This summer, my husband and I decided to enroll our six year old child with ADHD in summer camp at our local wilderness park. We decided to try it out for one week to see how she liked it and so far, she has been loving it. Every day this week, she has been gone from 9am to 4pm having fun playing games, doing arts and crafts projects, and going on nature hikes.
I have missed her like crazy, but I have a confession to make. To be completely honest, I have thoroughly enjoyed having a break from my child. Does that make me a bad mom? No. It makes me a real mom. Parenting is difficult, whether you have a child with special needs or not, but parenting a child with ADHD is downright exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes even heartbreaking. Unless you are a parent of an ADHDer or you have ADHD yourself, I don’t think you can fully grasp what it is like for us parents. Our children are our world, but children with ADHD seem to consume our entire world. Parents of ADHDers are constantly doing research and looking for ways to help their colorful child make it in this black and white world. Whether we are helping them work on their social skills by role playing with them or buying five different types of fidget toys to see which one will get them to not wiggle around in the pew at church, we are thinking of ways to help, support, and guide them 24/7. Although it is incredibly rewarding when our hard work pays off and we see our child thriving, it is incredibly draining emotionally and physically. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, especially after I am done helping my child with her homework, I feel like I am leaving a battlefield, bruised and broken.
This is not something I talk about much, because I have come to accept that this is just what my life is like now and I don’t complain that I never get any breaks. As hard as it is for me, it is ten times harder for my child who is the one with ADHD trying to conquer its many challenges 24/7. She doesn’t get a break from her ADHD, so why should I get a break from parenting my child with ADHD? Two words: My sanity.
While I do feel guilty wanting a break from my child, that doesn’t mean I don’t need and deserve the break. Although I try to be the best mother I can be, I find myself losing my patience, snapping at my child, and just being in a bad mood overall when I am too stressed, overtired, and overworked. That is absolutely not the type of mother my child needs and deserves. That is why it is important (critical even) that parents of children with ADHD do get breaks from their child now and then, especially when their stress level is high. If you are like me, you will feel guilty asking for a break, but we need to get over that nonsense. We spend so much of our time and energy taking care of our family while we neglect ourselves. We need breaks in order to be a better parent for our children. Ask a grandparent to babysit for a day, arrange a playdate for your child at their friend’s house, have your child attend summer camp, etc. (If you are reading this and you are a friend or relative of a parent who has a child with ADHD, PLEASE offer to watch their child for them to give them that well deserved break. You have no idea how much they will appreciate it!)
What should you do when you finally get that glorious break? Anything you want! Do whatever you need to do to get rid of your stress and recharge so that you can be the amazing Super Mom that you are for your children. So what have I been doing? Well, I have another younger daughter to take care of while my ADHDer is at summer camp, so I’ve been spending some much needed quality time with her. You’re probably thinking, “That’s not much of a break if you’re still taking care of your child.” Trust me. It definitely counts. It’s quite sad how much siblings of ADHDers get put on the back burner. This week, my younger daughter and I have gone to amusement parks, on lunch dates, and gone shopping together and I am happy to say that all of the outings were stress free. If I were to have taken my ADHDer with us, that would have been a whole different story and you parents of ADHDers know exactly what I’m talking about.