For a long time, we’ve been talking about the “hot mess mom” we’ve created memes about her disorganization and laughed collectively about the struggles. Unfortunately, for many Mothers, the hot mess mom is far more than a joke; the prevalence of women being diagnosed with ADHD is growing, and we’re learning that some of the “hot mess moms” are struggling to fit into an ablest, neurotypical parenting world. The largest group of people currently diagnosed with ADHD/Autism is women, primarily Mothers.
Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times. ADHD is added to the regular Motherhood struggles, becoming completely overwhelming. It can bring up feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and anger. Anything from forgetfulness, difficulty planning and following through, focusing, and decision-making becomes a massive burden as you try to cope with your struggles and manage your enormous role as a parent. Parenting with ADHD can leave you feeling like a total failure.
Why are so many women being diagnosed?
So why are (especially since the pandemic) so many women being diagnosed or saying, “I’m not diagnosed, but I think I may have ADHD.”
Simply put, we now know more. Like most medical diagnoses, studies involve young white men, so they’re the ones whose symptoms have been what doctors look for with a diagnosis. ADHD has been studied in white men since the early 70s. These studies led to the diagnosis being what we now know as one type of ADHD: ‘Hyperactive ADHD’ – characterized by the typical inability to sit still, talk a lot, interrupt, and have big emotional reactions. However, women experience ADHD very differently, which is why many women don’t fit the diagnosis and are often misdiagnosed.
Women often experience ADHD as ‘Inattentive ADHD’ or ADD. These women with Inattentive ADHD may appear to be functioning and listening well- but their mind is elsewhere and distracted. This type of ADHD is distinguished by:
- Being disorganized
- Make careless mistakes
- Being easily distracted
- Poor ability towards attention to detail
- Difficulty setting priorities
- Difficulty with decision making
- Withdrawing from hard scenarios
- Taking a while to process information
These symptoms can also contribute to another secondary set of matters like screen addiction, over-eating, emotional outbursts, and more. Often social media becomes a relief from the symptoms, the endless scrolling is one way to tune out from overwhelming environments, but that can often come with feelings of guilt.
These symptoms, for many years, have been misdiagnosed as them just not trying hard enough, a potential learning disability, or mental health problem. On the contrary, they are competent, intelligent, and creative individuals who need the tools to succeed.
Why are so many women suddenly being diagnosed?
Women have been misdiagnosed, but we now know more.
Experiencing ADHD symptoms (undiagnosed) leads to big feelings of inadequacy, being completely over-whelmed, leading to anxiety and depression. At which point, women often receive a depression diagnosis missing the underlying issue completely.
Mood swings get mistaken for hormones instead of reactions to the overwhelm. As women, we know all too well that society always wants to label us ‘crazy” before finding an accurate diagnosis that could be helpful to us and lead to a healthy lifestyle.
We’re sharing more information.
We’re learning a lot more about women and ADHD. TikTok accounts sharing the day-to-day struggles of ADHD have made many Mothers see themselves and have a better understanding of ADHD suddenly, leading them to their family doctor to find out more.
Our kids are being diagnosed.
ADHD is a hot topic in the school system, and kids often get referrals for diagnosis. Often, as parents are talking with professionals and doctors about their kids’ symptoms, they suddenly feel very familiar and realize that they have the same diagnosis. ADHD is genetic, so kids getting the diagnosis leads to parents being checked too.
In Motherhood, especially in the last century, the job has changed. There is a significant amount of pressure put upon us mothers to be good parents, friends, wives, and employees. The pressures we face are immense. Women are expected to ‘multi-task” and make it all work. Women have been putting the challenges down to the multi-tasking lifestyle expected of them rather than seeing those challenges as ADHD symptoms.
As Mothers, we also put everyone else first. Our needs often are secondary to all the executive management of the family and the household. Our needs don’t get met we take longer to get the care we need.
Here are a few thoughts on ADHD that women recently shared in an online support group. It goes to show that women with ADHD are grossly misunderstood, and that alone can be isolating:
I was labeled an attention seeker, by reaching out and displaying distressed behavior because- I was very distressed.!
I feel and think in my own way. People think I’m being difficult, but that’s not it; I’m not trying to be difficult.
A task that some people see as small can lead me to feel overwhelmed and burn out.
Sometimes I completely disconnect from myself and my surroundings because that’s the only way I can cope.
So, where do we go from here? Now that we know many of these hot mess moms are Mothers with ADHD. Well, firstly, we must be getting the correct diagnosis for ourselves.
As Mothers, we need to get better at putting ourselves first sometimes.
What help/support are recommended to women.? Tips provided by mothers with ADHD:
- Join a support group!
- Set a timer to get the task done. Usually, it only takes a minute, and that makes it bearable.
- Simplify life: give yourself fewer options for outfits, for meals for activities.
- Get a good night’s sleep and get lots of exercise.
- Ask friends and family to help with problem-solving and large tasks that are too overwhelming to do on your own, especially if under a deadline.
- Make checklists! (Everything you need for school runs, errands, etc.)
- Keep a routine for household management
- Hire help if you can (cleaning the house, helping kids with homework…outsource!)
As difficult as it can be, we need to talk openly and honestly about what Mothers with ADHD are going through. Until we live in a world where we can support one another, embrace our differences, accept the inattention, enjoy the excessive talking, the forgetfulness, the fidgeting and the overall hot mess. Once we can remove the unachievable standards set upon Mothers of what success is, our struggles will be acceptable and normal and we won’t set another generation of young girls up to be living in a neurotypical world that doesn’t work for them. So for the sake of our girls, let’s work on changing perceptions and being more accepting of everyone’s imperfections.
If you child has ADHD and you’re looking for resources to help, check these out!