One of the most prominent ways that my ADHD surfaces as an adult is feeling easily overwhelmed.
When I say overwhelmed, I mean at simple, everyday life-things, like a serious pile of dirty dishes, or too many errands that need to be done in one day. This is precisely why parenting with ADHD is a challenge, but one that I don’t often own up to—because these are regular aspects of my ordinary life.
In a moment when everyone seems to be talking about—and accepting—the “introvert” parent, for example, no one seems to fully embrace or even discuss the ADHD parent. Perhaps it’s because we can’t sit still long enough to address it. (Ha!) Seriously, though, my ADHD is frequently the single most important factor in my parenting.
Don’t get me wrong, though—it’s not the limiting factor. Parenting with ADHD is difficult, sure—but it’s also rewarding for both me and my children.
However, the following are what help me overcome this feeling of fear and frustration, and also help me to be real-life productive.
1. Do one thing.
What’s most difficult, as someone with ADHD, is that we logically know that chores need to be done one step at a time, but the awareness of multiple steps can be so daunting that we don’t start any at all, much less finish the task at hand.
Forcing myself to find one small way to tackle the issue head on helps—and doing this tiny, initial start, for me, often leads to completion.
For instance—the dishes. I tell myself—when the entire kitchen looks like every dish in my house is dirty and there’s food everywhere—that I’ll just empty the dishwasher. Easy, right? But then, before I know it, my mess is entirely cleaned up.
This is also why parenting with ADHD is unusually rough—parenting, and stay-at-home mothering, asks us to focus on many things at one time. Stereotypically in our nature? Why, yes. In actuality, though, it’s detrimental to our state of mind. I have no easy solution, but I will offer that I find, again and again, that focusing on—and then forcing ourselves to do—that one small step is critical to overall success.
2. Acknowledge feeling overwhelmed, but don’t become consumed by it.
This is essentially the same thing as my frequent saying of wallow briefly—and then pull your head out of your ass.
Oh, God, this one sucks for me right now.
I quite seriously went to an ADHD therapist who specialized in, essentially, my brain, in part so that he could explain to my husband how huge sleep is to me and to how I function. (This three-way discussion helped tremendously.)
Because sleep is ginormous for ADHD people and, as parents, our sleep often stinks. Regardless, we need it. Even if this means going to bed earlier than preferred or asking our partner to help out when the kids wake up at night.
4. Stop freaking texting and calling everyone back.
I’m a horrid friend. I’ve lost touch with many of my friends because, at one point, I realized my scattered parental energy was scattering even further because of things like texting and social media. So I stopped.
I became—somewhat—okay with being that asshole who doesn’t always text back, and I learned that someone has to have that last text, but it doesn’t have to be me.
I am also decently alright with not talking on the phone unless it’s pretty much an emergency.
Do I like it? No. It makes me feel like a reclusive extrovert. Still, when I ceased feeling like I needed to text and call and email—especially as an extrovert—the whole world, my life became so much more chill just like that.
Side note: Your real friends will still be there. More, they will understand this need during this, ultimately, one small space within your life as a parent.
5. Exercise in small amounts.
Exercise is absolutely crucial for ADHD individuals, much less moms and dads.
I’m, frankly, the type of person who could workout for hours, but I can’t because, you know, I have small children and I’m home with them all day. So! I’ve learned to work out incrementally.
I do yoga sun salutes and a few other postures for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I have small weights that I use while the kids are watching a television show. I might do 10 minutes of Pilates in the afternoon and 20 more a little bit later.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t exercise for real (i.e. with my husband watching the kids), but it does mean accepting that, for me and my body and brain, a little bit is typically all I need to boost my mood and feel grounded and centered.
6. I accepted that I am the Tasmanian Devil.
Okay, maybe you aren’t, but I am.
I am a whirlwind of, sometimes, chaotic energy and a ball of excitement. Every time I go “normal” places, like to the grocery store with my children or even to our local optometrist, I feel like the Tasmanian Devil—we whirl in, my kids and I—and ferociously blurt. (Or, this is how it feels internally sometimes.)
I blurt verbally or even energetically—not to sound foo-foo weird, but we do often have high energy levels—and I’ve slowly become alright with this.
I am the Tasmanian Devil.
Hear me roar—or snort.
7. I feel like the loudest, least popular kid on the playground.
Perhaps relevant to my previous share, while irrelevant to you personally—I’ve found my own slogan recently: I am the loudest yet least popular kid on the playground.
As an actual child, I always got “talks too much” on my report card. As an adult—well, probably nothing has changed. And I am loud—I have no inside voice. As a parent, I accept societal norms and try to teach my (particularly, my youngest) child to have an inside voice, but, honestly, as a female with female children, I refuse to shame them for being loud the exact same way I was. Be loud. Roar and snort on.
8. Take potty breaks.
All jokes aside, I find that I repeatedly am down on myself for ADHD-related parenting qualities—like that burst of temper or just generally not being able to relax into parenting—so I take pee breaks. Or mommy-timeouts if you are wanting to be more graceful.
Sincerely, asking my husband or my parents when they visit to watch the children so I can pee alone can, unexpectedly, be a make-it-or-break it point in my day.
We need to give ourselves more breaks. (Yes, I’m also speaking figuratively.)
Which is why I’d like to add on a few reasons why ADHD parents are the best.
9. I haven’t forgotten my child-like wonder.
I enjoy the feel of the tickle of grass on my skin and understand why my kids are obsessed with this when we go outside to grill in the backyard.
I love the sensation of bubbles up my nose from a drink and the burning fire of putting too much sriracha on my food.
In short, I am in touch with my senses as an adult—which kind of makes me a rad parent.
10. We are good enough.
For years society has told us we are not good enough. Primarily as women, just admitting that we have ADHD is difficult.
I’ll admit something else: I can be overwhelmed by myself.
I can be overcome by my emotions and by my driving thoughts—like how I have to finish this article before my husband comes home from taking the kids to the store—but I’ve learned to love myself, exactly the way I am. Learning to love myself is a skill that I hope to pass on to my children, whether they turn out to have ADHD like I do, or not.
If you have found a “secret to success,” I’d love to hear from you in the comments.