Moms with ADHD: Learning To Parent With ADHD

Being a parent with ADHD can be tough. As if juggling childcare, work, household responsibilities, and errands isn’t enough of a struggle, adding executive function challenges to the mix takes it to a whole other level. Moms with ADHD often find it difficult to accomplish every task on their to-do list, and when they don’t, they can feel like failures for not living up to “supermom” capabilities. Yet, by learning how to be kinder to themselves and how to ask for help, there is hope for easier days ahead. 

How ADHD Can Affect Parenting

ADHD is highly familial, yet many people who meet the criteria for ADHD don’t know it and haven’t been diagnosed.1 This is especially true for women, who are often diagnosed with ADHD later in life, sometimes as a result of finding out their kids have the condition. 

According to Child Mind Institute, intervention for kids with ADHD is often less effective when a caregiving parent has ADHD because their challenges with organizational skills make it difficult to keep up with medical treatment, including appointments and prescriptions.2 Behavioral treatment is also less effective when parents have ADHD, especially if parents are unaware of having the condition or have been misdiagnosed with something else. According to Dr. Mark Stein, a clinical psychologist and director of the ADHD and Related Disorders Program (PEARL Clinic) at Seattle Children’s Hospital, moms with ADHD are often misdiagnosed with depression, an unfortunate oversight that affects both the mother and her child.3

Whether you have received an official ADHD diagnosis or not, you may notice that ADHD is affecting your parenting when these common challenges arise:

  • Trouble keeping up with kids’ schedules and/or managing their behavior

  • Frequent forgetfulness, disorganization or impulsiveness

  • Feeling like a failure despite trying your best to meet your parenting responsibilities

  • Being inconsistent or over-reactive in discipline

  • Difficulty in switching from one parenting task to another, such as playtime to bedtime

  • Becoming so absorbed in an activity that you neglect to meet a child’s need or fulfill an important task

Why Trying to Be Supermom is Overrated 

A recent Harris poll indicated that 63 percent of women feel like they’ve worked a whole day after tending to their family’s needs in the morning and 48 percent of women say that their burnout is so intense it keeps them up at night.4 For women with ADHD, this burnout is even more extreme. Even if you are a mom who takes medication for ADHD, you may find that the pill that got you through the morning, which may or may not include venturing into the workplace, doesn’t cut it when you get home and get bombarded with domestic demands. After all, working mothers continue to carry more childcare responsibilities than their husbands.5 Even worse, mothers try to live up to supermom expectations and then beat themselves up if they fall short. 

To Patricia Quinn, M.D., a developmental pediatrician and the director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD, moms with ADHD shouldn’t aim to be supermom, but they should get more support. She tells ADDitude Magazine that “ADHD must be addressed as a family issue rather than a child issue when the mother also has ADHD.”6 This is especially the case for ADHD moms who have children with ADHD because you can often get so wrapped up in attempting to meet your child’s needs that you neglect your own. The first step in stepping back from the supermom myth and getting support is being kinder to yourself and then educating yourself and your family members on the challenges of ADHD so you can come up with empowering solutions. 

Tips for Moms with ADHD 

Now that you’re committed to cutting yourself some slack, it’s time to implement some hacks to make life easier. Whether you struggle with keeping up with appointments or getting dinner on the table at an appropriate time every evening, consider the following tips:

  • Set up visual and auditory reminders like calendar appointments in your phone to keep track of important dates and appointments

  • Try a meal planning app if you find meal prep stressful 

  • Outsource where you can, such as hiring house cleaners, personal assistants or babysitters

  • If you have a partner, make sure you are sharing the load of domestic responsibilities in a way that feels fair

  • Educate yourself and your loved ones on the symptoms of ADHD and the support that can make living with ADHD easier

  • Limit sugar and caffeine and aim to eat nutritious meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables

  • Carve out some downtime before bed or at different times throughout the day where you can practice relaxation techniques, especially if you feel chronically overwhelmed

  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest, as poor sleep can make ADHD symptoms worse and add to your stress

  • Ensure you’re limiting your screen time as overuse can also make you feel more scattered and interfere with quality sleep

  • Try Brillia, a non-prescription, homeopathic remedy that helps to enhance focus, restlessness and impulsivity and can be used  alongside prescription medications because there are no contraindications

Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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