“I am No Longer the Person Everyone Expects Me to Be.”
“I am teetering on the brink of an anxious chasm, fearful that the slightest puff of wind at my back will propel me into its blackness. This is not the usual me. So if you are struggling, feeling anxious, completely incapable of doing life to your normal standards, you are not alone. Not at all. I’m right there with you.”
I’m the mother of three kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are currently struggling to stay focused on schoolwork while cooped up inside. I’m also a children’s book author with a new title releasing right now that needs hoopla and promotions of all sorts. I’m a graduate psychology professor with 15 papers to grade. And I’m a psychotherapist who is professionally poised to help others manage their difficult emotions during these confusing times. Today, I’m also a blogger for this very website, asked to conjure some inspiration during this pandemic. And finally, I’m the wife of a very stressed working-at-home husband who needs me to handle the home front.
While trying hard to find words of wisdom for this piece, I came up with this instead: Right now, I can’t seem to do ANY of the above. I am teetering on the brink of an anxious chasm, fearful that the slightest puff of wind at my back will propel me into its blackness. All I can manage to keep my foothold on the rocky cliffs of sanity is a retreat into my fiction writing, where I am master of the world — in total control.
But, this is not the usual me. This is not the person everyone expects. I am the parent my children go to for help, the author with a second book (#CommissionsEarned) releasing, the fun professor everyone loves, the helpful psychotherapist and blogger.
Today, if I put on my psychotherapist hat, I’m not here to give you breathing exercises or remind you to get fresh air or physical activity, to eat well and keep to a routine. Today, all I can say to you is this: If you are struggling, feeling anxious, completely incapable of doing life to your normal standards, you are not alone. Not at all. I’m right there with you. And, it’s okay.”
There is so much great advice for homeschooling the kids right now. A lot of it having to do with keeping routines and finding creative ways to teach. If you’re able to do that, awesome. But here’s the thing: We have kids with ADHD and oh my gosh, it’s already hard enough to parent them when we’re able to send them off to school for a good part of the day. Now, we have to tele-work PLUS manage a routine for a herd of cats and try to corral hyperactive hamsters into somehow magically wanting to do schoolwork just because they’re doing it under a piano bench?
And because, as parents of kids with ADHD we’re already predisposed to feeling like failures, this is just one more thing to fail at! So, here’s the thing: Right now, it’s OKAY. It’s really okay to be not the best parent. To toss schoolwork out the window for a bit. (Your kid will catch up.) To accept the fact that your house might be upside down, that a lot of screen time might be happening, that you are sad and fighting depression, that you might be putting on weight because of your late-night rendezvous with the pantry.
Every day I try to cut myself some slack and accept the fact that right now I am not my best self — I’m not even my average self! If what I need is to retreat as much as possible into my fictional world so that my sanity remains intact, then it’s okay. My kids might fare better because they’ll need to rely on themselves. My husband might gain a new appreciation of my value. My students will probably love that I’ve become a super easy grader this semester. My poor little book might not get much attention — oh well. IT’S OKAY!
So, please take care of yourself however you need to. Don’t compare yourself to your Rockstar mom friend who adores homeschooling, is baking, and also sewing masks — you do you. Put on your oxygen mask however that looks and do what you need to do to get through this, and then — you will be through this. I’m hopeful that, in the not-too-distant future, life will return to normal, kids will return to school, and you may resume your role as an already-tearing-your-hair-out parent of a child with ADHD! And, that will be okay, too.
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