You have finally settled the baby, made yourself a cup of coffee and are going to catch up on your favourite television series. Only you can’t find the remote, you search everywhere, give up and go to make yourself another coffee. That is when you discover the remote sat proudly in the fridge next to the butter.
You are talking to a friend only to have to describe something because you just can’t find the name of it in your fuzzy mummy brain.
Why? Because it’s easy to blame the mummy brain!
Mummy brain was put down to the hormonal changes and sleep deprivation that happen in pregnancy and the early years of motherhood. Fast forward five to ten years and women are telling you mummy brain is still hanging around; only now it is blamed on the fact of having to organise and think for a whole tribe of little people, partners and their professional roles.
It is time to rethink this and celebrate the positive aspects of the mummy brain. Although all of the above play a part in our cognitive skills, mummy brain is actually an example of neuroplasticity. A look at current scientific literature shows and there is evidence that suggests our brains change on a physical and cellular level during pregnancy and early motherhood. It does not show convincing evidence that cognitive performance or memory suffers overall decline.
So what is happening? Your brain is utilising the number one skill that is needed in your corporate world the ability to learn and relearn. It is recognising, evaluating and reforming to the environment it is in. It is adjusting to the skills that your new role requires to make you successful.
The skills of motherhood that mark success are social cognition and empathy. These skills give the ability to understand another’s emotions, needs and thoughts. Your brain has heightened your ability to pick up on nonverbal communications through facial expressions and the subtle changes in the tone of your baby’s cry.
Your brain has strengthened itself to its priority role, motherhood and the survival of the baby.
So why then do we have mummy brain and feel like even a strong coffee isn’t lifting the fuzziness?
Remember neuroplasticity and the “learn -unlearn- relearn” skill we just spoke about? This is exactly what is happening to your brain during the early days of motherhood. One study showed that new mothers and pregnant women display impairment to remember words but not in recognition or working memory. This explains why you may need to describe a person or item, whose name you can’t remember. But alongside this, your skills of learning, reasoning and comprehension are improved.
Your ability to focus attention on one individual task has also been impaired. You may become frustrated with yourself that in early motherhood you cannot focus on or follow a documentary or film but watch short episodes of popularised television series. It may take you weeks longer to read a book in those early weeks. This is because our attention always needs to be partly on the baby to ensure their survival. As the baby grows your ability to read their communications expands and their ability to communicate expands. Your brain needs to give less attention to ensuring survival but yet never returns to its singular attention of ensuring your personal survival. With this information mummy brain begins to make sense and to not feel like such a burden. Embrace and utilise your mummy brain.
Mummy brain taken into your corporate world can now strengthen your role. Let’s take a look how.
- Your social skills and empathy have been heightened. Use these to read the subtle clues your clients and colleagues are exhibiting. Use your new found empathy to put yourself into their shoes. What do they need to be productive or for you to seal a deal?
- The skills of learning, reasoning and comprehension are all improved. Utilise this into your corporate role. Ensure you use them to laser focus.
- As for the split attention, don’t think of this as a disadvantage instead it means you can free flow your attention between roles, tasks and assignments. This is not multitasking. It is a method to allow your brain to move from one activity, rest and adjust to move into the next activity then the same as you move back to the original task. The idea being to stop the brain from becoming overwhelmed by multitasking and concentrate on the task or role that it needs to be in at that moment
- Don’t see mummy brain as making you something less than before but giving you a set of new skills to enhance your abilities.
Don’t give into the negative talk or feelings around mummy brain instead use the new skills it has given you. Remember in the modern world the ability to learn-unlearn-relearn is the number one skill to get you to the top of whatever you choose to follow.
Nixie Foster. — The Motherhood Mentor to high-flying female entrepreneurs and career women. The founder of ‘High-Flyer to Authentic Motherhood in 13 Steps’ ; a mentorship program to assist you in finding your natural identity as a mother and give new mothers the secure, loving bond with their baby which allows them to confidently be their unique version of motherhood.