Opting Out of Parenthood
According to a recent Pew Research Center Study, 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children someday. The U.S. birth rate measured in 2020 underscores that sentiment – it was the lowest level ever recorded at 1.64 births per woman, down 4% from the previous year. The top reasons given were:
- No desire to have kids – People simply don’t want raising children to be what they do with their lives for 20 years.
- Career – People feel passionate about the career they have chosen and want to devote their time, energy, and life to their job, which they would not be able to do as effectively if they had children.
- Environment – Some people who are aware of the environmental impact and the current state of the Earth are choosing not to add more people to the environmental impact.
- State of the world – Some people feel the world is not safe or moving in a positive enough direction to bring children into it.
- Kids are expensive – On average in the United States, it takes about $250,000 to raise a kid, not including the expense of sending a child to college. Some people feel they cannot afford it.
- Health/medical reasons – People see a risk to their own health and well-being, or inability to conceive.
- Other caretaking responsibilities and/or other children in their lives – Some people are already helping to raise other people’s children, or they are in a caretaking role for other adults.
- Desire to travel – For some people, experiencing other cultures, living a more nomadic life, or challenging themselves through adventure/travel is an important value and one that is not fit with raising children.
- Lifestyle – There are people whose lives are dangerous or who spend the majority of their time in meditation and/or spiritual pursuits. Some may spend much of the time they are not at their jobs in creative pursuits. Having a child could prevent them from continuing the life they have chosen.
- Timing/partner doesn’t want kids – Some people have chosen to spend their life with a partner who doesn’t want children. Others haven’t had the opportunity to be able to have children and then they are too old to have them.
- Family history/definition – For some people, their experience as a child and their family history has made it clear to them that they don’t want to continue their family legacy.
The Challenges of Parenting for ADHD Mothers
The decision about whether or not to have children can be especially difficult for women. In generations past, society expected women in their 20s and 30s to start a family, even if they felt unready or preferred not to have children at all. And even today, the family and social pressure to have children can be intense.
Motherhood comes with its fair share of challenges. For mothers with ADHD, these challenges can be significantly magnified. Some of the unique difficulties faced by mothers with ADHD include:
- Constant Distractions – One of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD is difficulty with maintaining focus. In a world where multitasking is a norm, juggling the responsibilities of motherhood becomes even more demanding. Mothers with ADHD may find it challenging to stay focused on tasks such as organizing schedules, keeping up with household chores, and helping children with their homework. The constant distractions can lead to feelings of frustration and guilt, as they struggle to meet their own expectations.
- Time Management Struggles – Time management is a crucial skill for any parent, but it can be particularly daunting for mothers with ADHD. Poor time management skills can result in missed appointments, forgotten commitments, and a sense of being overwhelmed by the daily demands of motherhood. Balancing the needs of children, household responsibilities, and personal self-care can become a Herculean task, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
- Impulsivity and Emotional Regulation – ADHD is often associated with impulsive behavior and difficulty regulating emotions. Mothers with ADHD may find themselves reacting impulsively, leading to conflicts or inconsistent discipline with their children. This can create a cycle of guilt and self-doubt, as they strive to strike a balance between being an authoritative figure and a nurturing parent. Managing their own emotional rollercoaster while also supporting their children’s emotional needs becomes an ongoing challenge.
- Self-Care Neglect – Mothers are notorious for putting their needs last, and this tendency can be even more pronounced for mothers with ADHD. The constant demands and responsibilities can leave little time for self-care activities that help maintain mental and physical well-being. Neglecting self-care can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, leading to increased stress levels, decreased patience, and diminished overall functioning. It’s crucial for mothers with ADHD to prioritize self-care, seeking support from partners, family members, or professionals when needed.
- Dealing with Stigma and Misunderstanding – ADHD is still a widely misunderstood disorder, and the challenges faced by mothers with ADHD can often go unnoticed or dismissed. The societal expectation of the “perfect mother” can intensify feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Overcoming the stigma and seeking support from understanding communities, such as ADHD support groups or mental health professionals, can be empowering and help mothers with ADHD build a strong support network.
A recent reader survey by ADDitude magazine found that opting out of having children is becoming a more common choice for women with ADHD.
For women with ADHD who opt for motherhood, recognizing the unique difficulties faced, seeking support, and implementing strategies to manage ADHD symptoms, can help them find their own path to thriving in motherhood. With self-compassion, understanding, and the right support network, they can navigate the uncharted waters of motherhood with greater confidence and resilience.
I wish I had known I had ADHD before now. I am 53 and have 5 children. 4/5 have adhd. Both my husband and I have adhd. I knew my husband had adhd years ago but I’ve only realized now, I also have adhd. I can’t say I would have had fewer children, what mother can say that, but I know I would have mothered differently. I am struggling with extreme guilt now seeing my adult and almost adult children struggling with common daily tasks and day to day. I don’t feel I have prepared them well enough for life (mind you, while I was raising them I thought I was doing a good job, unaware of the affect my undiagnosed adhd and the way I was managing it had on them.) I just don’t know how to move on in the right direction and not feel the massive guilt i feel