There I was, sitting on the floor poring over every study and article I could find on how Adult ADHD can affect parenting. I was preparing to present on the topic at the CADDAC conference on ADHD in Toronto May 30-31, 2009.
My husband walked into my office, took one look at the explosion of papers surrounding me, and asked, “What the **** happened in here?”
With all the various angles and possibilities to cover — after all, ADHD is no one-size-fits-all condition — it felt overwhelming.
Top-Of-Class-Attorney? Meet Parenting
A few days later, with the presentation finally Powerpointed, I met a 40-something mother with ADHD. She said she also felt overwhelmed—by living the topic I’d only been writing about.
This top-of-her-class attorney had adjusted fairly well to her first child’s arrival seven years ago. Four years later came her second daughter, the sweet-faced little spitfire whose photo she proudly shared with me from her iPhone. That’s when this stay-at-home mom’s organizing skills—tenuous, even at times humorous, since childhood—hit the skids.
Setting off on her errands after dropping the oldest at school, she’d often find herself inexplicably off-course. Instead of mailing items at the post office and grocery-shopping, she was sipping lattes and cruising the toy-store aisles. At first she attributed her distractibility to being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of raising a family. “But honestly, ” she said, “plenty of other mothers are doing much more, and with less stress, it seems.”
She’d also noticed that she and her husband, who’d always gotten along so well, now often squabbled.
Those “Quirky” Behaviors Had a Name
Finally, in classic ADHD inter-generational style, her daughter’s teacher mentioned a significant problem with “daydreaming” and disorganization. That prompted her husband to read up on ADHD. He found apt descriptions not only of his daughter’s but also his wife’s “quirky” behaviors.
“I think I’m a good mother, a very loving mother who truly enjoys her children,” she told me, “But I’m not the mom with the organized closets and the weekly meal plans. In fact, if you peeked in my closets, you’d think, ‘What is she, crazy?'”
Newly dumbfounded by the recent revelations about ADHD, she wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge that it might be a problem for her. She did admit, however, she was tired of expending so much energy to get through the simplest household tasks. “And I worry,” she added, “about how I’m going to help my daughter stay organized and work with the school on helping her.”
This mom has a good foundation for tackling her challenges as well as her daughter’s. She has a supportive spouse, secure income, high intelligence, low defensiveness, and access to good resources.
For many respondents to the ADHD Partner Survey, however, co-parenting with a partner who has late-diagnosis ADHD poses larger challenges. Like ADHD itself, the issues are all over the map. The survey looked at several aspects of co-parenting when a parent has ADHD, which we’ll explore in future posts.
ADHD Partner Survey: Co-Parenting
For now, consider the responses to these questions in the chart below to gain a sense of some hot-button issues among ADHD Partner Survey respondents.
As with all things ADHD, we clearly see variability. That’s because ADHD is a highly variable syndrome, and adults with ADHD are not clones. When ADHD interferes with parenting, it tends to be in areas such as inconsistency (as with rules and punishment) and mood dysregulation.
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This post first appeared May 22, 2009.