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“I’m Recovering from ADHD-Induced Mom Guilt”

Being a mother of a child with ADHD can strip you of your worth and make you feel like a failure. You might even feel like escaping—for real. The moment I finally reached out for help was the moment I started recovering.

Never in my plans for the future did I envision my firstborn having attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). I assure you that I could have never predicted how effective the disorder was at thwarting life’s happy moments and milestones. When I held my son for the first time in the hospital, I saw only love.

A decade later, I had become normalized to the emotional toll ADHD had taken on our family. It was like an invisible sledgehammer had taken a swing at every personal relationship within our home.

The effects of ADHD extend beyond the family. There is loads of destruction to be had outside the home. Take school, and church, and social gatherings, for instance. It rears its head without warning and usually when important or exciting plans have been made.

Parenting a child with ADHD morphs people who are supposed to be your allies into your enemies. Teachers, church leaders, and relatives lecture you about your child and how he’s not keeping up, or participating, or behaving like he should. You feel like hiding under the covers or moving your family to the other side of the States to live among strangers.

At your lowest, you dream up ways to escape the ones you love. You could check in on Skype if you had to.

[Could Your Child Have ADHD? Take This Symptoms Test]

Some days you’re so guilt-ridden you barely talk to your spouse. Your son is in bed with a stomachache for the fifth school day in a row. You’re in tears because his teacher is calling and lecturing you about his absences. She says that if he keeps missing school he’ll be too far behind to graduate with his classmates.

Your house is in constant disarray, and your other children seem to feed off the chaos. You crave social media because sometimes that’s the only escape. But then you’re deflated after seeing all the happily-ever-after posts.

Over the years, I’ve felt like a failure as a parent and as a professional because I haven’t been able to mold my son into the scholar everyone thinks he should be.

I worried that his teachers viewed my son’s below-average writing skills as a reflection of my own. I pictured them saying, “Oh, you write for living?” with a confused look on their faces.

[Free Webinar Replay: The ADHD Guide to Productive Parent-Teacher Cooperation]

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you might be wondering how you can pick yourself off the floor and start smiling again, naturally. This might come as a surprise, but while you’ve been trying to micromanage your child, you’ve been missing a piece to the puzzle.

It’s you. Your mental health needs help, too.

I never thought I’d start a sentence with “My therapist says…” but I sought counseling when I was at my lowest. Because I knew that if I didn’t help myself, I wouldn’t be able to help my son. It took me several sessions, but my therapist helped me to understand I was not alone.

She encouraged me to start journaling every day. Jotting down my thoughts and feelings in a spiral notebook (adorned with happy, multi-colored flowers) released my negative thoughts. The more I wrote, the more I felt the burden lift off my shoulders. I started practicing self-care, and spent many a night pondering my trials in a bubble-filled tub.

I started a blog about life’s fearful moments, because fear prevents us from changing. I went from being in denial, to being angry, to being scared of what others would think if I announced my son’s diagnosis to the world.

Then I realized: What did I have to lose?

I started spending more time reading to my son at night. Even though his teacher told me a sixth-grade reader should be self-directed, I went with my gut.

Those Fablehaven-filled nights increased his self esteem, and mine.

Oh, and I prayed. A lot. As a Mormon who has been taught to ask of God when in need of direction, I’m embarrassed to admit I’d been neglecting to pray for myself. I have to warn you. It’ll be hard for the first few months. You might feel ashamed that you need help and secretive about the help you’re getting.

Eventually, you’ll feel strong enough to share your story with others.

[Read This Next: “I Can’t Do It All”]

17 Comments & Reviews

  1. Chantelle –

    Thank you for your article and the honest expressions of your journey. I’ve never commented on an article before, but today is different. Just hours ago my youngest son (a twin) got news that he passed the GED. His twin had passed two months earlier. This is after many attempts at trying to negotiate the difficulties of high school and the emotional realities that obscured their actual abilities. They were diagnosed ADD over 12 years ago. We have struggled as you have. We are Mormon as you are. We have prayed and sought counseling as well. Please know, your article was a comfort to me as we end one journey and begin another.

    1. Hollis,

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so happy to hear your boys have finished their GEDs and are ready to move on up in the world! That’s a big accomplishment for kids who have struggled with school over the years! It gives me hope that my son will be able to do the same! I wish you and your family the best in your future journeys together!

  2. Reading your article was like reading a write-up of my own life. Thank you soo much for the tips and the advice. Most days I am ADHD’d out from explaning, reasoning and researching. I look at my 11yr old gorgeous boy and ask…why him? I made my peace with it ages ago and made it about him and not me but the guilt and anguish does creep in and the frustrations too. Its nice to know that I am not alone on this road and there is tangible help from people like you. Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your kind words! It took me a long time to move past feeling sorry for myself (and my son) and start to view his disorder in a positive light. I mean, I still struggle with his negativity on the daily! But like you, I’ve researched the heck out of this and understand it so much more. Understanding his brain has helped me accept that his ADHD is out of my control. It’s a trial he’s been given and will have to learn to manage over time. Yes, that means he’s different in many ways from other kids his age, but different can be good!

  3. Like the two comments above, I, too, thank you Chantelle! I am in my 50’s and have no children yet was compelled to read your article. Something you said jumped off the page: “…because fear prevents us from changing.” This is my current ADHD dilemma. I have had multiple jobs through the years, and am fearful of returning to work. To do what? Part-time for now or try full-time to fail yet again? Your article helped me to know to present this fear to my therapist and get help with the crux of the problem. Thanks to my tribe! Peace and blessings to the 3 of you.

    1. Thank you for reaching out! I’m happy to hear that my article has helped you find some clarity! I really do believe that fear robs us of those life-changing moments that can bring us joy in the future. It takes some serious guts to put ourselves out there, to leave our comfort zones, and make a change. But I believe in you!

  4. hi im a 36 year old single mum with 2boys my son who is 7 has just been diagnosed with ADHD i never thought there would be anyone out there that would understand i find myself many days and nights crying because of the stress n pain of it day to day life is chaotic and a struggle i feel guilty because im to scared to take my boys on days out because of my sons behaviour in pubic i hide away so i don’t have to see ppl staring n saying what a bad mum i am and how i should be ashamed of myself so i hide myself away

    1. Hello! Thank you for sharing your story of mom guilt and grief. Believe me, I know exactly how you feel. Ashamed, embarrassed, uncertain of the future–these were all feelings I felt and still feel from time to time. I can tell you are a great mom who cares about her children. The hard part about parenting kids with ADHD is rising above the sorrow and accepting that this is the way their life will be, and finding ways to help them manage their behavior. I still have days where I cry and feel sorry for myself, like when my son was caught in a lie by my co-worker. It gets old making excuses for him all the time, but I feel like I have to explain the reasons behind his actions in hopes that he can be better understood in the future. Keep smiling and know that it does seem to get better with age. I’m here if you need to talk!

  5. Hello,

    Thank you for writing down in words and describing what sounds like my daily life struggles. My oldest 13 yr old son was diagnosed with ADHD since kindergarten and has been in IEP and 504 plans. My now 8 yr old is also showing signs of same and let me tell you with school life and family life our day to day can be very chaotic and negative and frustrating. From school calls, meetings and counseling sessions for them ive neglected my own mental health. Reading your article helped me realize to not feel guilty all the time and strengthen myself in order to continue to help tjem in their journey. Thank you and blessings 🙂

    1. Yes, self-care is so important! I want to tell you that although this is an extremely rough phase in life, things will get better. I know it doesn’t feel like that in the moment, but every year I see changes in my son that help me to know he will turn out just fine as an adult. The fact that you care enough to read an ADHD blog and to comment shows that you are an amazing individual who cares about your child. Every time you feel overwhelmed or judged, just remember that God loves you and knows all about your family situation! It’s the trials in life that make us stronger!

  6. This was a great article after the rough weeks we’ve had. My 8 yr old was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and depression. It has effected every are area of his life. I quit my job to home school him last year. He won’t go to primary anymore so we sit in the foyer and get “the looks” as people wonder what is wrong with my child. We find ourself attending less family activities because the passive aggressive comments on his behavior are too much for me. He has some good days and some bad moments. I feel like this has been a uphill battle that he and I are climbing on our own with a potpourri of mental and emotional dealings still unknown to us. This article gave me a reminder of where I should be looking for real help and the steps I need to be a better person before I can be a better mom for my son. I wish you were in my ward so I wasn’t fighting this alone. 😉

    1. Thank you so much for commenting on my post. I completely understand how much your life can change when you decide that it is necessary to quit other things in order to focus on raising your child who needs extra attention and support. It’s so hard and so lonely. Especially in public situations, like church and school functions. It’s hard to feel like everyone is judging you and whispering about you behind your back. I’ve got your back, friend! I wish I could be there with you to sit in the hallways at church and to vent frustrations when times get unbearable. My son is now 14 years old, and every year, he matures and life gets easier. Hang in there! You are an amazing mother and God sees you. He knows you by name and you will be rewarded for the constant love and support of your child.

  7. I’m glad you were able to seek help for your feelings. I can’t help but wonder how your child would feel reading this, though. This would be a great private journal entry or even something to share at a support group, not on a website. Particularly not on a website that has a duty to support people with ADHD, not belittle them through woah-is-me, mommy-martyrdom.

    1. Wow, that is a very hateful response. Let’s not forget that this is a judgement-free zone. Unfortunately, mom shaming is alive and well in 2019. It is my hope for you that you’ll be able to move past being fearful of expressing your opinions publicly and share a few of your own stories. Not only is it liberating, it is very helpful to other moms and dads who are struggling with raising a child who has ADHD. Try worrying less about the opinion of others, and more about healing yourself. My son is an amazing individual who has in fact read my blog post. We have discussed the feelings that we both had during that difficult time. You should never chastise another parent for sharing their personal experience with others.

    2. I had the same thought. The parents’ feelings are certainly topical. At first, this article struck me as addressing the authors social embarrassment, shame and FOMO regarding her child with ADHD. That’s real. Our feelings are our feelings and we can benefit from sharing them with others. That said, embarrassment, shame and FOMO aren’t feelings the child with ADHD can use for their benefit. Quite the contrary. I assume the author’s kids aren’t reading the article and author doesn’t air the burden she feels directly to her child, so no harm no foul. Parental sharing and venting is to be encouraged so long as it’s not at the expense of the child.

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