Single moms with ADHD have a lot of stressors to contend with. Being a single parent is hard enough. But when you have ADHD, as Terry Matlen said, “multiply the stress by a million.” ADHD affects your ability to pay attention, prioritize, plan, organize and recall details, thereby making working and running the household that much tougher. Plus, because ADHD is highly genetic, it’s very likely that one or more of your kids has ADHD, she said.
Matlen’s clients tell her that their biggest concern is that there is no support and they’re constantly on call. “The sense of isolation is huge for these moms.” So is the guilt. They worry that they’re letting down their kids, she said.
“Not only is [a single mom with ADHD] trying to maintain her own stability, supporting and caring for her children singlehandedly, but she’s feeling almost like she’s drowning in trying to do it all herself.”
Many moms also struggle with depression and anxiety, because understandably, this is a lot to navigate.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do. Below, Matlen shared key suggestions and reminders.
“It’s imperative to get your own ADHD optimally treated. If not, life with ADHD and kids will be very, very difficult,” said Matlen, MSW, ACSW, a psychotherapist and coach who specializes in adult ADHD. If your kids have ADHD, make sure they’re receiving treatment, as well, she said. (See here and here for more info.)
When your ADHD is properly treated (with therapy, medication or both), you’ll see improvements in all areas of your life and your kids will, too.
Lower your expectations.
Matlen stressed the importance of being realistic about your situation. Don’t let others make you feel bad either. It’s OK if your house is more cluttered than your friend’s house or dinner includes shortcuts, she said.
Look at the areas of your life where you’re holding sky-high expectations, and set more realistic expectations. See how you can make your life easier and thereby more satisfying.
Having emotional support is vital. Get support from friends and family and women in similar situations, said Matlen, author of several books on ADHD, including The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done. Because many women are pressed for time, she suggested finding support groups online. Matlen runs a Facebook group for women with ADHD, and many are single moms. This site features free resources for women with ADHD.
If you do have time, check out support group meetings in your area. CHADD has meetings in some cities. You can see if there are any in your area here. There might be other meetups in your area, as well, like this one.
Get creative with childcare.
If you can’t afford childcare, try a co-op where moms take turns caring for children, Matlen said. “For the working single mom, this may only make sense on the weekends, but it may be worth it to save your sanity and give yourself time away from the kids.”
Find a gym that has childcare, if you enjoy taking classes or using machines. Split the cost of a sitter with a friend, Matlen said. Or barter with your friends. “For example, offer to watch your friend’s children on a weekend in exchange for them keeping an eye on your kids.”
See if you can make adjustments with work.
For instance, Matlen suggested asking to work part of the time from home, or asking for flextime. This way you have more control over your schedule. Also, consider if you can work part-time – and supplement your income in other ways. Many women sell items on eBay or Etsy, or tutor and work as virtual assistants, she said.
Many women with ADHD make excellent entrepreneurs, “as long as they have administrative help to take on the detail work that often makes them crazy.”
Matlen suggested consulting with a career counselor. (Some career counselors also specialize in ADHD.)
Get creative with chores.
Because your time is limited, try “twinning” activities, as Matlen calls combining tasks. For example, while watching TV, fold laundry. Your young kids can even match socks.
Also, make chores fun, she said. “Get an over the door basketball hoop with a laundry basket below and have the kids toss their dirty clothes in there.”
Plan out meals.
“Have a family pow-wow every Sunday — check your schedule for the week ahead and write down your dinner plans for each night on your calendar or planner,” Matlen said. Get everything you need at the grocery store instead of scrambling at the last minute.
On particularly busy days, pick something quick and easy, such as carry-out, she said.
Being a single mom with ADHD comes with many challenges. But there are helpful strategies that can simplify your life and reduce stress. Make sure you’re getting support and receiving proper treatment for your ADHD (and your children are too). Try to get creative with household tasks and childcare.
And remember that you’re doing your best. You really are.
Mom and daughter photo available from Shutterstock