I’m Not a Bad Mom—I Just Have ADHD

I was folding laundry when my watch buzzed with a text reminding me of a hair appointment on Wednesday afternoon. I stopped and dropped the shirt I was folding as my heart sank. I had a playdate scheduled at the exact time of my haircut. I scrambled for my phone.

“I’m so sorry,” I texted, “I completely forgot I have a haircut that day. Can we reschedule our playdate?” 

Fortunately, my friend was sympathetic, and we were able to move our time with the kids to another date, this time without any conflicts. But this wasn’t the first, second, or even third time this has happened to me—and every time, I felt like a bad mother. What mom can’t remember what she has planned when she has everything from Google calendar to a paper planner at her fingertips?

My heart pounded with the same anxiety I’d been dealing with for 11 months as I wracked my brain and my planners to figure out how this had happened again. Other moms weren’t like this, so why was I? 

I had a lightbulb moment that day: my anxiety was triggered by forgetfulness. 

Five days later I sat at my psychiatrist’s office with my journal open in front of me. 

“I’d like to be tested for ADHD,” I stated. Before my appointment I sat down and made a list of things I struggled with from childhood. This included tendencies toward daydreaming, struggles paying attention, hyper-focus, and difficulty with my memory. 

“I forget where I put my keys 30 seconds ago. I struggle focusing on things that don’t interest me—and I’m terrible at math because of this. My mind wanders a lot, even when I am working my hardest to stay on task. And if I get really into something, I can focus on it for hours without realizing how much time has passed.” I felt like I was rambling. 

She smiled knowingly as I went on to tell her about the day prior, when I was trying to put clothes away in the time I had before preschool pickup.

“Yesterday, I had five minutes to put my clothes in the closet and get out the door to pick up my son from preschool,” I told her, as she pulled up my records on her computer. “I had to force myself to stay in one place and keep hanging up my shirts. I saw shoes and thought about how I needed to go get my shoes from the front door and put them back in the closet. Then I realized I was hanging up some things I hadn’t worn in months and thought that maybe I should go ahead and go through them to consign, mend, or donate. I couldn’t just stand and hang my clothes up.”

That and the realization that forgetfulness was triggering my anxiety led her to agree that I should be evaluated for ADHD. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders: perhaps I wasn’t a bad mom. Perhaps my brain just works differently than others in ways I didn’t realize until now. We scheduled a time for my evaluation.

One week later, I received a definitive diagnosis of inattentive-type ADHD. 

My endless to-do lists and struggles finally made sense. Why I forgot where I set my keys moments ago or triple-overbooked my son and I with playdates. Why cleaning took me from room to room to room as I remembered tasks that needed to be completed in the living room while I was in the closet, or in the bathroom while I was cleaning the kitchen. It’s not that I was a bad mom who couldn’t focus…it’s that my brain couldn’t and can’t work the same way as someone without ADHD. 

The relief I felt was immense since I now had an answer for why I struggled to stay on task. Why I could walk into the house and immediately lose my keys. Why when I meet new people it takes multiple encounters for their names to stick in my brain. 

I wasn’t a space case. I have ADHD. 

Since the diagnosis, I’ve read a lot about ADHD in women and learned about systems to manage my symptoms. I began to take medication. I’ve established systems that help my memory. I keep a day planner open on my countertop by my coffee pot to check throughout the day. I no longer agree to any activities without first checking the planner to make sure I don’t have anything coming up, even if it means delaying a yes or a no. 

With medication I’ve become more organized and efficient, since I don’t get sidetracked going from one end of the house to the other while cleaning. My brain is quieter. I now have control over those tabs and have the ability to pause the one playing all the music, all the time. And the best part? I haven’t dealt with anxiety since learning I had ADHD and starting medication.

I’m still learning what it means to have ADHD and how to manage it, but every day is better than the last. I’m a mom with ADHD. Sometimes I forget things, but I’m not a bad mom.