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Keppig 08-25-03 01:19 PM

Women, ADD, Work and Home

ADD in the Workplace
Juggling the Dual Responsibilities of Home and Work

Women with ADD have a much more daunting struggle in the workplace than the majority of men struggling with attentional issues. Why? For two major reasons:
1) Women in the workplace are more likely to be the support system for someone else rather than to have a support system.
2) Women with ADD, just as for all women in the workplace, are expected to work a "second shift" at home, as the primary homemaker and parent. In this article, we'll focus on juggling responsibilities for the "first" and "second" shifts as a working mother.

As both I and Sari Solden have repeatedly said, the job of homemaker is one of the most ADD-unfriendly jobs around. Homemaking requires women to function without external structure, juggling multiple, shifting responsibilities, to function despite frequent and often unavoidable interruptions, and to remain focused in a highly distracting environment. The job typically involves structuring others, keeping track of paperwork, handling the schedule of several people, including one's own, and supervising the work of untrained and often unmotivated individuals (our children, doing, or more often not doing their chores). The work of a homemaker is repetitive, often uninteresting, receives little remuneration, and yet is expected, by spouse, extended family and community, to be undertaken with sustained motivation and a high level of performance.

After reading this description of homemaker you may ask yourself how any woman with ADD can function as a homemaker, much less take on an "outside" job. We're certainly not here to tell you that the task is easy, but to offer some pointers on how to make it more possible to juggle home and work responsibilities with less feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed.

Surprise - having two jobs may be easier than "just" working as a homemaker! How can that be? That depends upon how well you are matched with your paying job. One woman with ADD, Debra, quit her four-day-a-week job reviewing science grants after her two children were diagnosed with ADD. She reasoned that her children needed her more, and that her time should be spent with them, taking them to tutors, to coaches, to pediatricians, and going to teacher's conferences to monitor their school performance. Several months after quitting her job, however, she found herself feeling depressed and overwhelmed. Both she and her husband were dismayed over the chaotic state of the household.

Through counseling Debra was convinced that the solution was to return to work. Why? Because work afforded her a quiet, non-distracting environment in which she could function well doing a task which she enjoyed. The salary she brought in also allowed her to hire a cleaning lady, and to buy more expensive carryout or prepared foods on days she worked. When she had been home full-time she had felt it was her duty to do all of the housework, laundry, cooking and shopping, and chauffeuring. As a working woman she felt justified in hiring a weekly house cleaner, to ask her husband to pitch in with the children's activities, and to pay more for foods which required little or no preparation.

What is the key?

Don't require a superwoman's efforts of yourself.

Don't feel that you should keep up with the neighbors. Schedule a level of activity for yourself and your kids which is comfortable for you and is not based upon what "everyone else is doing."

Think about your second-shift job as homemaker the same way you think about making your paying job ADD-friendly:

Focus on those tasks which are best suited to you.

Try to find ways to delegate tasks which are most difficult or most disliked.

Look for ways to reduce the stress of ADD-unfriendly aspects of the job.

Prioritize your home and work life. Don't just keep doing things because they have always been done that way.

Keep yourself in the priority list. First accommodate your own ADD - then you will be much more able to help your children with their ADD issues.

What does this mean? Don't give up your yoga class so that your daughter can take on yet another after school activity.

Don't allow your child to invite ten children to spend the night if this feels overwhelming to you.

Entertain by going out if making your home ready for company is just too much work at the end of a long week.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Get the whole family in on the act. Develop a schedule. Get your husband to participate in keeping the schedule intact.

Emphasize what you're good at. If you are at your best in playing with your children, talking to them, helping them to be creative - then do those things and appreciate your ability to do them.

Don't feel guilty if you need to hire a tutor rather than go through daily homework battles with your ADD child.

Don't feel inadequate if Dad is better at getting the kids to finish their homework or get to bed on time.

Give yourself guilt-free down time. Talk with your partner. Decide what will be most helpful to you. Would you rather have your partner take over the kid responsibilities after dinner so that you can straighten up the house? Would you rather have your partner take the kids one full day on the weekend so that you can have some uninterrupted time to organize your life at home?

Make sure your "day job" is ADD-friendly - a job which allows you to concentrate, which is not too pressured, which does not involve you a majority of the time in doing work which is difficult for you, which is interesting and challenging.

Above all - don't just grin and bear it. There are many changes at home and at work which can help you juggle more effectively, without dropping as many balls. Making your life more ADD-friendly is a process of problem identification and problem solving. It may help to work with a coach, a counselor or a women's ADD support group to find creative, ADD-friendly solutions.

Remember, when you look for solutions - Don't think "super woman." Think "super ADD-friendly!"

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