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What makes being a mom with ADHD so hard? Navigating executive functions and emotional labor, for one. And feeling burned out when burnout isn’t an option — because there’s always something else that needs your very limited attention!

Talking about it with someone who just “gets it” is such a relief. In this episode, Laura talks to her friend and colleague Rae Jacobson, also a mom with ADHD. Listen to their conversation and insights on this bonus Mother’s Day episode.

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Episode transcript

Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!," a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood, and as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.

I'm here today with Rae Jacobson. Rae is my amazing colleague. We've known each other for a long time. She's a senior editor at Understood. She has so much knowledge on all things ADHD and many other things, I will say. She also has a six-year-old daughter, Alice. And, Rae and I talk often about being a working mom with ADHD. As our listeners know, I also have children, including a now nine-year-old as of today.

Rae: Happy birthday C.C.

Laura: Happy birthday to C.C. Rae, welcome.

Rae: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here to have this conversation that we have informally.

Laura: I know, I'm so excited too.

Rae: All the time.

Laura: All the time. Maybe too often, maybe?

Rae: I mean, what's too often really with something like this?

Laura: So, yeah, today's episode is going to be different. We're not going to do a standard "Aha!" episode where we talk about our own ADHD "aha" moment and reflect and have a lovely conversation. But we're still going to have a lovely conversation today in honor of Mother's Day, Rae.

Rae: Oh, yes.

Laura: Is it your favorite day of the year?

Rae: Yes. It's like all holidays rolled into one and then just presented to you as breakfast in bed. What could be better?

Laura: And I'm sure that your daughter is always really well-behaved on Mother's Day, yeah?

Rae: Oh yeah. Absolutely. She honors it from her heart. Last Mother's Day she threw an Andy's mint at me and ran out of the room.

Laura: Oh, God. So, Rae, today, you and I, we're going to chat. We are going to hear from some listeners who wrote in. Thank you, listeners. We love our listeners. We love our community.

And I just want to caveat something before we get into it, because Rae and I want to be really real about what it's like to be a mom with ADHD, a working mom with ADHD. We love our kids. We do. We don't always like them, maybe, but we adore them and would do anything for them. But we just we need to be real. So, if we say something that's like, "Wow, do these women even like their kids?" You know, it's sometimes maybe we don't, but we adore them and we love them and we would give our lives for them. Right, Rae?

Rae: Absolutely.

Laura: To kick it off, Rae, let's talk about ourselves for a minute here. Let's talk about who we are as women with ADHD in particular as moms with ADHD. There's a community feeling when you say, "Oh, I'm also a mom with ADHD, but we are all different. We all struggle with things in different ways, have different strengths. So, who are you, Rae?

Rae: As a mom with ADHD, it's funny to think of myself in those parameters because you spend so much of your life trying to figure out who you are, right? And ADHD, I was lucky enough to be diagnosed at 21, which sounds late, but for women, we know that that's somewhat early and have a lot of knowledge from my mom, who also has ADHD. So, I had like a role model to look to.

But after my daughter was born, I immediately got slammed with wild postpartum depression, like it was something that I never experienced. I now know that that's really common for women with ADHD. There's a lot of mood disorder overlap, but at the time I was completely surprised. So, it took me a good like nine months to start feeling like a person again, let alone trying to figure out who am I as a mom, as myself. And then where does my ADHD fit into all of that?

And it's funny because we've talked about this before, about trying to figure out where we exist within all of those things, like your ADHD, yourself as a mother. And for me, my ADHD was very inattentive, very dreamy, like I was kind of a drifty person and having a baby, like brought me down to earth hard.

My ability to organize was never strong, and now it consumed so much of my energy that it's kind of like it's a shocking sense of being like that person that I was. Before I had a kid may just be gone, which sounds kind of harsh, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's the first time that I can really look at like a dividing line in my life and say, "That was me before. This is me now."

Laura: Tell me more about the flip. Are you less dreamy now? You're more organized now? Tell me, like, how does that play out specifically?

Rae: You know, I know that we're both writers. We're both creative people. And I don't know if you had this experience, I'd love to hear what you think about it, but before having a child, I had a lot more space for interiority just to, like, kind of drift around in my own mind. And when you have ADHD, especially inattentive ADHD, that's really important.

I mean, I think it's important for everybody, but I think if you have this type of brain as is, the amount of energy it takes you to do the organizational stuff, to do the everyday stuff that seems so rote for people who don't have this, for neurotypical people, it's a lot. you know, it takes up like a lot of your space.

So there's a smaller amount left over to just do those drifty dreamy being yourself things. And once I had Alice, that really ate up a lot more of my energy, and I haven't quite figured out how to rebalance. It's better than it was when she was small, because I'm sleeping more. But even now, like, I mean, I know we've talked about this, just getting out the door in the morning is like...

Laura: It's, I can't. I haven't, my son has started — when we finally get into the car pretty much every school day morning — he's taken to asking me, "Mom, was this a tough morning or was this a good morning?" My sweet little six-year-old.

Rae: That's so thoughtful.

Laura: He's a lovebug. Yeah, he really is. But, yeah, I hear you on that. What you were saying about interiority and having that space. Before becoming a mom, I was sprinting all day.

Like, not literally, or sometimes literally, but sprinting all day to get everything done all the time and just feeling like, "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. I'm just going to get through it and plow through it. And then when I get home, I can just be and have no schedule, just be alone in my thoughts and completely kind of like, get into fetal position by myself and not have to worry about anything else."

The biggest challenge for me now with kids is that you don't have that space. You come home — and I know this is a problem for all moms and all parents — but there's something unique about ADHD in this area and we can talk about it.

But like, I get home and I'm excited to see my family, excited to see my kids, but I'm freaked out because I'm about to do job number two, and I have to recenter, reorganize, and I don't have that recovery time. I just went through all of these executive function challenges all day, and now I have to face a whole different type of executive challenges the second I walk in the door.

And that has been, it's been really hard, and that's a nice way to put it. It's been emotional. It's been painful. I have a lot of days where I'm like, "Everybody don't even say anything to me when I walk in. I will be with you in 15 minutes."

Rae: It eats up what you had for yourself and in so many ways, like, I don't know if you experience this, but I feel like I'm supposed to not feel like that.

Laura: Right.

Rae: The family time is supposed to be like, "I'm with my family!" And I do feel that in a lot of ways. But there's also this other side where it's like there's just no space between the workpiece and the family piece, and then like, just doing your own, like organizational tasks, like somehow keeping the house clean and like making sure that you, I don't know, showered.

Laura: Yeah. Totally. Get the kids showered.

Rae: Yeah. To figure out how to be like that person that you were before or not even just whatever version of that person you're going to be now. Like, where's the luxury of time to figure that out?

Rae: Yeah. I think people underestimate too how difficult doing those basic human things are when you have ADHD. Like, OK, when am I going to shower? When am I going to have lunch? And then when you're trying to make sure that that happens for another person, two or multiple people, it's just like it's bonkers. It's so hard.

Rae: Well, also feels like, I don't know if you experience this, but I always feel like I have to hold it so tight because it's so much effort. So, it's like, it's as if you're like on stage and you're like," I just get to the end of this show. I'm doing so great." It's like, if you let anything slip it, just everything else will fall apart. And I feel like that has been...

Laura: Totally.

Rae: ...a mode that I know is not helpful, but figuring out how to get out of it is so challenging. Because then it's like everything has to get done at exactly the right time, or the alternative is chaos.

Laura: Right. Or the house of cards just come, home comes crashing down. Well, this is the bedtime problem too. It's like, what's the Joan Didion, not slouching towards Bethlehem, slouching towards bedtime.

We're like, little by little, we're just trying to, like, just get to bedtime. Just get to bedtime. Get them in bed so that you can finally have that interiority, as you say, that inner space, that not having to plan anything or do any tasks for anyone. And like, to your point, like you're gripping so hard the harder you grip, kids sense that, man. Like kids, the more they pull away and like, it's just this vicious kind of cycle.

Rae: It's really hard.

Laura: And like, get in bed and they're like, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, don't want to do it."

Rae: My daughter does what I call night thoughts, which is where she like, she's like, "Mom, I just want to tell you something." And you're like, "Oh my gosh, you're confiding in me. Like, I'm so glad to know what's going on in your mind." Because it turns out six-year-olds are basically teenagers and they're just like, you know, like, "How was your day?" And they're like, "It's fine." But what is this? Like, we have years before this.

Laura: Oh God It's so true.

Rae: But no. But when she does want to talk, I'm so excited. But at the same time, it's like "You have to go to sleep and I have to go, like, clean the kitchen and, like, do all this other stuff before I also have to go to sleep."

So, it's so hard to find, like the balance between also being like present for your kids and present for yourself and all this other just like the basket of things that come with being a mom and being alive and being a partner and being a working person, like it's just all of it feels like you're holding it so tightly. Like it's funny, you bring up that Joan Didion title. So, I think about the poem that's from all the time that Yeats poem "Things Fall Apart, the center cannot hold," you know.

Laura: Yes. The center cannot hold. Yes.

Rae: It just feels like you're just trying to keep it together. And how long can that go?

Laura: Dire. That's dire. It's going to be OK, everyone. This thing, this is how we get through it is by talking about it like this.

You are so articulate and speaking thoughtfully about why this is different with ADHD. Because, again, folks that didn't know that this was an ADHD podcast, they may be like, "These are two moms who are struggling, and that sounds like two moms who are struggling and trying to like, make it through every day." Talk to me about ADHD and why it's I, I don't want to be like, it's harder...

Rae: But it is.

Laura: But it is. Yeah.

Rae: We have to be able to name that. You and I have talked about this. One of the hardest things about having ADHD is how much it impacts your life, and how often you feel like you should just be able to deal with it, right? Like this is a neurological difference. Like our brains are different. There's research that backs it up. And yet how much of your day do you spend being like, "I should just be able to do this? Why can't I do this?"

Even with all the knowledge that you and I have, even with like, you know, we've been writing about this, talking about this, being experts on this for years. Like, I have a degree.

And still there are moments where I'm like, "Why can't I just do this?" And until you have like a little space to reflect me like, "Oh, I have a different type of brain; that's not good or bad, but it is a reality for me," and I have to be able to give myself the grace of saying like, "Oh, I need to come at this from a different angle, or at least give myself a little bit of kindness at this moment."

Laura: Listeners, Rae and I are laughing right now because this is another thing that we talk about a lot as writers, editors who have been creating content on this topic for a long time now, 20 years. When we're in that mode of like, what the hell do I do in this situation? What do we do? We turn to Google and we…

Rae: It's the worst.

Laura: And we search for tips. And what do you often find, Rae?

Rae: I will find articles that I have written.

Laura: So, this just acknowledgment for all of you out there who are like, "This is so hard, like what do we do?" Even us, we have the privilege of working with experts every day, of having this lived experience, this knowledge, research, content that we ourselves have developed. And then you get in the moment and it just feels insurmountable.

Rae: Yes. When you talk about like, why is it different with ADHD? I feel like all parents experience this thing right where you're supposed to, just like there's a right way to do it, and you figure it out, and you put in this behavior and you get back out this type of child behavior, which is just not how people work. But it's, you know, I mean, as people who write these tips, we know that frequently you're just like, "Just saw this from me, internet, what am I supposed to do?"

Laura: I think we should also mention that you and I are two privileged white women. Yes, who have spouses and dual income, and we work with people who are understanding of our differences. This is not a luxury that most women have, most women with ADHD. Yeah.

Rae: And when you talk about like what makes it hard, why is ADHD different? It's the amount of extra work. That is just heaped on your brain to hold it all together like we've been talking about. For women with ADHD, that effort is just significantly more, and the amount of effort that it takes just to get through the day is significantly more.

And if you heap on to that lack of funds, lack of an understanding or flexible workplace, no access to health care, no access to medication, the hole gets harder and deeper. Single parenting, a child who has high needs. Depending on where you're coming from, that well gets deeper and deeper and deeper.

We are lucky enough in our own lives to not have a lot of the stressors that a lot of women who have ADHD, who are moms are experiencing. And I think one of the things that we've talked about a lot lately is there's a lot more information about ADHD out there.

Laura: But it's in clips.

Rae: It's like a social media thing, you scroll by, it looks familiar, it's helpful for a second, and then you move on. But something like this where people are talking about what the day-to-day experience is like, that's pretty rare. And for moms, it's even more rare because so much of motherhood is about feeling like, for me anyway, I don't know if you've experienced this like you're doing it wrong, or like you're by yourself, or like something isn't going the way you hoped it would go.

"Am I doing a bad job?" And for women with ADHD, depending on like what you're coming in with that experience of like, how am I just going to make it from today to tomorrow is so much harder. And that's something that I think we have to acknowledge. And ADHD often gets left out of that conversation.

Laura: I'm thinking about some of the responses that we got from our communities, including our community on Instagram. You know, you're talking about that feeling of, "I should just be able to do this." It's really easy to minimize the frustration that can come with dealing with a small thing. I'm going to use small in quotes, a small in quotes thing, and it's really easy for other people to be like, "Why are you so upset about that?" But it's kind of like one misstep — we were talking about bedtime and morning routines — like one misstep puts you back for the whole day.

Rae: Yeah.

Laura: And it makes you feel like you're a massive F up as a mom. I'm looking at some of these responses from our friends on Instagram who we asked, we asked to hear from moms with ADHD about, you know, what's the most frustrating thing about being a mom with ADHD? And let me read some of these. "I was putting a toy together for my son and got overwhelmed and frustrated with the instructions."

Rae: Right.

Laura: Reaction.

Rae: We've talked about this a lot of times, and I'm sure anybody listening is probably had this experience where it's like, how often are we told to model the behavior we want to see in our kids? And in some ways that means like, "Oh, wow, this wasn't working the way I hoped it would. I'll try another thing." Where in reality, what I would like to do most of the time is take whatever multi-step direction thing is challenging my brain and throw it out of my window. I don't, just to be clear, I'm very safety conscious, but I'd like to do that.

I just feel like that's such a common experience for moms with ADHD, and because so much kid stuff, I'm thinking child homework, toys, cleaning, all these things are exactly the things that challenge an ADHD brain. These are all things that hit as hard as they can, right in the areas where we are at our weakest. And I think it's really hard not to just like, let that frustration go. I don't know, I feel like you and I have had this conversation a lot.

Laura: Yeah, I'm thinking of a recent incident with my son, my sweet son. And the other weekend I had it in my mind, not on my calendar, but in my mind, I was certain that this cool, big outdoor event that he really wanted to attend was on a particular day. We get all ready to go. He is so excited. It has been raining all weekend. It's going to be our first time doing something for the weekend, and it's going to be a special outing for him and Mom, but those outings are rare.

We get there and oh, the parking lot is empty. Oh, I got the weekend wrong. No big deal, right? But now my son is crying and he's disappointed and he just feels like he's not getting any attention — I don't know, I'm projecting at this point or catastrophizing — I don't know.

Rae: It's hard not to.

Laura: But I had a scheduling error, and I can remember the chaos of my brain when I was trying to remember when the state was.

Rae: Yeah.

Laura: And I felt so guilty, Rae. I was like, "I'm the worst. I'm the worst mom that has ever lived," I mean, that's it.

Rae: It's a horrible feeling. And that thing we've talked about, ADHD tax, like those things where it's like, everybody makes these mistakes sometimes, right? This is every ADHD. Everybody will miss one data, make one mistake. But for us it's a lot more. You know, it's...

Laura: All the time.

Rae: All the time. And trying to make sure that those things don't happen takes up an enormous amount of your brain space, like I have for calendars.

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: I still get dates wrong, times wrong, miss birthdays, don't remember important things at school, right? Like the 100th day of school. Didn't know that was a thing.

Laura: Yeah, on my God.

Rae: Like it's so hard to hold all those things in one place. And when you don't do it right like that, where you're, where you're out there in the parking lot is empty, like that feeling where your heart just crumples and you think... And I think this is also like, you know, it's like your brain's been down this path so many times. It's a real easy slip to be like, "I suck. I screwed up again. This is like, the worst thing. And now it's affecting my kid." And that feeling, that is such a bad feeling.

Laura: I'm happy because this is a Mother's Day episode, and all we're doing is talking about how bad of parents we are, but with awareness that we're not, actually.

Rae: No. And, you know, it's interesting. I had like kind of a revelation on that the other day because my kid came home from school, my daughter's been — and we've talked about this also, like my daughter's been showing signs of inattentive ADHD — to the point where we had a parent-teacher conference where they basically read out a list of symptoms and we're like, "Yeah, I don't think ADHD."

You know, it's like you just, this is like a textbook, like, are you sure? And she was getting frustrated with her homework. And I was like also getting frustrated with her homework, honestly.

And I was like, "There's a lot of directions here." And she was like, "Yes. And when there's this many directions, it feels like they're just throwing them into my brain. And then my brain gets fuzzy and I can't think of anything and I can't remember anything, and then I get in trouble."

Laura: Oh, sweet Alice.

Rae: Yes. And in that moment, I just wanted to cry. I mean, I, you know, I was like, "Oh, I hear you like, I know that feeling," but I remember that so vividly. I still feel like that sometimes as an adult, but as a kid, all that stuff was so mysterious.

And when I think about, like, how many things I screw up as a mom with ADHD and I say that lightly, like, I understand this is part of who we are, but when I'm trying to give myself that grace, there's a moment where I don't know if it's where I'm like, I just want to be in like and I, I know that this is very a triggering word for a lot of people who are neurodiverse, but I know we all have set it to ourselves. So, please, grain of salt with this. I just want to be a normal mom and I know there is no such thing.

You know, logically, I understand there's no normal mom and that being normal is completely an unrealistic concept. However, it's definitely something I've like laughed at myself in moments of forgetting the date and showing up to the empty parking lot or whatever else it is. But in moments like that, I'm so grateful that I have ADHD, and I'm so grateful that I can sit down and say, like, "Man, I know exactly how you feel."

Laura: Does Alice let you relate to her? It's like we always want to value kids uniqueness, and kids want to feel unique and maybe like nobody understands the challenges that they're going through. I'm just curious.

Rae: We're not that far into fake teenagerdom yet.

Laura: Fair, fair, yes.

Rae: But we're not quite there. But you know, I try to do it in a way that's not like, "Oh, I know just how you feel, kid."

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: No, I try to make it more of a normalization thing, like, "Oh, wow. Yeah, I know what you mean." I'll try to kind of reflect back what she said. Like, directions, it just feels like they don't make sense. And they seem like they make sense to other people around you. And that can feel really confusing. And she's like, "Yes!" It's a moment to just like, get down there and remember what those feelings were like and how for her, this is all invisible, unmapped territory.

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: And all she hears is "You're not doing well. You're a bad kid," you know? And she said that to me before, and it's something where we work really hard to make sure that that's not something that's, like, seeping in. But it's there, you know, that's ADHD moving through the world. You're not going to hit the points other people are hitting. And it's very upsetting. It can be really impactful in how you imagine who you are.

Laura: Oh, Rae. You are a really brilliant mom. I just want to say that.

Rae: So are you. I've learned a lot from, like, the things that you've told me about how you are with your kids.

Laura: I'm like, I can't even respond to that because, I mean, thank you. I just because, it just it feels so foreign, right? To think that you may actually be doing OK.

Rae: Yeah.

Laura: You use the word like the kids feeling like they're bad. I try so hard to be mindful of what I say, but also gently kind of correcting folks around me. Like, I think it's also a generational thing, not meaning anything. Some of my older relatives might be like, "Oh, you're bad. Oh, you're a bad kid." I'm like, no.

First of all, let's make it not a permanent state of being. Let's not make it an indictment on who you are as a person. Let's say if you want to use that word, let's say "You're being bad today." But how about like, "Oh, you didn't follow directions." So, it's at least a semi-teachable moment as opposed to you to start, "You're rotten to the core."

Let's hear from another Instagram user here. OK, so Nicole says "Every night when I've procrastinated cooking dinner and now everyone is angry." I feel you, Nicole. It's not that it's Mom's job always to make dinner, but we know, we know the truth where it usually falls. You know.

Rae: I think this is like one of the things that is like when you talk about white women and ADHD is like, such, like, you probably heard me say this before, I hit this gong a lot. This is a feminist issue.

Laura: Yeah. Like, it is.

Rae: ADHD in women is a feminist issue. It's an intersectional issue that gets left out of conversations about women's work, because that emotional labor that we're all so comfortable talking about now.

Or that is like now, very much like in the discourse, you add on somebody who has executive functioning issues, and you really recognize that that is probably someone who was underdiagnosed, likely, maybe has not been diagnosed at all, is coping with this deficit in attention and organizational ability, and trying so hard to not just do the job of a person who is a parent and has a job, but probably bearing the majority of the housework, the majority of the scheduling reminding everyone, "Do you have your bag?"

Or doing like the mental math of like, you know, "Where in that room is that sock? I guess I'll have to find it. Have you seen this thing?" Like we carry that stuff. And I think a lot about that cartoon that was very popular during the pandemic, where it's like a woman bent over with, like, the chair and her back in the baby's crib, in the sink, in the dishes, and everything gets higher and higher and higher. And I feel like if you just put the word ADHD on that, she would just collapse.

Laura: Whoa. Chills. Very good use of imagery there. What is the stat? I think globally women do 75% of unpaid caregiving. So, even that seems low. But, what is and, what is caregiving? It's scheduling. It is organization. It is task management.

Rae: It's absorbing other people's emotions.

Laura: Yes. Emotional regulation. Yes.

Rae: Those night thoughts, like my husband is a wonderful partner. I'm very privileged to have somebody who was like that. However, when my daughter wants to talk, she wants to talk to me most of the time, and not because they don't have a good relationship, but because that's where she's comfortable. And I tend to be like an emotionally absorbent person, and I know how to get down in those moments. But that said that I come out and I'm like, spun out from the night thoughts of like, all of these like, emotions she's experiencing.

And I don't know about you, but I'm not even necessarily sure this is ADHD related, but I sometimes have a hard time like letting go of the feelings of other people. Like I absorb them easily, but it's very hard for me to then like set a boundary around it when I'm by myself. Like, you sort of ruminate, I don't know. I think it's really hard to be a mom with ADHD for a lot of reasons, but because it's hard to be a woman with ADHD. Yeah, yeah. And so much of this is like, you know, not, to quote Kate Bush, really, but women's work.

Laura: I mean, a Kate Bush quote is always welcome on this podcast.

Rae: I'm not going to do the voice, though.

Laura: Was it you who told me that they have Kate Bush Day in the UK?

Rae: No, but I may have told you that when my daughter was a baby, the only thing that calm her down was if I ran in place holding her and saying, running up that hill in full Kate Bush imitation, is the only thing that's ever stopped her crying. I'm sure our neighbors really liked us.

Laura: Oh, my God. I can't get that image out of my head now. That's it. I'm going to remember that a lot.

So, Rae, we received a beautiful email from Heather Berry, who gave us permission to to share her story. She is a listener on "ADHD Aha!". She wrote into "ADHD Aha!" at — you are all welcome to send an email to us. We'd love to hear from you. So, Heather wrote in sharing her experience as a woman with ADHD, as a mother with ADHD.

And there is a sentence in her email that I want to read, where she's talking about, like, how does having ADHD affect me as a mother? And she's talked about some of the treatment methods that she started and what she's working on.

And she says, "I am essentially re-parenting myself by having a sort of grace on my kids that I was not allowed as a child, teenager, or even young adult." It gives me chills.

Rae: That's beautiful.

Laura: Let me keep going a little bit, she says, "I always tell all three of our kids..." — she has three kids — "...the things that I need to hear like 'never settle, do your best, be your best, and simply, you are smart.' I am trying to plant those things so deeply in their hearts that even if they question everything else, they'll always have that solid ground that their home was a safe place with encouraging words and love."

Rae: That's wonderful. I think that's like one of the most important and hardest things to do as a parent. And when I feel like I'm not doing a good job, it's when I'm not doing that. Really. Like, that Heather is able to do that for her kids, especially knowing that, just from that email, it sounds like that wasn't something that she was given when she was young. That's unbelievable.

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: Doing better for our kids is what we want, and it sounds like Heather's doing that for her. Children just by being kind and supporting them and telling them that they matter and that they're good and that they're smart. Like those words coming from us, they seem like, I mean, I don't know about you, but when I say that kind of stuff to Alice she actually ignores me. But I know somewhere in her is sinking in.

Laura: Right. All right. Let's see. We also had Angie write in. OK, so Angie's talking about her mom with ADHD, growing up with a mom with ADHD. She says "My mom has ADHD, which I didn't know as a kid, of course. Looking back, I remember it mostly as her always being late and I mean always. And I remember a lot of procrastinating, like cleaning the house at midnight because family was coming from out of town to stay tomorrow. She always framed it as more like her quirky personality, and to some extent it is, but I think it would have been helpful to know it's also just how her brain works." Yeah.

Rae: Yes.

Laura: All of the above. Check.

Rae: 100%. Yeah, I can heavily relate to that.

Laura: Let's see. Heather in our community as well says, "I'm a mom with ADHD who has two children who both have ADHD, among other diagnoses. I think my greatest personal struggle has been not knowing what caused a variety of daily struggles I experienced until relatively recently.

I wasn't diagnosed until I was in my 40s about ten years ago, but my diagnosis helped me to advocate for my daughter for about four years, to be evaluated for, and ultimately diagnosed with ADHD. It took a good deal of perseverance and believing in my mom instincts." Nice job Heather. That's wonderful.

Rae: Yeah. First of all, good work. That is not easy.

Laura: Yeah. Four years.

Rae: I mean, how many parents do we know who had to fight tooth and nail to get their kid the things they needed? And each one of those parents is an absolute champion, you know, like, I don't think we celebrate that enough. And I'm just impressed that you stuck with it. That's really cool.

Laura: Yeah. Nice job, Heather.

Rae: Heather, I don't know if you experienced this, but like schools and teachers and guidance counselors and everyone involved in this machinery are working overtime all the time, and there's not as much information as there could be. And people are juggling multiple things at once. And in the end, the kid who is visibly struggling is going to get services first and with good reason.

Yeah. However, that means like a lot of kids, like maybe our daughters or many other girls out there who have ADHD, which is expressed in a subtler way, we know in women and girls, are being left behind to this day.

The experiences that you and I had as kids are not that dissimilar from the experiences that a lot of girls are going through now, even with the information that we have. And one of the things, like I said, about being a mom with ADHD is that knowing what we know about ourselves makes us such stronger advocates for our kids.

It's such a powerful tool, and even though it can feel like it's holding you back in all these ways, it also means that you know what is going on, even if the school doesn't. And I think that's like a really amazing thing to be able to bring to the table. And when I'm feeling my worst, it makes me feel glad that I have these experiences.

Laura: Rae, what else should we chat about? We've covered a lot today. Well, first listeners, isn't Rae amazing? Should we have Rae back on the show for a multitude of things. Rae can come on as an expert, Rea can come on to share more of a personal story. Write. in. Tell me. Let's write in for Rae. For more interaction with Rae. I'm mortifying you right now.

Rae: I'm so uncomfortable. I'm just going to go hide under my desk.

Laura: What else do you want to share, Rae? Tell me.

Rae: You know, I do want to share one thing. Going back to the moms with ADHD thing, because when I think about Mother's Day, in some ways, just because my kid is so young, it's still like hard to relate to it as a holiday that has anything to do with me. But I do think about my own mom a lot. And she's amazing, but she has ADHD. One sec, because now I will get emotional.

Laura: Oh. It's OK to get emotional.

Rae: So, when I think about Mother's Day, I really think a lot about the women from that generation who raised us, who, you know, we had the benefit of their wisdom and their experiences, and they had their own parents. But I think about how she was just a fighter for me. And it wasn't just because she was my mom, it was because she had experienced this herself. She once had a teacher who said she finally did well on a test after struggling for, I think, an entire semester, and she turned it in and she was going to pass the class and the teacher said, "That's OK, life will fail you."

Laura: Oh my...

Rae: I know. I mean, you know, it's the 60s, right? I guess, but like, there's so many women from the generation before us who were out there advocating for us. And they didn't have any of the things that we had. The resources that you and I create, even when we joke about finding articles that we've written, at least those articles exist.

Laura: Yeah, totally.

Rae: At least women are in the conversation at all, or expected to be able to have these vast and vibrant lives. And our housework is valued. Our interactions with our kids are finally being seen. I mean, granted, we have a long way to go as something that is real work.

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: And I think about all the people who are from their generation who never got the benefit of any of that. And they are these amazing, powerful, incredible women. And I just like, you know, when you talk about, like, my mom attributed it to her quirky personality, the amount of work that they had to put in to travel the distance that they did is unbelievable to me, and I feel so grateful for them.

So I just, I know it's Mother's Day, but in this case, I want to think of the grandmothers, the ADHD grandmothers, who are just unbelievable people and often, I think, get ignored. And so shout out to Nancy Cardozo, my mom, their mom.

Laura: My mom, Marcia, I got to say Happy Mother's Day to my mom, too. I'm so, I mean, happy Mother's Day to you, Rae. Happy Mother's Day to my mom, who had three kids and was a nurse who would work the night shifts. The early morning shift never dropped any balls, even though I know that she was spinning, spinning, spinning. And we take that kind of stuff for granted as kids because we're kids.

Rae: Because we're kids.

Laura: But then you become a mom and you're like, that must have been really, really hard.

Rae: Yeah, the perspective is wild.

Laura: Yeah.

Rae: So, yeah. Happy Mother's Day to the moms.

Laura: Happy Mother's Day to the moms. Happy Mother's Day to you, Rae.

Rae: Happy Mother's Day to you, Laura. This has been so fun.

Laura: Thank you. I'm so grateful to have you in my life. Thank you for being here.

Rae: Ditto. There's nothing like having somebody who gets it all.

Rae: Likewise.

Laura: Oh, my gosh, I'm going to cry.

Rae: I did cry.

Rae: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at I'd love to hear from you. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode.

Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi Jessamine!

Jessamine: Hi everyone.

Laura: Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, Seth Melnik is our executive producer, and I'm your host, Laura Key. Thanks so much for listening.


  • Laura Key

    is executive director of editorial at Understood and host of the “ADHD Aha!” podcast.

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