Is Motherhood Making Me Dumber?

Motherhood is making me more patient, more compassionate and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s also making me dumber.

Just the other day, someone asked me who was the little girl in To Kill A Mockingbird. Now, I love that book, and I know I’ve read it several times. It’s an American classic and I majored in English, for crying out loud! But I had to reach real, real deep into the dark recesses of my mind in order to pull out the answer to that question, which I eventually did, thank goodness. I was relieved and simultaneously elated to have remembered. And then the next day, someone else made a reference to a Faulkner book that I didn’t get, and I was plunged into despair. (And I’m actually despairing a little bit more as I write this blog post, because I actually had to look up how to spell “Faulkner.”)

I used to be considered fairly smart. To be honest, I was never actually very smart, but I tried very hard, and I always made really good grades in school. I always loved studying literature. Still do. But I’ve noticed that a lot of that hard earned, paid-a-lot-for booksmarts is slowly slipping away. I’m not sure what to blame it on. Is it just that I’m getting older? Or, as my girlfriend Alex says, has motherhood killed off my brain cells…?

Surely not. I simply refuse to believe that the worry and sleepless nights associated with motherhood have zapped my brain cells. That image is just too violent (and scary) for me. After all, if that’s true, I’ll be as dumb as a doorknob by the time the boys go to college. Instead, I choose to subscribe to the “bedside table” theory…

My bedside table is a mess. I’ve got all kinds of books, magazines and miscellaneous materials stacked there that I truly, truly intend to read someday. The stack drives my husband crazy. But I take comfort in having it there, because I know that if I ever need a piece of information, it’s there. I think. The really important stuff is generally on top within easy access, like my to-do list and calendar. And the other stuff, like parenting articles that I have every intention of reading someday, is at the bottom.

My theory is that my brain works the same way. The information is “stacked” in there somehow, with the most relevant information at the top. So that’s why if someone asks me about breastfeeding, or Bob the Builder, or colic, that information comes readily to me, because it’s at the top of the stack. However, ask me about James Joyce or Shakespeare or iambic pentameter, and that information might take a while (quite a while; years, in fact) to come to the top. But that information is there. Somewhere.

Anyway, that’s just my theory. It keeps me going. And anyway, even if my theory is wrong, I’d rather believe in it than to believe that I’m getting dumber. More dumb. Whatever.