Need more input for Mom's with ADHD

Anyone up for reading a very long stream of thoughts from a very tired mother who doesn't know how to change?

I have ADD.  But, as a mom, I don't have a choice about what I can and can't do during the day.  My husband works and I'm the one at home.  I have to feed the kids at least three meals a day.  I have to remember to make them brush their teeth.  I have to remember to put socks on them before they put on their shoes and I have to pay attention that they get the shoes on the correct feet.  I have to make sure they grow up in a clean and happy household.  I have to make sure they get enough exercise and have good social relationships.  I have to make sure that they have the resources to keep up in todays world of technology and information.  I have to keep a bedtime schedule for them so they stay healthy and well rested.  I have to provide comfort and concern at times when I want to explode. 


Guess what, I live with guilt each day because I can't do it all.

I rediscovered I had ADHD when I began to get angry.  Angry at my husband, angry at my two year old, angry at my parents, angry at people I didn't know or care about.  I say "rediscovered" because I was treated at one time but stopped taking medication after I became pregnant with my first child.  I remained off the medication through my second pregnancy also.  I kind of put ADHD on the back burner trying to forget about it.  After all, most all the input I received from others included "you don't have a poor memory, you just have too much on your mind", "you can't keep up because you have too much to do",  "of course you can be angry with your husband, he should help you more." 

When I spanked my three year old out of uncontrolled anger and threw things around the room scaring her and making her cry, yelling at my sick dog  and breaking things, I knew all of those "well-wishers" were very wrong. 

I set out on a journey to heal. Heal myself, then my kids, then my marriage and the rest of my relationships (even with my dogs).  I see an ADHD specialist regularly now and I take both adderall and wellbutrin.  My OB/GYN has put me on progesterone for a different reason but that has helped me also. 

Here's the thing, I still can't do it.  I'm not trying to be super mom.  I'm trying to put socks on my kids before they leave the house.  I'm not trying to cook a three coarse meal, I'm trying to make tacos.  I'm not trying to get them enrolled at MIT, I'm trying to teach them how to push buttons on the computer and log onto ABC Mouse. 

In my head, I have the whole day planned perfectly.  We will get up at a reasonable time (after 7 am).  We will eat a healthy breakfast that doesn't include sugar.  We will get dressed and get outside while it is still cool enough and we can do some art projects, take care of the flowers (learn about the environment), watch the animals (learn about respecting all life)...then come in for a healthy lunch that doesn't include chicken nuggets, french fries and hamburgers.  Next, the children will take a nap while I catch up on the laundry and take the meat out of the freezer to defrost for dinner.  When they wake up, we will read a book together.  Point out pictures and talk about how they feel.  While they take some time to play on their own, I will prepare dinner and clean up the mess in the kitchen.  My husband will come home from work and we will all sit down to have a nice family meal.  He will play with them while I put the food away.  We will all go for a pleasant bike ride and talk with the neighbors.  Then bath time, story, and off to bed.  Finally time alone with my husband to discuss the day and give each other constructive input.  Get to bed at a decent hour and be well rested to manage the next day.

Here is how it really wakes up at 5 am and won't go back to sleep with out milk.  Older child wakes up at 6:30 and climbs in bed with me (my husband sleeps in a separate room--that's another whole story).  Snuggles for about 5 minutes then wants to go down stairs.  I bribe her to stay in bed by offering cartoons on the TV and I try to get back to sleep.  Just as I fall asleep the baby wakes up and starts to cry.  I stumble to her room, (she won't let me change her diaper until she has milk), take her downstairs and make both girls their morning milks.  Still in a daze, I watch Clifford, Martha Speaks, Curious George, and then Cat in the Hat.  After those two hours (now 9) I remember to let the dog out and offer breakfast...jelly toast, cinnamon bread, pop tarts, fruit loops...whatever, just eat.   Oops, still haven't changed the baby's diaper and she is on to something else...this should be fun.  The children start to run around and pull toys out and things that aren't toys.  Wait, what is that sound...oh no, the dog has been outside for so long and it is so hot out there...poor thing.  Next, upstairs to get dressed.  I should clean up this laundry in the hall first and throw away the garbage.  Boy, I hate my clothes, lets pull some off the shelf to donate.  I'll put them in a pile and add some of the kids clothes to them later.  I guess I should shower and comb my hair.  It would have been really nice to have remembered to bring up my coffee that I never had a chance to drink.  Okay girls, your you have to stop jumping on the bed it is dangerous...yes, stop jumping on the your little sister...ohhh you almost stepped on her head, not really but you could have almost stepped on her head...stop jumping please....STOP IT NOW>>EVERYDAY IT IS THE SAME WITH YOU KIDS...Whatever, lets just go downstairs for lunch, I'll bring your clothes down there.  How about you guys sit calmly and watch Dinosaur Train while I heat up these nuggets and mac and cheese.  I guess the baby will eat after her nap.  ......  You get the drift as to how the rest of the day goes.  And the days we have appointments...whoa, can't function beyond the appointment. 

I find myself writing on a blog at 1:44am because I had to drink coffee at 8:00PM just to get through the night routine.

I've made charts, I've made cute little schedule "stars" that the kids can pick out to determine the day routine, I've written everything down the night before and gotten all the supplies ready while they were sleeping...still no success...still guilt and self criticism.  As you can imagine, this has a huge affect on my relationship with my husband. 

Let me tell you what I need.  I need an organized mother to teach me how to manage my day and still feel that I've done everything to keep the kids happy and healthy.  How great would that be for my marriage!!!!

If you have read this far, I appreciate your patience, even if you don't respond!!!!  I am open to input from a stay at home dad too...I don't discriminate! 

Are you me?

I can SOOO relate! So often this is my life almost exactly. Only I have four kids. (I know, I'm completely insane even if I didn't have ADD.) I haven't taken any medications or done any official treatment for my ADD in over a decade, for several reasons, and just recently started back on meds. I'm still trying to find one that actually works well enough. Adderall helped quite a bit, especially with my mood, but just didn't seem to quite cut it. Doc just put me on ritalin to see if that works better. I'm only a couple days in, but so far my focus and motivation (what I really struggle with) seem better, but my moods are not nearly as well controlled. Guess I'll just keep playing med-roulette until I find the right solution. In the meantime, I live with constant guilt and frustration over feeling like I am failing my kids and not even keeping my home in decent order. So, maybe I'm not the best one to be trying to help you, since I can't seem to get my own life in order. But, I have learned and tried a few helpful strategies that might be make life easier for you, too.

First, learn to forgive yourself. Chances are, at least while you have young kids, your home will never be as clean and organized as you feel it should be. And that's okay. Your perfectly planned out day will probably never happen, although some days it may come close. And that's okay, too. I often laugh to my family and friends that, if they come over to my house they just need to keep in mind that no matter how cluttered and chaotic my home may be, it still doesn't hold a candle to what my brain is like, so they should be relieved they can't see that, too. (As far as I'm concerned, humor and keeping a good attitude about even the smallest successes and laughing at the "ADD moments" is key to making life a crazy adventure instead of a messy disaster.)

I recently had the chance to ask some advice from an ADHD coach. I briefly told her of my daily struggles with being a stay-at-home mom (which is one of THE hardest environments for us ADD-ers to keep it together). This is the advice she gave me: "Please be gentle with yourself and give your self some credit (and a little me time to recharge :)) Since you mention housework specifically let's focus on that: since interruptions are inevitable, plan them into your schedule. Break chores into 10 min sections and schedule 3 sections for each hour- that gives you time in between to check on the kids, etc. It is much easier to stay motivated when you see all the small sections you have crossed off adding up! ( many ppl enjoy using Try enlisting the older ones in certain chores that you do together- making a game of challenging them to beat you in finishing their assigned part. It is great to model scheduling for them- so you can also show them your list. Let them know that if they keep the younger ones entertained while you clear out all the tasks you have scheduled for 3 hours in 2- then that free hour will be spent with them.. reading, going to the park, etc. Tack your list up so both you and they can see the progress made." I LOVED this advice. I've tried setting timers before, but it never works because of the constant interruptions from the kids, phone, etc. But, 10 minutes sounds totally do-able. As does only scheduling half my time in each hour. I am still working on mastering even this, but it has been more helpful than other similar strategies I've tried.

As for routine for my kids, that is my biggest challenge, I think. I keep finding all these great ideas that often work, but sticking to any of it over the long term is where I don't do well. I finally made laminated lists for each kid (except the baby) with a "Morning List" and a "Bedtime List" and used pictures for my non-readers. Each kid's list has basic things like: go potty, make your bed (I figure the best my 3 yr old can do is still a better job than I will likely do, as I will get to making kids' beds almost never), get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, do a morning chore (they have to ask me each morning what their chore is and some days I give them a task they can do, some days I give them something like "give me a big hug and tell me how much you love me" or "draw a picture to give to daddy when he gets home", and some days they get a freebie because I'm just not put together enough to think of anything). Their lists have check boxes and I hung them in the hallway outside the bedrooms and tacked a dry erase marker on a string to the wall so they can check things off as they do them. (Yes, I often have to assign a morning chore of "clean the marker off the wall" to my older ones. Still worth the mess, as far as I'm concerned.) Bedtime lists have similar tasks. The general rule is no tv until your list is done in the morning. Most days I'm able to stick to that, although sometimes it's truly excruciating. Some days we forget all about lists. (Out of the times we "forget", some of the time I really do forget and other times I just am not up to it and don't say anything to remind the kids.) But, most of the time we are fairly consistent. Often I offer little rewards to any and all kids who can complete their entire list, and sometimes I offer an extra treat to whoever finishes first (I do this when they are having a hard time staying focused and getting it done. Turning it into a race helps refocus and motivate them.) It sounds like your kids are younger than some of mine, so you may have to alter this if you decide to try it.

Also, I don't know if you have discovered ADDitude magazine, but they are an invaluable resource to me. I don't subscribe, but they have a website with all their articles (going back quite a ways) and it's searchable and easy to use. Go to and search for things like ADD (or ADHD) mom and whatever else you can think of along those lines. They have several really great articles geared towards people in our exact situation.

Best of luck to you! I hope something I said might help you out. If I run across any other tips, I'll pass them along (if I remember and then actually follow through). And, if you find anything else that works for you, I would love to hear about it. Us crazy mommas gotta stick together, ya know. :)

I forgot...

Lists. I make lists for everything. And then I only use them sometimes. But, the lists at least help organize my thoughts (even for a few minutes) and are a great tool when I actually use them. Using more than one color on my lists helps, too. It draws my attention better than  if it all looks alike and runs together. In multiple colors it looks less overwhelming and I'm also less likely to overlook something.

Alarms and calendars. I use the calendar on my phone for EVERYTHING, and I set alarms for everything. Often more than one alarm, in case I forget or get distracted.

I try to give myself extra time to get out the door anytime I need to go somewhere (I usually try to start getting ready a good hour before I think I need to, and sometimes that's not even enough.)

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small! Celebrate your time with your kids while they are little. Even if no one even manages to get dressed all day and you all but forget about a meal or two and they end up snacking all day instead (did I just admit that happens at my home? Shh, don't tell anyone!), at least realize your kids love you no matter what and think you are the best mom. Any of the time that you may spend snuggling with them or reading to them or talking to them or playing with them or anything else you do with them, is a great success and is making memories for them and you (if it doesn't slip out of your head). Give yourself credit. More than you think you deserve. If everyone made it through the day safely and with their basic needs met, you succeeded. This too shall pass. They will be older before you know it and able to take care of more and more or their own needs. Just get them there safely. And enjoy the journey.

try,try again I guess!!!

Oh, ChaosQueen, you are so right when you say to just enjoy the kids.  They do grow up so fast.  Seems like all I do is try to organize the house so that I can have time with my kids, just them, no crazy distracting laundry on the table or boxes of band-aides and bug spray on the counter in the bathroom, just kids.  At least I think I'm getting better at explaining to my daughter that she has done nothing wrong and that mommy just needs a little quiet so she can think.  Before I would just yell and she thought I was always mad at her. 

I love all your ideas but have learned the hard way not to get so excited and start them all at once.  I think I'll start with hanging up my list with check boxes so my girls can see how close I am to being free to play with them.  I am also looking forward to logging onto the ADDitude magazine website you mentioned.  What a great start and great advice.  You know, the minute I "saved" my forum post I thought..."oh, that was stupid, why did I say I needed a nonADD mom to give advice...she would have no clue where to start with me!!!"  So, thank you for giving usable information!

Seems like you have been at this mom thing longer than me but here are a couple little things that might help you: 

I had problems with getting the right meds too.  Pre-kids, I tried ritalin which made me feel like I was high...not a good thing at work!!! Then, I was put on concerta,with celexa and wellbutrin.  Seemed to work pretty good for me but had lots of peeks and valleys during the day.  Since I've revisited having ADHD, I had a very difficult time finding something that worked.  I had so much more anxiety and anger than ever before.  We started with Vyvanse. (I was also still on zoloft from when I was pregnant).  It worked the first day but no luck after that.   I think we tried concerta again but that wasn't working either.  Finally, my husband found an ADHD specialist who was a psychologist.  One of the things he does for his patients is be an advocate for the patient to the primary care physician.  Boy, did this help me.  I always felt like such a drug addict when I would tell them I needed more!!!  His suggestion was a mix of wellbutrin and adderall and no more zoloft.  I guess the wellbutrin is an antidepressant but works on similar brain receptors and can assist the adderall.  It took some time to get the dosage but I think it is good now.  I take 20mg adderall three times a day and 300mg wellbutrin once a day.  I'm a little nervous, however, because my doctor is considering changing it because I had a very fast pulse last time I visited her.  (of course she may not have considered that I had just flown out the door with two little ones who didn't want to be there and were pulling open drawers and kicking off their shoes during my visit!).  I had to wear a heart monitor for a day and haven't gotten the results back yet. 

Okay, enough about meds...I hate having to take pills...I always tell my kids that they are my vitamins!! 

Grocery shopping is a nightmare for me, even if I don't have the kids and have all day.  Part of the reason is because I usually shop at Walmart and that store is just way too distracting for me.  I found a local grocery store that shops for me.  I just get on line after the kids go to bed and select my items.  The next day I drive up and they load them in the car.  The groceries are a little more expensive but I actually spend less and stay on budget because I only get what I need.  Don't know if you have the same issue with grocery shopping. 

Finally, I wanted to thank you again for answering my plea for help.  I think it is wonderful that you have four children.  If my husband and I were younger when we had our first two, we might have had more.  I think God knew my limit better than me!!

I hope you have a wonderful day today!

Hard to function

oh yah, I love the alarm and calendar on my long as I remember where I put the phone!

Ready for more suggestions?

Okay, so I know it's been a month since we had this little conversation and I haven't even been on this site much recently, but I have really made an effort to get my life (and, as a result, my home and family) more under control. I've picked up, and tried, lots of tips along my way and some of them reminded me of our shared difficulties, so I wanted to share some of what I've picked up in case any of it might be helpful. I'm not sure if you wear a watch, but I haven't in years. I just plain don't like them. I use my phone as a watch. But, recently I had a family reunion that was three days so far away from civilization that there wasn't cell reception for miles in any direction. I borrowed a digital watch from my husband in order to at least be able to keep track of time while there. And I got hooked! I found that using a watch instead of my phone for keeping track of time and timers and alarms is more effective and allows me to do those things without the danger of being distracted by something on my phone. After a couple weeks of using his watch, I finally went out and got myself one. It is blue, instead of black, so it's harder to misplace or ignore. It has a countdown timer (just like having a kitchen timer on my wrist), which is infinitely helpful with a million little things all day long. I also use the stopwatch function often for keeping track of things like how long since last dose of meds and other such things. I'm more on top of my time, and time usage, and less tied to the siren song of my phone.

Having said that, I have a couple new apps on my phone that are helping. One is called Astrid. It's for lists and task management, but the way it works is more appealing to my ADD, making it more apt to be used instead of ignored or forgotten.

Another app is called Alarm Clock Plus. It's just an alarm like the basic one that came with my phone, but has settings that can make it harder to ignore. The setting I use most is the one that makes me do math problems (you can set the number of problems and the difficulty level) in order to snooze or dismiss the alarm. When using it to wake up, this makes me wake up faster and less able to keep hitting snooze without being totally annoyed by having to keep doing math. When using it during the day as a timer, having to do that math helps me focus on the alarm, and thus the reason for the alarm.

Repetitive motion helps calm and focus my mind. Things like rocking in a rocking chair or hammock, bouncing on a mini trampoline, or doing Tai Chi or yoga. Anything that causes your body to move in a soothing, repetitive way. Do this for 10-20 minutes before tackling a large task or list of tasks. Along the same lines, when sitting at a table or desk working on paper, computer,or other such project, it helps to keep focus (as well as helping to gradually strengthen your core muscles) if you sit on one of those big exercise balls instead of a chair. I am totally going to have my oldest do this while doing her homework this school year! My husband, too, now that he's back in school.

Try using a reverse task list. I know when I write out my to-do lists, I almost never finish them, or even come close. And then I can get frustrated and down on myself for being such a "failure". But, with a reverse task list you make a blank list with ten spots to fill. As you go about your day, your ADD will get the better of you at some point. For instance, you start cleaning the bedroom and go to put something away in the bathroom drawer. But, you get distracted and end up organizing the bathroom drawer. Maybe you even clean the vanity or the toilet and tub. You may not get back to cleaning the rest of the bedroom, so you can't cross it off your list. But, you go to your blank list and write in all the things you DID accomplish. At the end of the day, instead of being upset by an unfinished list, you can look at your filled in reverse task list and feel proud of all the great things your ADD helped you get done, that might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked or counted as failures because they weren't on your original to do list.

One last suggestion, which I'm going to be putting to practice myself here in just a minute, is useful when struggling with procrastination or insurmountable inability to get started. Just make yourself get up and do SOMETHING for 10 minutes. Anything at all, it doesn't have to be the task you *should* be doing. Just get moving, doing anything at all, and set a timer for 10 minutes (so you don't get moving too long in the wrong direction, no matter how productive that direction ends up being). At the end of that 10 minutes, you will have enough inertia to jump in with both feet on whatever it is you've been putting off.

And, now that I have spent way longer than my ten minutes writing all this, it's time to get off my butt and find something else to do to get some momentum going again. I hope this past month has been a better one for you, and that maybe one or two of my new strategies can be of some help to you. Keep your chin up, and no matter what, embrace that ADD determination and keep on trying! There will always be steps backwards or those days that you just can't seem to get it together no matter how much you want to, it's inevitable when there's ADD involved. But, if you just look at every day as a fresh start and keep working at it, there will be progress, and more of it than stalls or backsliding.

I relate!!!

I wish I could just hug you because I SO relate.  :(  I'm the stay at home mom, my husband works all day so I'm alone.  I have 4 kids- 2 teenage stepkids who lost their mom last year and moved in with us, one 4 year old wild child who just started school, and an autistic 2 year old.  Oh yeah, I have depression and ADHD, my husband has depression, Aspergers syndrome, and is a sober alcoholic.  My teenage daughter has Anxiety and OCD tendencies.  We live on a farm on top of that.


I can really relate to just being overwhelmed and in over my head, trying to get kids with the proper clothes on not knowing how other moms make dinner, etc... it's a lot to deal with.

OH and a couple months ago my autistic daughter fell into our pool and had to be resuscitated and I still have PTSD symptoms and lots of guilt from that!

And our marriage is (not really surprisingly) rocky right now.