Sensory Overload, ADHD, and Parenting Alone
My dear husband just returned from the last piece of an endeavor (for a long while I hope) that has taken him out of town – and me single parenting- several times in the last months.
I've learned a lot about myself as a parent during these times. What struck me the last few days alone with the kids, though, is that what I'm learning is what I already knew about myself before I was a parent.
People often talk about moms needing breaks and time for themselves and so forth; but I realized why I need these breaks is different, and it is related to ADHD. When I'm with my kids without a break for too long, I experience sensory overwhelm. There's too much input, including physical contact and sound- that I have no control over and has no modulation. It's always on and after I'm with the kids for long enough, it feels like blaring speakers an inch from my ears; it's too much.
I used to have this when I spent time with groups of people. Before I knew about ADHD I thought I didn't like groups or I didn't like those people. When I started to understand how I work, and my sensitivities, I realized I just needed some downtime, with control over what I was hearing and seeing and doing (this mostly means quiet for me but sometimes it is music or tv). ADHD means not being able to filter out what's coming at you; and after a while it can feel like a painful bombardment.
I didn't dislike people- or groups- I just needed some time away from them, and control over when I took that time. I certainly don't dislike my kids and I don't even really often feel the need for some stereotyped "me time" with a manicure or something. But when I hear myself growling back at 3yo whines a little more than I like, I probably need to retreat to sensory safety for a bit.