4 Ways ADHD Makes Me a Better Parent

Callie Williams | November 9, 2021

"As time went on, I realized that my daughter's growth wasn’t happening in spite of my limitations, but rather, because of my strengths."

I approach parenting the same way I approach everything I attempt in life: enthusiasm, tons of research, grand plans, and a sprinkle of chaos. As a result, I belong to a number of parenting-oriented social media groups that vary widely in quality and content. Almost daily, someone in some group will post a cutesy “Which Mom Are You?” meme - basically a character description list of modern mothering archetypes - and members will self-identify:

  • Are you Bridget, who hand-makes Pinterest-worthy Halloween costumes for her four children and volunteers for every book fair?

  • Maybe you’re a Charlie, whose immaculate kitchen looks like a minimalist aesthetic mood board.

  • Skye is the effortlessly cool vegan mom who believes in the healing power of essential oils and always smells like lavender.

The memes vary in theme and character, but a constant on every list is a Katie. That’s what I call her, anyway, although the chosen name varies from post to post. Katie is the “messy mom.”

She’s always late for soccer practice. She didn’t even know the school was having a book fair. She does school drop-off in her pajamas (not the cute, coordinated leisurewear sets a Bridget would wear; Katie fell asleep on the couch watching Netflix in a decade-old sweatshirt and sweatpants with old mac & cheese stains. She gets nervous when the Charlies and Skyes approach her car in the school parking lot because the passenger seat is littered with dirty coffee cups and crushed granola bars. Katie has never once remembered to sign and return a field trip permission slip on time...

Katie is kind of a flop. All of the other parents in my social media groups don’t want to be a Katie.

I am a total Katie.


Societal Expectations for Parents

When I was a brand new parent, I lived with near-constant anxiety about my ability to measure up. I would look at my chaotic home environment and my eyes were always drawn to the stressful messes:

  • The mountain of laundry that doesn’t get any smaller no matter how much washing I do

  • The piles of half-read parenting books I couldn’t relate to (because #ADHD)

  • The rack of dishes that never seem to make it back to in the cabinets... like, ever

...and I would think to myself, “why am I like this? Why can’t I be like the other moms? Am I a bad parent? What made me think I could do this? Doesn’t my kid deserve better?”

I spent the first couple of years of motherhood trying miserably to act like a “normal” mom, but it felt impossible. No matter how hard I tried, my home was never truly clean because chores have always felt like an exhausting task. My car remained littered with food crumbs and tiny, discarded socks. And as hard as I tried... as much as I prepared... my attempts at hand-made Halloween costumes always ended with a big cry-fest over my sewing machine in the middle of the night on October 30th.


As time went on, though, and my child continued to survive (and even thrive), I realized that her growth wasn’t happening in spite of my limitations, but rather, because of my strengths.

4 Ways ADHD Can Make You a Pretty Awesome Parent

1. Some of us are super creative because of our ADHD

I was adamant from the time I was pregnant that I didn’t want my child’s grandparents buying us noisy plastic toys at birthdays and holidays. Instead, I requested art supplies and books, crafts and musical instruments.

My daughter and I spend weekend mornings sprawled on the floor of our living room with good music going and creativity flowing. We paint, we do collages, we make paper clothes for the massive pile of stuffed animals that have been accumulating since her birth. We do a daily scavenger hunt (no, I’m not talking about the frantic search for my keys or wallet - also a daily occurrence). I am always - literally always - ready to bake a cake at the slightest suggestion. Sure, our home will never be Instagram-perfect, but the clutter and creative disorganization I used to shame myself for looks different now - it looks like a warm and happy home where there’s always a project waiting to be done.

2. Parenting is chaotic, but we’re experts at chaos.

The golden rule of parenting is “expect the unexpected.” There are no instructions for us when we become parents. Even the most prepared parent can’t predict every outcome. But with ADHD parenting, most of us just go with the flow. It’s 10 pm and you just found out that there’s a bake sale tomorrow nobody bothered to tell you about? That’s fine, because you have a stash of gummy worms and a box of broken graham crackers that will make some really fun dirt cupcakes.” They will be the children’s favorite and when you find out later that Bridget sent three separate emails to remind everyone about the bake sale, it will barely even sting.


3. We are well-versed in big feelings

Young children are, by nature, emotional creatures. So am I! And lucky for my kid, I have decades of experience actively, consciously learning to regulate my emotions. It takes lots of practice, and fortunately there are resources for this sort of thing, like Inflow's Parenting with ADHD module on the Inflow app. It contains some solid advice and exercise about emotional regulation, how ADHD can affect parents, organization, and lots of other helpful tools.

As children learn to navigate the high highs and the low lows of the human experience, research shows that having a parent with heightened empathy can help them feel understood, supported, and connected. Those feelings of connection and understanding help kids feel safe to express themselves, be imperfect, and grow, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to teach emotional governance. Giving these skills to your child is truly a gift to the world. Recently, my daughter’s teacher told me that she’s been approaching struggling classmates with empathy and offering support. This was quite possibly the proudest moment of my life, and I credit my ADHD with her kindness.

4. We are modeling neurodiversity

ADHD tends to run in families. Some studies estimate a heritability rate of 75-91%, meaning that up to 91% of ADHD traits can be attributed to genetics inherited from one or both biological parents. This means that for those of us who share genes with our children, there is a high likelihood that they may develop ADHD symptoms as well. For ADHD children, seeing our unique talents, perspectives, abilities, and yes, even our challenges - and how we’ve learned to cope with them - is an important model for improving your child's self-esteem, embracing neurodiversity and growing up with an attitude of self-acceptance and empowerment.

Final Thoughts

Before my daughter was born, I worried that she’d “get my ADHD.” I worried about her impulsivity, her behaviors, her focus... whether she’d be able to live the life she’d dream of or if my crappy genes would hold her back. A few years into our journey together, it’s obvious to me - she’s one of us, part of the Chaos Crew. So, I don’t worry anymore. She’s creative and impulsive and brilliant and a daydreamer and she’s got this - and any time she doesn’t, she’s got a mom who has her back.

She’s got the perfect, imperfect mom for this very important job - a Katie.

Callie Williams is a writer, student, chef, and musician-artist living in California with her five-year-old daughter and their guinea pigs, Penelope and Pineapple. You can see more of her work at calliewilliams.com.

Inflow, a new ADHD Management app has modules for the ADHD parent. Interested in checking it out? Click here to start your free trial!