'Mom Brain' Is Real And There's Science To Back Us Up

This Is What We Mean When We Say ‘Mom Brain’

March 15, 2019 Updated May 29, 2020

confused woman in garage
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Do you ever find yourself in your kitchen with the refrigerator wide open, frantically searching for the chicken you’ve taken out for dinner only to find it already on the counter? Have you ever been searching for something, like your keys, and realize they’re in your hand? Or maybe you’ve been freaking out about losing your phone while you’re using it to send a text?

If any of this sounds familiar, chances are you are suffering from mom brain.

Mom brain may sound made up, but it is in fact a very real thing. And the scariest thing is that you don’t think it’ll happen to you until you find the glasses you’ve been frantically searching for on top of your head.

Every mom probably thinks they’re going to be immune from mom brain until it happens to them. Do we think our moms meant to call us the names of three siblings and her best friend from college before she figured out who she was talking to? Probably not. But did it happen at least once a day? Probably yes.

If I don’t do something the exact moment I think of it, chances are I will forget it by time as I get around to it again. My kid will ask me for a snack, I will walk into the kitchen, pour myself something to drink and walk out again. And then I’m standing there wondering why my poor kiddo is bewildered and bugging me for the snack.

“Didn’t I just get you fruit snacks?” I ask, looking down at my hand and seeing a full cup instead.

Recently, I had scheduled a yoga class online. The class was at 5:15 p.m., but for some reason I had it in my mind as 5:50 p.m. So I strolled into the studio all proud of myself for being early, and the receptionist is like, “Are you here for the 6:15?” and I’m like, “No, I’m here for the 5:50?”

“Do you mean 5:15?” she asked, trying to to look at me like the total idiot I am.

After apologizing profusely, she waved me off and helped me to schedule another class. This time, I put it in my phone with an alarm. The alarm was set to remind me two hours before class, and I also set it 15 minutes earlier than class was actually going to start.

How many times has it happened to you where you’re standing in the middle of a room in your house looking around for something, but you can’t remember what it is you’re looking for? Or, you remind yourself to set a reminder for something and forget to set the reminder and forget the event all together?

And what about my most favorite example of mom brain? When you make a list for the grocery store on your phone. You review the list a million times, painstakingly going over each item to ensure maximum memory retention. If you’re taking a kid with you, you may teach them the list so they can remind you of whatever you may forget. Then you get in the store, and buy everything you need. Except when you get home and unload the bags, you have everything except the one thing you essentially went to the store to get? Mother fucking mom brain strikes again.

Sometimes, it’s easy to tie mom brain to the fact that whether we like it or not, we’re getting older. And we all know that older people have a hard time remembering anything. But it’s beyond that. There is actual science behind why most of us suffer from mom brain. And sadly, it doesn’t seem that there’s much of a cure.

In a study from 2015 by the University of British Columbia, evidence was presented that motherhood has permanent impact on your cognitive function. While studying lab rats mainly for the purpose of hormone therapy, the researchers found that rats who were mothers had a more negative reaction to the hormones.

“Our most recent research shows that previous motherhood alters cognition and neuroplasticity in response to hormone therapy, demonstrating that motherhood permanently alters the brain,” said lead researcher Dr. Liisa Galea in a press statement via CBS News.

One thing about most of the research surrounding mom brain is that it mostly looks how it affects pregnant women and mothers of newborns. J. Galen Buckwalter, Ph.D., a psychologist from the University of Southern California suggests to Parents that pregnancy is “a big assault on the brain.” After testing 19 highly educated pregnant women, he discovered that they all experienced depressed functioning of short-term memory and concentration. Additionally, there was a reduction in their ability to learn and retain new information.

And according to an article from Psychology Today, researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona found the changes a brain goes through during pregnancy could last for at least two years.

No studies really take into account we moms of kids who can make their own lunches and may have already gone through puberty. While it seems that sometimes the brain just moves vital cells from memory to another part of the brain that is more important for keeping your baby alive, once you know how to keep them alive, you kind of want your memory back.

And isn’t it weird that the part of your memory that seems to work is the least helpful one? There is no reason I should still know the words to “C’est La Vie” by B*Witched, but if you put it on, I can still sing every word. And yet, I can go grocery shopping three times in one week and forget to buy a box of fucking tissues every.single.time. Sadly, there is no scientific data about that. But there should be! It’s just another symptom of fucking mom brain.

Maybe the only way we can truly combat mom brain is to be one step ahead of ourselves. Maybe I should start using my kid’s bath crayons to leave myself notes when I’m in the shower. We can all set a million alarms and have folders full of notes reminding us about soccer practice and the PTA bake sale we promised we’d make brownies for. Or maybe we just constantly need to talk to ourselves so we don’t forget where our glasses are. *hint, they’re on your face.*

No matter how you choose to handle it, “mom brain” is a very real and very valid thing to suffer from. So don’t beat yourself up too much about it, momma.