What If Mommy Has ADHD?

Last year I went to see a therapist to find out if I have ADHD. I was concerned about my lack of interest in doing dishes (I kid you not). 

I’ll clean, and our house isn’t a pigsty (well, not exactly) but I’ll always put if off and I always dread it.

Other reasons I went to find out:

  • I lose things such as my iPhone and ATM card a lot.
  • Ordinary things that appear easy for other moms to do – like packing lunches in a rush – can overwhelm me.
  • I have great difficulty reading maps, instructions, or doing puzzles.
  • Following a routine eludes me.
  • I get lost a lot.
  • I have such a poor memory that my doctor had me get a brain scan.
  • Some of my friends have been diagnosed with ADHD and are on low doses of various drugs (Vyvanse, Ritalin, Adderall) that have apparently made them interested in doing the dishes.

Note: Does this sound like the Stepford Wives?

the momalog stepford wives, momalog, adhd in moms, adhd in adults

When I was a child, ADHD was not trendy or even known about, but I’m pretty sure I had it, and I bet my father did, too. I didn’t have the hyperactive kind, the one that makes you fidgety, I had what’s known as Inattentive Type, the one that makes you stare out the window and daydream. Other symptoms I had as a kid:

  • I was generally disorganized and mischievous (actually, I still am)
  • I got in trouble for saying things that other kids didn’t.
  • I don’t know if it’s related but I also had great difficulty with math.
  • When I had braces, I lost 11 retainers and 3 head gears in 3 years (I would forget they were in my paper-bag lunch and throw it away).
  • Although I was bright, in high school my grades would vary erratically from one semester to the next – straight A’s to D’s. 

On the positive side, I had an amazing ability to hyper-focus on something I was interested in, which usually involved daydreaming, plotting a story in my head, and writing.

But that was back in the Dark Ages. Fast-forward to last year, and there I sat, a grown-up mom, answering a lengthy multiple-choice questionnaire about ADHD and talking to the $240/hour shrink who wielded a check-list of symptoms, some of which I had, a few of which I didn’t:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Erratic behavior
  • Extreme procrastination
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness
  • A tendency to hyperfocus on activities of interest, losing track of time and surroundings
  • Difficulties in establishing stable household routines
  • Problems with managing money
  • Substance abuse
  • Having accidents more often than most people
  • Difficulty completing things
  • Bad driving record, with a history of speeding tickets or other problems.

When I went home I showed my husband D. the “Do You Have ADHD?” check-list and announced that I had finally figured out what’s wrong with me. D. is an eye-roller so that’s what he did – he rolled his eyes. The first thing he said was, “The title of this check-list could just as easily be “Do You Have Human Characteristics?

He pointed out that all of the characteristics listed in the flier could be applied across-the-board to most people.

He is wary of America’s tendency to over-diagnose and then medicate (just watch the evening news and count the number of ads for drugs), especially children. He is disturbed by the current trend toward medicating kids who are perceived to have ADHD. This is what his response to common diagnoses would be:

Shrink’s Diagnosis

My Husband’s Diagnosis


Being a child


Being a child

Over-attachment to certain toys/objectophilia

Being a child

Difficulty waking up in the morning


Difficulty paying attention

The child is bored and the teacher needs to up their game

Anger-management issues

The child is human and is learning to modulate their emotions.


Probably because he’s Irish and the Irish tend to be eye-rollers, he’s a skeptic. Probably because I’m Californian and Californians tend towards diagnosing everything, I’m prone towards wanting it labeled. For example, when Fi was a tot she whapped another tot, and I had no idea that toddlers could be so violent (I know that now! but I didn’t then!). I was a new mom. I thought: My child has an anger issue!

The next week I found her straddling another toddler and strangling her, so I immediately took her to a play group where moms could watch their kids through a one-way mirror while a child therapist would observe them and narrate their interactions to us. (I know – I’m OTT. I know.)

My husband could not believe I was doing this – in his eyes, she was just being a toddler, and I was just being a comedically neurotic mom.

As I watched her through the mirror, Fi would occasionally whap another tot, and I would say to the therapist, “Did you see that?” The therapist reassured me that this was normal behavior and over time I was able to observe other tots doing their fair share of whapping, too. It’s 9 years later and Fi is a peaceful, non-violent and balanced child with no tendency towards whapping anybody.

My husband still reminds me of the “one-way mirror episode,” which he still finds highly comedic.

Being an ACOA parent, I’m perpetually guessing at what normal is, so I read a lot of books, and seek outside help when I need it. My husband comes from a non-alcoholic family, so all this seeking of information seems unnecessary to him.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the therapist’s couch in the past – enough to know that although there is a time when it can be extremely helpful, there is also a time when scratching at the clay of your soul and trying to “fix” yourself can become unhelpful. In the case of “do I or don’t I have ADHD?” I had a nagging feeling that it was on the unhelpful side, especially since a lot of the “cure” tends to involve medication, which in my case I can’t ever tolerate.

When I returned to the $240/hour shrink, she said:  ”Not only do you have ADHD, it’s off the charts.

I wasn’t surprised that I had ADHD, but was surprised by it being off the charts. And a little offended. Did she have to say, ‘off the charts?’ or was this my overly-sensitive ADHD brain just being overly-sensitive?

Me: “But I can’t be off the charts,” I said defensively. “I don’t fidget. I can sit still for hours, and I’m a good listener.”

Therapist: “You have what’s known as Inattentive Type. This type doesn’t fidget or interrupt.”

There it was, my label. ADHD.

She recommended some books (such as Driven to Distraction – it’s a good one, but I bet if you read it you’ll come away from it thinking you have ADHD, too) and gave me a prescription for speed, which is reincarnated as “Vyvanse” these days, probably to make it more socially acceptable.

I tried the speed for a month before realizing it was well, speed. It made me go all bug-eyed and certifiable. My husband and I sat around drumming our fingers waiting for me to become suddenly Stepford and interested in doing the dishes. It never happened.

“I don’t want you to become interested in doing the dishes,” he said. “I don’t think I’d like you as much.”

That made me feel better.

I stopped taking the speed because that shit is enough to make you need rehab, frankly. I know it works in certain cases but in my case it didn’t, and although I know that ADHD is a real problem for certain people, I’m wary of the frequency with which kids are prescribed such a heavy drug nowadays.

D. said he thought I may or may not have ADHD but really, I’m human and imperfect, and that’s okay.

That’s when we decided to “treat my ADHD” by getting a better Navigational system, and hiring a housekeeper to do the dishes…and hey, I’m cured.

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  1. I personally love your hubs line: “Do You Have Human Characteristics?” But of course, these things can be challenging as they can be quite frustrating. I lose my valet ticket everytime I valet (which is often in LA) which has my heart beating and me sweating each time I go somewhere, not a good look!) and then I can never find my keys to actually give to them. I know what I should do, but never do it, it’s bizarre. In the end, I love your own perscription which tends to be like mine which is get help for the things I don’t love to do, like housecleaning! I now almost positive after reading your list for ADHD, I have it but I think my husband does too, so we will just continue to be ignorantly blissful:)
    Twitter: newfavoriteday

  2. I can totally relate to this. I have many of the same characteristics you described. I go through ATM cards like they are disposable. I lose my keys and cell phone on a daily basis! I have lived here nearly 7 years and I still get lost..ALL THE TIME. I often wonder what I would do if I did get a diagnoses.
    Twitter: momma23monkeys

    • I think it’s all useful information – for example me getting an official diagnosis helped me to put a general framework around my understanding of stuff that I struggle with – I have a bit more empathy for myself, and that’s always good. But to be honest, aside from reading a few books and having a little more empathy I have done nothing with the information and official diagnosis – so you never know what you’ll do I guess. (-:

  3. I think there should be a special type of ADHD dedicated only to moms… those of us who can’t remember words more than two syllables or get off in a fog and (accidentally, with no malice whatsoever, totally regrettably) gently rear end the car in front of them while rolling thru a right-hand turn lane. I think I’ll try the housekeeper route. And maybe more naps…
    Twitter: smushyfacebaby

  4. First of all…can I say that I really love your husband? (Probably because he sounds a lot like mine) and second – thank you for acknowledging that it seems every child has something or other the matter with them. It seems to be magnified even more in the blogosphere. I’m not discounting that theses children don’t have issues….but it seems a little bit much to me and quite a lot frightening. I’m pretty sure we all have some form of ADHD what with all these social networks and electronics nowadays. (Do I sound old or what?)
    Twitter: januarydawn1

    • Thanks for your comment January – I sense a kind of backlash coming from the over-abundance of diagnoses flying around these days especially for kids. And no, you do not sound old my friend. (-:

  5. It really does sound a bit Stepford Wives! I really think a lot of over-medicating is treating people just enough so that they put up with lives they don’t like. Changing their situation would actually be a lot more helpful. It’s easier, quicker, and more profitable to write someone a prescription than tell them that they might need to change things to improve their mental health.

    Obviously not in all cases, and when medication is needed it is needed. But with such a high proportion of a population is considered to have mental health problems, you have to wonder if it’s not just the human experience.
    Twitter: myhonestanswer

    • I agree. Also it seems like there’s been a significant shift in psychiatrists (shrinks) – they used to be more well-rounded – they would analyze patients and work with them but nowadays they are more medication dispensers and drug pushers, and that’s kind of sad.

  6. I agree with your hubs diagnosis. But I also think some of those things stem from being a writer. I often have a hard time being present in this world cuz I’m so caught up in the one in my head.
    Twitter: sarcasmgoddess

  7. I hate to be a copy cat but I also think I’m a fan of your husbands now! haha :) I really agree with his feelings on this, to label people ( esp. kids )and over medicate seems like the American way now but really, everyone is different and we are all very imperfect. Who likes to do dishes and clean the house anyway? Your solutions sound great to me.
    Twitter: mommy_padawan

  8. I panicked when I read the beginning of this post…I have many of those characteristics too! I happy to hear the cure is a navigator (which my car has and I rely on heavily) and cleaning help..which I desperately need!
    Twitter: elizabethatalay

    • Cut yourself some MAJOR slack Elizabeth – I don’t think I could’ve EVER navigated myself out of that African jungle like you did. After getting yourself out of that, who cares if you ever learn to read a “real” map again?! (-:

  9. Find something you LOVE to do, and it’ll be amazing how much attention & focus you’ll have all of the sudden!

    Oh, and HELLO! Um yeah. Did you forget wine? Wine is a cure-all for just about ANYTHING. But glad the GPS & the housekeeper worked!
    Twitter: _daisynguyen

  10. Common sense will get the job done every time. And when it doesn’t make sense to do the dishes – hire a housekeeper. Case closed. You just need to set your priorities.
    Love your post!
    When my daughter was little she was diagnosed with ADHD and I called bullshit. She may have needed a little longer than some others to warm up and get up to speed in school, but now she is top of her class – without speed!
    Twitter: kerstinauer

    • Good for you! (-: PS: Just want to note here that I am not against medicating people/kids who need and benefit from it. I’m just noticing a lot more of it nowadays which makes me a little nervous that it’s becoming a “trend.”

  11. Great piece, totally agree. You do not have ADHD, you are a writer. Good writers write. We don’t do dishes, or drive cars, or pay attention to boring smalltalk, or lots of other things that distract us from the stuff in our heads that we think we might write down. We have all these dumb rules about how we should ‘be’ and it does not allow for creativity or dare I say it eccentricity. As a novelist, I am getting more eccentric in my everyday habits (prefer sleeping in camper van to house, woolly hats, taking hot water bottles with me everywhere) and could probably be certified insane. Thankfully, I don’t care enough. You are perfect Ado. Stay bit mad. As hubby says, so much more fun. Xx
    Twitter: katekerrigan

    • Oh I loved that comment, Morag! I forget about the eccentric writer part! And I LOVE that you prefer to sleep in the camper van and wear wooly hats! (-:

  12. I used to be on medication for both ADD and depression/anxiety. After a while, I realized that if the depression/anxiety were under control, I didn’t need the ADD meds either. I haven’t been on any medication for several years, but I find that when my stress level is out of hand, the rest of the ship goes down with it – all of a sudden, I forget basic things, can’t focus on anything for more than a few moments, and I feel pulled in twenty directions all at once.

    This condition is also known as The School Year. ;-)
    Twitter: TheBareMidriff

    • Heh. (-:
      PS: On the medication front, for adults I’m all for them if they work. I have a lot of friends who are on medications for various conditions especially depression and the meds really help them (and sometimes I envy them b/c I wish I could take a pill and be that much “better”).

  13. “Not only do you have ADHD, it’s off the charts!” actually made me laugh. Based on that checklist, I’d say 95% of the population (or at the minimum, 95% of moms) are off the charts! Love your husband’s comment. And I agree. GPS and a housekeeper can cure almost all of our human characteristics! :-)
    Twitter: S_Supermommy

  14. All of these behaviours are of course human, but there are degrees where they become problematic eg OCD, Asd its when they start having a significant effect on your life or ability to interact with others they become frowned upon. What is “normal” ?
    Twitter: randompearlsof

  15. My daughter has ADD (I don’t use the H cuz she’s inattentive, not hyper) and is on medication. I know she truly is ADD cuz the medication helps her. Since the “speed” didn’t help you, maybe you’re NOT really ADD. Cuz it’s supposed to have the OPPOSITE effect in someone who is truly ADD. The “speed” calms them, whereas it hypes up a person without ADD.

    Some moms have been known to take their kid’s ADD meds in order to have more energy and get more done. I accidentally took one of my daughter’s pills once and was shaky and up all night. It sucked.
    Twitter: JenAnnHall

    • I had the same thought. I know several people who do take it and it definitely calms them down as opposed to speeding them up so I do wonder if I even have it at all.

  16. Great story and I love the surprise ending. Maybe I could get diagnosed with something that would be cured by a housekeeper. . .or a chef. . .or a massage therapist.
    Twitter: louiseducote

  17. I’m pretty sure a housekeeper could help me out too. I blame my lack of focus on the internet–instant information at your fingertips that makes it impossible to wait on anything longer than 10 seconds.

    • Good point – in today’s “instantly instant Internet-type gratification” it’s harder to stay focused on “just one thing.” (-:

  18. While I do think it needs to be taken seriously, I agree with your husband in most cases. Also, I think that medicine is far too readily applied. Changing diet, adjusting schedules, cutting out as much television and computer use (WHAT? NO!), and various other “therapies” have been quite effective at helping children and adults manage their behavior. And for me, that means managing it to be happy for YOURSELF. As your husband implied, you don’t have to become an entirely different person in order to be a person with whom you are happy.

    And hiring someone to help with dishes is a great idea! :)
    Twitter: kdwald

  19. IMO your hubby’s right…you’re just human. I’m pretty sure I’m beyond ADD, my head seems permanently implanted my rear most days. I can’t manage to accomplish much of anything….and if they diagnosed kids in our day as much as they do today I’m pretty sure I’d be on all kinds of meds for it. Instead I just write my to-do lists on my hands bc I can’t lose those…I still manage to forget 1/2 of what needs to be done, lose my phone while I talk on it, lose my keys while they are in my hand…I just figured all that was at least semi normal…I figure we’re just scatterbrained (and I’m pretty sure we can blame that on kids lol)…Oh and remember that as long as the kids are fed, clean,loved, and happy, all the other junk can always be put off another day :)
    Twitter: _simplysara_

    • An excellent point, that most of the other junk can be put off til another day. Didn’t Scarlett O’Hara say that? “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

  20. My husband pretty much says the exact same things as your husband – he thinks kids are just being kids but we diagnose them as ADHD and medicate them too often. I mostly agree. I think I just have a terrible memory, due to three kids and too much to do in life. What do you think he meant by off the charts? That’s kind of weird.
    Twitter: euregirlsandboy

    • I think the doctor (who was a she btw) said “off the charts” because based on the multiple choice questions I answered, my score was pretty high. But I never really pay attention to scores on tests anyway.

  21. I absolutely agree with you about ADHD and other such diagnoses – I think there are kids who need meds and whose issues need to be taken seriously…and then I think there are way too many situations where it’s just easier to medicate than do anything else. Mr. Ado’s comments crack me up. The pragmatist meets the Marin-ist. You’re a good balance…
    Twitter: mannahattamamma

    • That is the first time ever anyone’s ever called him “Mr. Ado.” I’ll tell him – give him a chuckle. Maybe it’ll stick…!

  22. Imagine that ‘speed’ in the blood streams of boys all across our country that don’t really need it. What they need is a playground, some fresh air and not so much damn sugar. Sorry, small rant. I have seen too many medicated children, usually boys.

    I am and always will be jealous of your housekeeper. I love your husbands points too!
    Twitter: Chosenchaos

    • That is kind of sad about all the over-medicated kids being usually boys.
      Re. our housekeeper if it helps you any, when she’s not around – within 10 mins. our house can become a sty again.

  23. I know exactly what you mean about not understanding directions but being able to hyper-focus on certain things. Glad I’m not the only one.

    Someone recommended “Driven to Distraction” for me many years ago. I started it, but honestly, I was too distracted to finish it. I wish that was a joke.
    Twitter: dudeofthehouse

  24. Yes Adrienne, I think you do have a condition. It’s called OCI – Overly Creative and Imaginative. And I prefer people who have it. My husband, who loves Sherlock Holmes, told me once that Sherlock never remembered anything he could write down. He preferred leaving his mind free to think and create. I’m sure Mr. Holmes has OCI, too. So, you’re in very good company. On the sink front . . . I have the ability to float past the pile of dirty dishes on the counter as if it does not exist . . . a gift apparently many of us share. Elementary my dear Watson, I mean Adrienne!

    • Ha ha! Thanks Michelle. (-: Someone once said that Einstein said “Any idiot can remember factoids. A genius knows where to find the information.”