“Mommy brain,” “momnesia,” “preg head,” “baby brain,” or “mom brain drain” is as indigenous an indicator of modern motherhood as “caffeine fix” and “mom-shaming.” However, I cannot help but wonder if “mom brain” derives as a product of societal engagement and from the expectations dumped onto mothers, or persists in something deeper, perhaps innate, that happens when a woman has a baby.
Mom brain is comprised of several symptoms that can show up in pregnancy and have some permanence for many women. Evidence, as pointed out by Jill Smokler for CafeMom, includes forgetfulness, absentmindedness, and a general demise of common sense. “After a long hard day and getting some me time finally, I sat down to watch TV … tried to use my phone as the remote … thought the battery was dead and kept hitting it,” she explained as an example. (Smokler, 2012) Another mom brain instance? “Panicked in a parking lot as I stared at the empty back seat of my car. Somebody stole my son’s carseat!! Who does that!??? Oh wait … that wasn’t my car.” (Smokler, 2012)
However, mom brain is also marked by a significant enforcement of children’s welfare and resolute loving feelings, like of those of falling in love.
When it comes to the scientific acumen behind the syndrome, there is some solid evidence that mom brain has robust biological standing. For one, during pregnancy, “Gray matter becomes more concentrated,” says writer Adrienne LaFrance for The Atlantic. “Even before a woman gives birth, pregnancy tinkers with the very structure of her brain. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.” (LaFrance, 2015)
Mom brain, essentially, can protect a baby from neglect. And one thinks we’re just going crazy. Who knew?
My next inquiry involved the possibility for dads to have a correlational “dad brain.” The response is “maybe.” According to LaFrance, “Men show similar brain changes when they’re deeply involved in caregiving. Oxytocin does not seem to drive nurturing behavior in men the way it does in women. . .Instead, a man’s parental brain is supported by a socio-cognitive network that develops in the brain of both sexes later in life. . .’Evolution [has] created other pathways for adaptation to the parental role in human fathers.'” (LaFrance, 2015)
Society, however, perpetuates that it is not “manly” for dads to remain home caring for the children; thus, fathers often do not get the chance to experience “dad brain” in this same strand. Fathers are, instead, further pushed into the realm known as “provider,” especially with the lack of family leave available and the prices of food and clothing and childcare ever increasing in the U.S.
So, “mom brain” has become a negative discernment exclusive to new mothers, mostly because of the ignorance regarding its biochemical legitimacy. A mother is the one who, while recovering from childbirth, is usually severely sleep-deprived and suffering from very real memory loss, but still expected/demanded to mentally function at the same rate as prior to pregnancy. “Snap back” bodies mean “snap back” brains, too, right?
Caring for the home does not end. Caring for the family does not end. Sometimes, the career does not end, either. And mothers are mocked and lampooned because their brains are mush, that more important tasks suddenly replace the old, currently-nonimportant ones.
Mommies have a divine gift in mom brain, magically harnessed while growing a human, that taps into a benevolence and a tending and an emotional fondness that no other creature can draft. It is okay to temporarily laugh at moments of haze because we are already so busy, but we should delight in graciousness at just what our brains are subconsciously doing for the enhancement of not only our lives, but those of our babies, too. “Mom brain” is, technically, flawless.
LaFrance, Adrienne. “What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother.” The Atlantic, Jan. 8, 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/what-happens-to-a-womans-brain-when-she-becomes-a-mother/384179/. Accessed Jul. 25, 2017.
Smokler, Jill. “10 Classic Symptoms of Mommy Brain.” CafeMom, Apr. 2, 2012, http://thestir.cafemom.com/being_a_mom/135257/10_classic_symptoms_of_mommy. Accessed Jul. 25, 2017.