In my world, Mommy Brain is a thing, yet it is not. It was explained to me that I have been using intelligence my whole life to compensate for the organizational and other executive function deficits brought on by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD (the acronym “ADD” is still around, but it’s really the old name for this condition). The heightened and magnified stresses of raising children, on top of a demanding career and other numerous life challenges was what finally broke me. So I can still call my exacerbated struggle to keep it together, due to having kids now, “mommy brain” even though that name is really an allusion to an underlying brain-based disorder.
2. You worry (even more) about your kids.
ADHD is likely hereditary. From the time my older daughter’s personality began to surface, I have noticed our similarities. I was often lost in my own world as a child, and so is she. Uh oh.
I will never forget the first time procrastination caught up with me in a serious way. I was in sixth grade and was a straight-A student. However, I struggled to get one big project done. It was a country report; my assignment was Norway. I don’t have much memory of the project itself, except that on the morning of the due date, I asked my mother to drive me to school late so that I could scramble to finish the project. For whatever reason, instead of sending me to school to accept my fate (or spending the time in the weeks prior making sure I was staying on task), she obliged.
My teacher was not as forgiving as my mother. He took me aside and explained that he knew I was coming to school late because I wanted more time to finish the project. I don’t think it impacted my grade, but he gave me a stern warning that this bad habit was going to catch up with me in the future. Man, was he ever right. I think this is some of the best advice I have ever received from any teacher. I only wish that I could have understood much earlier how to transmute that advice into something actionable. Which brings me to my final point …
3. You forgive yourself.
Upon learning about my diagnosis, my first reaction was to lament how much time and productivity I have likely lost over decades of not understanding what I was dealing with. As someone pointed out, however, another way to look at it is that I managed to accomplish a heck of a lot despite both the ADHD and my ignorance of its presence.
So I am looking at the world a bit differently now. When I used to ask why I felt so lazy, I now consider that I might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the stimuli around me. My impulsiveness at the grocery store is not giving in to temptation, but trouble organizing and focusing on a shopping list. And when I need to put the kids’ backpacks in the middle of the kitchen counter so that I know where they are, I don’t curse myself for needing to rely on dumb mind tricks and strategies to save my brain some work. It’s just how I get stuff done, and there is really nothing wrong with that.
Some say that ADHD comes with its own hidden talents as well. I have always had a tendency to hyper-focus and fall into a flow state once I settle down to work on a project. There are bad days and good days, but on the really good days, I shut everything out and totally kill it on a major project. Sure, I forget to eat or go to the bathroom, but my work product is phenomenal. I’m not sure if that’s part of how my brain is wired or just a coincidence that I would like to attribute to same, but I’m open to the idea that there is more to the ADHD label than a very misunderstood, much maligned disability.