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!



  1. Thank you for this inspiring piece; I am wondering if there are any resources for parents raising ADHD children who are also adopted and the extra challenges that brings?

  2. I read this... and just to know that there is somebody else that lives and understand what we (as mothers) goes through, I feel like crying out loud. I'm an immigrant single mother of two and have no relatives here, but we can and will make it. Happy Mothers Day!!!

  3. Thank you, you must have really known how much I needed this today, even though we've never met.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you!
    I've searched but didn't see anything, so I'm asking some of CHADD's experts for help. Will let you know.

  5. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you, again. To tell you the truth, I really needed to express these emotions,too!

    I'm glad this helped -- and you should be very proud of what you are doing, raising those two children by yourself. All the best to you.

  6. Thank you for this wonderful acknowledgement that I needed after a hard day. The role we play in the lives of our special needs children will always be pivotal to their success. No way around it. The work is never ending and challenging. At the end of the day I am grateful that I am able to do it. Some days are better than others. I always learn something new and have gained tremendous insights. Thank you very much.

  7. This could not have been more timely. There is ADHD on one side of my caring circle and Alzheimers on the other. God does move in mysterious ways and your blog has touched me. Thank you

  8. Thank you for writing. I often also feel disorganized, like my time is not my own with two ADD teen children. Good to hear that it's not all me - that ADD kids DO take up more of my time. And looking for those ways to get past some of the negativity and look for positive ways to motivate and help them deal with life's struggles.

  9. Thanks to CHADD for showing me this blog post. Thanks Nadine for writing. I will be following your blog. No, I don't think anyone else will understand the weight of the responsibility we carry and how much it hurts when our precious little ones are so misunderstood.

  10. I am truly blessed with a mother who does acknowledge all my hard work, if it weren't for her support I don't know if i would still have my sanity (regardless of my son and I's psychologist & my husband)

  11. Thanks for this. It calls to mind... I'd love it if some experienced parent of kids with ADHD could do an off-the-cuff list of things they think they did "right" as their kids struggled through the most difficult phases of childhood and/or tips on how those of us still wading (no, waddling) through the early years of their kids' diagnosis (in the dark) can know we're doing an OK job. How do you even know? There must be "signs" that, in retrospect, these parents wished they had taken comfort from!

  12. Thank you! I needed to hear this today and everyday. As I was reading this I thought YES, YES, someone else "gets" it! I have two children with ADHD and it's a struggle on a daily basis. Thank you once again!


  13. Oh boy! Did I need to read this! Thanks so, so much and Happy Mother's Day.


  14. I'm a mom with ADHD parenting 3 sons, 1 of whom also has ADHD. Since there is such a strong genetic component to ADHD, I think my experience must be quite common. I admire you for what you've accomplished, but my own journey has been very different. God has been the glue holding my family together. He's brought people, learning and resources my way and blessed my imperfect efforts. Any other ADHD moms out there parenting ADHD children?

  15. Dear Anonymous May 3 at 1:02 pm,
    Check out You can benefit from their books, newsletters, and webinars even if you can't attend in person.
    From another in the same boat.

  16. Nadine,
    We are just beginning the journey toward understanding with our 10-year-old son who was recently diagnosed with ADD. I am thankful to have found the CHADD site and specifically your blog.

    It is frustrating that other parents don't understand our unique situation and I sometimes feel like I'm failing our family. Your words were just what I needed to hear at this particular moment in time. I plan to come back to the site often to learn more about CHADD resources.

    Thank you again, and Happy Mother's Day to you too!
    A Florida mom

  17. Hi Everyone,
    When we have those hard days (and more of them than we deserve), just write those days off. I believe if you say,"this is not working; everything is going wrong, and I'm just going to forget about today." Give yourself the permission to do that and not feel badly about it.

    Regarding a list for parents, please check out CHADD's excellent and reliable resources that you can access directly from CHADD's homepage:

    -- "Especially for Parents" button, (left side)
    -- "Attention Magazine" and the online "Attention 2.0"
    -- "The National Resource Center on AD/HD"
    -- "Understanding AD/HD"
    -- "Finding Support"
    -- Expert Chats

    You have to spend a little time exploring this site and returning and exploring more. Susan Buningh, the executive editor, has made this a treasure trove of information. Also, this is the key resource I always used!

    As far as an off-the-cuff list for parents, I'm working up a list of my own. How do you know you are doing something right? When there is that brief moment and your son or daughter understands, and you say to yourself, "It is worth it."

    1. Thank yo so much for sharing you post, Nadine, you are such an encouraging mother! I do not have a child with ADHD, but I do have a daughter with Autism and let me tell you it seems like everyday is a new challenge. I get so burned out trying to care for my daughter, I feel so guilty! Because I feel like a terrible mother, I have found sites like helps me create the time I need to be a good parent to my child.

    2. I raised 2 ADD kids, gave t my all and feel totally fulfilled by the experience! I am SO proud of my kids turned adults.
      Now my daughter is 6+ months pregnant and is clearly carrying a hyperactive child. She feels like a human trampoline which is exactly how I felt.
      Do you have any thoughts about dealing with a hyperactive infant? She's already being told that it must be just her perception of the baby. For mst of his first year of life, my son seldom slept more than 5 out of every 24 hours. So ADHD can play a huge role in the early days of infancy!!

  18. Thank you for this informative blog Nadine!
    It is a big encouragement to me, since much of my family lives out of state. I homeschool our two beautiful children whom we've adopted internationally. I've learned these past couple of years how to better help them both with their AD/HD and help them to understand more about it in these "Tween" years. In doing so, I've found some answers to my own undiagnosed adult ADD issues. There is help out there for families like ours! We are getting ready to put our home on the market and move. Yikes! But with our faith, I know we can do it, if we just take things one day at a time! Looking forward to reading more of this blog in later days!
    A South Carolina mom

  19. I have a son diagnosed with ADHD 5 years ago and it was a sad fact that I have to deal with. He has not undergone therapy or any medications to let him focus but I did sent him to a special school that provides behavioral management program for special children. It was a relief to see a huge change on his behavior.