A while back, one of my daughters was diagnosed as having ADHD. I was shocked. I just hadn’t considered that diagnosis for her. But why not?
I had fallen into two separate traps on this one.
First, as a medical professional, I was thinking of the ADHD symptoms that are exhibited more by boys. High energy, sensory seeking, disruptive symptoms are not as common in girls. But, in college, I learned those symptoms were the ones to watch for. And in a school environment, those are the symptoms I was most often asked to treat.
I also fell into a thought pattern that I have seen so many parents do. I saw myself in my child. It is very hard to see that your child may qualify for a diagnosis. Especially if their symptoms mean that they are acting like mom or dad. If the parent is undiagnosed and used to living with challenges, they often don’t recognize the challenge in their child.
After the diagnosis, I started reading all about girls with ADHD.
I read about how the symptoms are different for girls. I learned about the challenges and gifts that come with ADHD. The more I read, the more I identified with what I was reading. It was becoming more and more clear to me that I am an adult with ADHD. In many cases my symptoms were mild. As a child, I was a daydreamer, disorganized and creative. As an adult, my daydreaming and creativity have resulted in actionable plans that helped me at work and in homeschooling.
However, every bit of organization I have in my life has been hard earned. In my youth, my room was messy because I lacked the ability to plan how to clean such a big mess. As a young wife, I was given a “month of housecleaning” as a gift a few times. I sat and nursed my baby and made note of what and how the housekeeper actually went about the job of cleaning a room. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, but that my efforts were often ineffective as my brain became distracted by the vast number of things that needed to be done. I would flit from one mess to another, never getting anything entirely clean, exhausted at the end of the day.
In my 30’s something finally clicked in my brain.
Now, when I focus on it, I can clean the house. However, I only have so much focus and energy in a given day. Most days my focus goes to homeschooling my children. I can still only clean a room one way, the way that housekeeper did it so many years ago. I still have periods where my house falls into chaos when my focus is aimed at something else.
My daughter says that I must be the happiest mom ever about an ADHD diagnosis.
I’m quite honestly thrilled to know that I’m not a defective housewife. I’m an adult with ADHD. I’m happy to blame my ADHD for why I can’t seem to use a planner like a normal person. Don’t worry, I’m learning to bullet journal. I’m happy to blame my ADHD for both the good and the bad of myself as a homeschool mom. The numerous times I have misplaced a book we just used yesterday or forgotten to get what we needed for a science experiment. Those were my ADHD working against me.
However, the ability to think of another way to teach something, and yet another way, those are gifts that ADHD has given me. I daydream in the car and come home and make up our own science experiments or think of the perfect craft to go with our unit study. And the ability to understand both my children and my friends when they say “I’m sorry, today I just can’t.” ADHD has given me that empathy. Sometimes, no matter how much you want it, your brain just won’t do something today.
I think of my brain like a car with many gears.
Some gears are good for climbing the hills and doing challenging things, some days those gears work great, and some days, those gears are just not available. Sometimes, my brain gets stuck in a certain gear, and I have to follow my brain’s focus, even if it wasn’t what I planned for that day. This means that school could be called off for the kids so that I can clean or write or even plan their next big homeschool project.
Some days, only the low gears work. Those days we read books, we watch documentaries, we cuddle and color. And I respect that some days my kids may not be able to use all of their gears. I respect that we need to make a homeschool plan that works for them, too. After all, they get it from me.
Respecting myself and finding what works for me.
This isn’t all to say that learning I am an adult with ADHD is an excuse to not do all the things that are important. It has just been a great reason to let go of all the mom guilt I was holding on to. All the ways I’m not like the other moms – my lack of organization, my messiness, my many unfinished projects – are no longer causing me to feel guilt. Realizing that ADHD is making the things that are hard for me extra hard has been liberating. I know that I’m doing great and whatever isn’t working out, I’m just going to blame on my ADHD.
Are you also a homeschool mom with ADHD or are you homeschooling a child with ADHD?
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