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Does Becoming A Parent Make You Stupid?

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PARENTING INTELLIGENCE
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We have all heard of "baby brain" -- that seemingly temporary dullness of intellect that goes hand in hand with sleepless nights and leaky boobs. But can it last longer than your baby's first year?

Like, way longer?

Perhaps it is the continued fractured sleep, well into my son's toddler years, or the constant interruptions when I am trying desperately to form a cohesive sentence, but I am sure I used to be smarter.

A study in "Psychology Today" found that contrary to popular opinion, multi-taskers actually underperform and lose about 40 per cent of their productivity.

In trying to be all things to all people, are us parents actually achieving nothing at all?

I long for the leisurely pre-baby space to think and complete tasks, the satisfaction of checking boxes on my to-do list and finding time to reflect and evaluate choices.

Now? I'm just in survival mode.

"I can't seem to keep up with the news, fall asleep during movies and have an internet browsing history that includes search terms such as 'hand, foot and mouth disease' and 'easy potty training tips.'"

In the course of any ten minutes my child will interrupt me to:

  • Help him get a stuck toy out of a small space
  • Scratch his itchy foot
  • Give him a snack
  • Get him a "yummier" snack
  • Clean up his mess
  • And (of course) to punish me with the eternal guilt-inducing whine of "Play with meeeee."

Is it any wonder I misplace things hourly, write incomprehensible e-mails and notes to myself that even I can't decipher, and overall have become a very boring friend, especially amongst my childless crew, who look at me like I have had my brain removed?

I can't seem to keep up with the news, fall asleep during movies and have an internet browsing history that includes search terms such as "hand, foot and mouth disease" and "easy potty training tips."

I cling to the distant hope that this is a fleeting loss of intellect.

That once I am finished adding to my family and the chicks have become more independent and allow me some space to think and sleep and other essential reflexes, I will again exercise my cerebral muscles, read some books that don't have "baby" in the title, comment on forums on subjects other than bodily fluids, and (maybe) finally begin that PhD.

But I am starting to fear that along with the grey hairs, wobbly tummy, and crow's feet, my pudding brain might be here to stay.

"Why are we so quick to seek answers for our parenting questions in ways we wouldn't for other areas of our life? Why are we so insecure about our decisions when it comes to parenting?"

Parental intellectual decline into Neanderthal grunts can be seen in the way we relate to other parents. Once we have children, otherwise-intelligent people seem to consult the masses for every little parenting query as though we are incapable of independent thought or research.

By day we may manage hedge funds, but once back in our Mommy role, we need the permission of countless online strangers to decide whether we should give our baby a pacifier or not.

One awesome mama on one of my online groups began leaving the same reply to every medical question: "Ask your Doctor." it got to the point that she would use all caps and multiple exclamation marks, but always the same advice: "ASK YOUR DOCTOR!!!"

Because after all, the other women in those groups are just like you: Pretty clueless. Sure, they have their own anecdotes, maybe a little more experience, and they can certainly support and inform you.

But they can also cause undue anxiety, make you question your own parenting decisions and sometimes offer some pretty shady, unproven advice.

Why are we so quick to seek answers for our parenting questions in ways we wouldn't for other areas of our life? Parents aren't posting their marriage problems or asking for investment advice, or polling people they have never met before to recommend a new car or home improvement purchase. Why are we so insecure about our decisions when it comes to parenting?

Maybe it's because we care so much, the stakes are so very high, and we're desperate not to make a mistake.

Maybe it's because typing our queries into our baby groups is much easier than asking an expert, reading a book, conducting research and formulating an opinion of our own.

Maybe it's because we are too damn tried to do any of that.

I remember as a pre-teen, inwardly rolling my eyes at my mother and thinking she was so stupid when she couldn't remember a word or a joke or a telephone number, now I feel camaraderie and sympathy. The poor woman had become like that because of me!

If you are also suffering from some form of child related stupidity, take solace in knowing that although you may not know the capital of Moldova, you do know your child better than anyone else in the world; you know that little tickle spot that can reverse any tantrum and that special song they need to fall asleep, and that's worth any Mensa membership.

(It's Chisinau, btw. Thanks, Google.)

Fiona Tapp is writer, educator and Mom to one, you can read her musings at www.lullabiesanddeadlines.com.

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