Bringing Up Baby: Motherhood with ADHD

Eight strategies for staying sane — and even enjoying yourself — as a parent with ADHD.

An overwhelmed mom with ADHD tries to do it all while taking good care of her baby.
An overwhelmed mom with ADHD tries to do it all while taking good care of her baby.

No one wanted a baby more than I did. I’d married at 25 and was eager to start a family. Seven years later, it finally happened. We adopted two beautiful girls, one arriving in 1985 and the other in 1988. I was in heaven. Or so I thought.

In those days, I had no idea that my challenges — distractibility, sensory overload, procrastination — had a name. I didn’t know that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder existed. I’d gotten through life pretty well, despite my symptoms.

Until the babies came. I became overwhelmed by the nonstop crying, lack of sleep, and days of boredom and/or chaos. I thought, at times, that I was losing my sanity. How could someone who wanted children so badly, someone with two college degrees (one in mental health, no less), be torn apart by the stress and responsibility of it all? Answer: I had ADHD.

Treating Symptoms and Scheduling Down Time

Upgrade your treatment. Neglecting your physical and psychological needs will increase your own stress, and you will probably pass it along to your infant. Sign up for counseling, if needed, and take ADHD medication, as prescribed. If you suffer from postpartum depression, discuss it with your doctor and get help. Hormonal changes after childbirth will affect moms’ moods and alter ADHD symptoms. Some women also find that their symptoms subside during pregnancy, only to return after childbirth.

Chart your symptoms — and delegate the things that seem too challenging or boring. If your symptoms worsen due to lack of sleep, encourage your partner to take over night feedings or diaper changes, so you can get some shuteye. If a wailing baby drives you up a wall, put on headphones and play calming music while comforting her.

[Read: Never Good Enough — The Emotional Toll of Motherhood]

Schedule down time. Getting through a normal day can deplete the energy of ADHD adults. The added stress of caring for a young child empties the tank quicker. Accept help from your partner, friends, and family, and don’t push them away because you feel you can do it all.

Take A Break!

Hire a sitter! This is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. A sitter allows you to take breaks, whether for a nap at home or getting out to visit friends.

Connect with other new parents. You’ll receive support and develop camaraderie that will help you through the tough times of child-rearing. Don’t compare yourself to parents who don’t have ADHD, who bubble over with happy talk about parenting. Chances are, they’re not telling the truth.

Go with your strengths; forgive your weaknesses. If you find creative ways to bond with your baby, forgive yourself for not being able to keep the nursery organized.

[Get This Free Parenting Guide for Moms & Dads with ADHD]

Go Easy on Yourself

Don’t stereotype yourself. There is no law that says you have to read Thomas the Tank Engine aloud five times a day. Find other activities to do. Take photos of your child or strap her into a jogging stroller and take off.

Let go of your guilt. If you find yourself wishing you were elsewhere, and childless, accept that as normal. Parenting is difficult for everyone, and tougher when you have ADHD. Remind yourself that these feelings are temporary. Parenting gets easier.

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