Having adopted my little man as a single mom, it’s hard to figure out what to say about single parenting of a child with ADHD. It’s all I’ve ever known. So any comparisons are pure speculation based on listening to others who are not in this position. I mean, there’s clearly no tag-teaming, no help at the end of a particularly hard day, no sharing of difficult decisions, but also no disagreements on how to parent. As I struggled to come up with something enlightening and hopefully helpful to share, I was tormented with the most horrible of dreams last night.
You see, in my waking hours, I don’t want to come across as not having my sh** stuff together. It just feels like whining. And while I totally love the periodic cathartic whine, who wants to be around someone in constant Eeyore mode?! I never know how to feel when someone says “I do not know how you do it all!” Part of me is secretly patting myself on the back – yea, I AM just that fabulous. And the other part of me is glad that the person does not know that I in fact am not able to do it all. Here it is, my secret is out. I drop a lot of balls and I am exhausted and I have to live by the mantra that sometimes good enough is good enough.
Apparently though, my subconscious was not aware that I am supposed to look like the model, super mom. While my awake state was in denial that it is not all that different from multi-parent households, my dream state smacked me up side the head and threw together in one scene everything that plagues me as an only parent.
<insert eerie dream music here…> I am running through a hallway in a building with my little man and his ‘in real life non-existent’ little sister, with a bag full of IEP notebooks and work notebooks slung over my shoulder, trying to catch the elevator. Little sister pushes close door button before little man can get in and I go into panic mode because I know he will have an anxiety attack not knowing how to find us. I drop her off in a room for testing, probably of the neuro-psych kind, and run back to find him so I can drop him off with a sitter and run to a conflict resolution work meeting (and yes, my dream really was this specific). Barely getting through the meeting, I find little sister upset that her results are not like the other kids’ results and a principal who is ready to judge her as a problem instead of a child who needs help but I don’t have time to deal with him because I need to rush both kids home because there’s a natural disaster on the way and I need to make sure we are huddled in safely at home. At which point my ‘in real life’ dog smacks me with his paw to let me know it’s time to wake up. Thank God!
The sad part is that the little sister is the only piece of the dream that I have not faced and the rest I have frequently faced all at the same time. It was hard to shake the feelings left by the dream. I by no means have all the answers or even know where to look for them half the time. I do what I do because I know no other way. <side rant> It really burns me when I get those emails or see links to articles with the teaser titles that make it sound like they have all the answers. And then as I read with hope, I find it’s just another article describing what I already experience Every Single Day but offers absolutely nothing in the way of real answers. Little piece of advice – save the typewriter ink, I know what the dang problems are – what I need are some solutions! <end rant>
My answer is to compartmentalize and to try being mindfully present wherever I am at the moment – school meetings, homework, rock climbing, theatre and choir rehearsals, work, appointments, neighborhood gatherings, etc. I cannot possibly keep track so I use Outlook for most of it, a wall calendar, an appointment book in my bag, and BlackBerry for anything online. I limit little man’s activities despite his begging to be on any and all teams he can think of. His time of free play consisting of roaming the neighborhood on foot or bike is my time of free play consisting of lovely mindless TV and Facebook addictions. I am lucky enough to have someone come bi-weekly to clean the house and I ignore what needs to be done in between. When the thought of grocery shopping sends chills down my back, I break down and use Peapod to fill in what is not already delivered bi-weekly by my organic grocer. As well as I can, I plan ahead at work to ensure I make it to every school concert or family lunch. My mom drops everything and comes to my rescue when I have to enter into disaster mode at work.
There was a recent episode where work was beyond demanding due to a natural disaster and wouldn’t you know it, I had a pivotal IEP meeting scheduled the morning of the craziest day. My phone buzzed non-stop during the meeting and I totally blocked it out. The number of missed calls was mind boggling as I scrolled through the list the second I made it back to my car. But the world did not end. Work still moved forward thanks to my amazing team. And I accomplished what I needed to at the school. (Well, my high-priced advocate accomplished what I needed to at the school, but I digress…) My life is really not that different from my dream. I take it one day at a time. Sometimes I take it one hour at a time. (And it always cracks me up when friends don’t understand why I cannot plan in advance – ha!, what a luxury!!) I’ll figure out what needs to happen next, right after I get out of this appointment. I’ll decide what goal to tackle next for the little man, right after I get a signed IEP for school. I’ll decide which work issue to resolve next, right after I leave the school concert. You get the picture. Worrying about everything all at once is completely debilitating. But one chunk, one hour, one pressing issue at a time, it’s not so bad. <she says, returning to the land of denial, dream securely tucked out of memory>
One night as I was conducting research, <snark alert
> you know, the research that all special needs mammas conduct in our free time on our way to obtaining behavior therapy, neuroscience, and special education law degrees <end snark
> I came across this post from MOM-NOS
and kept reading it over and over again:
I watched as faces changed, as moms considered – perhaps for the first time – that their feelings and their troubles were not the cause of some personal inadequacy or weakness or inability to cope, but were instead the reasonable response of a reasonable person who had been living with unreasonable demands without reasonable support for an unreasonable length of time. I watched as they looked at each other – but YOU – so strong – so together – YOU feel this way, too?
I printed it out and took it to my doc. I could barely get out the letters P T S and D before I burst into tears. Bless my dear doc, she couldn’t write that script fast enough as she said, ‘Oh honey, you do need help. And it’s ok.’ So see, I don’t have all the answers. But I am learning how to find reasonable support. Through family, neighbors, friends, doctors, and the ever so important friends in a box. This blog, fellow mamma bloggers, Facebook, email list serves – community after community of special needs mammas, all here to hold each other up, to offer the solutions that never seem to come from those teaser articles, to offer the shoulders to cry on, to cheer each new milestone, to provide help for this single mom.
It IS all up to me – but I am getting better every day at asking for the reasonable support to meet life’s unreasonable demands. If you don’t believe me, just ask my neighbors!
I would love to hear what works for you. Where do you go for all the answers?
Related posts: adhd and single parenting, adoption, Annette Gumm, caregiver stress, parenting/FAMILY