“I was in Portland recently for a family event and promised I’d join my daughter and her friends for a half-marathon in a town named improbably, Helvetica. Who would name their town after a font, or was it the other way around? The girls in the running club (including my daughter) looked at me quizzically when I brought this up because, of course, the town is not Helvetica, but Helvetia, an old Roman word for Switzerland, which is the national origin of the first immigrant settlers to this verdant farming community just northwest of Portland.
This sidetrack into the town name relates to my main point about brain function. Sometimes we try to make what we see or hear conform to our expectation. I’m on a computer most of the day, so I read the town name as Helvetica. But sometimes we have to do just the opposite– make adjustments in our thinking based on reality.
As our group drove to Helvetia, my new friends talked about the running club, reviewed who was doing what with each mom’s kids while we spent half the day at the race, and took inventory of our supplies to see if we were missing anything. That’s when one of the moms, who has a baby and a 3-year-old, brought up the subject of memory and motherhood.
“What is it about having babies that makes your brain go kaput? I swear I’m always looking for something I forgot or I’ve forgotten something that I knew I needed.” As I listened to the group echoing their frustration about memory overload and memory loss, my thoughts ran right back to the days of having to keep up with 4 sets of kiddie gear, food, and clothing just so I could run errands for a couple of hours. It was really an undue burden or an otherwise alert mind.
But I also immediately realized that while the moms were preoccupied with memory loss, there’s something to be said about the brain gain moms get shortly after the first baby is born. It’s call RADAR (a Relational Aptitude for Detecting Activity and Reactivity). Now, RADAR idea isn’t a proven scientific fact. It’s just a personal observation. But it does seem to make sense; at least for most moms.
Mommy RADAR is a very special feature of the Mommy Brain. When a baby cries you know if it’s a hungry cry, or a “come and get me” cry. If the sound changes in a room, you know to check on baby because either she’s up to something or has fallen sound asleep. Your RADAR brain function is just as important as that ability to remember burp cloths in the same moment that you are looking for your keys. So if you have to give up a little bit of memory in order to keep your kids under continuous surveillance, it’s not such a bad swap.
So, when you’re beating yourself up because you think you’ve become a total mess just stop and adjust your thinking based on your reality. Reflect on this mantra. “I am competent, I can manage, my brain works.” After all, you do have RADAR.”