I Have a Permanent Case of Mommy Brain

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I used to have a great memory.  I was the one my friends asked when they couldn’t remember the name of a high school classmate or a song they played at our Senior prom.  These days, I feel lucky if I can remember what day it is and whether or not I ate lunch.  I blame my three children for the decline.  My mind is now filled with feeding times, where the kids need to be this afternoon and whether or not they got a bath yet today.  Parts of my past are a total blur, and if I think about it, parts of my present are kind of a blur too.  Good thing my husband still has a great memory to remind me of the things I forget.
I’ve often heard this referred to as “Mommy Brain”.  Ask any new, sleep-deprived mom about it, and she’ll likely say she’s been more forgetful than usual.  Many moms of older children (including me) say the forgetfulness never seems to go away.  I’m hoping that once my kids become a little more independent, my mind will become a little less cluttered.  Then hopefully, I’ll be able to remember what I need to do for the day without having to write everything down. 
I struggle with “Mommy Brain” on a daily basis, so I was intrigued by the results of a study that showed parts of a mother’s brain might actually grow after giving birth.  The study, published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, scanned the brains of new moms a few weeks after giving birth, and then again a few months later.  They found small but significant growth in a few different areas of the brain, including the hypothalamus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala. 
“These are the areas that motivate a mother to take care of her baby, feel rewarded when the baby smiles at her, and fill her with positive emotions from simple interactions with her infant. These brain areas are also involved in planning and foresight, which might help a mother anticipate her infant's needs and be prepared to meet them. … The researchers speculate that pregnancy hormones prime the brain to be open to reshaping when a newborn arrives. … What's more, mothers who talked most positively about their babies underwent the biggest changes.”
Although that doesn’t explain why I can’t remember where I put my car keys, it might explain the “mother’s instinct” I’ve felt with each of my kids from the very beginning.  I never understood where that came from, especially because I don’t consider myself to be a “kid” person.  But these changes in the brain seem to motivate moms to take care of their new babies and feel a sense of accomplishment when they do.  Caring for my kids takes top priority in my brain right now. 
What do you think? If you have children, did you notice a change in your memory after you had them?  What have you done to combat the problem?

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Can I still claim "Mommy Brain" if my kids are 18 and 20???? Report
I had never heard of Mommy Brain but it all makes a little more sense now!
I was blaming the head injury I sustained due to a car accident 10 years. Never mind I have 4 kids(DH is counted as one of my kids), a full-time job plus handle books for the DH for our family business. All 3 kids + hubby are ADHD(thanks hubby for contributing that gene!) requiring me to step it up a notch to try and keep life moving a little more smoothy. I have been carrying a calendar with me for 10+ years. My daughter has labeled it "My Brain". If it's not written in my calendar it will not happen nor does it exist. My family shouts out their happenings to me expecting me to remember, even though I've been telling them for years, "Write if down!" I'm expected to remember everyone's happenings without much help from them. But yet it's okay if they forget. When they forget it seems to be my fault. "Mom, you forget things too!" or "Mom! Why didn't you remind me!"
Gotta LOVE MOM LIFE!! Report
Forgetfulness doesn't come with kids, it comes with age. I never had kids, but now that I'm almost a Senior I can tell you, the best memory aid is a 3"x5" card and a writing instrument. I became aware of this memory decline about a dozen years ago. It's not just "where did I put the keys?", but "have I bought toilet paper yet?" (we ended up with a six-month supply before I got that "ear worm" out of my head). Without a write-in/on calendar, I'd forget weekly appointments let alone the occasional or non-periodic ones.
So Moms enjoy your kids. Get that warm glow when your infant smiles at you and follows your finger. But don't blame "Mommy Brain" on the kids, it's Mother Nature's work! Report
My husband once told me that the average brain can remember seven items at one time and everything else gets forgotten (at least momentarily.) When I had my kids everything else became less important so I let it slip away and concentrated on what my children needed. Did you ever notice that a mother's hearing becomes more accute also? I know what they are doing every minute they are in the house. Unfortunately they are grown and off to school and jobs, so I cassify my forgetfulness as "senior moments" and not "mommy brain." Report
Great article and some of the comments made me LOL! I so agree with the thoughts about "Mommy brain" and the comment about "Grandma brain" ... Thanks! Report
Memory problems for me started after 50. But that could be because I have 3 grown children, 3 grandchildren, was working on my PhD, and work 2 jobs. I get very frustrated at times especially with people's names. I just make lists and keep a calendar handy. One thing that does help me when I forget something is to say "I know it's somewhere in my brain and I know I can remember". I take a few breaths and very often I do remember. I also find that deliberately reminding myself by looking at my list or calendar and saying the things on my list or calendar helps me to remember better. Report
Yep, grandma brain is the worst! Then you won't remember where you left your car or you'll accicentally leave the kid behind! Report
Just wait until you get to the "Grandma" brain! Report
I used to never need an address book. Now I can't remember my own phone number sometimes! What works for me when it comes to where I put something down is to be consistent in where I put it. For example, I hung a key rack near the door so when I walk in the keys are immediately hung up. I never look for them anymore, because I know right where they are! Of course, I did spend 10 minutes going room to room looking for my purse one morning and I was carrying it the entire time...but you have to start somewhere! Report
I had to chuckle at the comment on not remembering where the car keys are - because what I remember most of mothering was the incessant "Mom, I can't find my ..." and being somehow magically able to find just about anything they'd lost. Report
Initially it's a lot of sleep deprivation, but eventually the memory thing comes down to massive multi-tasking requirements. You're no longer organizing just your own priorities and task lists, or even just yours and your significant other's. You're stage-managing an entire life! I may forget that I've paid the water bill seconds after I click "submit" (that's why I print EVERYTHING), but I do remember to ask #2 son how his History test went and whether he ever found that end-game location in Minecraft. I've gotten in the habit of asking myself, "Now, if I were me, where would I have put that ______________?" Works most of the time! Report
That sounds about right. It's hard to keep up with everything, especially if you are constantly being interrupted in the middle of a thought. Report
The great thing about mommy brain is that when your kids get old enough, they will let you know their memory is better than yours and help you remember things... until their memory turns to puberty, in which case the mommy sixth sense will kick in. Report
Definitely was a walking zombie for the first 5 years after my boys were born 16 months apart - definitely sleep deprivation related. Once they, and I, started sleeping through the night, my brain generally started working better.

On another note - hoping to not sound militant, or overly picky, but can we call it "parent-brain", so we're not excluding 50% of the general population who might have a similar experience (I realize there are way more women on SP than men).

But I have noticed a number of articles and blogs that refer to "mother" issues, that could easily be "parent" issues. Again, I realize women have traditionally taken on different roles than men. Report
Jen, just to be on the safe side, you might want to consider making an appointment with a neurologist about this. Report
I think it was in part sleep depravation. I also know that the priority changes have an impact. Now I am at menopause and forgetting things--I have to stop and think of the word. That is scarier than the "mommy brain". Report
I understand might not be a mom but seem it in other like my sis Report
I think sleep deprivation might play a factor too. I have always been a light sleeper and when my daughter was an infant she had breathing problems. I feel like I usually sleep with one eye open just about, even now that she is 6 years old. I do agree about the idea about having more lists and more things to keep track of than ever before, but I also wonder if it's just old age too or all the partying we did in our youth catching up to us. I think it is really hard to know what to blame for it. Report
Sort of, I can remember my husband complainly how I forgot this and forgot that . I appears to be improving now . Report
I wrote a haiku about it:
Already said that?
You sure? I don’t remember.
I have momnesia. Report
My children are grown now and I am still trying to remember! Report
I very much experienced this and I am still a bit. My son is now 4 months old and I think "mommy brain" started for me somewhere in the second trimester (I can't really remember). I used to be great with remembering appointments and random facts. Now, no way I have to write everything down. I can tell it's getting a bit better, the random facts are coming back, but appointments still need to be written down or I will completely forget. It's all worth it though; I'll trade remembering an appointment for seeing my boy smile every time. Report
Mine was temporary, during pregnancy only. Report
I've been saying that since after I had my first child 8 years ago!!! All those pregnancy books tell you how you'll get forgetful while you are pregnant due to the hormones... but they never tell you it's permanent!!! I was always under the impression that it would go away once the pregnancy hormones were gone. NOPE!!! :) Report
Yes your blog is interested. It brings back memories of over forty years ago and still I don't think my brain has fully recovered. Report
Thank you! I loved this article! I haven't ever gotten my brain back since having my kids. I still wake up some mornings and can't remember the season we are in (OK, when was Christmas? A while ago, and now the bigger kids are home from school for summer vacation--right? So that means it's probably--summerish. Right?) But the closer I get to having consecutive good nights' sleep, I'm sure the closer I get to being able to remember that we already had dinner an hour ago. (Except that it also means my kids' lives are getting busier, so there's more to keep track of, which also means more to forget. Oh, my!) Report
What do I do? I simply ask my daughter, who seems to have gotten all the memory cells my brain has lost. ;-) Report
I'm still suffering from Mommy Brain years later. It's frustrating. I think part of it at least is a matter of attention. My brain is so full of essential stuff there isn't room for extra stuff, i.e. information not essential to surviving... I mean living right now. I'm terrible at remembering other people's (friend's) schedules, for instance, but then why should I need to remember that? I'm not THEIR mother! Pen and paper saves the day for the most part and the rest probably wasn't important anyway... or was it?... ummm, I can't quite remember... Report
Sorry about the duplicates. I need to learn more patience with my computer. Just because I don't see results immediately doesn't mean that it isn't going to work in triplicate. Report
Yes, I definitely sense changes in the way my brain worked when I was pregnant. I didn't ever feel like I completely got back some of the memory abilities that were difficult during this time and had been sharper previously, but I do think that there are changes in priorities and that other things did become more important with my children. I also believe that sleep deprivation has a profound effect on how mother's feel. Report
Yes, I definitely sense changes in the way my brain worked when I was pregnant. I didn't ever feel like I completely got back some of the memory abilities that were difficult during this time and had been sharper previously, but I do think that there are changes in priorities and that other things did become more important with my children. I also believe that sleep deprivation has a profound effect on how mother's feel. Report