Motherhood Has Murdered My Brain

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 
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My kids are murdering my brain. I’m not talking about “mommy brain,” that mental fog that happens when the kids are little and you only get four hours of sleep per night so you can’t be expected to think straight. My kids are older, well into the age of reason and accountability. They are capable, semi-rational creatures who should theoretically need less attention than babies. I should be done with “mommy brain” by now.

And yet, every day, I find myself struggling to express even the simplest thoughts. Sometimes it gets so bad I honestly wonder if I should see the doctor. Just the other day, as the family was trying to get out the door to make it on time to some obligatory function or another, the following sentence hiccupped out of me: “Where’s my…uh, bag? The leather…that bag I put my things in. Ugh! Where is it? I left it right here on the…where we eat. Gah!

Purse. Table. Rudimentary English. Wait, do I have Alzheimer’s? No, no, no. I blame my children. I blame parenthood. That sad, stuttered sentence was screeched under the duress of a time crunch and surrounded by a slew of other frantic sentences that contributed to the meltdown of my brain: reminders to get shoes on, queries as to whether or not my 6-year-old had “taken her last pee” (nervous bladder — she pees a lot), yelling at my 10-year-old that he’d left the milk out again, and is he kidding me with that? Didn’t I just tell him to put the freaking milk away? And why are all the lights on upstairs?!

And that’s just one example. More and more lately, I find myself resenting just how much of my brainpower is spent wrangling children, admonishing children, reminding children, helping children, comforting children, planning stuff for children, filling out forms for children, feeling guilty about children, every-fucking-thing for my children.

I knew parenthood would be…big. I knew there would be sacrifice. But there are parts of parenthood that are impossible to fathom until you’re actually in the thick of it and it’s too late to second-guess yourself.

I don’t think I expected to sometimes spend 30 minutes untying a knot, or to be interrupted from work because someone got their head stuck under the couch, or to have to stop in the middle of something because an entire roll of toilet paper mysteriously landed in a toilet that was filled with poop.

I don’t think I expected all the nonsense noises — the distracting sounds my children make even when they’re not technically needing me for anything: singing, humming, banging, screeching, yodeling, clicking, buzzing…they are never quiet. How can a person think under these conditions?

I miss my thoughts. I miss complete sentences. I miss college, when I used to be challenged daily to analyze something that at first seemed beyond my comprehension. I miss proving my mastery of a topic. I miss getting socked in the head by a big idea and mulling it over for a few hours or days.

Shit, these days I’d settle for any uninterrupted thought. There’s no room for that anymore, though, because my kids take up all the space in my brain.

(Right after I typed the word “brain,” my 6-year-old came running up to me and said, “Mommy! You know how you have all that jiggly stuff on your leg? That’s all muscle so you can hold yourself up!” I know, she’s adorable, but, I mean…I’m trying to work here.)

What was I saying?

Oh, right…my kids are up my butt, noisy, distracting, killing my brain, etc.

Do other parents of older kids have this problem? Am I insane? Am I giving too much?

I do tell my kids to go away and entertain/figure things out/resolve conflicts for themselves. I’m not a helicopter mom. But I can’t help but notice that even the process of getting my children to go entertain themselves still requires a certain amount of time, effort, and creativity. Thought. By the time I finally get them to leave me the hell alone, I’m already too emotionally drained to think the kinds of thoughts I want to think.

And of course, the moment my head begins to clear, I hear them arguing. The crashing sound of something falling. Someone crying. And just like that, I’m torn away from my own mind.

The other day, during a moment of relative calm, I wondered aloud to my husband how the hell anyone has more than two children. I told him that if I had to deal with more than two, I would lose my mind altogether.

He reminded me that someday I’ll miss these harried times — that someday the silence in our house will be more oppressive than the noise ever was. Totally the thing I wanted to hear. But I know my husband’s right. I know I’ll miss this chaos one day.

My problem at the moment is that my mind is stretched so thin that there aren’t many brain cells available to handle the job of “appreciating the moment.” That feels like higher-level thinking, on par with quadratic equations.

And so, until that lonely, quiet (blessed) day arrives, I’ll keep up the good fight. I’ll keep searching for moments of calm. I’ll keep a lock on my office door. And I’ll keep shooing my darling children away when I truly do need to work.

At least, that is, until next time someone gets their head stuck under the couch.

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