Most times, when I see “ADHD” and “mom” in the same sentence, it’s not about being a mom with ADHD, but about parenting a child with ADHD. I know this is a reality for many, and I’m in no way discounting the experience of others, but I’d like to make sure that people remember that this is a condition that affects more than just children.
This is what it’s like for me as a mom with ADHD raising a daughter.
On the worst days
My floors are never perfectly waxed. When I fold clothes, I know I’d never make it in retail because I don’t have the bandwidth to focus on whether or not it looks pretty when I shove the laundry in the drawers. Sometimes my kid stays up with me way past midnight playing Minecraft on her iPhone while I hustle to meet a freelancing deadline (Chill, we homeschool, and no matter what time she goes to sleep, she always gets her eight to 10 hours of dreams). Sometimes I am jumpy and irritated in between doses of my ADHD meds and I yell or disappear in my own head until my brain slows to a pace we can both handle. Even on the bad days, I always tell her that I love her. And I thank her for being my wish.
On the bad days
I realize that my ADHD gives me special insight into my daughter’s challenges with high-functioning autism. There happens to be a lot of crossover in how both she and I handle overstimulation, any kind of change (read: We hate it until it happens and then we gush about how we knew we’d love it), and even how we both find the written (or typed) word easier to use as our means of communication for the tough stuff. When she can’t sleep because she's worried about some day in the ever-so-distant future when her daddy and I are only with her in spirit, I don't ask her to talk. I just get in bed beside her to snuggle up, and we text the words we can't say.
On the better days
She asks me all the questions. "If the center of the Earth is molten lava, why isn’t the rest of the world burning?" Or "Mom, do you ever just find yourself questioning what you’re doing with your life?" Even if I am busy, I stop and I answer because I know her world feels safer with each piece of precious knowledge gained.
And for the record, the answer to the first question is "not before Mama’s had her coffee, child." The answer to the second is "Every. Single. Day."
She looks relieved when I say these things, probably because at 10 years old, she already knows and appreciates the difference between the answers adults give kids because they think they need to hear them and the ones we give free of any and all BS.
On the best days
These days are not perfect. They never are because life is beautiful even with all its imperfections. But the best days are the ones when I don’t second-guess whether I am enough for her. If I am doing enough for her. I don’t wonder if I would be a better mom if my brain was wired differently because I know that this is who I am, and she tells me I am perfect. I tell her I love her now and always just the way she is, and she knows this is true. Maybe, too, on these days, dinner is late or overcooked. Maybe I forgot to vacuum up the dog hair yet again. But it’s OK.
Sometimes being a mom with ADHD feels like a burden she must help carry, and I feel guilty, but it's OK, she says, because we’re even. She slows me down when the ADHD tries to move me so fast I almost lose my footing. I reach in to help her reach out when her autism tells her it’s too hard to try. That’s what love does. It makes us even.