"Another Bachelor-less Monday night for me!", I both jokingly and somewhat seriously muttered to my husband as I filled the dishwasher for the second time that day. We cancelled our cable service when we moved to Colorado and none of the local channels that we have air The Bachelor. Stick with me. "It's junk tv anyways," he replied casually, "do you really care about watching that?" I knew the answer I was supposed to give based on everything I believe to be right and wrong with society. However, what came out of my mouth was...not that answer. "But junk tv is exactly what I need!!"
I'm going to try to just speak for myself here but I'm sure I'm in thick company. You see, from sun-up to sun-down and within every window of nighttime wake-ups my mind is on. My mind is on and its fueled by the often anxiety-laced responsibilities of keeping two small children and myself alive and well, tending to my relationship with my husband, maintaining a clean and orderly home, being an involved friend, daughter, sister, strengthening my relationship with Jesus and investing in my passions of teaching yoga to expecting mamas and supporting women in childbirth. And that's just skimming the surface. Sounding familiar, yet?
Did you know that when a woman has a child, there is evidence that her brain changes? Now, I know what you're thinking. "Yeah, duh...its called 'mom brain' and all in a day's work I will lose my phone 3 times at home and probably leave it at the grocery store, too. I will brush my teeth with hand lotion, run the dishwasher without soap and not for the life of me understand why the car key isn't unlocking the front door of my house. Once inside my house, I will carry on my busy way only to find my house keys dangling on the outside of the front door hours later when I go to leave again." We've all been there in some capacity. Sometimes its hilarious and other times, or most times if you're like me, we're awkwardly explaining ourselves to our spouse. "I just have a lot going on in my head," I sigh out loud while his smirk suggests "This woman is losing her damn mind."
The problem with the term 'mom brain' is our conditioning to believe that it's synonymous with foggy brain, forgetfulness, clumsiness, absent-mindedness, a flat out decline in cognitive functioning. We use it as a term to excuse our embarrassing slip-ups, poor memory recall, lack of awareness or emotional instability. At times, the result if this negative connotation is a feeling of inferiority, weakness, insufficiency. Just me? Remember when I mentioned that when a woman has a child her brain actually changes? I wasn't referring to a felt or noticeable change. I mean a physical, cellular change. Allow this to feel empowering: Our brains change in pregnancy and the first few years of motherhood in such a way that strengthens our emotional functioning to better address the individual needs of each of our children. There's little understanding of what these brain changes mean long-term but there is a strong belief that mom brain is not a lapse or decline in cognitive functioning but, again, a strengthening of the areas of the brain that allow us to protect, nurture and uniquely care for our children. That is incredible.
I believe confidently that this enhanced emotional functioning of our brains, or true mom brain, leads to the racing of our minds from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep and again, within every window of nighttime wake ups. It fuels our ability to excel at motherhood, marriage, work, etc, but carries with it the tendency to approach each role with anxiety, unrealistic expectation and self criticism. Add generic or perinatal mental health disorders to the mix, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition and by the time evening rolls around you're begging for something to just stop your racing mind. Sometimes I swear I can feel my brain buzzing as it tries to keep up with redirecting my spiraling thought processes. Sometimes I wish I could find a button or even a knob to slow it down or simply turn it off. Relatable? I bet so.
So, what does this have to do with The Bachelor? Allow me to tie this all together.
I am very insecure about the side effects of my mom brain. I fear my forgetfulness, I panic when I can't recall the name of a well known actor in a tv show, I sometimes try to talk fast and use big words to prove my absent mindedness isn't due to lack of intelligence. You know what all of that is? It's worry. And worry is just a side affect of mom brain. It's another trail my mind has raced me down while I do my best to fulfill my roles as mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, doula, yoga teacher. It's the result of spending 16 hours a day loving and nurturing and protecting my precious children. It's a powerful brain but it's an exhausted one.
When the kitchen is clean, the boys are asleep and the house is quiet I know that a quick way to bring my racing mind to a screeching halt is to throw on some sweats, pour a beer into a mason jar, sink deep into the couch and throw on a "junk tv show" that requires nothing of me but carefree, albeit pathetic, captivation.