“Today, We Will Give Ourselves Grace.”
“As a mother with ADHD, I am extra sensitive to the pressure of all the invisible, unrecognized labor necessary to keep my family running smoothly. But the very skills with which I struggle are the ones I supposedly need to be a “good mother.” This combination results in feelings of guilt and shame when I come up short. In these moments of immense pressure and overwhelm, I am learning to give myself grace – probably the most important coping tool I have.”
I forgot to order copies of my daughter’s First Grade school photo.
No one was particularly surprised. Since becoming a parent, I’ve gotten used to being “that mom” – the one who has to sheepishly ask the other moms in the playgroup for a diaper because I forgot to restock the diaper bag the night before or the one who mixes up times and shows up late to their kid’s first soccer game. I’ve packed lunch on pizza day more times that I’d like to admit, and I longingly await the day when my kids are old enough to remember the dress-up theme for each school spirit day instead of relying on my spotty memory.
Despite all this, forgetting to order my daughter’s school photo really got to me.
It’s an understatement to say that motherhood brings a whole host of responsibilities and expectations. Mothers, it is assumed, will take charge of everyone else’s schedules and needs. We know (or are supposed to know) when school assignments are due, and when to pick up new boots before our kids outgrow the current pair. We are expected to deftly plan and balance meal plans and daycare schedules, remember birthday presents for classmates, and pack extra pairs of mittens. Holidays and parties require minor degrees in event planning. And God forbid the tooth fairy neglects to pay a visit.
To top it off, moms are expected to share (and compare) our kids towering accomplishments and coordinated holiday jammies on social media. We post smiling photos of our new babies with monthly milestone stickers. “First day of school” photos mark special milestones, all marked with stylized chalkboard designs listing the child’s favorite things and future aspirations.
Most people associate ADHD with difficulty paying attention and staying still, but symptoms often go far beyond that. It affects skills like planning, prioritizing, organization, time management, and working memory that we need to pull off motherhood day in and day out.
As a mother with ADHD, I am extra sensitive to the pressure of all the invisible, unrecognized labor necessary to keep my family running smoothly. But the very skills with which I struggle are the ones I supposedly need to be a “good mother.” This combination results in feelings of guilt and shame when I come up short.
Motherhood is its own kind of difficult – the most challenging role of a lifetime.
As a university student, I was always able to compensate for my difficulties. I somehow always rose to the occasion, with my hyperfocus bringing me over the finish line many a time. I used the same strategies when I worked full time before children. If I was distracted and unable to focus at the office, I could finish my work later at night in home and in solitude.
None of these coping strategies was feasible once I became a mother, and the added responsibilities, constant interruptions, and sleep deprivation hit the fan. Apart from day-to-day parenting, I also worry at times that my precarious relationship with basic life skills might set up my kids for failure.
Mornings are often the most hectic time for me. Preparing for work while rushing my children through their routines and getting us all out the door on time often leaves me exhausted well before the start of my workday.
On one particularly difficult morning, I woke up to a mountain of dishes left in the sink as I scrambled to pack for the day and dress my 2-year-old son, all while my 6-year-old daughter whined and dallied brushing her teeth.
Standing in our narrow front hall, the sound and sensations of my children chattering and moving around as I tried to remember whether I’d forgotten something essential put me in sensory overload.
I began to chide and cajole my children to hurry up. As I looked at my watch, I felt the familiar worry that we might be late – again. But, of course, my daughter chose that moment to tell me that, despite owning several winter hats, she had no idea where any of them had gone.
I made a choice in that moment to stop. As I looked down at my daughter, I calmly placed my bag down on the floor and sat down on the stair step. “Come, give me a hug,” I said. My kids, surprised, both climbed onto my lap and snuggled close.
“Aren’t we going to be late?” my daughter asked.
“Probably,” I admitted. “But let’s just sit here for a minute, and then we will look for a hat.”
In that both short and vast space of time, I chose to connect with my children. In doing so, we were able to build each other up for the rest of the day. In that moment of immense pressure and overwhelm, I also learned how to give myself grace. As a mom with ADHD, it’s probably the most important coping tool I have found.
We eventually found a suitable hat and hopped into the car. I chose to take my toddler to daycare first, even though I knew that meant we were going to miss my daughter’s school bell.
As I pulled into the school parking lot, my daughter seemed happier, calmer, and brighter.
“Today,” I began to say to her before we got out of the car. “We will give ourselves grace.”
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“Well, we’re late,” I said. “We should try to be on time, but sometimes, mornings aren’t easy. We should do our best, but some days we can do better than other days, and today, we will give ourselves grace. We will try again tomorrow.”
We may arrive late to school occasionally despite our best efforts, but my daughter is learning to give grace to herself — and to others as well. She helps me find my keys sometimes as we rush out the door, and she is the first to help a friend who is having a hard day. These are critical skills in my book.
I may be missing a school picture, but I love the candid snapshot I took with my cell phone at the park the next day, showing my daughter smiling ear to ear.
Being a Mom with ADHD: Read This Next
- Read: Never Good Enough – The Emotional Toll of Motherhood
- Read: The Motherhood Myth is Crushing Women with ADHD
- Blog: “We Live in the Upside Down Now. Grace Is Pivotal Here.”
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