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Living for the Weekend? Not Me! Too Many Choices to Make

Choice is overrated for those with ADHD. Give me a schedule and I am a happier camper.

I hate weekends. Actually, that’s not quite true. I don’t hate all of the weekend; I hate weekend afternoons — those long, idle hours of unscheduled, unplanned time. I like Saturday mornings. On Saturday mornings, we wake up, have coffee, and go to the farmer’s market, where the kids eat fried bananas and I look at the handmade jewelry. I like Sunday mornings. We wake up, have coffee, dress the kids in suit jackets and head off to church. After church, we stop at Publix, then brunch at a friend’s house. Then the mornings — along with their schedule — are over, and it’s the afternoon. Saturday and Sunday afternoons have no set plans. I hate Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Ennui sets in. I don’t know what to do. There are too many options, which means too many choices, so I panic. And in my panic I curl up and take a nap. Because, well, nothing solves anxiety like Xanax and a nap.

It took me a long time to figure out why I hate weekends. I mean, they’re weekends. We’re supposed to live for the weekend. I love my husband, and those are the days that I see him home all day. My whole family is together for more than a few stolen hours at the end of a workday. I should love it. I should crave it. Instead, I find myself dreading it. Finally, it dawned on me: I hate weekends because they have too many high-stakes choices, and I get panicked trying to negotiate them all.

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My weekdays are very different. We wake up. I drink coffee and write while occasionally parenting my children until nine a.m. At nine, or at ten or even eleven if we’ve slept exceptionally late, we begin school: first reading, then math with one kid and reading with the other; then social studies, then writing, and finally, usually, science. Next, I lay out the kids’ clothes. I get ready, then harangue the kids to get ready. I make lunch. Afterward, we have plans: a play date, a Target run, a gymnastics class. I try to stretch these things until my husband gets home. Then I’m not left with a long stretch of unplanned, unscheduled time. Even the idea of it makes me anxious.

I find this level of routine comforting. So do my oldest and middle sons, who also have ADHD (we don’t know yet about the three-year-old, though, with two ADHD parents and two ADHD brothers, we can probably diagnose on genetics alone. We have some variation, of course. Sometimes we read a lot, sometimes we read a little. Sometimes my younger son gets caught up in playing and doesn’t want to do reading at all. Sometimes school gets cut short in general because our afternoon plans start earlier. But, in general, we stick to our schedule. Everyone knows what we’re supposed to be doing when, and no one ever says, “Well, what do you want to do now?” Time passes quickly, very quickly. My seven-year-old says it’s “fun” to have this type of routine. I agree with him.

The flipside, of course, is that everyone falls apart when my husband comes home, because we don’t have a plan for that beyond him walking in the door. Usually he takes some time for himself, and I turn on the TV if it isn’t on already. Then I lay down. I lay down because I’m tired, but also because I’m pretty freaked out and my response to freaking out is usually a nap. Then he takes the kids. When I wake up, he asks what I want for dinner. As a fellow ADHDer, he ought to know better, but he always has dealt with less choice paralysis than my oldest son and me. When he asks what I want to eat, I trail off into a series of “umm…umm,” and start to freak out again, because I have no plan and can’t possibly choose between the things he’s rattling off at me.

The end of the night is always OK, though: We watch TV after the kids are asleep. I get our youngest to bed, and feed the dogs. He gets the older boys to sleep. And we watch TV. I find this comforting, this cuddling in bed, this flickering screen, this easy routine of ours. We’re usually in the middle of a series, so we don’t even have to pick something to watch. It’s already there, blessedly laid out, free and clear of choice.

Now that we know why I retreat to the bed on the weekends, we’re working on it. It seems like having concrete plans, laid out in sequence, really helps. I can’t have choices. I need, instead, a schedule. Maybe then I can get out and kayak instead of staying in and napping. Making a list of things I want to do really helps, down to a chess game with my oldest. I like times. I like order. But most of all, I freak out about choices.

[10 Ways to Build a Healthy Routine]