Friday, April 29, 2011

A Mother Thinking About Mothers: Taking Care of Everyone Else

I, too, can get overwhelmed taking care of everyone else.

As mothers of these extraordinary sons and daughters with AD/HD we take on a demanding role– and, as I’ve written, and as many of you have commented, these young people just require more. More nurturing, more thought, coordination, patience and emotion.

Now add to this equation: Caring for ill parents (who may be living far away, requiring many plane trips back and forth), running small businesses, helping husbands with their strategy documents, handling major family issues that can span months, doing projects for special charities and interviews for our alma maters, helping friends who have suffered the loss of mothers or brothers. What time is left for us?

We deny ourselves, and as we do that, we subtly move further and further down the priority list: We don’t have the time to read more than the front page of our morning newspapers, or to sit and enjoy muffins – while the coffee is still hot, or sleep seven hours at night, without waking at 2:00 a.m. and chiding ourselves for everything we didn’t get done the past day.

We do significantly more parenting: Is it 25% more or 50% more? Then we are questioned more intensely and criticized more adamantly. On top of that we handle the usual family cares that other mothers handle. We say to ourselves, let me just finish the emails, do the research, make the doctor and vet appointments, pay the bills, get the faucet fixed, prescriptions ordered, taxes done and the invitations addressed. Then it’s time to call our mothers, and return belated calls to our friends, college roommates whose daughters are getting married, business associates who are trying to reconnect, and work on our languishing Facebook pages. (I couldn’t help but notice that as I’m writing this, I’ve been interrupted ten times.)

At the end of the day, there is no time left for ourselves, and we think, if only, we were more organized, if only things didn’t take as long, if only we had more time and less complexity in our lives. It is that persistent, critical, inner voice.

So, I must apologize for the silence and for not getting “pen-to-paper” or, rather, for not getting entries uploaded to my blog instead of having them sit almost-finished and dormant as Word files in my computer. Your comments and thoughts inspired me to keep writing. Thank you, Tammie, for asking if everything was all right. Thank you, Zoe, for saying I’ve reminded you to see the beauty of your child, and Michelle for saying this blog really matters.

So what better time to celebrate us than Mother’s Day?

I’ve thought about this a great deal: We provide the continuity, the energy, the definition, the structure not only for our children’s lives but also for our families’ lives. We are like the invisible force of gravity that keeps the stars aligned and circling in our personal family galaxies. Without us, the center would not hold and everyone and everything would scatter. Because of us, everything stays together, but our efforts, like gravity, are invisible. Surprise: If we do it right, no one notices.

But who in our immediate circle of family and friends actually recognizes the crucial and complex role we play? To tell you the truth, I don’t think they will ever be able to understand the enormous, instinctive and unrelenting sense of responsibility we feel. That sense of responsibility creates a high water mark in our lives; that is where our work begins and everything else is layered on top of it.

Although we can’t change the circumstances, I have four ideas that can help us: Be confident in knowing what you are accomplishing with your children. Start establishing some space for yourself and do something you love to do, as in my case, writing. Persevere in standing up for yourself. Don’t expect the others in our lives to truly understand. They cannot because their experience is very different from ours. Instead, seek out the understanding, the acknowledgement from other mothers who live this day-by-day. Where are these mothers? They may be our friends who also have children with AD/HD; they are the mothers in CHADD’s local support groups; or, mothers commenting here, as amherron who said, “we can share the laughter and tears that parenting these wonderful brilliant and oh-so-challenging children bring to our lives.”

And we can celebrate Mother’s Day knowing that there are many others out there who truly understand.

Happy Mother’s Day!