Parenting is often portrayed as life wrapped up with a bow— for ADHD parents, that’s rarely the case
When I started writing essays about raising a child with ADHD, the flood of emails from parents struggling with their own ADHD kids caught me off guard. It affirmed for me one very important lesson: Parents of ADHD kids are having a very different parenting experience than everyone else. But rarely did I see our experience portrayed in novels, or other forms of entertainment for that matter.
Raising a kid with ADHD or other invisible special needs often means the same struggles everyone else has in addition to: constant arguments with the school, contending with judgy parents, dealing with stress in your marriage, worrying about your other children’s feelings, and working through financial issues, doctor appointments, medication issues, and more. It’s as if everybody is parenting on Venus, while you’re raising your family on Mars.
Even in contemporary women’s fiction, finding main characters dealing with the same parenting issues I face is rare. As a reader, I want to connect with the characters in the book and, sometimes, see my own experience reflected back. Reading about a mom struggling to raise an ADHD child makes me feel understood and less alone, even if she’s a fictional mom raising a fictional kid. So what’s a writer to do? I decided to write the story I wanted to read - about that mom, the mom who feels like a big parent fail, the mom who is working hard but no one seems to think so, the mom whose child doesn’t fit in or follow along, and what it may feel like to be her. That’s the story I wanted to tell in in my new novel, RESTLESS IN L.A.
Although the story is fiction, the novel addresses real issues of today. More than 10% of U.S children are diagnosed with ADHD; research shows couples raising kids with ADHD have a greater risk of divorce; mom judging affects 95% of mothers; and a new study finds that heavy use of social networks—specifically Facebook—can create dangers for a marriage. This got me thinking...What if an already overwhelmed mom hooked up with an old love on Facebook? Before I knew it, RESTLESS IN L.A. was born. Many of the struggles portrayed in the book will feel familiar to parents like me.
The novel centers around Alexandra Hoffman, a married, mother-of-three with an ADHD son, a workaholic husband, and a community from which she feels increasingly isolated. Alex experiences the same pressures many ADHD parents feel: a sense of despair at how parenting has turned out, frustration with therapy and medications, stress from fearing she is neglecting her other children, tension with other parents, tired from arguing with the school, worried about her marriage, and a fierce love and loyalty for her struggling son. On her fortieth birthday, she ‘friends’ a former boyfriend on Facebook, and the spark exposes unresolved issues from her past and painful decisions she must make about her future.
Writing the novel allowed me to give Alex many of the challenges I faced raising a child with ADHD. Of course, there’s still sex, lies, and Facebook—it’s fiction! My real goal was to tell a good story that can be devoured on the beach or at book club, and still portray the complexities of special needs parenting. I hope those moms will recognize some of the struggles, and I also hope the story will be a window for others into the very complicated coming-of-age in middle age for a struggling, mother-of-three who is trying to find her identity beyond wife and mother.