Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fried slime mold

I think mommyhood has fried my brain.

My short-term memory is blown to bits. My long-term memory may follow. I seem to live life in a state of perpetual distraction, standing in the living room looking for a pair of socks, or a form for preschool, or--wait, what am I looking for again? And didn't I leave it just right there? And oh, hey, there are some dirty dishrags right there, let's take it up to the laundry, and oh, the baby needs a diaper change, now why is the dryer standing open like that, and there's Bean-girl screeching again and the cat's out of food and wait, I was looking for something what the hell was I looking for???

This morning I was looking for paperwork for Bean-girl's first trip to a dentist in this city. And while I was frantically searching for this, the Bean-girl was sitting on the toilet crying out that she couldn't pee, she really couldn't, and the baby was crawling about half-dressed (because I'd just changed her diaper and then gotten distracted before I could finish dressing her). And as I was still searching, going slowly crazy because I knew I'd left it on the desk, I really did the half-dressed baby was scaling the makeshift barricade I'd built to keep her safely enclosed in the living room. And then Bean-girl started to screech from the bathroom for a lollipop.

And I could just feel my brain slowly melting in its skull.

My sister-in-law is the mother to triplet girls and an older boy. Although her children are now older, my husband continues to joke of his sister that raising triplets has "blown her attention span to bits." She is smart, capable, amazingly efficient. She is a terrific mother, and her children are wonderful human beings. I am in utter awe of her. But it's true that she does often seem . . . distracted in conversation, even with other adults. And she has a habit of repeating things over and over. The way you repeat things when you're talking to a child. Except that she continues to do this when speaking to my husband and I.

I fear that if I stay too long at home, I may lose all ability to communicate with the adult members of my species.


I'm aware that there is an argument for the other side. There are mothers and women who argue stridently that motherhood does NOT reduce us all to the cognitive state of slime molds. There are apparently published studies showing that mice who have given birth actually do better than other mice on some types of cognitive tests. There is even a book out there, called "How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter," which apparently argues that motherhood actually makes us smarter. I haven't read any of these.
Maybe, down the road, I'll find that I am indeed more flexible, better at multi-tasking, more socially skilled. Or maybe I'll find that I'm just more socially skilled with children?

Tonight I'll feel better about all this, I know. There's my infant now, peering up at me with large, wondering eyes. There's my pretty Bean-girl, calmly eating her snack. I have so many sweet, cute stories to tell about them.
But right now? That soft stuff squishing about in my brains? Slime mold, my friends. Slime mold.


ScienceMama said...

I call this tofu brain. I have a half-written post about it waiting in the cue. Maybe one of these days I'll remember to finish it...

But seriously. Husband heard a talk from Bruce Ames (of the Ames test) where he talked about how babies are sucking all of the Omega-3 fatty acids straight out of breastfeeding mothers' brains. He had some anecdotal studies showing that Flax oil supplements can help breastfeeding mothers with their "baby brain". I haven't been able to find anything on PubMed about it yet, but I keep forgetting to go back and look more thoroughly. Ha.

But yeah, I take Flax Oil supplements twice a day now. Can't say if it's helping or not. My brain is still at least 50% tofu. The soft kind.

The bean-mom said...

Really? Flax oil? I have got to check that out!

BTW, I e-mailed you back about your question. Hope it's a help!

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh my...I don't have kids but suspect it's all the constant pressure for your attention to be focused all kinds of places "just-this-very-minute" and hope that some grown up time here helps!

ScienceGirl said...

No kids for me yet, but I can see how every second changes in what is going on can leave anyone unable to remember anything!

Oh, and the Flax Oil supplements are going on my "this may help in the future" list (thanks for sharing your tips!)

TheMusingMommy said...

It's funny how some days you can feel like Wonder Mom, and your are so on top of it, all the other moms wish they were you.

Then, before you know it, you slip on spilled juice on the kitchen floor and reality smacks you upside the head.

Cool tip about the Omega-3. It seems like it's being added to lots of things now, like eggs and milk. I personally don't like Flax oil (we take it by spoonful b/c the capsules are usually not vegetarian-friendly), but my husband gobbles it right up.

Mad Hatter said...

I think Wayfarer makes a very good point. I don't have kids, but I'm guessing that sleep deprivation doesn't help either.... If it's any consolation, I know several incredible women with dual MD/PhD degrees who have children and are still brilliant clinicians and scientists.

The bean-mom said...

Oh, yeah. I think sleep deprivation and the constant demands on your attention (and possibly depletion of fatty acids?) are turning my brain to tofu.

Musingmommy, how right you are. Sometimes you feel supremely, smugly competent--and an hour later it's all dashed.

Mad Hatter--I've known of brilliant, successful women scientists at the institutions I've worked at. I knew of them, knew who they were--but never knew any of them well enough to ask how they did it. I wish I knew.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes. I can relate SO MUCH to this. Sleep deprivation is one major culprit. Also, I find that when my kids are overly-active and running around, my brain begins to go on overload, and I just can't think clearly. Plus the ubiquitous laundry and scattered toys. And the constant chatter. And the embarrassment and annoyance of trying to think of a word in mid-sentence. Oh, I could go on all day.

And I really don't think you have much to worry about, honestly. You are insightful and lucid, in the midst of your parenthood - so never fear!