“I’m a Neurotypical Mom Who Loves My ADHD Family Fiercely — and Feels Awfully Misunderstood”
What’s it like being a neurotypical mom running an ADHD family? Loving their uniquely-wired brains is easy, but parenting and leading can be lonely. What’s a mom to do when her love is mistaken for control by her kids and spouse?
Dear Neurotypical Moms of Kids with ADHD,
Oh, how often we morph to accommodate the needs of our ADHD-brained family members. We build support systems. We advocate for them and empower them to advocate for themselves. We constantly juggle doing and teaching; rescuing and allowing failure; embracing and protecting; letting go and trusting the process.
Our role isn’t easy, but it is rich, meaningful, and impactful.
In service to our children with ADHD, we rarely receive gratitude for our enduring work; our sense of value and identity must come from within. This is easier on some days than others…
Living in Their ADHD World
Life with three ADHD-brained people (one spouse and two children) is a messy, creative, ‘beehive in the dryer’ (as we call it). In the midst of these swirling, constant, random-thinking brain waves, I can feel alone — very alone. I’m often the target of impulsive, even hurtful comments, but there’s no time to stop and lick my wounds. Moms must always carry on.
I offer listening, encouragement, and guidance while walking a tight rope of tension between understanding and supporting; becoming a mat or a rescuer. Let’s just say it’s a daily journey of learning.
I have spent years studying, refusing the labels, rearranging our family’s diet, investigating school choices, and spending thousands of dollars in alternative therapies. I’ve sought out integrative strategies to help them learn, grow, cope, and thrive socially, emotionally, and academically. The problem is that it took me too long to realize that they needed to want to address their own beautiful brain wiring and the challenges that accompany that gift. Wanting it for them just doesn’t work.
When my kids were young, yes, I did all I could to develop frameworks for their growth, but now that they are grown, they need to want to develop that support for themselves. That knowledge may seem obvious and logical, but it took me a long time to accept it as truth.
Along the way, I can honestly say that I’ve fully embraced and celebrated their amazing brains. Whomever came up with the label attention-deficit definitely did not have ADHD. Such a negative, inaccurate term…I find it ridiculous.
In those fascinating brains, there’s no deficit of attention. There is, however, one thing missing: the benefit of the doubt.
My Turn: Longing for Acceptance from My ADHD Family
My wish is simple: I’d like my family to not assume the worst about my brain — my boring, neurotypical, non-ADHD brain. I wish for them to see that all the effort — adjustments, support, and encouragement — come from a place of pure love.
It’s not about control, it’s not rooted in disappointment, it’s not my way of saying “I don’t think you have the ability to do this, so I will do it for you.” My actions, instead, come from a place of love. Not perfect love, mind you, but love nonetheless.
I have spent a lifetime discovering and celebrating their brain types. I imagine it would be amazing to feel embraced and validated for mine — for them to communicate to me that my way of approaching things is “okay,” too. For my family to stop seeing me as the “bad guy.”
The bad guy designation baffles and confuses my non-ADHD, list-making, fast-processing brain. I don’t feel superior to my children and spouse; I don’t intentionally wake up with a to-do list (organized in order of importance), or clearly laid out daily and future goals. It’s just always there in my brain.
I’ve learned to not talk about my list or mention whatever they are forgetting. I don’t remind them of things unless they are related to important deadlines or health issues. When I find myself subconsciously aware of their personal schedules (not my responsibility, I know) and I have an important concern, I know now to ask permission before interjecting and that seems to work.
God help me when my ‘delay filter’ isn’t working properly and I blurt out my heart’s desire… yikes! Instant misunderstanding, hurt feelings, overall family disaster. But sometimes in the rush to help, to protect, I’m unable to temper my love.
Neurotypical and ADHD Brains: Still Learning
In our family, there’s never an end to the learning. I trust we’ll continue growing together in this adventure of a family with mixed, unique, and amazing brain types. I pray that celebrating our differences will lead to deeper understanding of how we all tick. All moms want their children to be happy. I look forward to watching mine find the sweet spot in their relationships and work so they can live life abundantly and with great joy.
In the meantime, I’ll continue doing my best and working hard to parent them without too much pressure. I’ll try to remember to always pause before speaking; to encourage, empower, guide, and help only when asked.
But if I sense they’re going down, I’ll throw out a life-jacket without hesitation. I’ll ignore their protests, live with the consequences, and have no regret.
If they can’t embrace my brain wiring, that’s okay, but I won’t always be the one who changes and adjusts. I will advocate for myself and ask them to remember that I am also uniquely made and if/when my brain is too difficult to understand, to please see my heart.
Your heart, dear neurotypical mom, is for your child. Whether that is appreciated or understood doesn’t matter. You’re not alone. Keep loving your ADHD-brained child with as much knowledge, understanding, patience, and grace as you can. Keep nurturing that relationship but learn to let go when the time is right.
And know that one day you, and this world, will reap the amazing harvest you’ve cultivated in your beautiful child. It is worth it.
Updated on March 22, 2020