ADHD Moms & Dads

Confessions of an ADHD Mom: 10 Truths I Hide from Even My Friends

Dear friends, you are not the mom-shaming types. You don’t judge me for my impressive lack of punctuality or my uncanny ability to forget birthdays. Still, there are aspects of my ADHD parenting that I may never share with you one-on-one. Here they are.

A woman with ADD/ADHD sits on the bed in her room
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Sometimes I’m Too Ashamed to Tell You How I’m Really Doing

One hour and 7 minutes. The average mom gets 1 hour and 7 minutes to herself each day, according to a new study. That’s just over an hour for exercise and showering and generally not losing it. In other words, we’re all busy.

But even my busiest mom friends all seem to exist in a place where life runs on predictable paths, in predictable patterns. My world, on the other hand, is a chaos of running and shouting, of paint smears and glitter bombs, of things lost or left scattered. The big difference? Attention deficit disosrder (ADHD or ADD), of course.

I’ve long known that parenting a neurotypical kid is just plain different. Which is not to say my mom friends don’t have struggles of their own, but mine are different — and they might even make me ashamed sometimes. Here are the things I may never tell my friends about my everyday life with ADHD.

A boy with ADHD plays with Legos in a messy room
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1. My House Is a Wreck

There are LEGOs in my house. But not in the way there are LEGOs in most people’s houses. There are LEGOs literally carpeting my playroom, spilling to the living room, trailing down the hall. There is a fully built LEGO plane thing “decorating” my hall table. Beneath it, a high water mark of spare parts.

This is just one way my ADHD boys make it feel impossible to keep a clean house — and my sanity, simultaneously. If they don’t want it, they drop it — whatever ‘it’ is, and wherever they happen to be. Make them clean up? It works for a few minutes — they have ADHD, after all, and remain unmotivated in the face of threats, revocation of privileges, and even loss of toys. And I can only pick up so much. So my house looks like a proverbial tornado whirled through. And that tornado is my kids.

A mom with ADD watches her kids go to the car
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2. My Car Is a Rolling Garbage Truck

My kids insist on bringing things into the car. They are not so good at bringing things out. So my minivan is paved in a layer of books and toys, hats and coats (or towels, depending on the season). The piles become cemented with apple juice and cake-pop residue. Beneath it all is the Sprite my six-year-old forgot for two days and then spilled, in all its sticky glory. Under the seats, you may also find french fries and apple slices. And dropped popcorn — lots of popcorn. All of which they swear they will pick up.

And they really do intend to tidy up. They aren’t lying or lazy; they just forget. There’s a butterfly. There’s a package at the door to investigate. There’s a brother to unbuckle. And a sloshed drink stands forgotten until it molds and cements a library book to the floor. Not to the floor. To whatever detritus lays beneath it.

And that is why no one gets to see the inside of my car. No one.

[Free Download: Parenting Guide for Moms & Dads with ADHD]

A mom with ADD yells at her son with ADHD
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3. I Yell More Than You Do

No, really. I promise that, no matter how much you yell, I yell more.

I’m not talking “I’m angry” yells. I’m talking “Get your butt down here” yells. “Do you hear me” yells, and “Do you hear me now” yells. Of course, “If I repeat myself in a louder voice maybe you will listen to me” yells. And the occasional “Where are you? You wandered off again and I’m panicking” yells. I’m also guilty of “Oh my gosh, no, you can’t pee on that tree” yells. And more than a few “Be careful in the parking lot” yells.

When we hang out, we probably joke about it. You might think I’m having a particularly loud day. But I’m not. My voice just naturally gravitates to that register now. Because it has to.

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4. I Repeat Myself Constantly

You know how they (old ladies, strangers on the street, the clerks at Target) advise you to give a command to your kids once, authoritatively, and let the chips fall where they may? That doesn’t work in my house. The reasons for that are numerous, but the big one is called hyperfocus. It means that my kids get so involved, so zoned-in, so focused on something — be it a video game or a book or a block castle — that they literally do not hear me.

So I have to repeat myself again. And again. And then again, touching them while I do so, which finally, Cinderella-like, breaks the spells. If I ask for something once and they’re hyperfocusing, then I get mad that they didn’t do it, they get (justifiably) mad in return. “I didn’t hear you!” they huff. They aren’t lying. They really, truly didn’t hear me yell from 10 feet away.

A boy with ADHD plays with a tablet instead of cars
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5. We Are Those Unrelenting Screentime Parents

Remember how I mentioned hyperfocus? My kids will hyperfocus on old Ghostbusters cartoons for literally four hours at a time. Then they’ll shift the Roku over to Star Wars: Rebels and repeat the hyperfocus. We had to remove the 8-bit Nintendo because my oldest not only played it nonstop, he started throwing tantrums when he couldn’t. But my 4 year old is the worst. He begs for his sitter because she brings an iPad with her. He screams and screams when she leaves, because she’s taking the iPad away. He asks for his grandmother all the time — because she gives him games to play on her phone.

Because of this, their TV time is strictly limited. Their videogame time is almost non-existent. My 8 year old doesn’t know what Minecraft is. We’re trying desperately to keep it that way.

A boy and a girl with ADHD play outside
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6. I Turn Them Out Back Like Puppies

The best thing for ADHD kids? Sunshine and fresh air and creative outdoor play. Yes, all kids need outdoor time. But my kids become ungovernable if they don’t get it. So I open the back door, order them to put on their boots, and kick their butts outside. They build toad houses, play on the ninja line, flip and jump off the geodesic dome, bang on things with sticks, and generally play. If they say they have to pee, I tell them to pee on a tree. If they come inside, I fear, the indoors will absorb them.

If I don’t turn them outside like puppies, it’s because I’ve taken them somewhere to play. If it’s pouring, we go to the children’s museum. Otherwise, the outdoors is fair game to find tadpoles and frogs, to play in the dirt, to throw mud at each other.

[Five Ways for Moms to Grab Some Me-Time]

A boy with ADHD playing with a dog in the backyard.
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7. The Neighbors Probably Hate Us

Like I mentioned, we spend a lot of time outside in the front or back yard. Sometimes I’m out there. Sometimes I’m not. Regardless, my kids live life at top volume. They’re always yelling across the yard. “Look at my toad house!” and “Look, I found a stick!” On top of that, you’ll hear layers of screaming and whining when someone takes someone else’s spot on the ninja line, or pushes them the wrong way in the hammock, or accidentally-on-purpose drops on them from the geodesic dome. These things provoke a lot of noise.

On top of that, they’re yelling at the dogs, and shouting at each other, and shouting for me, and shouting at their dad, and shouting, shouting, shouting, because they are little boys with ADHD and they are outside.

Neighbors we have never met know waaaaaaaaay too much about our family. And I honestly don’t have time to care.

Little kids with ADHD and their mothercleaning toys after play
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8. Regular Consequences Don’t Work On My Kids

Say my son does something naughty — he hits his brother, or snatches a toy, or refuses to clean when we tell him to. Yelling does not help. My kids tune it out. Taking away privileges doesn’t help because privileges happen in the future and they live in the now.

As a result, in our house you will hear, “Clean up your toys. I will help you start.” Then we have to make a game of it. We might have to settle for cleaning, taking a break, cleaning, taking a break. When they hurt someone, they have to apologize and make reparations. The consequence connects to the crime.

This is not a holier-than-thou parenting technique I whip out at playdates to make everyone else look bad. It’s the only way our lives will function.

Empty children's playroom with different toys.
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9. I Beg People Not to Give My Kids Gifts

My youngest two kids’ favorite toys are a set of wooden blocks and some plastic dinosaurs. They have plenty of costumes, which they play with intermittently, and a kitchen set they adore. Beyond this — except for the LEGOs, of course — I could set fire to their toys in the front yard, and they probably wouldn’t notice for days.

But because they have all of these other toys, my boys feel like they have to play with them — and they get paralyzed trying to decide what to play with. Instead of being creative, they get stuck staring at a cluttered shelf. Clutter stresses them out. It makes them itchy and twitchy, gets them cranky and overwhelmed. They scatter it all over the floor, and now all the clutter has to be picked up. It’s a nightmare.

I beg people to buy my kids intangibles, like museum memberships or trips or gift certificates for ice cream. They don’t listen. The cycle continues.

A boy with ADHD watches TV
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10. My Kids Are (Thankfully) Behind the Cultural Curve

Kid culture is so insidious. Designed by marketing execs and psychologists, the sales messages are so powerful that my kids are sure to get snowplowed under. So we shield them from it. They have no idea what video games are hot. They do not watch popular TV shows (other than Star Wars-related ones), and they rarely see Disney movies.

This isn’t because we think all this stuff is evil and bad, or that other parents are uncaring monsters. It’s because, well, while a neurotypical kid could maybe resist the marketing temptations, my kids would get unhealthily obsessed. I see how Wild Kratts mesmerizes them, for goodness’ sake. I can’t imagine what Bubble Guppies would do. Our guard slipped once, and we let the youngest watch Paw Patrol. Now he screams and screams whenever we turn it off. Lesson learned.

This is not my sanctimommy coming out. It’s an honest appraisal of my kids’ capacities — not to mention my own.

[13 Survival Strategies for Moms with ADHD]

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  1. Thank you for having the courage to write “Confessions of an ADHD mom”. That was the article I wished I had the courage to write. Almost every single point rang true. The one that didn’t was about letting my child run around outside. I wish I COULD do that, but because my 14 year old son has a connective tissue disease, he is often too fatigued to run around outside, even if we had a backyard(we don’t). Because he has so many other medical problems, some things that might work for ADHD can’t be done. There truly is no road map to follow. I never know if his behavior outburst is due to :1-ADHD 2-Fatigue from EDS (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome ) 3-Fatigue from post-mono syndrome 4-Adolencent drama (my son calls it “ being an angst-y teen) 5- My over reacting because I’m a single mom who is also a guidance counselor and a psychotherapist( I tend to overreact a lot!). I wish I had a lot of mom friends to talk to, but, sadly, I don’t. I’m so exhausted when I get home from taking care of other people’s children that I have little to give to my own (highly gifted) child. I have one mom friend who sort of gets it, but I’m afraid to say too much for fear of overwhelming her. Life can get pretty rough sometimes, but it is the loneliness that is the worst. Thanks for showing me that I am not alone. My son, too, is “culturally behind” due to my having to restrict video games to a bare minimum. He is so academically advanced that he is often focused on school work, and he has friends who are similarly focused. Thank goodness he has friends. That has been a long, long journey, but, strangely enough, middle school was a fantastic turning point for him. His friends do play far more video games than he does, but he has finally accepted it this year, and he is ok with it. Now my deepest secrets are out in the open, thanks to your article. I feel much lighter.

    1. My son has EDS too. As one doctor recently explained to a doctor he was training, “He has the real deal.” Everything symptom or commorbidity that can accompany EDS does. He’s also gifted. Then the ADHD. Any one of these things by itself is enough for any parent to manage. It is exhausting. I also keep most of it to myself because I’m afraid of overwhelming friends. I’m also a single parent. Our similarities are uncanny. Thanks for posting. I have no idea who you are, but I wish you were my neighbor lol!!

  2. OMG!! Thank you for this amazing article. I had to laugh out loud because I was reading about my life. I go through every single point you have mentioned here, DAILY! except for putting my boys outside as we live in a flat in London, England so a) we dont have a backyard and b) the weather is crap most of the time. I have to admit that my sanctity is giving them technology as they are both incredible at it and it really keeps them happy.
    Thank you so much for making me feel normal in my atyplical world.

  3. Why is this tagged as if the mother has ADHD? She doesn’t. She’s a neurotypical mother parenting ADHD kids. This is horrible and shouldn’t be on a site for ADHDers!

    Look, parents, I don’t care. You do NOT have it worse than the people who actually HAVE ADHD. We’re the ones who get told ALL THE TIME that we don’t measure up. And this essay blames all of this mother’s difficulties on her kids.

    No thank you.

    1. I thought the post was great. Gave me lots of insight. Anyways, it’s not just us who deal with ADHD, it’s also the people around us. And I never subscribe to the “ You have to at least have it this bad and it has to look this close to what we have to complain or vent your frustrations.” Let’s just let everyone vent. Not good to keep it in.

      And it’s hard to say it’s always worse for us. For one, no one has ever told me I don’t measure up. In some ways it has actually made things easier for me. Easily getting bored pushes me onto new problems, ideas, and solutions. My brain doesn’t function on the same wavelength, and thus I’m less inclined to fallow peer pressure. Forgettfulnes has actual lead to me using a certain reminder system that keeps me incridaibly punctual ( though I need to get better with tasks).

      I don’t see how this is blaming the kids, it’s Like if a mother says “The baby kept me up all night,” would you say the mothers blaming the baby? I call it assigning the cause. And let’s face it, some kids are just easier (or maybe just diffrent) to raise.

      Lastly, I’m pretty sure this has always been an inclusive site, not just for the people who have ADHD, but also the people who want to understand it, and those who’s loved ones have it. Let’s support everyone.

    2. What exactly do you think you’re going to get out of the “I have it worst” debate? An award? Validation? An easier life? The answer is nothing. You will get nothing in return for winning a title of “mom who has it worse.” So quit trying and saddle up and instead of chasing a stupid title, develop relationships with people who may understand what you’re going thru. You mind find a different outcome.

    3. I’m an adult, and have ADHD. My wife and I have 3 amazing children, 2 of which have been diagnosed ADHD, and our youngest probably will be too (he’s too young for a diagnosis at this point).

      As both a parent of ADHD kids and someone with ADHD, and the lucky husband of an amazing wife and mother, I can tell you that yes, parents with ADHD kids (and especially those with an ADHD partner) do have it rough. I think it’s very important to understand the challenges of raising kids with ADHD, whether the parents are neurotypical or not. Communities like this are arguably just as helpful for people who need to understand it better as it is for people with ADHD.

      You suggest that we get told all the time that we don’t measure up etc – ADHD parents face the challenge all the time of wondering whether they’re measuring up as parents when their kids are running amok, when they’re constantly cleaning up after them, when they’re coordinating and organising activities, visits to the doctor/psych/therapist, educational assistance, when people question whether ADHD is a “real diagnosis”, or whether they’re just stuffing their kids with medication, etc… to suggest that neurotypical parents with ADHD kids “don’t have it nearly as tough” is myopic at best, and downright ignorant at worst. I’ve learned to adapt and cope with my ADHD, with help from medication, and if I had to testify as to who has it tougher in our household when it comes to raising kids with ADHD, it is my wife hands-down.

      I firmly believe that parents of ADHD kids have a better grasp of what’s going on in ADHD minds than coworkers, friends, and even other family members, and this site is exactly, precisely the place for a post like this.

      1. Thank you rtchau! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Take away one kid and our situations sound similar. My wife is the only neyrotypical person in our home. What does that mean? It means I’d we reduce the universe to our home, she is the neuroatypical odd woman out. I grew up with it, I understand the good and the bad, and I know my kids will turn out alright in the end. She, on the other hand, has had to adapt, and worries about the future of her children as they struggle in some areas. She does not blame us, and I do not think she would change us. At our house, ADHD is our superpower, not our Kryptonite.
        I would also ask everyone to go easy on Karalianne. We do not know what she has been through or how she has been hurt. (I am assuming “she” 50/50 shot, right). We all have been in that dark place and know how lonely ADHD can be. I still constantly feel like I am on the outside looking in most of the time. I choose to focus on the fact that it gives me a greater sense of objectivity when analyzing situations. While I disagree with her perspective, I can understand the place it comes from.
        I think the article was great! I found it relatable, and I AM a parent of ADHD children with ADHD myself. I used to think of it as a curse, but have found the gift within it. We are all at different points on that path to self discovery. Let’s all help each other get to where we are going. Karalianne, you measure up. You are good enough. Do not allow others to make you focus on the weak areas of your neuroatypicality; find your strengths (everyone has them) and build on those. Peace.

        1. I’m the nuerotypical Parent of an ADHD teen and an ADHD spouse. ADHD is neither a gift or “Superpower”. I have yet to find the positive within it. Non-ADHD parents shoulder the vast majority of the burdens of parenting, bread-winning, tutoring and running a household. Frankly, I’m impressed this writer has generally developed some good functioning for her family.

          1. Wow… I hope you find some wonderful gifts in your child and your spouse. As much of a burden as ADHD loved ones must be for you, perhaps you can take time periodically to focus on yourself so you can regroup and enjoy the positive aspects, like energy, curiosity, compassion or other common appreciated traits of many ADHD people.

    4. As a neurotypical mom with a child and a spouse that has ADHD, this isn’t easy on anyone. This website has helped me tremendously in understanding their experiences which have made me a better parent and spouse. Articles like this one make me feel like I am not alone. None of my friends have kids with ADHD so it is hard for them to understand my experiences so it really helps me to hear stories similar to mine. Parenting a child with ADHD is not the same as parenting a neurotypical child, to be frank it is a lot harder. I want my child to grow up feeling like ADHD is not a detriment but it is an advantage though so I will do whatever I have to do to try to make that happen. As a mom, it is hard to see your child struggling and being treated unfairly by others who don’t understand ADHD. We have had multiple family members dismiss ADHD because they think it is not a real thing. It is a different set of challenges for me then the challenges for my child and spouse but the way we see it, we are all in it together and it is not a contest to see who has it worse.

      I also think it is important for those who had ADHD to understand how it impacts those around them and their relationships. When my spouse was diagnosed, he had no idea how much his ADHD was impacting our relationship. When he understood that, we were finally able to work together on improving our relationship and make positive changes. I also relied heavily on this website to understand how my behavior was contributing to the problems we were having. If we didn’t take the time to understand and empathize with each others experiences, we would have been doomed. I am grateful for his ADHD because it ultimately made us have a closer in a way we probably would not be if we were both neurotypical because we HAD to put in the work.

      I have not been in your shoes, but I know it is hard and I know society treats people with ADHD unfairly. I see how much more frequently my child is in trouble because she can’t fit into the right behavior box at school. I see how it doesn’t much matter to them that her brain is different and that is why she acts the way she does, they still see her as just being defiant. I see that she doesn’t have many friends and sometimes this makes her very sad. I see how my husband being told constantly when he was growing up that he just wasn’t trying and always being in trouble effects his self esteem 40 years later. I may not have experienced it myself, but I see the struggle in everyone who has ADHD. I am so sorry that you have constantly been told you don’t measure up because that can be so damaging. No child or adult should ever be made to feel that way just because their brains are not neurotypical. Parents of kids with ADHD will support you, advocate you or empathize with you more than anyone else will. I don’t think this article is meant to make kids with ADHD feel bad about themselves, it’s for parents of kids with ADHD to understand that they aren’t alone. If any parent is on this website, I can bet that its because they love and and care about their child tremendously and want to make sure they are doing everything possible so their kids don’t grow up feeling like they don’t measure up. The more we understand each other, the better off we are. I hope you can get the support and understanding that you deserve.

    5. I re-read the article, and okay, so the author was silent as to whether or not she is neurotypical or not. However, who are you to judge and play the same superiority game?? Come on… Based on what I read, if she doesn’t know it yet, she will find out someday that she is in fact not neurotypical, and that is what is at the heart of her yelling and feelings of not measuring up herself. Parenting is not easy, no matter what. We are all diverse in our own ways, and no one is helping the world or themselves by trying to be a “neurodiverse martyr”. I thought the article was written from the heart of a mother doing her best, and needing some support to keep on keeping on, in the face if critics who think that she can, somehow, do differently, but offer no solutions – that includes you! Good luck with your martyr path – I guarantee there are folks who have it are struggling more than you and aren’t criticizing others to try to feel better.

  4. Hi Elizabeth

    As professed by many people with neurotypical children, parenting can be challenging. Add in ADHD into the mix, and our parenting struggles are not just different – they are multiplied, many times over.

    Like your other blog posts, “Confessions of an ADHD mom” resonates with me on many levels, being both emotionally raw and hilarious. I applaud you for your courage in so candidly sharing your ADHD parenting dramas with the world. These intensely personal stories have further inspired me to write about, and, finally share my own experiences with raising my three ADHD children.

    In the past, despite countless promises not to, I would constantly repeat myself and yell – a lot. My neighbours probably hated us for being so loud too. However, with daily meditation I now better manage my emotions, avoiding unnecessary conflicts, and feel less stressed at the end of each day.

    I also no longer feel so lost, or, alone in my parenting struggles. I am eternally grateful for the internet. Not only for access to relevant information, but, also enabling me to connect with parents like yourself and growing global ADHD communities. I look forward to reading more entertaining ADHD parenting, Elizabeth.

  5. It’s so important for ADHD kids and adults to play to their strengths and interests. As an adult, I can say that interrupting my hyper-focus mode is downright painful. I have at least 2 nephews with ADHD Innatentive type, both struggle with being prepared and on time, but in hyper focus mode they operate at genius levels. We need to stop trying to fit kids into a standard size box and let them show us the breadth of their true capacities. Make it fun, interesting, and they can create amazing things.

  6. This is literally me except the hour and 7 minutes. I probably get just the 7 minutes being I’m a single mom with a full time job and an hour commute. Two out of my three kids have ADD & ADHD. I also have ADD so it’s a hot mess! I thought I was the only one. My son stopped peeing in the front yard just before the summer lol. He always did it before I could say anything. I just wanted to say thank you for this article…it came right at the right time. I was in despair over the calamity in my home last night as I was getting to bed late after getting chatty kids to bed.

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