In a talk that my friend and ADHD expert Dr. Ari Tuckman gave awhile back, he offered this piece of advice to adults with ADHD: “Give yourself less to worry about by being diligent and setting yourself up for success. Like the Boy Scouts,” he said, “be prepared.”
I hear from a lot of significant others who’ve gotten caught up in the whirlwind of their ADHD partner’s daily lives. In other words, the ADHDer’s habits have eclipsed their own–stuff is everywhere, decisions are made on the fly, things don’t get done until the last minute, and everything is an emergency. Perhaps you can relate.
These non-ADHD partners and spouses can’t take the heat, but they don’t see a way out of the kitchen. They don’t want to control their partner’s every move (nor should they), but they can’t continue to live with the chaos. I totally get it. And my advice is the same as Dr. Tuckman’s: be prepared.
I am fortunate that my partner spouse manages her ADHD challenges extraordinarily well, and I recognize that not everyone’s ADHD partner has reached the point of managing their daily lives as effectively as she does. But successful as she is, she will always have ADHD, so when things get hectic around here, it can quickly become an ADHD household.
What do I mean by ADHD household? I mean two things–stuff is in weird places, and nothing is planned for. Where are my keys?! It’s 6:30, what are we having for dinner?! And there’s an endless stream of things that need to get done, with no time or energy to do them. The house descends into “mayhem and foolishness,” like they say on the Style network’s Clean House.
No one can live well under those circumstances. So like the Boy Scouts, your best defense is to be prepared. Like Dr. Tuckman said, be diligent. If you come upon a stray sock that the dog has left in the kitchen, don’t ignore it. Pick it up and walk it to the laundry bin. If while making your morning coffee you notice there’s nothing in the fridge for dinner, don’t shrug it off. See if there is something you can defrost. If not, figure out when you or your partner can run to the store. If you see dishes are starting to pile up in the sink, don’t leave them for later. Take 10 minutes and wash them. You get the idea–it’s really a matter of managing crises before they turn into crises.
Most importantly, you have to do it without being resentful. If your ADHD husband left a coffee mug in the bedroom, it’s not because he was trying to piss you off. Just put the mug back in the kitchen and don’t give it a second thought. Remember that your ADHD partner isn’t necessarily wired for organization, time management, or preparedness in general. Some days will be worse than others. So you have to stay one step ahead. Be prepared, be diligent. And take pride in it! I certainly do. It will make your whole family’s lives a lot easier.
Do you have any tips for keeping your household from descending into chaos during hectic times? Please feel free to share them in the comments!