What’s Harder than Making a Thanksgiving Dinner?

Let’s start off by saying I’m now an empty nester (sort of) and when I visit my daughters on the weekend, I generally try and cook something for their dinners, to give them a break. The other week, I was unusually productive in the kitchen (those of you who know me and my work, might remember that I am not exactly Julia Childs. I can barely get a sandwich together.

But that night, I made up two huge dinners per kid. It took me hours because I have to read the directions carefully over and over again, as:

  1. I am not one who can just throw something together off the top of my head and
  2. I WILL leave out an ingredient or add things in the wrong order, or forget to set the oven, etc.

Finally, the feasts (casseroles and such) were done and I was so proud of myself for not having a meltdown. But.I was super exhausted, because my brain is an ADHD brain, and for things like this, it’s tasked to work 500% harder than a non- ADHD brain.

I wanted to collapse in the family room and (this is true) watch the Cooking Station, because I like science fiction. To me, seeing chefs throw things together is jaw dropping.

Then I realized that I had to pack up all that food for two different households. Not only was I physically and emotionally drained, I have this common problem seen in ADHD: I can’t figure out how to fit things together. I mean, what size containers would work for the casserole and what size for the chicken? I stared at the baking dishes, then looked at my containers and truly, I wanted to cry- I basically shut down. My brain could do no more.

My husband, who has a terrific visual brain in that he can picture things that aren’t in front of him, happened to be in close proximity to the sauce slobbered kitchen. I turned to him and basically begged him to figure out this huge mystery for me.

I’m lucky. We’ve been married for 40 years now, and he gets my ADHD (as best he can, anyway). It took him 30 seconds to pull out the right sized containers and to figure out which one to use for which dish and for which kid. Problem solved, and not a drop of sweat fell from his face.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving?

Here is my secret for getting through a holiday that is so food oriented: I ordered our upcoming Thanksgiving dinner from the local market. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Not for me and probably not for some of you.


Because next to cooking and storing food, the other difficulty I have is figuring out how to heat up food. Most of you have ADHD and probably understand exactly what I’m talking about. This feat requires planning, timing, paying attention, coordinating, and more. I have no idea how long and at what temperature one uses to re-heat cold food, especially when there’s so much of it.

I have ten people coming for Thanksgiving. Food pick up is at 5. Dinner is at 6. Do you have any idea how freaked out I am at the idea of knowing how to time the re-heating?

Luckily, I have two family members who can do this without a calculator, Google, or Alexa: my oldest daughter and my sister in law.

I’m saved.

Why is this so hard for me (and many of you)? Because it involves healthy brain executive function. And everyone with ADHD has some impairment with executive function. It’s about planning, short-term memory, knowing what to do first, second, third. The conductor of our brain orchestra is vacationing in Bermuda. And it’s an extended vacation.

The Solution

I’ve said this may times before and I’ll say it again:

Getting accommodations for your ADHD is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.

I ask my husband and daughters for their help. My sister-in-law is happy to lend a hand. The key to not dropping onto the floor, weeping about how “we should be able to do this”, is to understand our brain and how it works. We don’t point fingers at the hard of hearing who wear hearing aids; why do we do this with our brains?

So…I am encouraging all of you who are weary about the upcoming holiday (s), to come up with a plan.

  • Do you HAVE to cook a turkey (I am here to say that I have yet to cook an entire one)? Or can you cook something that isn’t as daunting, ie chicken legs? Or if it’s in your budget, why not eat out or order in?
  • How can you simplify your meal? What about a smorgasbord so that it’s not all on you?
  • Eat dinner out
  • Make it up. Go non-traditional and have a pizza party.
  • If you MUST do it yourself, plan plan plan: make your lists and follow them.

The point is, to make it work FOR YOU and your unique brain.

Let me know what your Thanksgiving plans are in the comment section below.

Till next time-

PS: Need help? Join my Queens of Distraction for the kind of support you need to stay sane in a non- ADHD world, at www.QueensOfDistraction.com .