I want to tell my story and get support on how to address the effect that my partner's ADHD has affected my relationship with my child (who is also ADHD-like). When I read Melissa Orlov's book 5 years ago it was like someone telling the story of my marriage. But 5 years ago was a little too late. Then I was still reeling from my husband's affair 2 years prior...
My partner and I got together when I was in my early 20s. It was fun and exciting and adventurous. I needed that in my life having been a pretty straight-laced kid. We lived well together for 7 years, probably because there weren't alot of responsibilities and life was freewheeling then. Plus I could pick up the slack. Then we decided to get married even though I had this underlying sense of unease and deep worry. But I couldn't pick up on it. We had our first child 2 years after we married. I started buckling down on being responsible, managing the finances (we had accrued alot of debt from impulsive spending), and putting structure into our lives because we had a baby who needed it. He couldn't keep up. He couldn't support. He grew resentful because I was "no fun" anymore. But I was doing all these things alone because he would "forget," "loose track," avoid, get distracted, lose interest, and generally gravitate to fun and run away from responsibility. He is a man-child and a fun guy but not a reliable partner and also highly reactive. I begged, nagged, pleaded and cajoled for help and change. He blew me off and then I just became resentful and super stressed out. We had another child and moved to another city. Now I was just super stressed about money and childcare. I couldn't count on him to share the responsibility for those things. He was too unreliable. I know the trope is that women just don't let go of control, but I desperately wanted some back up. He just couldn't be consistent. When I finally started thinking that he might have ADHD, i brought it up with him and he got mad. He didn't want to be the "identified patient" and argued that I was just as responsible. He studied woo-woo psychology that said that ADHD wasn't real. But I knew that I was responsible for somethings but the stress and strain was coming from how little I could count on him. I would think that if i got cancer, he wouldn't be able to take care of me. On top of that, our bright and spunky first child was also inattentive, spacy, easily distractable,forgetful, not a good sleeper, and unfocused. So my stress, anger and frustration also extended to her. I was not calm and patient. I yelled at her. I became cop. Not something I wanted to be but felt like it was all on me to keep things reigned in. He got to be fun playful dad who created mayhem, while I stressed and made sure that they made it to school, bills were paid, and the budget was intact (he impulsively bought large items on multiple occasions when we were broke). I was not the only one who yelled. When the kids were not fun, when they were frankly kids, he couldn't handle it. He would yell at them and overreact. He would walk away and I would have to clean it up or do the discipline. I was the bad cop. Luckily, my second child had better executive functioning like me and could stay on task, not forget things, and was not spacy. He brought balance to the family.
Things deteriorated between us though. I tried to get him to therapy. I tried to suggest that we work on the ADHD together. He was in huge denial.
While I was working hard, raising kids, doing all the worrying and managing, he decided to have an affair with another impulsive, child-like and irresponsible person. In the aftermath, I was patient for awhile but he kept being in denial about his issues and I made him leave. At first I was deeply grieving but e have been separated for 2 years and it was like a new calmer me emerged. No more stressing and worrying and overfunctioning. I could be the one to take it easy. He had to full time parent everyother week. He ended up doing 12 step and therapy because he realized he let shit hit the fan. He has made a huge turn around which I attribute to me drawing hard boundaries. Last fall he finally got on ADHD medicines. So now we are doing last ditch therapy to recover from the affair but more importantly, deal with the disaster that was created by his ADHD.
But the result of this history on my first child who is now a teenager is her distrust of both of us (I don't blame her, I was a hyper-vigilant, stressed out and angry woman and her dad was unreliable and reactive). She has anxiety and depression. We have her in therapy and I want to go into family counseling with her soon. Today she acknowledged the things that I know are true, that I was very hostile as a parent to her. Part of it was because I was so frustrated by her dad, but also because she herself has some adhd tendencies that also make it hard for me to relax. I am constantly checking on her and supervising. I also put pretty strong boundaries and expectations down because she is so spacy and unaccountable. She hates me for it but she is is not consistent and reliable and I and her dad both have a hard time with appropriately managing her. I am having her evaluated for ADHD but there is no diagnosis yet. She is bright and super talented so her symptoms can be easy to overlook. Anyway, she pretty much blames me for being too controlling. And compared to her dad, I am. But in actuality, I am just enforcing the rules and requirements her dad and I both put together and agree upon but he has a hard time actually following through and hold her accountable. He lets her do things that I don't because he isn't taking responsibility or accounting for the 10 other things I am. So I am still the one taking the heat and managing the details. If it wasn't for me, all the things she gets to do wouldn't happen. I am trying to figure out what to just let go but its really hard to know what is appropriate. She is bright but starting failing classes because she would forget to turn things in. But I am the only parent really plugged into those things and spending emotional labor trying to keep her on track. So I am sad that my daughter has felt my anger and hostility throughout her life and I regret not addressing it sooner. But she doesn't understand the dynamic that led to it. She just thinks I am too controlling. I wish I could get her to understand how her perception of her father as being more chill is because he can't handle the details of parenting and so i pick up the slack. It feels very unfair.
I would love some understanding and support with this.