I used to be smart, I think. I graduated from college with honors, so I’m pretty sure my brain used to function fairly well. I vaguely remember being able to do things that required focus and attention. Vaguely.
You know that amusement park ride where you sit in a car that spins around, and that car is part of a group of cars that also spins around, and then the whole contraption that houses the groups of cars also spins around, so you feel like you’re spinning in three different directions at once? When I was a kid, we called it The Scrambler.
That’s what my brain is like on motherhood. There’s a Scrambler going in my head on full tilt, all the time. The fact that I can sit here and type out coherent sentences might seem to belie that fact. But what you don’t see is the half a dozen typos I’ve corrected in this paragraph alone. You also can’t see that I’ve gone back and forth between writing this and three other articles, as well as attended to seventeen other things—feeding children, singing a bedtime song, refereeing a bickering match, looking for a missing Kindle, answering a homework question, and jotting down a grocery list—just in the past twenty minutes.
It’s like motherhood has given me adult-onset ADD. I can’t seem to keep my mind on any one thing for longer than two minutes. For a while, this phenomenon only occurred when my kids were around. But over time, it’s creeped into my precious alone time. Even when I DO have an hour of uninterrupted time, I find my brain hopping all over the place. When I try to focus, my thoughts go flying:
Are the kids eating too much sugar?
I think they’ve had too much screen time lately—need to do something about that. The cold weather doesn’t help. Do we have snow pants that fit everyone? What about snow boots? Man, those things are expensive.
How are we going to pay for college? Maybe they won’t even want to go to college right away. Are we okay with that?
Can’t forget the karate demonstration on Wednesday.
Oh, I need to finish that draft for work by tomorrow.
Did I write down the name of that anxiety specialist? Need to look into that for our little worrier.
Man, the house is a mess—need to do something about that, too.
I wonder if it’s time for BoyWonder to start a musical instrument.
Did I leave laundry in the washer?
It’s not that my mind never used to wander, but it’s never been like this. There are just SO. MANY. THINGS.
Being organized helps to some degree, but organization itself feels like just one more thing to think about. Writing down to-do lists helps, but I could literally sit and write down things I need to do or remember or look into or figure out ALL DAY LONG. There’s always something that needs my attention, and there’s never enough time.
Sometimes I daydream about taking a vacation by myself, someplace remote and beautiful, where I can have a day or two to let all of those thoughts calm down so I can mentally regroup. But I don’t know if that would even do it. Wouldn’t I just be thinking the whole time about how the kids and my husband were doing? Am I doomed to never be able to focus fully for an extended period ever again?
Sometimes I think, maybe if I wasn’t working. Or maybe if I was working, but not working from home. Or maybe if we weren’t homeschooling. Maybe if I got more sleep. Maybe if I won the lottery and could hire someone to cook our meals, clean our house, tend our yard, and tutor our children. Maybe then I’d be able to think clearly.
Maybe. But probably not. When you have three other people’s lives (four, counting hubby) intricately woven into your own, I think it’s inevitable to feel scattered, regardless of your life circumstances. It’s just the nature of motherhood. The responsibilities, the relationships, the messes, the midnight wakings, the feeding and bathing, the worries, the schedules, the different phases at different ages, the school lessons, the life lessons . . . and then still trying to be an individual human being on top of it all.
It’s dizzying. No wonder I can’t think straight.
The ironic thing is I used to love The Scrambler when I was a kid. Now it makes me feel queasy and want to die.
It’s probably because I’m already riding it in my head, all the time.
Related post: The Decision Fatigue of Motherhood
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