Guest Blogs

What I’ve Learned as an ADHD Mama

Scenes from my wonderful, crazy life with an ADHD husband and son – plus my own inattentive attention deficit.

A painting can be a good alternative book report
A painting can be a good alternative book report

I have ADHD, the inattentive kind. That means I didn’t spend elementary school leaping over desks and yelling out answers. Instead, I sat dreamily in the corner, concocting elaborate stories with my unicorn erasers and making what everyone called “careless mistakes” in pretty much everything.

“You’re so smart, but you have no common sense,” everyone said.

My husband, Bear, also has ADHD. He spent school acing classes he liked, failing classes he didn’t. He also has dyscalculia, so it’s hard to identify where the inability to do math stops and the ADHD begins.

Bear and I got married in grad school. We are two ADHD parents, with one ADHD kid (four years old), two as-yet-undiagnosed kids (three and one), two giant dogs, two fish tanks, a full-time job (my husband), an artist (me), bills, volunteering, dishes, and everything that makes up a normal American life. We’ve discovered a great deal about being an ADHD family.

Home improvement can take years

Our house’s previous owners looked at the gorgeous wood paneling and thought, “Some stripes would add a lovely je ne sais quoi. So they painted the panels in alternating white and eye-gouging yellow. Little known fact: “je ne sais quoi” is French for “a freaking circus tent.” We swore we had to repaint immediately. Two years later, we had done the kitchen. The den, where we spend all of our time, still looks like we’re waiting for the clowns to come — and to eat us, because clowns are scary. We bought the house seven years ago.

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

Without regular maintenance, a yard becomes a jungle

Did you know that pokeweed grows higher than the average adult male? Me either! So do thistles, apparently. You can also forget about compost bins for three years, and they will still carry on composting without you.

You need a mail-opening plan

Because otherwise both of us throw mail on the table and ignore it. Who are these people, who dare write letters? Now I toss the junk mail and pile the bills up for Bear. This system was years in the making.

You will forget trash day

You must try hard not to do it two weeks in a row. You will also forget recycling for a month, because you’re running for the garbage truck and don’t have time to do both. When you do manage to put out the bin, the beer cans and wine bottles will make you look like a household of seriously committed alcoholics.

If it breaks, toss it

I’ll quote the bad part of Brave New World: ending is better than mending. Because it will take you years to get to the mending part, and, in the meantime, the dead toaster takes up valuable space on top the refrigerator. You could be filling that space with wine.

[Are You a Mom with ADHD, Raising a Child with ADHD?]

You plan on preventive care

But then you forget those pesky wellness visits. I make them write the appointment on a card, and I lose the card. Or I set a phone reminder for the day before, then erase the reminder and forget. Oops. I do believe in modern meds, I swear. One day, technology will let me temporarily tattoo appointment times on my arm, or project them directly into my brain. I will welcome this brave new world.

I believe in coffee — coffee for everyone

Maybe not coffee, but caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. When other parents side-eye me for ordering my three-year-old sweet tea, I want to grab them and say, “Look. He has homeschool co-op this afternoon, and unless he chugs this tea, he’ll try to dance on the table.” OK, maybe I’m exaggerating. He’ll lie on the table and kick his legs and refuse to move instead (sorry, fellow homeschool mamas).

You’ll double-book yourself at least once a week and probably more

I will plan a play date when I have lunch plans. Or I’ll schedule a meeting when I have a doctor’s appointment. I am not standing you up for something better, I swear. This forgetfulness extends to regularly scheduled events, like weekly gymnastics class and co-ops. Not even the obvious is immune.

The dogs will learn to tell you they haven’t been fed

My two dogs discovered that if they prance and bark at the back door, I’ll say, “Oh, we need to feed the dogs.” Now they pretend they haven’t been fed, so I give them a second breakfast. My dogs have learned to lie.

You will never be able to find your shoes, a pen, scissors, a needle, a checkbook, or a pacifier

Never. I remember being five and swearing I left my shoes in one place. I found one in the kitchen and one under the bed. My kids do the same thing, and it’s infuriating.

Things that can substitute for scissors:

  • a steak knife
  • your teeth
  • preschooler-size plastic scissors
  • keys, if you need to stab or puncture something.

[Read This Now: Me and My ADHD Family — Happily Imperfect Together]