Author and essayist Robin Finn is an advocate for children with ADHD/2e. Over time, Finn has discovered that she’s not the only one going through the challenges she’s faced as a parent raising a child with ADHD. Here Robin Finn talks about her journey, her writing process and how she found an outlet through writing.
My author journey started when I began writing personal essays about parenting a child with special challenges. To my surprise, when these essays appeared in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and other outlets, readers responded. My inbox was flooded with emails from parents having a similar experience.
One of the most challenging aspects of writing about raising a child with ADHD was not letting it sound like sour grapes. There certainly were some sour grapes but I spent two years studying at a Los Angeles spirituality school learning to cultivate a “spiritual perspective” on my life, which ultimately meant not taking anything personally. After all, what’s more personal than your kids? As a parent, this attitude helped me become a calmer mom. As a writer, my aim was to write about parenting—and life—from my new perspective, one that was deeply influenced by my spirituality.
When I began writing Restless in L.A., my debut novel, I didn’t realize I was writing a book. I thought of myself as an essayist. But as the story continued to grow, I let go of worrying about what it was and simply gave in to writing it. I came to refer to this point in my writing life as the “divine download” because, once I got out of my own way, the novel poured out. It did occur to me, “wow, maybe I am writing a book“ but I didn’t let myself think about it because then it became overwhelming and scary. I just wrote without thinking. About halfway through, I had to stop and develop an outline of who my characters were, what was happening, what day it was—things like that. By the time my conscious mind understood, “yes, I’m writing a book,” it was already halfway done—too late to turn back!
For me, it’s true that we ‘write what we know.’ I laughed and blinked back tears as my protagonist, mother-of-three Alexandra Hoffman, struggled with her kids, her husband, the school, other parents, and herself. Certainly, Alex’s battles at school were informed by situations I had faced in my own life.
As I wrote about Alex’s relationship with her children, I thought about the complex relationships siblings have with a brother or sister who has special needs. The ways in which that dynamic impacts Alex’s family’s life and the guilt she feels as a parent was also inspired by real life.
Women often have very intimate friendships. When I became a parent and had a child with severe hyperactivity and impulsivity, my social circle became limited. I don’t think this is unusual for special needs parents. Whether it’s a function of mom-judgment or time limitations or today’s competitive parenting paradigm or shame or simply personal overwhelm, a mom’s social circle can contract, especially if her child is judged as “difficult.” For Alex, maintaining a close friendship with her best friend Laurie was crucial to her well-being as a woman, a parent, and a person. Again, this was a realization I had as a parent: that finding your village isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, even if it’s only a village of two.
Novel writing felt like an organic outgrowth of my writing. Advocating for a child with special challenges, writing essays about that experience, and then writing a novel with a protagonist struggling with these same issues were all different paths of exploring a similar theme: parenting as “other.” Raising a child with significant challenge creates a parenting experience unlike everyone else’s and unlike you may have ever imagined. Because it’s fiction, I set this experience in the larger context of Alex’s midlife search for identity and added the steamy complications of connecting online with ‘the one that got away.’
Writing Restless in L.A. not only gave me an outlet for my bottled-up frustrations, hopes, upsets, and imagination, it also forced me to reclaim myself as a writer. In order to get the book done, I had to commit to mercilessly carving out time to write—in the middle of soccer practice, carpools, field trip chaperoning, and all the other tasks of being a mom of three.
There is a popular misconception that being a good parent means devoting every waking moment to your children. I found that not to be true. It simply made me an exhausted parent. Being an effective mom turned out to be inextricably linked to taking care of myself, like the old adage, “put on your own oxygen mask first.” Writers write. Writing fills my tank. Whether I am working on a novel or an essay, I am definitely a happier, calmer, and more patient mom when I balance my time between my family and my work, regardless of how complicated and crazy that can sometimes be.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Restless in L.A. by Robin Finn (Inkspell Publishing, February 26, 2017)
It was an innocent online flirtation…until it wasn’t…
Alexandra Hoffman thinks she has it all together. She lives with her work-obsessed husband Jason and their three challenging children in upscale Los Angeles. She never meant to “friend” her old boyfriend, Matt Daniels. She hasn’t seen him in twenty years. But as Alex’s fortieth birthday approaches, she finds herself re-connecting with Matt online—and re-reading her college journal, which details their intense connection and unresolved ending. But Alex’s hands are full with the kids, one of whom she just can’t help, no matter how hard she tries.
Lonely and alienated by the helicopter moms, and from Jason who is never around, Alex’s flirtation quickly moves from on-line to real-world. Alex realizes—too late—that she cannot trust herself. When she meets Matt for dinner, the attraction is undeniable. And when he touches her face, it’s electric. As her life spirals out of control, she clings to her free-spirited life coach, Lark, to make sense of the mess she’s made. But Lark’s advice is clear: Alex must confront her past and find the courage to face her future, even if it means risking everything.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robin Finn is an author, essayist, and advocate for children with ADHD/2e. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Disney’s Babble.com, ADDitude Magazine, and elsewhere. She has master’s degrees in public health from Columbia University and in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Robin lives in Los Angeles with her husband and family. For more about Robin Finn, visit her website at www.robinfinn.com or follow her on her social media at Facebook and Twitter.