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Who am I now?

Tired mother, trying to pour coffee in the morning. Woman lying on kitchen table after sleepless night

Who am I now?

I’ve been a wife for almost ten years and a mother for four. My husband, who I love dearly, has ADHD – predominately innatentive.

I’m not the same person I used to be. Who am I now?

The Picker-upper.

Nearly every time I move from one room to the next, I quickly evaluate my surroundings and grab a handful of things that can go back to their correct place—dirty dishes to the kitchen, objects I don’t consider safe for a toddler, things my husband absentmindedly set down. What about all the little bits of trash and wrappers? Yeah, those go in my back pocket. It’s really automatic at this point. I dump out that pocket several times a day. Sounds like a lot of mom’s right? Well, this started before we had kids. It got worse over time.

On the weekend, I usually have more anger about all the crap laying around and just clear off entire surfaces into a box. The box goes to an area that is my husband’s own space. I do this regularly.  We have had gentle conversations around him trying to be aware of where things are set down. We have also had countless arguments about how the chaos not ok in shared space–over and over again. As a result, I am the bad guy. I hear it’s extremely stressful for him to go through the boxes. Anxiety overcomes him, but I too have anxiety about the scenario. I’m embarrassed about how we keep our home—inside and out. Why is it my job to pick up his stuff? Why am I the asshole for wanting our home to be in fairly good order? I am by no means a neat freak.

The Gardner.

I really love a nice garden. I love to see the plants grow and I find touching the dirt therapeutic. The garden is a wonderful space for my daughter to play and explore nature’s cycles and patterns. Gardening is a lot of hard work that feels satisfying at the end of the day. My husband was so sweet to build a greenhouse for me. I suppose it is fair to say that I’ve exchanged pottery for gardening.

However, is it fair that 98% of the yard maintenance falls to me? I wish the yard space was something we did together and enjoyed without an argument or simply avoiding each other. He offers his opinion about the texture of a leaf on a new plant I brought home or grew from seed. It’s often critical, or I see he’s not interested at all and I feel small for sharing my enthusiasm about a plant. When I ask for help, I feel his hatred like laser beams shooting from his eyes. I suppose sometimes I’m thankful that the garden is mostly my canvass. He gives me credit when a passerby compliments the garden. I can usually keep one side of the yard looking nice. The other 3 sides have piles of his stuff.  There are boards, tools, random stuff, trash, etc.

The Reminder.

I’m good at keeping things moving along in most areas of life, except when it involves my ADHD spouse.

Anger fills me almost every morning, as I have to ask him to get up. He’s 50 years old. I shouldn’t have to remind him to get up to help get the kids ready for school so I can get to work, or that he might want to look for work. I feel like the parent. But of course, he needs to catch up on sleep since he stayed up to the wee hours or even all night long.

When I see him aimlessly wandering about the room for hours doing things but not getting anything done, I ask if he took his medication. The answer is no, and he is pissed I asked.

I try not to remind him of the things he said he would do, but we are in a partnership. Agreements and ideals of accountability lead to fights, gaslighting, and disappointment. It might be a request–like can you please go through this pile of stuff and get rid of things or find a home for them. The pile will be there for months to years. We have had a problem with rats in our yard, our garage, and they have even gotten into the house.

I remind him to go to work most days. I’m not talking get up at 5am with me. I’m talking  11am or later when its suppose to be his work day and he has a deadline. He is angry when I tell him this is your time to work, even if he has asked me to remind him. More often I just wonder if he will work at all that day. Right now, I don’t recall the last time I saw him work even a 6 hour day. This has an impact on his business relationships. Sure, he stays up late hours or all night if he has a gig and a deadline, but often it is turned in days late. He does get other things done, sometimes they are really innovative and helpful, but that doesn’t pay the bills. That doesn’t build his business that he talks about building and growing daily.

He told me it helps him to remember in weeks, rather than days. I often translate time into weeks for him. It doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t keep calendars, we’ve tried many different types. I don’t want to be a reminder.

The Financial Planner.

I have to pay the bills, make sure we have savings, retirement, etc. He will have late fees–a lot. He has large loans I twist his arm to make power payments when he has the money. I made him put money in an IRA last year. He was mad that I pushed for that, but then he is mad at me that he doesn’t have money saved in retirement.

I have to ask him to contribute to our joint account each month. I have to ask dozens of times each month. Sometimes I skip a month because it’s exhausting to do this over and over each month. Sometimes this gets messed up and he withdraws the money instead of depositing the money. Therefore, I feel the need to check the account every day leading up to the mortgage pay date. I’ve had to deposit extra money because he couldn’t transfer it back in quick enough. Sometimes he doesn’t have any money to contribute. As a spouse, I don’t think I should ever have to ask for him to contribute financially. He doesn’t have to ask me. I just take care of it. Why is doesn’t he have a sense of urgency to contribute his fair share to our household and family?

He is a giving person in many ways, but I would like my partner to do his fair share and participate in our financial plan. He expresses the value to invest, save, plan. No action. Lots of anxiety and avoidance.

The Safety Manager.

I have a drawer full of items I hide from my ADHD spouse and our toddler. More recently, I just throw them away, hidden in a bag, in the outside trash can. Neither of them will remember what they were. They are not safe for small kids to have when they still puts objects in their mouth and run around. They are choking hazards or sharp objects.

I’m all for kids exploring and playing, Our daughter is three and knows how to use a screwdriver and which one to use. She knows the names of all the tools and their function. My husband and I disagree on the level of safety. We’ve had countless arguments about it. I’ve given up arguing and make it a point to check on them regularly. I worry when I’m not there.

For example, what age do you feel is appropriate for a child to play in a car alone? How about with the door closed? On a warm day? Um… never. To me, a car is not a toy. My child should not be playing in a car at all. She should not be alone in the car with the minor exception of she is in her secure in her safety seat, in our driveway, with the door open and I forgot to grab her water bottle so I dash in and out of the house real quick. At what age is safe to let your child be alone in the front yard? It’s not a busy street, but occasional cars and trucks do come flying by. It’s also near water. Yep. My therapsit told me this would be a case where she would need to call child services if both of use shared the view this was safe for a small child.

The Cleaner.

I’ve lowered my expectations to feel fairly satisfied if more than one room at a time is clean, but I’d love to not feel embarrassed when a neighbor stops by unannounced. It’s my job to clean the bathroom, vacuum, dust, laundry, etc. It would be much easier if there wasn’t so much stuff to move out of the way first.

He’s warmed up to doing dishes, but it’s not uncommon for there to be no clean forks or bowls, or room on the counters to prepare food. This used to be a huge issue with arguing to gently ask him to do dishes. If I ask him to take a turn at the dishes, he usually blows up at me and the question translates in his head to “you do anything around here”. I’m exhausted from trying to keep up with having a nice home.

I Pair Down.

I hide things in the trash all the time. It’s usually just trash—little pieces of stuff that yes, could be reused for something in the future, but let’s face it, our house is so full there are piles of stuff in the driveway. I’ve actually thought about calling the county on our own house. Except I don’t want to get a fine and it won’t motivate him to pitch the stuff anyway.

Getting rid of my own things seems to help me so there is less to deal with. I recently bought five identical t-shirts and cleared out nearly all the rest of my shirts. Less laundry. Fewer decisions to make. Less stuff. I don’t want to have decorative nick nacks. Its more to dust or manage. Plus they will get inadvertantly picked up, moved around, or added to until a shelf is full. Oh then a dirtly dish towl will get shoved in the space too. Deep breath.

The Planner.

All our planned vacation trips are my doing–and I plan really cool stuff. We’ve traveled all over the world. It is especially fun when we agree on a destination, I reserve all the flights and lodging, then hear my ADHD husband now wants to go somewhere else. He has forgotten we talked about it and agreed, and now wants to go somewhere else. I’m the asshole because we are going where I want to go and he doesn’t get a say in it. So, I undo it all and welcome his suggestion. I request he does the planning. He can’t. I start over. This has happened a few times.

The trip that takes the cake was when he didn’t actually check his passport expiration when I asked him too, but he told me he did. The day before our flight, he realized it was invalid. It was a bank holiday weekend so most places were closed. My heart was broken. I had special event tickets at several places in Europe. I got on that plane by myself, went to the events by myself, and had a good time. We met up a few days later. I couldn’t bring myself to ask what it cost him to fix it all and get there. This was before we had kids.

Something similar happened after our first daughter was born, so imagine all this crazy while taking care of a baby during travel. Missing flights, changing his mind, unpacking and repacking several times when we were already late. That was when I realized all this shit was not normal. That is when I realized he had ADHD and I had to let him know. He was undiagonsed at the time. I haven’t planned a big trip since.

I’m an angry person.

I’m a depressed person.

I’m so exhausted.

I don’t sleep well.

I’ve become forgetful.

I often feel crazy becuase I remeber things much different than he does, but he will argue an untrue point for hours.

I’ve looked into if I have early Alzheimer’s. I’m 40 years old. I don’t.

I feel alone in our partnership.

I’m the non-ADHD spouse.

Are you a non-ADHD partner? Who are you now?  

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