The first time I experienced it, I wasn’t even a bona fide mother yet. I was talking to my own mother on my cell phone while searching my apartment frantically for my cell phone. I was running late for a sonogram appointment, and growing frustrated that I could not locate the thing. Under the couch? Hello, long-lost shoe. On the counter? In a cabinet? I peered inside of my fridge.
“Where’s my phone?” I wondered out loud.
“Your phone?” my mother asked. “But Dina—”
“Ima, I’d better go,” I interrupted. “Sorry. I have to be at the clinic in ten minutes. I guess I’ll go without it.” I hung up, slid my cell phone into my pocketbook, and it still took me five minutes to realize.
In the interest of journalistic integrity, I must confess that I kind of sort of always was a little bit like this, but since I had kids it sometimes feels like I have completely lost my mind, and I’m pretty sure my kids took it. I used to remember stuff. I used to be pretty much on top of this whole “life” thing. And then I had kids, and I just preheated my laundry because I put it in the oven.
“Mommy Brain” is an informal but often-used term defined as the state that a mother often finds herself in: forgetful, absent-minded, or easily distracted. And while this condition usually refers to a new mother, for me at least, four children later, it was downhill from there.
Having a baby can be summed up in two simple words: Everything changes. Everything, especially your memory and your mind. While wondering whether or not I actually have free time right now or I am just forgetting everything, I am reminded of that old anti-drug campaign in which an egg represents your brain and a scrambled one represent your brain on drugs. This is your brain, and this is your Mommy Brain. Any questions?
Yes, actually. One question:
Mommy Brain is hardly a scientific term. Is it actually a thing?
According to a very scientific survey that I scientifically conducted by my scientific self, it is very much a thing. In fact, 150% of the mothers I surveyed said “Oy, is it ever,” and proceeded to tell me their horror stories.
Is Mommy Brain Forever?
In terms of emotional changes, it seems like we are more or less stuck this way. In terms of forgetting dentist appointments and sometimes shoes, there’s good news! You absolutely can reclaim at least some command of basic life skills. Read on for some tips! (And take notes, because you’ll probably forget them.)
1. Hush, Little Baby
According to research done at the University of Pennsylvania, people who sleep less than 4 to 6 hours a day perform as poorly—with regards to response times and memorization tasks—as those who did not get any sleep at all. And because parenthood, especially early parenthood, is all about the sleep deprivation, getting some more z’s will help with the fuzzy brain. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps to get in enough hours to recharge the brain cells. If you can’t do that, try to go to bed an hour earlier. If you can’t do that, switch off baby duty nights with your husband. And if all else fails, never underestimate the power of caffeine (I certainly don’t); in small doses, caffeine can temporarily help you be more alert after a baby-filled night.
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Stress is part and parcel of parenting, but constantly stressing is a constant assault on your brain and its memory centers. Since we can’t avoid stress, we need to instead learn how to cope with it. Managing stress works differently for different people, but even finding a few minutes for yourself a day to unwind with a cup of coffee, to daven from the heart, to close your eyes and just breath can help.
3. It’s What’s for Dinner
Diet can also help boost your memory. Zinc, vitamin B-12, folic acid and iron-rich foods have all been found to have a positive impact on your mind. This is important, because 25% of pregnant woman are iron deficient. Eating iron-rich foods, or, in a pinch, iron supplements, may help you remember that the reason your husband drove down this block is because, well, you live there.
4. How Does She Do It?
While multitasking is, to some degree, a necessary skill for the life of a parent, a study from the University of Michigan found that the jack-of-all-trades is master of none. In other words, if you try to do it all, you do it all poorly, and to top it all off, multitasking in this way is linked to our old friend, short-term memory loss. This means that if you agreed to bake a Shalom, Kitah Alef cake, it would be a good idea to write it down if you agreed to do it over the phone while keeping an eye on the rice and the kids in the pool on the porch. And paying your bills.
And try, if you can, to live more in the moment and less in six moments at the same time. There is so much to do, but there always is, and those precious days of childhood slip away much too fast to begin with.