Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mommy Brain

In our society, women have fought hard to become the equals of men, and even to be better than them. There is not a job out there that a man can do that a woman cannot. Women are frequently as driven in their careers now as men are, and the ones who are can hold their own in the corporate world.

A funny thing happens when a woman becomes a mother. In fact, even when a woman becomes pregnant, things immediately begin to change. Maybe you’ve heard of pregnancy brain, a term commonly used to explain bouts of forgetfulness or excessive “blonde moments” often experienced during pregnancy. Then, once the baby is there, a woman’s focus has to shift entirely onto that child for several months at the very least. In early motherhood, a woman is practically reduced to a robot, wearily changing diapers, feeding the baby and trying to keep up with laundry while keeping the baby happy and trying not to collapse from sleep deprivation.

Here in Canada, we women are blessed to be allowed a full year of maternity and parental benefits before we have to go back to work, if our finances allow. During that first year after Cody was born, I remember trying to play mental games on my computer to keep my mind sharp as I felt my intelligence draining away. I did go back to work for eight months before I went off again to have Jamie, and I have not been back since, so that’s three straight years now of being a stay-at-home mom.

The other day I read something online that made me acutely aware of my own level of intelligence. What I mean is, it made me feel dumb. I thought to myself, “I used to have something intelligent to say.” Now, I often don’t. A challenging conversation in my day consists of a fifteen to twenty minute negotiating session with a three year old who needs to use the “potty” but refuses to. That’s right, I can negotiate. I can also threaten. I can repeat everything I say a minimum of three times, with no maximum, and I can also employ tickle talk if the moment is right. But nowhere in there is there opportunity for me to discuss anything other than bodily functions, boo-boos, what is and is not on the menu, and of course, the rules.

Sure, my job here at home requires some strategizing skills. I have to strategize on how to most effectively get the boys to be good and do what they are supposed to do. I also have to strategize on things like when it is safe for me to take 72 seconds of time to run to the bathroom without someone being seriously injured or worse while I’m gone.

But despite all of my negotiating and strategizing, the bottom line is, when the kids go to bed in the evening my mind goes completely blank. I don’t know whether I could have an intelligent conversation to save my life. Being a stay-at-home mom is kind of like working on the trade floor. Sheer chaos, high stakes and the necessity to think fast and be able to shout above the rest of the crowd. Except there is no pay and no status for a mom.

I don’t regret my decision to stay at home with my kids. I have tough times here, but I consider it to be worth it. I love my boys and I have fun with them, and I feel very blessed to be able to be here. But I do hope that one day the fatigue will lift and the chaos will diminish a bit and I can brush the cobwebs out of my brain and see what’s left up there. Hopefully then I will still have something intelligent to say once in a while. Until then, I guess I will continue to do what I can to keep my brain from slipping into a motherhood-induced coma.

Hm. I’m not sure whether I’m done, but I forgot what I was going to say. Guess it’s time to sign off.


Jo said...

I particularly love the ending "i forgot..." ha ha ha!
Yes, your brains are still there. They are working. You can hold a great conversation...just put yourself in a different setting and WHAM! you are talking!
It does get better, but then age takes over...ha ha!

CAT said...

Haha! Yes, there must be a very short window of opportunity between when the kids grow up and when we get old. Just like by the time we will have the opportunity to sleep like normal human beings again, we won't be able to.