which you banish every molecule of dirt.

House Full of Stashed Stuff

Your house looks clean, and you work hard to maintain the veil of deception. Your house isn’t clean; you stash stuff everywhere. You keep shorts under your kid’s dresser. You store gift bags under another dresser, and plastic swords in the linen closet. You probably have a room no one, not even God, is allowed to enter. That’s where you keep your master stash. It could be tools. It could be IKEA bags and brooms. It could be Christmas ornaments. But you never let anyone enter it, because then they’d know you’re just a filthy hoarder.

iPhone Calendar

This saves your life on a regular basis. You enter everything into it, because if you don’t, you won’t manage to get anywhere (that includes recurring weekly events, like gymnastics or soccer). You set reminders for everything; in fact, you set multiple reminders. If you lost your phone, you’d lose your entire life.

Friendly Reminders

You rely on the kindness of friends to remind you about your own life. An aside from a friend reminds you about a play date; a gentle nudge gets you to practice on time. Your friends know you can’t remember where you’re supposed to be when, and they take it on themselves to help you out. Now, if you can only remember the reminders…

Blind Panic

It’s Monday afternoon at 2:50, and you just remembered soccer at 3:00. You live a lot of your life in blind panic, trying to remember where you’re supposed to be and when. It’s not a coping mechanism so much as a lack of one, but we’ve all been there. No matter how good your other strategies, you’ll resort to blind panic at least once a week.


Admit it: You’re a junkie. Whether you’re filling up a Starbucks card or riding the Red Bull, you start the day with a coffee or tea and keep going from there. Sure, it’s addictive. But you freaking need it. It helps you focus, remember, and generally not lose your crap on a regular basis.


You’re a toe-tapper, a pencil chewer, and a leg-twitcher. It’s hard to sit still, and you’re always on the move, even when you’re not. The fidgeting may drive other people crazy. You’re probably not even aware of it.

Checking Your Phone

It’s an immediate hit to the reward center of the brain — and a new and interesting thing just a click away. Smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter could have been designed for ADHDers. You have to be careful not to scroll when you’re having a conversation with someone. Phone etiquette is hard, y’all.

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