With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought I’d talk a bit about being a mom with ADD.
Did I ever tell you about the story…back in the day when my daughter was a perky, enthusiastic Brownie? This was years ago… She’d come home from her meetings and happily hand me a plastic baggie filled with Brownie badges. I was utterly proud of her, for she had (and continues to have) many challenges. I was ecstatic that she’d found an activity where she seemed (and that is said in very broad terms) accepted by her peers. Happy, that is, until I realized my duty as mother of the Brownie, included sewing the badges onto her brown felt vest.
Due to my nonexistent sewing skills, I was at a loss, particularly when there was little time to get those suckers attached before the next meeting. Not only have I never mastered the art of needle and thread, I passionately hate anything having to do with most domestic activities. It’s not that I’m lazy, but I’d rather be doing something creative or something that’s at least of some interest to me- and something I can do without too much self-criticism. Sewing is not one of those things. In fact, my kids knew at an early age to go to their father if they needed a button sewn back on.
Cleaning, organizing, cooking…all of these activities and chores do not speak to my strengths.
Anyway, with a dash of “brilliance” that first day of badge duty, it occurred to me that there must be other ways to attach Brownie badges to vests that don’t require the dreaded needle and thread. So…I took out my handy dandy stapler and began punching those badges onto Mackenzie’s vest, feeling awfully proud of myself for coming up with a unique accommodation for my sewing deficit.
Proud, until Mackenzie came home crying from school the next day, her sensitive, baby-like skin flaming red from the scratch marks those metal staples produced.
I plunged into the depths of mommy guilt. How could I, a two-time college degree earner, not be able to sew a simple piece of cloth onto a Brownie vest? Was it that I secretly and/or unconsciously hated Brownies because as a ten year old, I never ever would have joined such a group due to my own insecurities of not fitting in? Even at that young age, I knew I’d never produce projects that would cut the mustard, earning me awards and accolades, let alone a badge. I felt like a two time Brownie loser.
But back to ADD Motherhood.
I remember thinking of what a failure of a mother I was in other ways, too. School papers often didn’t get back to the teachers, signed as required. I refused to volunteer in the classroom because of my hypersensitivities to noise and commotion (and therefore felt I wasn’t doing my share of classroom duty). Every night, I prayed my kids wouldn’t ask me to play a board game or re-read Goodnight Moon for the millionth time. I did love to read but neither of my kids was a snuggler that could handle long stories or books. So it was non-stop repetitive Dr. Seuss, Hungry Caterpillar and other such books. I also couldn’t manage watching Wee Sing or Barney videos more than once without jumping out of my skin.
What was wrong with me? In those days, ADHD was literally unknown in women, so I thought I was just an incompetent failure of a mother. Now that we know so much more, it’s sad to see that many moms still feel this way, even when armed with information, treatment and support.
There is this ideal that we women try to strive for- the perfect mom with the perfect kids, baking pies and keeping the laundry in check (often while balancing a 40 hour work week). That just doesn’t (usually) happen too easily in ADD households. Actually, it’s hard enough when ADD isn’t part of the picture.
What we need to do, as moms with ADD, is to focus, of course, on our strengths. We need to focus on what we do well and get help for the things we struggle with. That might be a tall order for many women, but think of it this way: by doing so, you are modeling healthy behavior to your children. You’re teaching them that it’s ok to be who they are, whether it’s having ADD, diabetes, anxiety or a life-threatening allergy. You’re teaching them that there are work-arounds for most conditions: yes, they have to be addressed and understood, and they often require help from the outside- family, professionals, school, medication, etc. You, as a mom with ADD need to model how to ask for help. You need to show your children that you aren’t your ADD; ADD is just a part of who you are. It doesn’t define you and it doesn’t have to bring you to your knees (even if you feel that way sometimes inside).
Oftentimes, it’s best to recognize shortcomings and find alternative ways to manage things, like…hiring someone to help with housecleaning or finding someone who can help with math tutoring for your child. Who says it always has to be…you?
Thinking back, I didn’t give myself enough credit for all the things I DID do- things moms of typically developing children wouldn’t dream of doing. Like taking my daughter to weekly sessions for speech, OT, sensory integration, psychotherapy, let alone psychiatrist appointments, after school writing/reading programs and more. I founded a district-wide group for parents of children with special needs and led meetings with special ed directors, the school board and even helped organize rallies in the state capital, demonstrating for the rights of our special children. I called the big- and little- newspapers, updating them on the horrible education- and treatment- our kids received, often being interviewed by the press. All that, yet I obsessed mostly about my perceived weakness as a mom- that I wasn’t good enough, that I failed my children…because I took it personally that they refused to eat meatloaf or roast chicken. Or much of anything I tried to get on the table each night.
It’s almost Mother’s Day. Can you let go of one ideal mom- related responsibility that you WISH you could do well (or happily) and instead, accept- and embrace a workaround? Can you share one- or more- things you do well as a mom?
What might they be?
Leave your ideas or thoughts in the comment section below.