Mommy Brain. We all know someone with it. We all joke about it. Any mom who has ever locked her keys in the car, left the milk under the grocery cart in the cart corral or who has said, “What? (Some event) has happened in (insert name of country here)?!” know exactly what Mommy Brain is.
Or do we?
If I had the foresight years ago to scrapbook all the clever ditties I read about motherhood, I could tell you who derived my favorite factoid and how but since I can’t…Well, I’m going to tell you about it anyway. Because it is just too good. When my boys were babies, I read in Real Simple magazine that when women become mothers they get smarter. At the time I was involved in a Mothers of Multiples group and when I brought this little bit of reassurance to a meeting of fried, overtired women, everyone agreed when a fellow member said: “Smarter? Overwhelmed and exhausted, yes. But smarter? No.”
If that bit of info came qualified with more detail, I could have argued the counterpoint. But the article, a mere few sentences in length, didn’t offer up much support for itself. Still, it’s an interesting tidbit. One that I want to defend. So forget the captive keys and MIA milk and consider these points:
A mom’s ability to pre-plan. Which doesn’t only apply to the grocery list, although that’s part of it. Mothers have to remember who has (school) library when. Which child’s class needs treats for a party (a detail to remember at the grocery store, adding to the layer of pre-planning). What day the kids need picked up from school for activities and remembering, for example, to pack the violin, the check for the instructor, the healthy snacks AND the piece d’ resistance: stuff for those in the audience so they don’t interrupt by calling the budding musician “papier mache pants.” Remember the photo I posted in “My Trunk, My Self” (April 2014) of everything we needed for a single two hour time period after school? I had to plan it all out, with a handwritten list, a few days before. No way could I have thrown all that together last minute. And my husband would have been overwhelmed. (Love you, Babe!) But we moms? Planning like this is all in a day’s work.
Mothers can organize in an out-of-the-box (pun intended) style. We remember where we saw the beloved stuffed rabbit (in the fridge) right before bedtime . We place the pencil holder not where the pencils should go but where they end up naturally. And, given our kids obsession with tape and scissors, hide a private stash of both so we are never without on Christmas Eve. And one last word: LABELMAKER!!! Either the contraption or the job title but most often, both.
Moms burst with a unique kind of creativity. Kids definitely drive us to mental gymnastics that benefit them. For example, think of the tricks we use to keep our offspring believing in Santa just one more year (Well, I hear the bell…don’t you?…Yes, I’m sure Santa uses clones…there’s no way he can be everywhere at once!). Or how that rickety old ladder collecting dust in the basement should just be thrown out, but it would make a really cool “reclaimed wood” display case for lego creations (how I wish that were my idea!). And my absolute favorite example of a mom’s quick creativity: telling kids the candy shop they just wandered past is actually a candy museum.
So we moms are challenged in a way academia can not: the way only our uniquely wonderful children can. Don’t we deserve at least honorary doctorate status for that? And if I were to write a thesis (or is it “thesus?”) for my Mommyhood Phd I would choose to defend two additional motherly talents: 1) the mother’s inherent ability to dodge child vomit and dog pee while wearing heels and 2) quick responses to a pediatrician when chastised for feeding a toddler Cheerios (well-meaning doc: “Cheerios are a choking hazard!” mom, continuing to feed the child Cheerios: “Why? There’s a breathing hole in them!!!”). Because, it’s not just our mental prowess but our agility and sharp tongues that make us truly great and deserving of those colorful hoods doctorates wear.
And as for the ubiquitous “Mommy Brain.” Its existence shouldn’t keep us from earning that hood (vomit-colored would be appropriate, am I right?). Because even those with “PhD” after their names leave things like textbooks in odd places, like in the freezer. Or they try skate boarding on Big Wheels or riding broken bicycles. We all share brain hiccups, so please pass the diploma…with a side of spare car keys, sour milk and a newspaper.
(Photo from the Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank H. Netter, M.D., pub. Ciba-Heigy Corporation, Summit, New Jersey, copyright 1989.)