Positive Parenting

ADHD and Impostor Syndrome: Life as an Imperfect Parent

I don’t always pick the healthiest foods, or respond to my son’s ADHD tantrums with the kindest words. But I’m not an impostor — I’m doing the best I can to be a powerful ally for my child.

A screaming boy with ADHD, whose parent feels like an impostor sometimes
Screaming cartoon boy orange background

I often feel like an impostor. As a wife, a mother, a writer, a teacher, a Christian, I feel like I am waiting for someone to discover that I am not who they think I am.

I cheer on and encourage my son, who has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), ODD, and a slew of other behavior diagnoses, but I sometimes catch myself yelling at him in a fit of temper. My teaching job in an inner-city, second-chance high school might seem like a selfless act. Most days, though, I have to drag myself out of bed, and I silently kick and scream because I don’t want to go to my school.

I make the effort to provide my family with healthy dinners and lunches, sampling each category in the food pyramid. You know what else I do? I sometimes eat a dollar burrito on my way home from work because the salad I packed for lunch left me starving. And while I have a girl-crush on Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper, no amount of reclaimed barnwood decor will make my messy house look presentable. That might make me an impostor — or it might make me a warrior, fighting for my family the best way I know how.

How Our Lives Have Changed

When my husband and I met 11 years ago, when we were working at a camp for people with disabilities, we never imagined our lives as they are now. Like many people our age, we struggle to recognize the reflection in our mirror and to remember the dreams we once had. Long ago, we pondered whether we might be blessed with a child who had a disability. We knew we could love unconditionally. We weren’t prepared for what lay in store for us.

After over three years of seeking it, we finally got a diagnosis. Our son, who is six now, was diagnosed with severe combined ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and is twice exceptional. This was not in our “pretend scenario” for our life.

[Free Resource: What NOT to Say to Your Child]

Every day people stare, judge, reprimand, and assume. Rarely does anyone ask questions or offer encouragement without criticism. Our son’s disabilities are invisible and, sometimes, so are we.

On any given day, our son may be sweet and thoughtful, picking wildflowers for me on our walk and, moments later, yelling across the park that I am “the dumbest, awfullest mommy.” We deal with rude comments from strangers and tantrums in the cereal aisle. Our son sometimes hurls toys with his insults and death threats with his crying fits.

A Tough Combination

We have been barred from preschools, asked to leave daycare, left off of birthday party invitations. We often depart early from family occasions, even from church. When you pair ADHD with ODD, you get a kind of aggression that most people outside of our tribe don’t comprehend. And, truthfully, you don’t need to understand. Our kind of child isn’t for the average parent. If it weren’t for the few people in our corner, we may have fallen into depression, anger, and even family division.

We know that we don’t get it all right. But we know that we were chosen to parent our son. He can be loud and temperamental and emotionally unstable at any time. He is also kind and loving, smart and hilarious, creative and inventive. I am his mom, and I am a warrior for my son.

[How do You Recharge After Your Child Has a Temper Tantrum?]

Recently, we have quit jobs, found new jobs, sold our home and most of our belongings, and moved into a 36-foot camper, seeking the benefits of minimalism for our boy. We pulled him from public school, which, despite everyone’s efforts, was a guarantee of a daily meltdown.

I now teach full time, and I also write the curriculum and lesson plans for our boy, so he can get the one-on-one attention he needs from my homeschooling super-husband. Our son now happily tries new sports and activities. Homeschooling was our best decision.

I am not what others think I am, but I’m not an impostor. I am living my dream. It may not look like your dream, or the lady’s in the grocery line, with her unsolicited advice, but it is mine and I love it. I will fight for it.

[How to Advocate Forcefully for Your Child]

6 Comments & Reviews

  1. This article really spoke to me. It’s so comforting to know that I am not alone. I usually feel like I’m on an island in hell, but apparently I have a whole tribe!

  2. Thank you for writing this and expanding my tribe! I live with similar circumstances and have also chosen to homeschool my child. It is not for the weak of heart, but like you I try my best everyday. I applaud you for your courage and your ability to try again each day. Our children are worth our efforts and I can see the better person I’m becoming because of these extra challenges – with the exceptions of the days I succomb to my weaknesses, of course, but that’s when I need articles just like this to remind me to not give up. Thanks again!

  3. I cannot tell you how much I needed to read this. We adopted our daughter and after her adoption, she was diagnosed with a slew of behavioral problems, including an attachment disorder. I struggle every, single date to connect with her and I feel like a horrible parent. On the outside, everyone tells me how great I’m doing and how lucky she is to have my husband and I support her. Thank you for writing this article!

  4. Your honesty helps. I’ve felt like an imposter for many of the same reasons. I homeschooled three sons with ADD and autism. People always assume that I loved it. I did what was best for my kids. It was hard. I sacrificed my career to give them a chance at their very best future.

  5. Thank you so much for your article.

    Know that for every critical person who is bold enough to speak up, THERE ARE MANY MORE OF US who are QUIETLY ROOTING for you and have some understanding about what you’re going through (as we thank the stars it’s not our turn in the cereal isle). To really get it, you have to live it, and those who criticize don’t understand that they just got lucky.

    Meanwhile, you aren’t sure that all you do is helping… revisit all of the good things in each day and pat yourself on the back because your child is so fortunate to have smart warrior parents who learn and do all they can for him. Take credit because it is hard and you are amazing!

    Warrior on, Warrior Mama(and Papa)!

  6. Thank you for fighting for your children. Keep fighting!
    Forget about the ignorant, and loud.
    True love came in a “still small voice”…not from a loud-mouth. 😉
    Sometimes we just have to tell the lady in the “cereal isle” where she can stuff-it!(and all the rest for that matter.)
    You have a dream…They don’t…don’t expect them to be happy for you.
    They don’t have what you have…and never will.
    Your children understand all you have sacrificed for them, and appreciate and love you all the more. The loud mouths and the lady in the cereal isle will NEVER have that.
    As Pkjtove said “THERE ARE MANY MORE OF US who are QUIETLY ROOTING for you!”

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