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End of the Mother Road

With Enzo off to college, my ADHD struggles for structure.

Middle-aged woman with ADHD relaxing after her exercise routine
Middle-aged woman with ADHD relaxing after her exercise routine

When I became a mom, I loved being the one who would make the world come alive with my morning routines. Opening windows, making food, and getting the kid where he needed to go were powerful actions. But, on the other hand, I struggled with the routines. The early years were the hardest and the sweetest; the hours sucked, but I was well paid, with sweet smiles and toddler phrases. The last few were a different kind of grind.

When Enzo drove off to college (in his own car, which he had been saving up for since he was eight!), I had mixed feelings, as every parent does. Alongside the “Oh, my God, how will I ever live without seeing that face every day” was this thought: “Thank God — it was either him or me.

When he was a baby, little E was the cutest, perkiest little bright-eyed thing. Especially at six. Fricking. O’Clock. Mornings had been a different kind of hard since he forgot how to wake up. Since he started sleeping through the nice-mommy morning wake-up back-rubs.

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I had to invent the mean mommy, the passive-aggressive mommy, and the annoying mommy who would pick up his cell phone and start checking his text messages, because nothing wakes you up like that particular flavor of adrenaline when a parent is snooping. I mean nothing: not loud noises, not alarms, not light, not music, not having the covers torn off. (Except maybe squirt bottles. And I felt too guilty to do that more than once.)

The constant roller coaster of success and failure wore me out. When Enzo finally left, to a place he had chosen, to an idyllic college life that was made possible by 18 years of pushing and pulling by his parents, my own life as supermom and über parent volunteer (because kids of parents who volunteer do better in school), also ended. I worried like crazy, knowing how much extra attention he had needed from me. It was time. But was it really? Some moms never stop nagging. I didn’t want to be one of them.

Enzo loved being on his own! He loved being surrounded by friends, calling his own shots, and the challenge of having to rise to the occasion and learn to wake himself up or else. I loved being on my own, too. I could start work at 10 a.m., or at 5:30 if I felt like it.

But without the tight schedule of day-to-day parenting, I had to come face to face with my own ADHD, which I had treated with the stabilizing structure of motherhood. I watched some days slip away in busy-ness and distractions. On others, I rocked my life and blew my own mind. On the one hand, I finally found time to excavate notes from the past few years and research from ADD School, and to organize my desk files. On the other, I managed to completely overwhelm myself with new problems, new projects, and throw myself into work with the professional intensity that I had craved for years. (And now I’m tired.)

[13 Survival Strategies for Moms with ADHD]

It’s been a challenging year for us both. Of course, we all expected success, and we still do, and there are many scales with which we measure that. But out there is the reality that he may fail; a lot of kids don’t graduate. And there is the reality, every day, that I may fail, too. If I do, I’ll try to be a good example.