When I was a kid, I was a daydreamer, but no one knew it. I sat in the classroom quietly and obediently. My teachers always said nice things about me. No one ever guessed I could have an Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD). I was too well-behaved and I got good grades.
Many years later as an adult, I thought to myself, “I bet I have ADD.” I always misplaced my keys, my phone, my purse. I left drawers and cupboards open all the time. I started one project, only to start another and another, until I had multiple unfinished projects everywhere. I never fully paid attention in any lecture, training or workshop. I would zone out during every staff meeting.
I assumed I had ADD but never followed up. I had got through life just fine. That is, until one day…
My journey as a mom with ADD began at work. My daughter was four and my son was two. I worked at a full-time, salary job. I was under the pressure of having to remember so many important things, not-so-important things, interesting things and not-so-interesting things. It’s those boring, not-so-interesting things which are my constant downfall!
I was great at my job, but I regularly forgot to do one really boring task which only took about 10 minutes daily. I tried calendar reminders, Post-It notes and more. They helped for a little bit, but nothing stuck long-term. One day, my supervisor told me, “I don’t want to have to write you up over this.” That was the moment I committed to getting an evaluation for ADD.
My life improved once I got an official ADD diagnosis. Prior to the diagnosis, I had lots of mom guilt and stress. A professional diagnosis is what helped me finally give myself permission to explore how ADD impacts me. Suddenly, it made sense why things felt so hard! Motherhood changed. I now had realistic expectations for myself. I practiced self-compassion. I created effective systems to reduce the chaos in my life. I was empowered!
I finally accepted there are some things most moms are really good at, but I’m just not. For example, because I have ADD:
- I’m horrible at keeping up with laundry and other house chores, (there’s clothes sitting in the washer right now from yesterday that I forgot to put in the dryer, whoops!). Even though I can create these great systems of organization, my follow-through stinks!
- I get distracted very easily and so I don’t do well at keeping my kids on a schedule or routine. “Alexa help me! Set a reminder at 8 p.m. for bedtime.”
- I am so impatient. Kids are supposed to take a long time to do things, but I can’t handle the boredom of playing games, teaching them something new or even just being cool through a tantrum. “We’re going to do something else now. Mommy can’t handle this.”
- I forget things, really often. “Uhhh, we have to go back. I forgot the diaper bag.” or “Oh no, I forgot to send you to school with your snack/book/homework.” Also: “Where’s your jacket? What do you mean you gave it to me? Oh right, you did, where did I put it?”
Before I accepted ADD as a real issue, I felt guilty that I didn’t keep up with household chores, for being impatient, for forgetting things, for not being able to stick to structures I knew would be good for my kids. And at times, there’s still a little guilt when I mess up, but I’m confident I’m doing my best and am always improving.
I see all the ways being a mom with ADD benefits my kids. Like, I always have mental energy for fun. We are always going places, trying new things and having adventures.
People with ADD have the ability to hyperfocus on interests and because I love creative endeavors, when I plan something, everyone is guaranteed a good time. Family biking trip? I’ll map out a great route with all of the places we should stop for sightseeing and lunch. Trip to Disneyland? We will hit up everything each person wants to do/see in two days, no Hopover ticket necessary. Movie night at home? Let’s make Reeses Pieces milkshakes for ET. Themed birthday party? Absolutely, I can’t wait to make a piñata to fit the theme.
But even though I am great at planning things out, I’m also good with flexibility. With my ADD, I’m used to things not going right and I’m resilient as a result. I’m an out-of-the-box thinker and I hardly worry about things. I take shortcuts for everything (mainly because lots of things are boring).
If there’s an established way to do something, I will find a more efficient or less time-consuming way of doing it. Like potty training for my kids didn’t really involve any training. Every now and then I just asked, “Do you want to use the potty?” and both of my kids eventually wanted to and then they did it. Also, when my kids needed to learn my phone number, we just plugged in numbers to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song and that worked great.
Further, my ADD brain remembers lots of random details. Sure, I can’t tell you where I put that check I need to cash, but I remember how you like your burgers cooked and your topping preferences, where you’re from and whatever else you might have done or told me when we were hanging out. I also remember those details for my kids and this helps me predict what they need and what’s going to bring them joy. I know they feel loved.
Even though I have shortcomings others won’t understand and may even judge me for, I’m okay with it. In fact, I am happy I have ADD. There are so many positive things about my ADD which make me unique and I view these as my natural strengths. My journey as a mom with ADD is a great adventure for which I’m so grateful.