Urbandictionary.com defines “mommy brain” as “the phenomenon known to mothers where their brains become a useless pile of goo after being around their children too long.”
An article on WebMD in October of 2010 posits that motherhood may actually trigger brain growth. The article quotes Pilyoung Kim, PhD, a developmental psychologist and post-doctoral researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health. Her research at Yale-New Haven Hospital involved high-resolution MRI’s on 19 women who delivered babies there. She and her colleagues did scans 2-4 weeks after giving birth and again 3-4 months later. “We found growth in brain areas… which may be responsible for interacting with your child,” Kim told WebMD. Areas of the brain that showed changes are involved in maternal motivation, emotion and reward processing, sensory integration, and reasoning and judgement.
I wouldn’t accept this information as gospel (see my blog post “TMI”), but it is definitely an interesting study.
I like this article. I like it a lot. Mostly because it makes me feel better about myself. There is a reason why I can’t remember where I put my car keys or left my phone. Certain areas of my brain are actually bigger, coping with the tremendous amounts of “maternal motivation” and “emotion and reward processing” that happen throughout the day. It’s no wonder there’s little room left for… other things.
Does it matter that my kids have been out of infancy for a long time? As in, the last one hasn’t been an infant for over 8 years? How long can I use the “mommy brain” excuse?
My answer to that is– a long time. Years and years. In fact, I will go so far as to illustrate, at my expense of course, with the following examples why it is entirely possible, and highly likely, that Mommy Brain can affect any mom well into her kids’ teenage years.
I don’t have a lot of memories about being absent-minded (ironic?) when my oldest was an infant. At least not beyond the normal exhaustion-induced moments that come from being a first time mom. I believe it’s Nature’s way or God’s way, however you want to put it, of why mom’s have more than one child. We’ve simply forgotten how hard those first months/years are. “Of course I can do this again!”
When my second child was about six months old, she was still not sleeping through the night. My sleep deprivation had gotten so bad that a friend actually asked my husband if I was suffering from depression and needed medication. I wasn’t and I didn’t, but I’m just illustrating a point.
After my third child was born, I developed the ability to fall asleep almost anywhere, and sleep through almost anything. I think it was a defense mechanism. My husband would frequently have to shake me in the middle of the night saying, “The baby’s hungry.”
When my third was about three years old, I was a stay at home mom for the first time ever. I found myself falling asleep on the floor of his bedroom, while we were playing. I would invent games where I would get to “pretend” to be asleep.
I once fell asleep in the orthodontist’s waiting room.
And just this past December, I actually fell asleep with my head in my hands, sitting in the bleachers at my son’s basketball practice. One of the parents sitting next to me had to nudge me awake because my son called “Mom!” about five times.
I don’t know which is more embarrassing, those seemingly narcoleptic tendencies, or the actual forgetting of stuff.
When I was about 8 months pregnant with number three, I forgot to go to an OB appointment. I didn’t even realize it until the receptionist called me at home, and she had to ask where I was.
After he was born, about five months later, I forgot to take my older two to their dentist appointment. Again I didn’t realize, until the receptionist called the house. Although as soon as I saw the caller ID I knew, and I let the answering machine pick up. I was too embarrassed to talk to her.
When child number two was in second grade, I received an email from her teacher. Did I want to reschedule my time to come in and read to the class? Because apparently I’d missed that too. “I don’t remember that,” said child number two as she read this over my shoulder. “Probably because your teacher was really good at covering for parents who forget things!” I replied.
I remember all five of us relaxing at home one Sunday evening, about four years ago. I was thinking to myself how nice it was for us to be home to have dinner together and not rush out to be somewhere. Only a few hours later did I see a note on my calendar, “drama rehearsal 6-8pm” that was for my oldest. Oops.
Just two months ago I drove my oldest to dance class and as I pulled into the parking lot I realized I had forgotten something. I had forgotten to pick up her friend for class. Oops.
And last month I forgot to text my friend to tell her to pick up another friend’s kid for dance class. Oops again.
Obviously I’m not writing about the other 98% of the time I’m on my game. That wouldn’t make for a very good story.
So I have two teen agers and a nine year old. And I still suffer episodes of Mommy Brain. Sometimes it’s as simple as forgetting why I walked into a room– actually that happens almost daily. Or forgetting where I put the scissors- actually that happens a lot too. But who hasn’t ever realized they’ve forgotten the bread as they’re driving away from the grocery store?
Maybe I’ll add to the urban dictionary’s definition: Mommy Brain also encompasses a state known as Momnesia, whereby normal day-to-day things are commonly forgotten. Most likely a by-product of too many other things going on: something is going to fall out.
Or you can easily sum it up with a quote I found:
“You know you’re a mom when… every sentence spoken begins with ‘Okay… what am I doing?’ ”