“To Be a Good Mom, I Had to Reframe My Picture of Parenting.”
“When my son was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, I had to let go of everything I thought I knew about being a mom – everything except for the selflessness I learned from my own mother. That meant I had to completely reframe how I wanted to show up for my child.”
Motherhood is one of life’s most daunting and intimidating roles. Add on a very thick layer of ADHD, and the overwhelm factor multiplies.
For as long as I can remember, however, I’ve wanted to be a mom. I think it’s because of the light and love I saw and felt from my own mother, who exuded elegance and epitomized the term “mother bear.” Even in her sickness, and despite my own troubles in school, she made sure I had what I needed to feel comfortable and thrive.
So naturally, when I became a mother, I was excited to bring support, affirmations, and unconditional love full circle to my son, now 7 years old. To my surprise, the life-long lessons I learned about how to be a good mom — by giving kids space to think independently and to learn responsibility, for example — did not work on him. If anything, it feel like I was parenting in the Twilight Zone.
I’ve always been a self-starter. Even to this day, I despise being micromanaged – I don’t need anyone to remind me to initiate a task. My son, however, requires it. Without my prompting, nothing would get completed. Another example: I would get in big trouble if I returned home from school without my jacket or sweater, so I learned my lesson. My son, on the other hand, loses at least three expensive articles of clothing a year.
I eventually learned that my son’s behaviors could be symptoms of ADHD. But even with this possibility, I felt that his behaviors were somehow the result of being spoiled rotten. It didn’t help that others were always telling me that ADHD isn’t real, or that I just needed to be more strict with him. I concluded that I just needed to fuss at him about his problem areas, so that’s what I did.
I’d nag and shout to get my points across, or to help him stay on task. But this way of parenting was completely draining, and my son began to see me as a dictator, not a mother. I could feel our relationship straining.
When my son was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, I had to let go of everything I thought I knew about being a mom – everything except for the selflessness I learned from my own mother. That meant I had to completely reframe how I wanted to show up for my child.
I started off slow. I tried new discipline strategies, like having my son spend time in a calming corner if he had a meltdown. I then found myself letting go of the more reactive, impulsive behaviors. I noticed that taking more time to respond to situations gave us space for his ADHD, and provided me with the clarity to respond with patience and grace.
The guiding principle I’ve come to live by is this: The child you have is not the child your parents had. Our environments are different. Times change, and new ways of seeing come to light. Mental health and ADHD are less stigmatized, but we still have a far way to go. So let go of the preconceived “shoulds” and individualize your parenting style to your child and family. Doing so can very well bridge the gap from confusion and resentment to hope.
I can say with confidence that my mom parented brilliantly. My hope is that my son may someday say the same about me.
How to Be a Good Mom or Dad: Next Steps
- Download: 13 Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD
- Read: How to Process and Accept Your Child’s Neurodiversity
- Blog: “FYI: You Are the Perfect Parent for Your Child”
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