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  • Sarah Nguyen

ADHD and Motherhood in a Modern World : Is it ADHD or do the evolving demands of parenthood make us crazy?

In honor of Neurodiversity Awareness Week, I'd like to share a recent personal experience that speaking to motherhood and ADHD.

A friend inadvertently shared a podcast titled "The 6 Surprising Signs of Adult ADHD" by Mel Robbins, which was originally intended for someone else. Despite the mix-up, I found myself drawn to its content, listening to it multiple times to fully absorb its insights. Robbins eloquently shared her story and presented various data points, prompting me to reflect inwardly.

One significant aspect discussed was the prevalent misconception that ADHD predominantly affects males, highlighting its diverse manifestations in women and girls. While boys often exhibit outward signs such as impulsivity, disorganization, mood swings, restlessness, and social struggles, girls may internalize their challenges, resulting in low self-esteem and heightened emotional sensitivity. This phenomenon contributes to the under-diagnosis of ADHD in females (and some non-females). Robbins also explored the co-occurrence of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, suggesting that ADHD might be the underlying cause for some women.

As life becomes increasingly hectic for me as a mother with the ongoing demands of parenting, work, appointments, volunteering, social engagements, and the overall mental load of modern-day parenting, I find myself struggling to maintain focus amidst the chaos. Misplacing items and feeling overwhelmed by numerous tasks have become recurring challenges. With multiple activities scheduled for each child several times a week and a return to working in the office three days a week, my responsibilities remain unchanged.

Over the years, I've developed coping mechanisms to compensate for my executive function deficits as a human and now mother. While my default approach tends to favor solving problems through alternative methods rather than relying on quick fixes or medication, I recognize the importance of adopting healthier habits.

Exercise serves as a crucial outlet for allowing my thoughts to coalesce, providing me with the opportunity to organize my ideas while immersing myself in the healing embrace of nature. However, the brief walks to the office bathroom no longer suffice as they primarily serve to demonstrate physical presence rather than facilitating mental clarity.

Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness activities help me maintain equilibrium and high functionality in today's fast-paced world. Currently, I endeavor to incorporate mindfulness into my daily routine, even if it means practicing mindfulness while applying makeup during my commute—a practice that some might deem risky during a 40-minute drive.

The quality of my sleep and overall anxiety levels are directly impacted by the absence of these coping mechanisms, affecting my productivity and overall well-being. Finding balance and presence in my roles as a mother, wife, colleague, friend, daughter, and neighbor amidst these evolving circumstances presents a constant challenge.

In recent years, my husband and I have become adept at maximizing productivity both at work and at home, occasionally even carving out time for self-care. By prioritizing tasks and selectively participating in activities that align with our preferences and learning styles, we've managed to optimize our efficiency. However, the transition back to the office environment has left me feeling scattered, overwhelmed, and depleted.

As a busy mother, I am not sure I need or even want a diagnosis. Perhaps my reluctance stems from a desire to avoid labels or an apprehension toward our healthcare system. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share my journey, as I've gained invaluable insights about myself through podcasts like Mel Robbins' and Dr. Chris Palmer's "The Truth About ADHD in Adults."

For those mothers, or allies of people/ parents/ mothers suffering, interested in delving deeper into the topic, Dr. Palmer's podcast explores the impact of diet and exercise on brain function, offering valuable insights that may resonate with others. If you find yourself similarly affected by these discussions, I encourage you to consider speaking with a healthcare professional, though I recognize the complexities involved in taking that step.

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