Mothers of ADHD Children Have More Than Their Share of:
Each morning, Pam stands over seven year old Joey, prompting him to drink his juice, take his medicine, keep eating, stop teasing his sister, stop talking, sit down and keep eating, and so on. Pam knows from experience, that if she walks away for a second, Joey will be up and out of the kitchen, a time-wasting-chase will ensue, he will miss the bus, and she will have to drive him to school, causing her to be late for her appointment. Joey has ADHD.
Each afternoon, Susan sits next to her ten year old daughter, Angie, providing gentle prompts, to help her stay on task. If she didn’t, the one-hour worth of homework would take three, or more, hours. Angie has ADD, and all too easily drifts off to the many daydreams floating around in her head. Susan leaves her daughter’s side for five minutes to take a phone call. When she returns, she finds Angie, head down on the table, twirling her hair. When Susan asks her daughter why she stopped working, the daughter answers, “I don’t know.” It takes Susan another twenty minutes to get Angie back on track. This means dinner will be late, pushing back the nightly routine, and bedtime. Susan knows this lost time will likely set off a domino effect, impacting the rest of the week.
Maria receives her third phone call in as many months, to pick her ADHD son, Tommy, up from school, because he is suspended for the rest of the week. Not only is Maria’s day interrupted, but so are the coming days. Maria’s boss is not happy and let’s her know her job is in jeopardy.
Each evening, Tricia stays up well past her own bed time, monitoring her teenage ADHD children, Alex and Dawn, through their night-time routines. If Tricia went to bed, and left her children on their own, Alex and Dawn would be on their computers until three or four in the morning, not be able to get up on time for school, miss the bus, and possibly stay home all day, feigning sick instead of taking responsibility for their poor life choice to stay up.
And then there is Linda, the mother of a young adult son, Ben, diagnosed with ADHD in high school. Once Ben received treatment for his ADD, with the support and structure of his home and high school, Ben excelled academically, graduating high school with high honors. Ben went off to college enthusiastically. Ben, and his parents, had every confidence Ben would continue his academic success, graduate within four years, and start his life as a healthy, well prepared, independent young adult. What neither Ben, nor his parents could know, was there was a perfect storm brewing. Ben, with a genetic predisposition to depression and under-medicated for ADHD, and the top-tier college, with a large student population, in a northern state with long, harsh winters, where the weather often keeps the students indoors, partying, were not a good match. Ben ended his freshman year on academic probation. At the end of his Sophomore year, Ben was told he was not invited back. Ben, now in a full blown depression, lives back in his childhood bedroom, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to even see him amidst all of his debris. He spends much of his time avoiding living by hiding in sleep, and arguing with his parents. While Ben’s Dad goes off to work everyday, Linda spends most of her time trying to support and motivate Ben, and working with a team of professionals to get him to consistently follow his treatment plan. Ben is taking baby steps forward, but the slow progress, and being the supportive Mom Ben needs right now, is taking quite a toll on Linda. She wishes her husband would be more involved in Ben’s treatment process, but she hesitates to ask him, because “he works hard all day.” When Rick returns home from work , he doesn’t understand the ever deteriorating condition of their once beautifully kept home, why his wife is too tired to do much of anything, and why his son won’t join them for supper. Rick is overwhelmed by it all, and spends his evening hiding in mind-numbing T.V. When Linda tries to talk to him about Rick, he says he’s been with people all day and needs quiet.
Those, not well versed in ADHD, may consider these mothers to be “Hover Mothers”, hovering over their children like helicopters. Many would offer unsolicited suggestions about discipline and parenting. What these well-intentioned people don’t understand is that these mothers have already read every book, and tried every “proven” disciplinary method suggested in them. They have worked with the school, therapists, and consulted countless other professionals trying to find a way to motivate their children into better behavior and a healthy life. Almost every suggestion works for awhile, as long as it is new to the ADDer. However, once the novelty wears off, it no longer captures their attention, and the old behaviors slowly resurface. The mom is then sent back to the drawing board, to uncover some other method that is designed to motivate “difficult” children into good behavior.
The critics of these mothers, and their children, have no idea how much more time, and effort, it takes to raise an ADHD/ADD child to become an independent, healthy, functioning adult. The rate of emotional development for children with ADHD is 30 per cent slower than their non-ADD peers.* With proper ADHD treatment, a great deal of patience and understanding, and a significant amount of the mother’s time, the child can eventually catch up to peers of the same age. What few recognize , and acknowledge, is the great cost to the mother.
As the mother of ADHD children, it is very difficult to escape feelings of failure to live up to the model of “ideal” motherhood foisted on us by society. Friends often fall away because they don’t understand the extra demands our children put on us. One social date cancellation too many often severs a friendship, eventually leading to social isolation for many moms of ADDers. In fact, parenting the ADHD child can be so stressful, that parents of an ADHD child are three times more likely to separate, or divorce, than their contemporaries without ADHD children.
The good news is, it does not have to be this way. With better self care by the mom, and better ADHD education for their partners, parents, friends, doctors, therapists, and the child’s teachers, we can create a strong, effective support system to help mothers of ADHD children, not only survive the long ADHD journey, with their child, but thrive!