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Is it Motherhood or ADHD?


 Is it Motherhood or ADHD?

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Are your challenges normal motherhood struggles or might you have ADHD?

First of all a little caveat that I’m not a physician and I can’t diagnose anyone with ADHD but I can provide some context and information to help you consider whether to pursue a diagnosis.

And today I want to talk through one of the most common questions many woman wonder when they are contemplating whether or not they have ADHD.

Most adults with undiagnosed ADHD carry around a certain amount of shame from growing up thinking that they should be able to fit in and do things the way others people do them.

So if you have ADHD, it’s pretty normal that you’d start here… wondering if your struggles are really your own fault, your laziness, your inability to self motivate or get organized… but in fact if you have a differently wired brain, this shame is really, really unhelpful.

Let me just say that whether or not you have ADHD, motherhood is hard.

But if you have ADHD, the challenge is different in both the severity and the intensity.

So what are the common struggles in those with ADHD?

I’m going to go through the criteria that a doctor would use to diagnose ADHD because I think that’s most helpful place to start.

For adults, you only need to meet 5 of these to qualify. ADHD can look different in each person.

Also, context is important too!

You might not struggle if the subject area is challenging, novel or interesting but find is impossible when it’s boring and mundane.

There are actually 3 types of ADHD- inattentive, hyperactive and combined.

1. Inattentive:

  •  Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes (paperwork, emails, texts…. maybe show up for an appointment on the wrong day)
  •  Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities…. (playing with kids, reading a book, watching a show)
  •  Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  •  Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish projects, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  •  Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  •  Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as paperwork, taxes, money stuff)
  •  Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. keys, phone, sunglasses, AirPods, water bottle, etc.)
  •  Is often easily distracted (goes in the room and forgets what you entered for)
  •  Is often forgetful in daily activities. (how many times do you have to go back inside for something when you leave?)

So for hyperactive, it’s also the 5 things. So you’d need to meet 5 of these criteria.


  •  Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (may feel very restless or use coping strategies like gum)
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting their turn to speak and frequently interrupts others
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Combined type is where both of things are present. That's what I have!

I think it also helps to think about a few other key struggles that are worth documenting as you go through this process.

These aren’t spelled out in the DSM but any physician that understands how ADHD presents in women, should understand these.

  1. Emotional Regulation… this is so important to understand. Many of us grew up thinking that our emotional responses are part of our personality- we are drama queens or too sensitive but how we respond to our emotions is controlled by our brains and highly impacted by ADHD. This often looks like having outsized emotions that feel out of our control.
  2. Rejection Sensitivity where we are highly sensitive to the rejection of other or even the perceived rejection of others. We spend a lot of time and energy worried about what others think about us or how our actions may impact others.
  3. Perfectionism + Anxiety. This is highly linked to that rejection sensitivity. We’re afraid of any kind of rejection so we spend a lot of mental energy trying to be perfect which very often leads to anxiety. ADHD in women is very commonly misdiagnosed as anxiety. And anxiety may be present but ADHD is really the root cause.
  4. Social anxiety and struggle making and maintaining friendships. This can be complicated but many with ADHD struggle to feel like they can be themselves. All of the critical comments over the years add up and take their toll.
  5. Addictive tendencies. There is a huge link between Addiction + ADHD. People with ADHD are 5-10 more likely to develop addictive tendencies and it's common for many undiagnosed to use alcohol or drugs to try and quiet their internal dialogue.
  6. Disordered eating. Many with ADHD struggle with overeating or binge eating. Sugar can be a major source for dopamine and then with the lack of impulse control and social anxiety... it can be a recipe for disaster. If you've struggled with food and eating issues, definitely tell your physician.

In order to get diagnosed with ADHD, it needs to be clear that these challenges have persisted, been present for 6 or more months and that they have a significant impact on your life.

For women especially, our challenges are highly linked to hormones and struggles intensify with age.

It’s 100% possible that your challenges may feel new because your coping strategies were enough until you hit a wall where the needs of your life were more than you could sustain.

For me, life got WAY harder after my third kid and that was a major wall for me.

But as you dig in to understand ADHD, I’m guessing that some red flags will emerge as you look back on your life through a different lens.

The current criteria wants to see that these challenges were present to some extent earlier in life.

It’s also relevant to what extent you see these challenges in your parents because here is a strong genetic component.

The question to ask yourself is are your challenges impacting your ability to function as a parent, spouse, professional or adult?

It helps me to think about in terms of  “whoopsie dayzie” vs. “holy crap a moly” mistakes.

If you have ADHD, I’m guessing you probably have “several holy crap a moly” mistakes you can recount over the year where your ADHD challenges had significant impact on your life.

Or that the daily compounding of “whoopsie days” mistakes ended up having major consequences for you.

By whoopsie dayzie mistake, I mean those small things that fall through the cracks… forgetting to put the trash out on trash day. Or sending the form in late for your kids field trip.

By holy crap a moly I mean, impulsively signing a lease for a car that you couldn’t afford and then getting in a financial pickle… Or forgetting about the field trip form all together and your child missing it completely. Or forgetting to send in the scholarship form and losing out on thousands of dollars of aid… or getting another HUGE speeding ticket and having to pay an astronomical amount for car insurance…

It’s really important for you to spend some time thinking about your own life and writing out how you see these challenges showing up in your life over the years.

This will help you so much when you pursue a diagnosis.

I know I for one often go blank and get tongue tied in those situations so having it thought through is so helpful.

ADHD struggles often manifest in ways that hinder us in many areas of our life.

  1. Career
  2. Parenting
  3. Finances
  4. Relationships
  5. Marriage

This might look like.

  1. Getting fired for being late, making careless mistakes or not following through. Not living up to potential in professional life.
  2. Major anger issues or struggle to follow through with discipline.
  3. Massive debt or living paycheck to paycheck
  4. Broken friendships and no support network
  5. Ongoing marital struggles, divorce or fighting

Here’s what all this means.

If you identify with these struggles and see that they are impacting your life in a significant way, it means that you could very well have a neurological condition responsible for these challenges that needs to be addressed.

You aren’t flighty or emotional or disorganized or selfish… your brain had unique struggles around executive function and with proper support you can learn to lead a full and vibrant life.

These struggles left untreated can DERAIL and impact your life but they don’t have to long term.

So what if you don’t meet all of these criteria and don’t see signs of ADHD in your early life…

Something else be going on that is impacting your brain function!

  1. Hormonal changes of perimenopause as you approach 40 and in your 40s can play a huge role. Get your hormones checked and advocate for yourself if you think that’s at play.
  2. Stress + lack of sleep can play a major role in our mental health
  3. Lack of connection and intimacy can definitely hurt you too.

I’d recommend pursuing counseling or therapy to help you dig deeper to understand what’s going on in your life.

If you think you might have ADHD and are just starting this journey, I’ve created a guide that will help you.

It’s an overview of how to pursue a diagnosis as well as some lifestyle tips to help you thrive with ADHD.

Use the link to take the next step to get help for your brain.

Click here to get the free guide, Thriving in Motherhood with ADHD.

 Watch the Full Youtube Video:


Essential Tools to Thrive in Motherhood with ADHD

Get this e-book for a quick overview of what you can do today to help you and your kids thrive.

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