got superglue?

Enough talk about our kids with ADHD, already. Let’s talk about us. How are you doing? When was the last time you took the time to fill your bucket?

You’re probably familiar with the concept of the bucket: the idea that in order to be an effective parent, you must keep your bucket full. If you give, and give, and give, and never nurture yourself, your bucket will run dry, and you’ll have nothing left to offer your kids. So, you need to make time to fill your bucket; to do whatever motivates you and makes you happy—creative pursuits, exercise, spending time with friends, and so on.

I get that. I really do. But it doesn’t seem to work that way for me.

I’m the most selfish mother I’ve ever heard of. To put it bluntly, I’m spoiled rotten. My husband Don and I have always taken semi-regular weekends away from the kids. I don’t clean my own house. One spring, for a month or so, I even paid someone to do our laundry! From the moment my oldest child, Aaron, came into the world, I’ve worked part-time rather than full time. And, for the last year and a half, some might say I haven’t worked at all. (I say I’m a freelance writer.) When I worked outside the home, my kids were often in daycare even when I wasn’t working. This fall, I put Natalie in an after school Tae Kwon Do program three afternoons a week, even though I’m home while she’s there. My current job, writing, is a bucket-filling dream come true.

As you might imagine, much of the time, I walk around with a very full bucket. But the level in my bucket doesn’t seem to work like, say, the gas gage in my car, where the needle goes up when you put gas in, and goes down when you drive, in a very predictable fashion. No, more often than not, a set-back will come along, and the bottom drops out of my bucket completely, and all of a sudden, I’m running on empty. Often times this is precipitated by the stress of parenting a special needs child. That month when I paid someone to do our laundry? A desperate reaction to an empty bucket. Quitting my day job was too.

What is that about? And is it just me, or does the bottom fall out of other moms’ buckets too? My theory is that I’ve lost a key survival skill—resilience. That I suffer from crisis fatigue—that I’ve lived too many days, weeks, months, years in a state of overwhelm, and I can no longer recover the way I once could, so setbacks set me back further than they once would have.

I’ve compensated by really narrowing my life; cutting back wherever possible. (See spoiled-rotten list above.) For example, right around the time school started this fall, I was in the kitchen, filling the dishwasher, and the thought hit me: Ninety percent of the time I feel miserable. That’s no way to live. So, I put my one and only volunteer endeavor on hold for a few months, and that’s when I signed Natalie up for Tae Kwon Do too. (See definition of selfish above.) And, I’m happy to say, those changes made a really big difference. I think I’m the strongest and the most satisfied with life right now as I’ve been since we adopted Natalie. But oh my gosh, look what it took to get here!

Can it last? Or will the next challenge life throws at me take a too-big toll? As Natalie gets older, and (hopefully) life with her gets easier, will I regain some of my former resilience? I can only hope.

How do you handle the stress of special needs parenting? Does the stress seem to have a cumulative effect, or are you quick to rebound? Do you feel less resilient than you used to? How do you fill your bucket?

Tell us about you!

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book “Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories.” Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family,” for

Facebook Twitter 

Related posts:

feature, General ADHD, Kay Marner, parenting/FAMILY, stress and resilience ·

About the author

Kay Marner is the co-editor of the book "Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories." Marner is a frequent contributor to ADDitude magazine, and writes an ADHD parenting blog, "My Picture-Perfect Family," for


  1. I feel miserable 90% of the time too! I am so glad it's not just me. I have been having a really hard time lately with that feeling. I end up with a lot of guilt because my life could be a lot worse. I don't like feeling sorry for myself and I certainly don't like feeling unhappy.

    THis revelation for me coincided with my recent birthday. I thought it was my entrance to “late” 30s but I discovered it is just a loss of myself that I am mourning most. Not even the extra burden of a special needs child, or feeling sorry for that child, but loosing my identity and doing, thinking, or talking about things other than my children.

    So, I decided to start {yet another} blog about photos to try to instigate some time spent on photography, which would be time spent on me. It was liberating when I created it. But, admittedly, it's already fizzled out in two weeks. The kids just take over.

    I love the idea of an after school program. Once finances bounce back, I am going to look into that. Both my kiddos need it for the social connections and time away from home, and I need it to finish my long laundry-list of to-dos. Oh, no, that's right, I need it to spend time on myself.

    It's nearly impossible to put myself first. I guarantee my mom thought she'd never see this day 20 years ago!

    Thanks for reminding us all we have to fill our buckets.

  2. Oh, and there's no bottom on my bucket. It all just disappears before I get the chance to use it!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Oh, what a timely post! I don't think I even have a bucket…if I did, I'd drown myself in it. I honestly cannot recall the last time I was truly happy or belly-laughed; this isn't the parenting life I imagined.

  4. sadiesmom says:

    I agree, the bucket idea doesn't work for me. My bucket has a major leak in it, and sometimes when I fill it up it just makes the leak bigger. One question I have is about after school activities. My 7 year old comes home from school completely fryed. It makes our afternoons terrible, most days. Is your child like this? If so do afterschool activities make it worse? Sadie usually does gymnastics 1 day a week but had to take a medical leave. I'm just wondering if putting her in an afterschool program would be bennificial to both of us or make our evening worse.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I just wanted to say thanks! My son was diagnosed with ADHD today. I have spent the last 3 hours immersed in your blog, I have laughed, I have cried, I have said, “Oh thank God, I don't have that particular issue,” (what ever that issue might be. What a great resource to know that I am not alone in this journey.


  6. Kay Marner says:

    sadiesmom–I think this after school program works because it's physical activity. Natalie needs that outlet after a day of school. She also needs someone to play with constantly, and this way she is around kids, rather than panicking every day about finding someone to play with. Tae Kwon Do has been good for her. She chooses to do her moves for anger management and for movement breaks at school. I like the character building part of TKD too–learning about respect, etc.

  7. Kay Marner says:

    Welcome Melissa! You've come to the right place!
    Kay for all of the adhd mommas

  8. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this post! My bucket is never full, and being unhappy 90% of the time had me in therapy and on anti-depressants for years, none of which helped by the way. Instead, I said to myself “give yourself a break – admit this is hard!,” lowered my expectations of my ADDers' behaviors, and started a new support group out of my church. Now, filling others' buckets has become a self-bucket-filling event. I can go almost a week on what I get from giving. Don't get me wrong – there are days I still want to scream. Believe me, I've got plenty to contribute at the group. 🙂 But I don't feel unhappy all the time now.

  9. Sunny says:

    Yep, the bucket feels empty a lot, and the bottom falls out a lot, like yesterday when we started crossfit kids and my kid pushed and hit another kid. Oooooh, will he ever have a friend! Will he be a weird 50-year old man who insults everyone he talks to?

    But there are some simple things that fill my bucket: crossfit (my exercise class), women's bike rides (fun group), listening to inspiring or fun music (tit really lifts my spirits), snuggling my 2-year old and watching Sesame Street (forget the laundry for 1 hour), enjoying stuff with my ADHD kids that we both like, for example there are some kid movies that I actually enjoy like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

    What I need these days is a survival-for-spouse-of-an-ADHD-person manual. That can be hard on the bucket. Any suggestions?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your post today. This is something that I have been struggling with on and off over the years. I have an ADHD son, who is ten. Last year (January), I realized that if I didn't find some type of after school program to put my son into, that our relationship might be irreparably affected. I began to dread picking him up after school – I knew that homework struggles would inevitably ensue. No matter how many times I tried to reinvent myself to make this time more positive for both of us, nothing ever worked for long.

    We are lucky, our local park and rec program has an after school program for $125/month that is fantastic. It took several months for my son to acclimate – and he would come home every day begging me to take him out – but I stuck with it – and now in 5th grade – he's enrolled again and LOVES it!

    Sometimes I feel guilty, I too am a SAHM, but I always tell myself – this is so much better than fighting with him every day. The counselors all know about his ADHD issues and work with him on homework, social skills, etc. Now I pick my kids up with a smile on my face rather than fear and dread! This is something that helps me to fill my bucket up – until the next thing comes along to tip it over again! ;O)


  11. After-school is killing me, too. I work from home and my husband considers it my job to task-master the kid for the 2 hours after he gets home. The time is a steady argument of do your homework, clean your room, no you can't have candy for a snack, feed the chickens, pick up your stuff, this homework is wrong, yes you have to re-do your homework, no you can't have any candy ……

    Ugh. I have to say my bucket has learned to function without being full, but I often wonder if this is why people die young.


Leave a Comment

The "ADHD Mommas" are not medical or mental health professionals, nor an ADHD coach. Any opinions shared here are just that, opinions. I, and the other "ADHD Mommas," are sharing our experiences with our own ADHD children. Please do not re-post or publish any content or photos without a link back to {a mom's view of ADHD}. Have the courtesy to give credit where credit is due. Copyright protected. All rights reserved.

Powered by WordPress | Customized by KW Design