Parents are jugglers. Education, events, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, sports, chores, work–at any given time we’ve got several balls in the air. On top of managing all of this, women have to deal with the additional issue of cultural standards of motherhood that lead us to comparing ourselves to some idealized version of what being a mother should be. We all do this, and it’s harmful to our self-esteem and self-confidence. For moms with ADHD, it can be even more challenging to tackle everyday tasks.
Finding confidence as a neurodiverse mother
If you’re a neurodiverse mother, you might feel like you come up short next to neurotypical parents. What you need to remember, regardless of your circumstance, is that you are the best mother for your child. You have birthed or adopted them, you have nurtured them, and you have loved them to the best of your ability and within your personal resources. It’s time to stop looking at what you are not doing, and start valuing your authentic self.
Our kids are our greatest teachers, and the lessons we learn from them aren’t always easy ones. But, regardless of the ups and downs, the most important thing is to nurture our connection with them. We are often judged as parents based on how our children act and what they achieve, instead of who they are as people. Maintaining authentic connections with your neurodiverse child, and conveying your love for who they are, demonstrates what good parenting is all about.
Yes, you will get angry and frustrated. Yes, you will laugh and cry with them. And yes, this is what makes you a strong, helpful and attuned mother. Here are some helpful steps moms with ADHD can take to move towards nurturing authenticity in relationships. Let them also remind you of what a powerful mother you truly are.
Four ways moms with ADHD can nurture authenticity:
1. Notice your courageous behavior over the years.
It’s important to stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. You are the best mom that you can be given the resources that you have. As a neurodiverse mother with ADHD, it’s unhelpful comparing yourself to neurotypical moms or moms with neurotypical children. Everyone’s circumstance is different.
Reflect on ways that you’ve taken risks and done things with your kids that made you feel proud. What are things you do with your child that make you feel good about yourself? Is there a specific family memory that makes you feel happy? Have you advocated for them in a unique or special way, or have they helped you to be an advocate for yourself?
Write some of this down so you can keep it for the good times and the bad when it can really help you to reinforce your self-esteem.
2. The key to self-forgiveness is owning your stuff.
No matter who we are, we have our moments and slip up sometimes. Consider giving a genuine apology about a recent event as a surprise gift to your children and to yourself. Express how you are working on changing your behavior to change things in the future. And then work on it.
I have worked through many things with my kids, including my reactivity. I try to own my stuff as much as I can and they certainly let me know when I don’t. When I’ve done something that hurts them, I don’t make an excuse. I say, “I’m sorry that I did that and that I hurt you.” It helps to take the pressure out of a situation and to make everyone feel more at ease with each other. When you do this for your kids, you are directly modeling accountability. This is a crucial lesson in their development and can be so rewarding. Remember, we are all fallible, we are all human.
3. Show up for yourself as much as you do for others.
Many women think that being a good person is about sacrifice. We believe we need to prioritize others before ourselves. We give and give and give and then feel bad when we can’t give more. Because of this, it can be so easy to criticize yourself when you aren’t showing up the way you think you should. This isn’t good for us or our children, to see us stress about things in this way.
Sometimes, we moms try to control situations or people in an effort to fit our reality into our perfect picture in our minds. My inner critic often says to me, “You know what? You can do this better.” It’s debilitating because it makes me feel like what I do is never good enough. I know where it’s coming from in my family history. Have you considered where your thoughts stem from in your history? What would it be like to show up for yourself without judgment? What does your inner critic say to you?
For moms with ADHD, it’s important to accept yourself with your blemishes, quirks, and all. This takes mindfulness. What can you say to yourself instead of thinking so negatively? Vocalize and acknowledge the aspects of yourself–what works and what could be improved. Acknowledge the beauty in the balance. This helps fill up your emotional bucket.
Having difficulty focusing on the good? Keep a journal every night and write down three things that went well that day. They can be really small. It can be something as small as “I liked the stir fry at dinner,” or “My toothpaste was refreshing,” but it can move mountains in helping you to focus on the positive.
4. Nurture connections instead of solving problems.
As mothers, we can be quick to find solutions for our children’s issues. But it is very rare that people want us to solve their problems for them. Our children want to feel heard and assisted with their troubles, not necessarily told what to do. Meet your kids where they are and brainstorm solutions together. Use your creativity, energy and strategic thinking to guide both of you to options organically. Be an ally.
As a mother with ADHD, there are so many unique facets to your personality that aid you in being an adventurous and caring parent. Focus more on those instead of your limitations. No matter what, make sure to nurture yourself so that you can show up for your family. If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, you won’t be able to assist anybody.
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- Perfectionism and ADHD: Why ‘good enough’ is better than perfect
- Parenting Older Teens with ADHD: Land the helicopter and focus on scaffolding