Cease Evaluating Your self to Others: ADHD vs. Neurotypical Mother and father
Stop comparing yourself
You scroll through Facebook and come across Carol’s new family portrait. It’s spring-like and set up in your perfectly furnished living room. There are coordinated outfits, real rabbits and everyone smiles – the works.
This is her tenth family staged photo this year. All sorts of thoughts are buzzing through your head. Obviously, Carol loves her family more than I love mine. It is organized in such a way that it gets everything done – and goes beyond!
You panic and look at your kitchen counter, which is filled with paperwork, dirty dishes, and things that you’ve wanted to put away for two weeks. You start to feel like a failure.
Look, I’m a parent with ADHD so I get it. I see you and I feel you. You are a fantastic parent. I know you absolutely love your family, but that doesn’t change the fact that parenting isn’t easy.
[Read: The Motherhood Myth is Crushing Women with ADHD]
Our executive functions are bogged down with endless tasks – heaps of paperwork to look through, sign and return; Coordinate calendar; Book dentist and doctor appointments; plus, birthdays, holidays, game dates and more.
Executive dysfunction is real
If we were neurotypical, all of these parenting tasks could be a little overwhelming at times. But we are neurodivers, so parenting is overwhelming all the time because our executive functions are not qualified for the job.
Let me explain.
Think of leadership roles as people who keep our minds going. In neurotypical brains, these employees are hardworking. You carry perfectly organized briefcases, use synchronized calendars and apps, and have color-coded post-its for everything. I envision them talking on the phone behind a desk, angrily taking notes, and getting things done quickly.
[Read: What Is Executive Dysfunction?]
But in ADHD brains, I imagine our employees are more like 12-year-old kids who mostly play video games and nibble on snacks in the office. I imagine their desks untidy and full of important papers covered in cheese dust. Post-its are stuck to the wall in the shape of a heart.
Now, with a teen running the show, how on earth are we supposed to compete with neurotypical parents? Especially those who plan themed birthday parties, coordinate outfits for pictures, and never get their kids late for school or activities.
We can’t keep track of things like neurotypical parents do – but do we want that too? And is it really that terrible to do things differently?
I often think of the old adage, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. “
In a sense, neurodiverse parents inadvertently teach their children to take care of themselves. In the end, the most important lesson they are likely to learn is self-employment.
This is what self-employment looks like
I now admit that I have never prepared school lunches for my children. I knew early on that it was a task that I didn’t want to add to my daily routine. At first I felt really guilty because your instinct as a parent is to believe that doing things for your child is equivalent to showing them love.
A well-packaged lunch is definitely a way to show your creative side. I know because I work at a school. Fancy lunches surround me. Some of these parents go out of their way to wrap lunch in cute little containers, cut the crusts, and make a loving note too.
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate all of this. It is really cute! However, I know that my children would inevitably be disappointed if they relied on me for consistently thought out lunches. Instead of taking this chance, I made her responsible for her lunch from day one.
Have you ever seen the meme of the kid who wears pajamas on picture day? Let’s face it, this child most likely has a parent with ADHD. The look on his face says it all – obviously this wasn’t his first rodeo. I would be lying if I said I had never forgotten a photo day – or two.
But now that my children are older, they know that they have to inform me immediately about the picture day and other important dates. They make sure I fill out all the forms and pay online if necessary.
Remember, children ALWAYS watch. My kids watched me write shopping lists dozens of times only to forget about them at home. My oldest, who is 16 years old, found a shopping list app and forced me to download it on my phone. It made a huge difference! On some evenings he also started cooking dinner because he didn’t like the fact that I am never exactly with my measurements.
Love can look different
I have a choice: I can sit here and feel like a failure for all my shortcomings. Or I can turn that into a positive. I choose the latter.
I am not saying that you should do nothing for your children or be a lazy, negligent parent. Above all, I’m telling parents with ADHD: stop comparing yourself to neurotypical parents. It just leads to unhelpful, insulting thoughts.
Also, please forget the idea that doing anything for your child means showing your love for them. Sometimes it shows how much you love her when you do NOTHING for her.
Children have to learn to survive and solve problems. They have to experience failure and disappointment and take responsibility for their actions. You also need to feel successful and successful. Doing anything for them takes away these important lessons.
Constant care and helicopter flights can also give children a false sense of security. You can’t be with them for the rest of their lives making sure everything is organized and enjoyable. It is unrealistic.
Are there other things that children need to learn? Respect, understanding, tolerance, patience and kindness. What better way to practice these qualities than with a neurodiverse parent?
Our children will learn that people – even their parents! – are imperfectly perfect. They will most likely have empathy and patience for their neurodiverse counterparts, and will be better at accepting the differences of others.
I know it’s hard to relax and trust that you’re doing a good job as a parent, especially when it feels like a constant struggle. It’s the toughest job in the world. But believe me, you are fine. Most importantly, you never give up. This is love
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: The Next Steps
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Updated June 7, 2021
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