Parental Attention Deficit Disorder


In my early twenties, a therapist suggested that all my struggles in life could be traced to my having Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD. This came as a surprise to me, since I’d never thought of myself as having a problem paying attention to anything.

“I really think you have ADD. That is why you struggle with daily tasks,” she said. She handed me a piece of paper. “Complete this questionnaire, and if you score high enough, your doctor can write you a prescription for Adderall.” She said this as though my problems were exactly like those of a 7-year-old on a sugar binge.

At home, I answered the questions seriously. Until I read this gem: “Do you have problems paying attention to things that bore you?” Isn’t that the essence of boring? If boring tasks were enjoyable and easy to pay attention to, they wouldn’t be boring. I stopped answering questions; I figured getting my shit together would do more for my quality of life than ADD questionnaires and meds would.

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But for parents, especially stay-at-home parents, perhaps Adderall is the solution to many of our problems. I think most parents are like me, struggling to pay attention to all the boring tasks required all day long. If we believe the questionnaire I took years ago, then many of us have a clinical diagnosis of what I call Parenting Attention Deficit Disorder, or PADD. I’ll cross my fingers it gets added to the next DSM.

I’m not saying that my attention wanders all the time. I can feed them their requisite thirty-two meals and snacks a day; I can color with crayons for up to half an hour; and I can read stories for much, much longer. But at some point, I find myself wondering what adults who aren’t cleaning mac and cheese off the ceiling are doing at that moment, so I go on to Facebook. Or sometimes I’ll browse headlines, so I can help my oldest do her social studies homework instead of asking “We have a black president?! Since when?!”

When my PADD causes me to do interesting, non-kid related things, I’ll still keep an ear out for what the kids are doing. I have to pay attention so that my son leaves his toddler sister alone instead of trying to hug her like he’s Elmyra from Tiny Toons, trying to love her to death. Most of the time, he really is a nice big brother. But he’s also four, so he’s not considered qualified to be a babysitter by anyone who doesn’t spend most of their time in bars or Indian casinos.

The two playing together, then, is not an ideal time to have a PADD attack like I did the other day. When my toddler and son were playing well together upstairs, I peeked and saw the little one playing with her sister’s dolls while The Boy sat at his desk, his back turned to me. After an anti-PADD fix of Twitter, I went upstairs to discover that The Boy was playing a game with scissors he called “Cut everything,” a surprising descriptive and terrifying title.

I confiscated the scissors, and we cleaned up the approximately 3 billion pieces of freshly homemade confetti. Since the paper was sticking to my toddler’s clothes so forcefully, I even experienced a personal first: vacuuming a child’s clothes while she was still wearing them. (Yes, I did post about it to FB during my next PADD attack.)

I thought no more about the incident until my wife got home that night and asked what happened to The Toddler’s hair. “Where did her beautiful curls go?” she asked.

I realized then that in those five unsupervised minutes, the boy had given the toddler a haircut. Ever the smart little sister, she tattled on him: When my wife asked her if her brother had used scissors on her, the toddler nodded and said “Boy. Hair.”

Both he and I were busted.

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I understand my wife’s anger at my irresponsibility: we’re lucky that it was only a haircut and that she still has all her toes. Since then, I’ve tried to be more vigilant. I avoid the computer’s alluring connection to the Internet and the outside world. But paying constant attention is hard to do.

Yet I don’t think PADD is simply a product of our Internet age. Parenting has always been like this: as soon as humans walked upright, some parent ignored his child to keep watching the flames’ dance on the cave wall instead of getting her more mastodon nuggets. And I have proof.

When The Boy’s grandmotherly preschool teacher heard the story, she said, “Oh yeah, that happened to me too. My older daughter cut her little sister’s hair off while playing under the kitchen table. She cut her hair so short it looked like a bad Marine haircut.”

“Where were you when all this was happening?” I asked.

“Sitting at the same table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper,” she said with a shrug. So while previous generations of parents weren’t addicted to Facebook, they certainly suffered from PADD, just like us.

About the writer

Almost Coherent Parent is primarily a stay-at-home dad and humor blogger who also teaches part-time. This means that after listening to his three kids have temper tantrums whenever he asks them to do something, he can go to work and listen to bigger kids have temper tantrums whenever he asks them to write something. While he doesn't mind being called a feminist or an asshole, he hates being called the babysitter when he's out with his kids. You can read more of his parenting stories at, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


Manda 1 year ago

Do you want to know why?? Because once our spawn find something that holds THEIR attention for more than 7 seconds we are so grateful to think one solitary complete sentence in out heads that we get greedy and try to have 2. We don’t have PADD, we have children. Which is kind of the same thing. Haha

Nichole Carmen 2 years ago


Kristen Gray Burke 2 years ago

And to add. My oldest has ADHD and pretty sure my middle boy has ADD. Sooooooo
Who knows I may really have it too.

Kristen Gray Burke 2 years ago

Omg it has been 8 years of PADD. It will be two more years of it still. Till my youngest goes to kindergarten.
So glad it isn’t just me. I float from one task to another. All good intentions the night before of what I will accomplish. Then find myself escaping reality and zoning out on Facebook. While the chanting of ” Ma Ma Maaaaaoooooommmmmm!”
Happens around me.
My children probably think I have a breathing disorder and eye problem. Since I tend to sigh deeply and unconsciously roll my eyes and reply ” what?”
Thank you for this post.

Aimee Newell Misset 2 years ago


Love 2 years ago

I have a tendency to zone out (it’s a sanity-saving survival reflex, I swear!) and snap back to, just as something disastrous is happening. Or already happened. Sigh. I don’t have a Dx, I just think it’s an after-effect of too much multi-tasking.

sammie 2 years ago

This is hilarious!! And totally on point. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my kids, playing, staying engaged with their activities, crafts and games…but PADD is a survival mechanism. We have to check out sometimes, let our mind take us places we can only dream of going (like tropical islands where all the slushy boozy drinks are FREE!!), otherwise our heads would explode from all of the whining. True story.

Melissa Peterson 2 years ago

I am so glad that I am not alone, I am struggling with my ADD as a SAHM. I think that all of these little trials happen just to keep us on our toes.

Carly Phillippe 2 years ago

My diet pills, phentermine, are apparently what they dished out before Adderall came around & let me tell ya, I can see why, lol.

Alicia Potts 2 years ago

Love this!

Jennifer Wells 2 years ago

I have had clinically diagnosed ADHD since Middle School. I was on meds too a hiatus for high school and went back for college. I could have been a better student on them. I was easily ably to stop for pregnancy and nursing. But after the nursing stopped I knew I would be a better mother with more focus. ADD and ADHD are so much more than just problems with attention. But I agree sometimes in life as a parent we have to take responsibility responsibility for our actions and our lives. There may be a pill for everything. But that isn’t isn’t always the answer.

Meghan Carter 2 years ago

I have this. My youngest daughter has given and been given 3…..3 haircuts by in the span of about a year lol.

Paula Christine 2 years ago


Staci Coleman Mitchell 2 years ago

Seems to me that the tendency to read a title or select quote rather than (gasp!) an entire article is rather ironic for an article about attention deficits!

    ACParent 2 years ago

    Thanks for having my back! Excellent point!

Sara McDaniel 2 years ago

This is clearly sarcastic and he is not recommending taking Adderall. Jeez people

Angel Weers 2 years ago

I thought you were required to have a sense of humor to be on this page…? Also, if you actually read the article instead of posting an opinion based on the one quote given, that would be good, too… *SMH*

Viviana Pino 2 years ago

I love this post!! I have an ASD 6 yr old and a 1 yr old.. totally funny and sad truth for me. Thank you

Megan Deere Welch 2 years ago

Instead of taking Adderol, I’m simplifying my life and prioritizing. Maybe, my attention problems are my body’s way of telling me I need to change my situation

Kjersten Herkel 2 years ago

Lol…. This is so me… Mixed with pregnancy hormones….

Stephanie 2 years ago

My husband definitely has PADD. Put on Bubble Guppies, and he’s out like a light!

Lisa Marie Garman 2 years ago

And also that everyone is guilty of becoming bored with the everyday duties and routine. And when we pursue something more interesting…the little stinkers will inevitably find some trouble 😉

Amy Michelle Muir 2 years ago

Like, like, like!

Julie Watson 2 years ago

I definitely think I have this. I’ll sometimes await the traffic report, and drift off until I realize I’ve missed it several times.

DontBlameTheKids 2 years ago

There’s a similar haircut in every family! I was often stuck babysitting my two younger siblings (who were a decade younger than me), and this happened on my watch (or non-watch, I should say). I hoped that would mean an end to the babysitting, but no such luck. Hair grows back, it turns out.


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