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Frum ADHD - how to thrive as an Orthodox Jewish woman with ADHD

Updated: Mar 17

Becoming a Neurodivergent Eishet Chayil

Challenges Faced by Observant Jewish Women with ADHD

Subscribing to a halachic Jewish lifestyle can present additional hurdles for women who already struggle with executive function.

If you are reading this because you are an orthodox Jewish woman with ADHD (or you suspect you have it), I want you to know that I see your hardships and that you are not alone.

Can you identify with any of these struggles?

1. Community Involvement

You value community contribution and you want to be that "yes-woman" who never hesitates to volunteer a meal for a new family or new baby.

But time management is not your strong suit and this makes it difficult for you to accurately predict the time and energy required for the job. In your good-hearted eagerness to commit, impulsivity can cause you to agree before taking the time to think about how to incorporate it into what feels like your your already overloaded schedule.

2. Shabbat Preparations

This is one complex project to plan -

  • multiple 3-4 course menus to make

  • shopping for menu ingredients

  • cooking multiple dishes - each of which, in itself, involves the many steps of

    • collecting materials

    • following instructions and

    • cleaning up after

  • preparing the house

  • setting the table

  • and being responsible for getting the rest of the family ready on time ...

And if you're lucky enough to be going away for shabbat, there's still all that getting everyone ready, as well as packing. Oh and don't get me even started on the challenges of packing for the whole family!

All of this week after week after week!

3. Family Commitments

While I've seen some wonderful positive shifts in some of the families I've coached, the burden of responsibility still seems to largely fall on women for managing the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual and needs of your relatively large family. This is more than a full-time job! 

Plus,  if you have ADHD, chances are that at least one or two of your kids are going to have it too. And ADHD kids tend to have challenging needs! Moreover, the ADHD parenting advice seems to call for more of those exact things that you yourself struggle with - routine, consistency, structure, emotional regulation.

4. Divine Connection

Unlike men, Jewish women are responsible for fostering and nurturing their own relationship with the Almighty - praying and performing mitzvot on their own. They don't get the ADHD-friendly support offered by a minyan - which provides accountability and can help you stay focused while praying.

While women are excused from time-bound positive mitzvot, for very sensible reasons; the structure these actions offer can help an ADHD male strengthen his connection with his creator.  

5. Religious Responsibility

Working memory is the place you store things that you'll have to use again soon. You know, like what you were going into a room for, or keeping in mind the appointment you have later that day.

Whereas a neurotypical brain can hold an average of 4 items in working memory at a time, ADHD brains can hold only 1 or 2, causing you to forget to recite Mode Ani when your kids wake you up, or bentch after eating bread, for example.

Of course it's also your weak working memory that makes you forget which day to send in which permission slip for which kid. It makes it harder for you to remember shabbat invitations , so you end up double-booking. It makes you forget to message the friend you've been playing communication tag with for over a week, or to call back your mom when you said you would. Shall I go on?

Becoming an Neurodivergent Eishet Chayil

Eishet Chayil, the woman of valor that is held up as an ideal for Jewish woman to aspire to be like, I'm guessing she doesn't have ADHD. She's up before dawn, feeding the whole family. She's planting vineyards, spinning and weaving all her own household linens and clothing. She's an astute entrepreneur running multiple enterprises. She's charitable and wise and patient and doing a whole lot of other industrious stuff I can't quite translate. (Actually, with all that energy, maybe she actually is ADHD! )

Either way, she's gracefully juggling all the balls. She's so obviously got it all together.

How do you, as a Jewish woman with ADHD, relate to this ideal?

Personally, if you have a neurodivergent brain, I believe you need a neurodivergent eishet chayil model to aspire towards. What's a neurodivergent eishet chayil?

To explain, let's take a tiny detour to one of the foundational assumptions of DBT therapy - that everyone does their best with the resources available to them at the time; AND (not but - AND) they can do better. It combines compassion with a hopeful belief in the potential for growth.

To me, a neurodivergent eishet chayil is a woman who accepts herself and her challenges with compassion, while at the same time working towards improvement.

The word chayil here means valor - courage in the face of hardship.

  • It takes courage to drop the "normal" mask and step into your authentic self.

  • It takes valor to acknowledge your shortcomings without succumbing to despair.

  • It takes courage to accept your less-than-optimal functioning due to your brain-wiring; and to do that without using ADHD an excuse.

  • It takes valor to learn from your mistakes and even more courage to use that learning and try again.

  • It takes valor to strive to thrive with ADHD.

Sound familiar? It should, because it's YOU. You dear JDHDer (Jewish Woman with ADHD) are indeed a neurodivergent women of valor!

PS - Getting Better at Being "Normal" is NOT Thriving with ADHD!

To me, thriving with ADHD is about:

Step 1 - accepting who you are.

Step 2 - learning how to support your compromised executive function - figuring out how to help yourself:

  • remember,

  • plan

  • get started

  • stay focused and

  • follow through.

Not as a goal in itself, but in order to function well and feel good - so that

Step 3 - you can devote most of your resources to doing what you are great at, what you love doing and what the world needs.

Because the world needs you -the creative, capable, resourceful and authentic you.

Sound good? You too can thrive with ADHD.

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