While I was supposed to be writing my dissertation, I had a baby. That baby turned 2 last week. So two years have passed, and I fear I have become dumb.
To clarify, I know I am smarter in a lot of ways. My whole being exploded when my child was born, and a whole lot of other cliche things. I am more patient, I am more intuitive, I am more grateful, I am aware of my impending death. I am more sympathetic but also more protective of my family, even if it comes at others’ expense (“Homeless, struggling man,” I think to myself, “you break my heart. You probably had a mother. What happened?” Simultaneously, I move to the other side of the street with my kid to avoid a possible interaction that might frighten or injure her. Two years ago, I would have gone out of my way to give him my spare change).
In other words, I am a multitude, even more of a multitude than I was before having a child. But when I sit down to write about my research, I am straight-up-dumb. It takes me a long time to focus, and then that focus lasts for five minutes. I lose words, really simple words like “consequence” (real example from just this morning).
Yesterday, my daughter and I were in the middle of her favorite game, the “come here” game. This is where she sits in her toddler-size chair and points to a place on the rug where she wants me to sit. I go to that spot, kneel down, open my arms and say “come here.” And the brilliant girl “comes here.” What a game! Seriously, I love it. But, yesterday while playing, I realized just how dumb I sometimes am. Most of my day is made up of activities no more complex than the “come here” game. I take that back. Along with these activities, I constantly imagine scenarios in which my child will get hurt or die. Some of these scenarios are spin-offs of what we are actually doing together, some are more creative. In all of these scenarios, I am at fault. This takes up any brainpower left over from the “come-here” game. And it continues when my child is asleep and I “have time to work.”
I used to hate when people would say stuff like “pregnancy brain” or “mommy brain.” I guess I still don’t like these terms. But when I didn’t have kids, I thought it was offensively dismissive of women. Now I know that it is real. Or at least for me. How did you other brilliant moms get your brains back so quickly? I feel like mine is gone for good.