Mom Brain: What Was I Saying

-Beth Brown-

I am a mom, and, like most moms, my day to day living is full of moments of remembering important things to do. I walk with purpose to a destination down the hall, ready to tackle the next task. When I arrive at the destination, I struggle mightily to remember why I even started going that direction. I have some of the best ideas while I’m in the shower. I don’t mean world-changing, millionaire-making, time-saving ideas. I have them more along the lines of “I should really remember to buy shower cleaner. Today I need to pay the water bill. I hope I washed the right shirt for work today. I think there’s a cross country or weight-lifting or baseball practice today. I need to check my calendar.” Unfortunately for me, all recollection of such thoughts promptly disappears when the shower is over. They sometimes show up fresh and new the next morning in the shower.

On my computer, I have more tabs open on Google Chrome than the patrons of an Irish pub on St. Patty’s Day. I leave all these tabs open thinking I will remember what I was doing when I get back to my interrupted browsing session. I read somewhere that this is a sign of ADHD, but I really can’t recall the exact diagnosis. I am constantly interrupted while attempting to maneuver cyberspace. It’s not a big deal except that I would have no idea where I left off if I closed out every time I’m interrupted. In fact, I have had one web page pertaining to this very article open for almost three weeks. It’s related to the phenomenon called “mom brain” and whether such a thing really exists. I will tell you that, whether science agrees with me or not, I know it is a true thing that plagues you from the instant the blue line on the pregnancy test stick appears. Thirteen-plus years later, it’s still going strong at my house. A perpetual lack of sleep might be a contributing factor to my memory problem. Maybe hearing someone shout “Mom” a thousand times an hour affects the ole brain, too.

What is mom brain? According to various articles I read, changes in hormones are partly to blame for the scatter-brained state that is motherhood. Parts of the brain involved in regulation of emotion, empathy, and maternal instincts grow after you become a mom. The amygdala, which processes memories and regulates emotion, increases in size after a woman gives birth. The increased size of the amygdala, according to an article in The Atlantic (http://tinyurl.com/ogufqxn), provides an increased target for hormones that in turn creates a positive feedback loop which encourages positive maternal behavior. That is amazing! But with so much growth in this area of the brain, other areas probably experience some shrinkage—at least in my brain. What else makes me forget where I am going in midstride?

I recently conducted a “scientific” poll of parents via Facebook (ha). I found a few gems on keeping things running smoothly on the home front. One way is to have non-negotiable, age-appropriate chores for all family members. That is a big help. It takes a load off my mind when I know that the laundry will be folded, animals will be fed, and one bathroom and two bedrooms will be cleaned. Another huge help is the calendar on my phone (or even a paper calendar). Sports practices and appointments stop taking up valuable memory space in my brain once transferred to the calendar. I also enjoy crossing things off our to-do list. The list is helpful, but first I have to remember to put all of the things on it that need to be done. A routine is what helps me to get through my day. I have certain, sometimes weird, ways of doing things. But if I do everything the same way every day, I know that I take care of all the important stuff—wearing appropriate clothing, matching shoes, showering—you know.

If you ever see me in public and I don’t immediately acknowledge you, don’t take it personally. It’s just my sad, tired, shrinking mom brain failing me once again. I do the best I can. Sometimes, it’s not enough, but it’s all I got!