I’ve been back at work for a few months now. I’ve been juggling like a … clown (that could work both ways) and I’m officially a parent to two littles who are getting larger. Time is flying and life is happening far too quickly.
I mostly get sleep, I mostly get sustenance and I even, sometimes, now and again, get a snippet of time to myself. Life still feels entirely chaotic, but we are living our best life. Right?
I can shower in relative peace, and Monsieur FF and I have at least a couple of hours in the evening, theoretically, to eat, drink, discuss washing, holidays, education, food shopping (yes) other shopping (no) how cute the kids are, how funny when Bebette started to give the floor the naughty pointy finger when she fell over and how BigBro came to her rescue with a “Pah Patroll” plaster.., occasionally, we even decide we don’t need to talk and we get to browse Netflix (once we find the remote) hoping to stumble across something that meets both of our immediate requirements, and needs to fit in to the allotted, rather limited, timeframe before we hit the sack.
Anyway, all of this to observe that we are out of “la folie” that is the first year of new babedom, we are no longer “new” parents, and we are almost out of the time where we can complain about lack of sleep and unpredictable behaviour (*almost*, this week has been a great demonstration that we are not actually there yet). From here it’s onwards and upwards towards threenagers and another very optinionated Boddlerette joining our chatty, energetic crew. We are just about surviving, we are happy and we are extraordinarily lucky.
BUT, there is one pretty major thing I haven’t quite managed to retrieve since giving birth (aside from my sanity): my brain function. I don’t know for sure, because my brain function was questionable to start with. When I say ‘retrieve’ it suggests I had something to go back for – really I mean I’m looking for any semblance of grey matter to revive. I must have had something, once upon a time, because I have managed to get employment and a few qualifications under my (expanded) belt. However, I am concerned that something up there has changed. I can’t weigh my brain, but it feels a little lighter. Slightly less energetic. Un peu perdu.
I am no detective, but I strongly suspect that motherhood has impacted my brain. How? To my mind ~ can i say that when I’m actually talking about my mind?! ~ there are two big things that are different. One good, one bad.
Let’s start with the bad.
I don’t seem to be able to do simple mental arithmetic anymore. Even spelling that was a challenge. I used to be able to quickly “tot” things up, as the Mothership would say, as I went along in the supermarket or on a restau bill, calculate time differences or switch across currencies without too much effort. Dollars into Renimbi; sure. A conference call with Singapore and a New Yorker joining? No probs. Hit me.
Today there is a problem.
I take in the question, the challenge, I focus, I try not to think about the other million things floating around in my head…the washing I left in the machine overnight… the yoghurt that needs eating by tomorrow, the hundreds of single socks that are littered around the house and the fearful sock-eating creature that must have stolen the other ones,… and then all I can see is a little egg timer in my mind slowly turning, s-l-o-w-l-y ticking away, and the more I focus on that the more I realise “wow, I literally don’t know where to start… this is really taking me too long, I’ve got no time, quick! think! THINK …”
NOPE. I’m never going to work it out and then I’m lost. I’m hunting for the Calculator app on my phone and I’ve forgotten what I was even adding up in the first place. Basically, anything that requires me to go past head count of my children I’m going to struggle. I now need an app to get me through. Or an abacus.
As I write, I wonder if part of the “blame” for this could go on our smartphone generation, and not on the kids. But it does feel like the difference is more marked now than it was pre kids. Did I give them my arithmetically stronger brain cells when I was giving them all the other magic stuff?! I’ll tell myself that is the case until I can work the grey matter back into shape.
According to scientists in Australia, baby brain is a real thing, especially during pregnancy. It affects memory, general and executive cognitive functioning. There is no indication how long post-partum it can last. Surely it is to be expected when your own body is busy constructing a whole new one. Not so sure it should still be an issue once the babe is released. Here is a question from me: did that research also factor in the additional brain power of the little bean?!
Now for a huge positive: increased time management and organisational skills.
In exchange for basic maths, I have acquired a mega, Filofax-worthy capacity to plan and organise the day.
This new skillset includes getting my two little humans to and from somewhere, dressed in something, with accoutrements as required, navigating the complex quagmire that is Monsieur FF’s schedule, and then factor in my own, full time job, which involves project management and multi-jurisdictional coordination skills in and of itself. The schedule allows little time for “free time”, and limited “on time”, but if we all get to where we need to be and back round again at some point in time, I would say that is a pretty epic achievement. Others might say it is just being bossy…
It is very much a skill to use to your advantage. I read a great article written by a superstar twin mama who was taking a moment to highlight that maternity leave isn’t all about tea and cake, and forgetting your career; there are real learning and development opportunities (patience being high up there!), a chance to get new perspectives, and to really use the desire to be with your children to help you focus. Don’t waste time, but make every moment count. This also resonates with some of the mantras I took back to work with me the first time I went back to work as a mama.
Nowadays there is no dilly-dallying in shops and bars, limited chitchat at the water dispenser (more likely to find me near any form of coffee, even just sniffing the beans), and no more spam emails with pictures of cute puppies – I am officially efficient. Every moment counts. Every second I’m not with the kids I want to be doing something useful. Every second I am with the kids, I want to be doing my best to enjoy it, and to focus in on what’s important versus what can be dealt with later. You know, in that two hour slot after bath time and bedtime…
On this last part it’s a continuous journey. It is really, really hard not to be overwhelmed by a pile of washing or full sink of dishes, to think about the food that still needs to be cooked and the bedtime schedule that needs to be followed. When we occasionally stray, as we did this weekend, everything went up in smoke as BigBro simply could not cope. Our babes need a certain amount of sleep and any disruption to that has serious consequences.I’m still working on it. I have many mum friends who have admirable juggling skills, whether around jobs or other commitments, or interests. They have brains in abundance. It is possible. It takes time. And your brain is doing just fine. The trick, as we are slowly learning, seems to be not to over face yourself. Take you time. Stop worrying about your cognitive function and enjoy 🤘🏼💖