Care and Feeding

My Daughter Was Just Diagnosed With ADHD. Could I Have It Too?

I want to get evaluated, but I’m worried I might look silly.

A very messy, unorganized desk with crumpled pieces of paper and various items strewn about.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ra2studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

When I was in school, I was a pretty good student. My teachers told my parents that I daydreamed too much, had trouble staying organized, and sometimes spoke out of turn, but that I was generally “a joy to have in class.” My grades slipped significantly in middle school and high school as the work got more detail-oriented and less interesting to me, but I got through with a B average. When I went to college and then grad school, I specifically avoided classes that I knew didn’t play to my strengths. It wasn’t until I entered the workforce that daydreaming and being disorganized started to cause real problems for me. I had trouble meeting deadlines and finishing projects, and just barely made up for it by being so pleasant to work with that our clients wouldn’t have stood for my boss firing me.

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I wondered if I could have ADHD, but when I brought it up to a therapist, he dismissed the idea because I had been a good enough student to earn an advanced degree. I’m a stay-at-home mom now, and I can see that my chronic disorganization and lack of focus are taking a toll on my family. I’m embarrassed to invite people over because our house is a mess, I lose things that my daughter needs for school, and I frequently tell my husband that I’ll do something (like pay a bill) and then forget to do it. I keep trying to get things reasonably under control, but no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to maintain any kind of order. I know some of this is normal for a family with three young kids, but most of my friends have two to three kids, and they’re not like this. My daughter was recently diagnosed with ADHD after struggling academically in kindergarten and first grade, and I’m starting to reconsider the possibility that I might have it too. But I’m afraid that the doctor is going to blow me off because I was, for the most part, a good student. Is it possible that I could have ADHD even though I was a pretty good student? And is it even worth it to pursue this when I’m out of the workforce and won’t be returning for a few years at least? I feel silly about going to a doctor and asking for a medical diagnosis because I can’t keep my house clean.

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—Disorganized Mom

Dear DM,

I have to go first-person testimony on this one. I’m one of at least five people that I can think of in my extended social circle alone who was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. My academic journey was nearly identical to what you describe, though I stopped at a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t know much about the disorder, aside from the debate about overdiagnosis in children, until I was a parent myself, so I never recognized my disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, and other (now devastatingly obvious!) symptoms for what they were. Now that I do, I see them clearly in my own father as well (research suggests that genetics contribute to ADHD).

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Do not take the dismissiveness of one doctor to mean there’s no cause for concern. Between your own child’s diagnosis and the tendencies you’ve observed in yourself, you have reason enough to be properly evaluated. There are medical professionals who may be skeptical about adults seeking an ADHD diagnosis for any number of reasons, such as rampant Adderall abuse, which is why I’d suggest finding a doctor who specializes in adult ADHD to talk to about your concerns. I cannot begin to tell you how drastically my life has improved since I found out that I have it, because it’s no longer going untreated. If you feel strongly that you have ADHD, you deserve to know and to be able to start taking care of yourself accordingly. Wishing you all of the best.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am in my late 20s, unmarried with no children. I’ve become close with a co-worker-turned-friend this past year, who is older and has a toddler with another little one on the way soon. I know that not all younger, childless women are enthusiastic about starting and maintaining close friendships with mothers and their young ones, but I love kids and have really valued our friendship over the past year, which otherwise could have been really lonely for us both.

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The problem is that I’m not always sure how to empathize with her pregnancy plights—a birth plan unrealized due to the pandemic, physical discomfort, uncertainty about how her toddler will handle a new baby, or anxiety leading up to what will be a different birthing experience this time around. I care about these problems! I love and want to support my friend as best I can. I’ve set up a meal train and organized a small virtual “sprinkle” with our fellow co-workers. But I often find myself unsure of what to say to her at the moment. How can I best support her when I just have absolutely no experience being a parent/being pregnant/giving birth?

—Loss for Words

Dear LfW,

It sounds like you are doing all of the right things already! When you’re going through something, you don’t typically expect someone who hasn’t experienced it to have the magic words to say that will somehow bring you peace and comfort (unless it’s your parents or perhaps a religious leader of some sort), and I doubt your friend is looking to hear them from you. Just continue to show her how you feel with your actions, and by letting her know that you’ve got her back: “Obviously I can’t say I know how you’re feeling right now, but I want you to know that I care, I’m here for you, and I am happy to listen to you vent, scream, cry … whatever you need.” Thank you for helping a mommy in her time of need!

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• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I got married to my wife two years ago, and at the time we (both women) decided we wanted a family. We were uncomfortable with not knowing who the father was, so we decided to find someone we know. We moved into a better neighborhood with amazing schools, the kind of place we want our kids to grow up. When we moved in, we met a very kind and helpful man, “Josh.” We broached the idea of him donating his sperm. Five months later, my wife is pregnant with twins. We are delighted, and we were clear with Josh that he would be “Uncle Josh.” We want our babies to understand the circumstances of their birth, and we thought Josh was on board. However, back when my wife was four months pregnant, Josh came over and told us he changed his mind. He now bangs on our door daily, demanding she have an abortion. He sends hourlong messages, emails, and texts. We blocked him, but he just keeps getting new numbers. The police here are a joke. What should we do?

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—Nervous in New Zealand

Dear Nervous,

This is indeed a terrifying situation, and I am so sorry that you are going through this. While I can’t discern all the details of your arrangement with Josh from your letter, I would suggest that you immediately, if you have not already, contact a lawyer. From my cursory research into New Zealand’s paternity laws, it seems unlikely that Josh would have any legal claims of paternity, but I can’t be sure. An attorney will be able to advise you on your rights and should also be able to direct you toward a legal response that might stop the harassment.

My other advice to you (and I pray that you are able to abide by it, as I know it would not be something I could easily do myself at this moment in time) would be to move somewhere Josh will not be able to easily locate you. You, and especially your wife, should not have to endure this sort of treatment during such a vulnerable time.

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Again, I am truly sorry that you are going through this, and I sincerely hope that you are able to put a stop to Josh’s behavior and some physical distance in between you and him. I also strongly advise that you and your wife, if you haven’t already, begin speaking to a therapist about this traumatic experience that is inextricably linked to the birth of the children that you all are going to love so much and so fully regardless of this difficult time. Sending you lots of love and encouragement.

For more of Slate’s parenting coverage, listen to Mom and Dad Are Fighting

Dear Care and Feeding,

My relationship with my wife began as an affair. My wife ended her marriage after we had fallen in love, and she slowly introduced me to her daughter and ex-husband over a period of a few years. She now has a very amicable, successful co-parenting relationship with her ex. My stepdaughter and I are quite close. We rolled out our relationship to my stepdaughter and her dad as if we started dating after the divorce. Now that we’re officially together and managing the continuous process of blending our families, we couldn’t see how we could have the type of co-parenting and family blending we have now if we had “come out” to my stepdaughter’s dad about the affair and told my stepdaughter (who was 10 when she started getting to know me) her mom had been cheating on her dad with me. My wife plans to talk to her daughter about the truth when she’s older. Skipping over whether we were wrong to have an affair in the first place, were we wrong to keep it a secret the way we did? Do you have an opinion on when and how we should tell my stepdaughter the truth?

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—Is Lying to Your Kids Always Wrong?

Dear Always Wrong,

Maybe I am an amoral, soulless monster, but I cannot see any value in your stepdaughter—and her father, because there’s a damn good chance that news will travel quickly—finding out the circumstances of your marriage.

Your wife ended her marriage to be with you, unbeknownst to her family. The two of you, her ex-husband, and her child have a harmonious relationship. Who benefits from revealing the truth? Why hurt these two innocent people any more than you already have, as the dissolution of the original family unit likely did cause them some pain? Unless there is a strong possibility of being outed, this is something they either never need to know or should hear as part of a deathbed apology from your wife to her ex-husband (and even then, why not let him live the rest of his time out in the peace and harmony of not knowing this?).

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Seriously, someone, anyone, help me understand why this information needs to be shared! If this is a matter of your wife feeling guilty, well, perhaps that’s the price she must pay for doing something selfish and unkind—even if that selfish, unkind act led her out of a relationship that needed to end and into one that deserved a chance. You got the best outcome possible. You kept the affair quiet, you made peace with the ex and the child. What else does she want? Forgiveness? There’s no way of guaranteeing that she’ll ever get it, and there’s the chance that coming clean could cost you the peace and harmony.

I suppose I can understand your wife wanting to have an honest conversation with her daughter about the truth of her own romantic life, but even that is something I wouldn’t suggest doing until her daughter is a full-grown woman—perhaps at a point where marriage might be a consideration of her own. But even then, there is the potential that this information will devastate her or make her unreasonably cynical. If and when she ever does decide to share the truth, please insist that she speaks to a therapist or counselor first for guidance on how she might do so—and what she can expect to come next. I wish you good luck in getting this bad idea out of her head.

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—Jamilah

More Advice From Slate

One of my co-workers has a lovely baby boy, and for the last 10 months or so we’ve all been treated to the rather unlovely sound of her pumping milk in the middle of the office. We have a mother’s room down the hallway, but apparently this is “inconvenient” and she feels she can be more productive (in both ways!) if she pumps at her desk. She pumps every couple of hours for about 20 minutes straight, and the sound is highly distracting for visitors and co-workers alike. Do we need to toughen up and be more supportive, or should this young lady be more considerate?

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