- Loren Bahor, MSW, LCSWA
Navigating Motherhood and ADHD: Practicing Self-Compassion
I remember in one of my Women’s Studies courses in college (I am hardcore aging myself – quick check confirms that my alma mater now refers to it as Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), we talked about all of the roles that a stay-at-home (and, let's be fair, often a working mom, as well) mom performs on a daily basis and what she would earn annually if she were to get paid to perform all of those jobs – house manager, child care provider, personal chef, laundry service, teacher, house cleaner, teacher, logistics analyst, driver, and the list goes on.
What the data suggests is that if moms were paid for all of their endless labor, a stay-at-home mom’s salary would be more than most of us make in a year.
That’s a lot of work – I feel my ADHD brain spinning just thinking about many of those tasks that need to get done around my house – tasks that I REALLY don’t want to do.
Whether you are a working mom like me or stay-at-home mom - being a mom is hard – like, really hard. I always knew that it would be, but I don’t think that I ever truly appreciated the grit that it requires until I had a child of my own 6 months ago. I love my daughter – I give her everything that I possibly can, and I attend to all of her needs. I have also noticed that since becoming a mom, it feels like my ADHD symptoms have caught on FIRE.
As someone who has inattentive ADHD, I struggle with my executive functioning – that looks like being forgetful, losing things all the time, difficulty focusing on tasks that don’t hold my interest and becoming distracted, making careless mistakes and being disorganized. I also struggle with emotion dysregulation – another symptom of ADHD. Hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and added anxiety of being a new mom have made me feel like my brain and entire body are one continuous flow of hot lava.
I am chronically overstimulated and overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood, often leaving me feeling physically and emotionally drained and completely inadequate as a mom.
For me and a lot of other moms with ADHD, there is a lot of shame connected with feeling this way and also constantly feeling like I am falling short. I am so lucky to have this amazing child in my life - aren’t I supposed to be loving every moment of this? Why does it seem so much easier for other moms?
While these are common feelings that most mothers experience at one time or another, a mom with ADHD often feels them to a greater degree more frequently. So much of the inner work that I have had to do since becoming a mom involves cultivating compassion towards myself and I’ve come to realize that it truly is a skill to be practiced.
Adopting the three steps of self-compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD the foremost researcher on the benefits of self-compassion has been instrumental in helping me to turn compassion inward and treat myself with care instead of harsh judgement. The three (abbreviated) steps are:
1. Mindfulness – being a neutral observer of our experiences in the present moment and adopting a non-judgmental awareness of your negative emotions. They are not right or wrong, they are not good or bad – they just are. In doing this we separate ourselves from the intense feelings.
2. Acceptance – Recognizing that feeling pain and suffering is a part of the human experience – we are not alone in this, we are all going through something difficult.
3. Practicing Kindness – Being kind towards ourselves and developing a “warm and understanding” approach towards ourselves. Instead of beating up ourselves for being inadequate, instead we offer ourselves warmth and unconditional acceptance.
I am still getting used to being a mom and I have learned to ask for and accept help and adjust my expectations of myself. My husband and I have come up with practical strategies to help our home run more smoothly and make sure that I have the support that I need. I still fall short at times and I recognize that there are certain things that I will always struggle with but I am working on being less hard on myself and giving myself the love that I need.
Loren specializes in working with adult ADHD and adult ADHD in women. To get scheduled, please email firstname.lastname@example.org