City Mama, County Mama: Today We’re Going To Talk About Mommy Brain.. Wait, What Were We Talking About Again? (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)
A few days ago, I was in the middle of an awesome conversation with another mama about whether shooting stars are in fact stars that have died or bits of meteorite, streaking across the sky—when my charged up threenager broke into a full-out sprint across the grass. He was running forward and just staring backwards at me the whole time, never noticing there was a humongous boulder coming up a few feet ahead of him. Naturally, I freaked out and ran hysterically after him—which just made him squeal with laughter and put on some speed. The collision was imminent and when it happened my stomach exploded with sadness, there were a lot of tears and some minor scrapes, but no lasting damage.
“So, what were we talking about again?” I asked her when everything was finally resolved for the minute.
“Ummm….” She replied absently, her eyes glazing over while she brushed a black spot off her son’s ankle. It wasn’t a tick, but we were both mentally in other places by that time.
Mommy brain isn’t ok with me. I used to be pretty into thinking in the pre-baby days. I loved how I could have a conversation with basically anyone and there would be great banter, input from both sides, some witty punctuation, and ultimately, a resolution that let us move on to the next topic, satisfied that we’d really talked and heard each other.
I can’t remember the last conversation like that. Now, I end up glossing over things that people say to me that really really required a response. The other day, I was walking down the street with a relatively new mommy friend and our kids, when she told me that her little girl had recently darted into the road with a car coming and how she’d screamed to her, but her child just kept running…and instead of hearing my friend and acknowledging her fear and the gravity of the experience, I made some trivial comment about how moms always envision these horrible things happening to our kids. I couldn’t really listen to what she was telling me because I was totally distracted by my own child’s stubborn unwillingness to hold my hand near this busy street. Later that night (after baby bedtime) her story suddenly jumped forward in my mind and I was both devastated about how scary that must have been for her and mortified at my reaction. I mean, how do we cultivate meaningful friendships when we can’t focus for long enough or absorb information deeply enough to be there for each other? I keep telling myself that I want to be a better person—someone who engages more meaningfully and is more present with others, but I’ve been notably absent in the most important moments. Something wasn’t right.
Being me, I dwelled pretty heavily on this for a while. How long had I been missing people’s cues for an emotional response? Were my mom friends constantly left hanging? Were all of my new relationships shallow and unfulfilling? What about my old ones? Was I a really bad, self-absorbed friend despite my best intentions?
Here’s what I realized:
- All moms have a primary focus and it’s not each other, it’s our kids. We have a biological imperative to compartmentalize our brains so that the wellbeing of our offspring takes up most of the space.
- All moms intuitively understand that.
- Other moms have probably done this to me and I’d never noticed because I was too distracted with my own business to feel let down or insulted.
- It’s possible that the other moms were too distracted to notice too.
- While our ability to think through concepts, finish conversations, and dedicate ourselves to cultivating relationships with others is definitely pretty impaired in the early years of motherhood (and maybe beyond, I wouldn’t know), we also forge deep bonds through the very act of parallel mothering. We instinctively learn from each other by observing the way we each care for our children and feel supported through our physical proximity to other parents going through the same things in the same place at the same time.
So maybe we didn’t manage to finish discussing our theory about galactic inaccuracies, but we laughed together, panicked together, exchanged knowing looks, and breathed sighs of relief together. And maybe I missed the moment to be there for my friend or maybe post-baby relationships have a different cadence than the ones we’re used to and I’ll get another chance.
Maybe our brains are just one of the bazillion things that get turned on their heads with the onset of parenthood and maybe—even when we say all the wrong things—the nice and caring things we’ve done will carry us through and our friends will know that the love is there.
From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.