parent opinion

"I am the mother of 'that kid'." The lonely reality of having a child with ADHD.

My son's ADHD has had a deep impact on me. As a woman and as a mother, on both my mental health and my self-esteem. Living with him has been a hellish rollercoaster ride, and it’s one I've wished I could jump right off many, MANY times. 

I dream of coming out into the world and feeling safe and feeling sane. I dream of being allowed, without judgement, to give a voice to my lonely struggles, and to give a voice to precious children like my son. Like so many other wonderful and difficult and frustrating ADD and ADHD kids out there, he struggles every day, in so many areas of his life. His path is marred by failure and exclusion, and the stigma imposed on him by others just doubles down on his difficulties. 

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You probably already have a mental image of my son just from my mention of the term ADHD. What thoughts and assumptions does that conjure for you? Do you imagine a horrible, destructive child, bouncing off the walls and hitting other kids? Do you imagine me to be a bad parent, lacking interest, intelligence or stamina? If you do, you’re no different to many other people. But that’s not who I am, and that’s not my son.

After more than ten years of supporting my ADHD son through his challenges, it’s only now that I’m beginning to feel I can shrug off the sneers and rejections of other parents - but it's taken me a very long time to be able to do so. 

I know all too well that look of judgement so often and so easily cast out over my boy, as parents (and some teachers) silently question, "What kind of mother are you?"

Well... Let me tell you.

I am the mother of ‘that kid’. 

I am the mother who has been regularly summoned to the offices of teachers and principals. 

I am the mother who is frequently phoned and emailed by teachers looking for answers she doesn’t have.

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I am the mother who fights every day with her child to get him to do his homework, to remember where his stuff is, or even just pick up a pair of dirty socks. 

I am the mother who desperately and constantly searches for solutions to her child’s problems and the reasons why he is so ‘difficult’. 

I am the mother who has read dozens of books, attended multiple seminars, and constantly implements new and improved behaviour management strategies that actually improve very little. 

I am the mother who is so strict and has so many rules, yet is perceived by others as letting her child ‘get away with everything’. 

I am the mother who is judged and made to feel inadequate by other mothers, who is excluded from the community of parents I have always longed to be accepted by.

I am the mother who has fallen out with neighbours, parents, friends and family members over silly or impulsive things her child has done because of his inherent social maturity, lack of executive function and inability to connect actions with consequences. 

I am the mother who has been criticised by her other (‘normal’) child for treating her differently to her frustrating sibling, who has missed out on my time and attention because the demands of supporting her brother are so huge and so exhausting. 

I am the mother who cries most mornings – when my son makes the simplest tasks mammoth efforts, when other parents actively avoid my gaze, ignore my good morning wishes, or even turn their backs on me. 

I am the mother who is never happy and always stressed. I am the mother who worries so much about the future of her child she makes herself physically and mentally unwell in the present. I feel so devastatingly alone… and yet, there are so many like me.

I am the mother who believes in her child and sees gifts in him that no one else seems to see, and that may never be realised. 

I am the mother who constantly feels like a total failure.

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Finally, however, after so many years of struggle, I also know the higher truth, and I need you to know too.

What I really am, is a good mother with a wonderful child who is trapped in an imbalanced ADHD brain, and neither of us is to blame for that.

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I am an intelligent control freak who has been sent a child with a disorder I can’t control, who is a puzzle I just can’t solve, with a disorder that, up until his diagnosis, I too had prejudicially and ignorantly believed was a total crock of sh*t.

I am a largely unwilling participant on this journey. But like most mothers, I am a woman who loves her son. It is not by choice, but by necessity that I travel this path with him, right by his side, no matter where it leads us, in search of the parenting holy grail – a happy, healthy and successful life for my child. 

Others find it so easy to judge me, to judge my child, and to look down on us both for the struggles we so desperately want to overcome, but can’t. 

Along the road, the pain and pressure of judgement has added extreme weight to the already-heavy burdens of ADHD, on both me and my child. At times, it has felt too heavy; just too hard. But I have had no choice. I can’t give up on my child. Would you give up on yours? 

Please stop judging, and start supporting one another. If you are not an ADHD child’s parent, you sincerely have no idea how much fear and frustration these children and their parents face every single day of their lives. 

They need your kindness, acceptance, encouragement and your openness to learning and understanding our differences. 

We really need it.

Please put down your judgements and lift up my child, as you would want me to embrace your children. Please see him for his gifts. He is a precious child, just like yours. He deserves to feel accepted, included and valued.

As for me, I hope next time you see me, or another mother like me, that you’ll actually see me and know me a little better. I’m an imperfectly perfect mother, doing her absolute best to love and raise her children well. That’s what kind of mother I am. 

Really, I’m just like you.

Shelly is a management and business communications consultant, trainer, business writing coach and mother of two. She lives in Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast with her husband and two children. When not creating business strategies and communication pieces, she writes children’s picture books, and is currently completing a non-fiction book about ADHD parenting.

Feature Image: Getty

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