Mommy Brain: Is it a thing?
I’m convinced I have the beginnings of dementia. I stay up late at night looking up the symptoms. No joke. My father died of a rare related illness, and I seriously can’t kick the feeling that something is wrong. I stop mid-sentence and ask others to remind me of what I was just saying. If I don’t write down every thought I have, I will not remember what I wanted to accomplish. I have post-it notes surrounding my night stand, work desk, car console, and bathroom counter. My daughter asked me to peel her a carrot, and I said I would. She then had to remind me another 5 times that she wanted a carrot, because I became distracted by tasks and completely forgot each time. I used to have a memory that didn’t quit. Who have I become?
They say there is a thing called “Mommy brain.” I tried looking it up online through Webster’s Dictionary and the computer quickly spit back at me, “The words you’ve entered aren’t in the dictionary.” So, are they saying “Mommy brain” isn’t a thing? It gave alternative suggestions to what I might be trying to look up and “madbrain” was one of the words that came up. That’s how I feel- like I have a “madbrain.” I’m like a Mad Scientist trying to concoct crazy solutions to my children’s issues, manage their afterschool activity schedules, meet timelines at work, experiment in the kitchen to find healthier options than chicken nuggets, balance finding time to get last minute birthday party gifts, go grocery shopping, and so on. When did my life get so chaotic, that sometimes I literally forget to stop and go pee?
I realize I am not alone. Sometimes knowing that comforts me, other times I think I might actually forget. My stressors are my reality and trying to parent in today’s day and age isn’t like it used to be. For one, many families now require two incomes to survive. Is it realistic for one human being to hold two full time jobs, one with around the clock hours that doesn’t come with a mandated lunch break? Things feel way more complicated. With social media and cell phones, it is difficult to quiet all of the outside distractions reminding me of how I’m not quite measuring up as a Pinterest-type Mom. Are my kids signed up for enough after school activities? Does my second grader need a reading tutor since apparently all of his friends are reading at a junior high level? When is enough enough? My life is consumed with trying to keep the kids alive, get them where they are supposed to be on time, and make sure all of my stuff is taken care of. How do other Moms make it look so graceful?
Many days I actually feel sorry for myself that I am the “default” parent, and then I feel guilty for not stopping to realize my blessings. So much of the management of our family falls on me as the mother. This has to be the reason for my memory loss, right? I decided instead to look up the word “overload” in the dictionary. One of the definitions given was “to load something or someone to excess.” Yep. That’s me! That has to be it!! These are the things no one warns you about prior to having children. The sleepless nights, yes. The fact that you can’t remember your own name or what you ate for breakfast because you have reached your capacity, nope. I feel like there is a secret underground world where experienced Moms just laugh at the newbies who seem shocked when they realize they put Desitin on their toothbrush instead of tooth paste.
It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It requires supernatural abilities to manage it all. That’s why it really is true that it takes a village. I need support. I need advice. We are doing an injustice by not sharing this with one another. Will my memory come back once the kids are in college? Did it disappear along with my sanity? Can I stop googling symptoms of dementia? I’ll probably forget to anyway.
by Rachel Schwartz, LSW
Director of Social Services, JCC Chicago