What’s with the ‘mum brain’ moments?

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This blog is Day Ten of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to nine here.

I had a ‘mum brain’ moment today. I’m sure every parent knows what I’m talking about here – a momentary lapse in intelligence. A situation where it feels like someone else (someone much stupider) occupies your brain for a while, rendering it impossible to think logically, think ahead, or solve a really, really simple problem.

From my experience, mum brain moments tend to be annoying more than anything else – they don’t put anyone in danger or have dire consequences. They are the sort of moments that make you feel extremely frustrated in hindsight, usually when your kid is asleep and you’re reflecting on the whirlwind that was.

Today’s mum brain moment was I took Zoey to a meeting without bringing any toys or sure-fire snacks. What was I thinking?!? One should ALWAYS carry emergency toys and snacks, especially when one has to have a proper adult conversation!

I can explain, kind of. Thing is, life with a toddler is very go-go-go. You can have extremely good intentions to be well organised, but then your toddler wakes up and all your best laid plans are interrupted by the cheerful, hilarious chaos they bring to your day. It’s fun chaos (most of the time), but it doesn’t mean it’s not chaos. And because my daughter wakes up at the crack of dawn, I don’t have much time to get ahead of her – unless I prep extensively the night before.

Take this morning, for example. When Zoey got up, the first thing she saw was a pile of clean washing that needed to be folded. And she decided that we MUST fold the washing, immediately, no slacking off allowed. I’d barely put the kettle on and there I was, folding and stacking washing, all under the direction of an extremely emotional toddler who was prone to melting down if I folded a teatowel the wrong way or didn’t let her touch every piece of clothing first.

(Sidenote: for those of you wondering why I didn’t just say no, it simply felt easier to say yes – it was 6 am, I’d had zero cups of tea, and I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to withstand a toddler tantrum).

The morning continued in this vein – I’d try to go about the things that needed to be done (tea, breakfast, more tea, shower, tea, getting dressed, etc) and Zoey would try to pull me in a million different directions, all with extreme fervour and urgency.

So, the mornings kind of just happen… eventually it’s 9 am and you’re both dressed and a bag’s half-packed and by that point I just need to get out of the house to have 5 minutes of ‘alone time’ in the car to catch my breath and possibly tap into my ‘intelligent’ brain again.

For whatever reason, I’d concluded that I’d buy Zoey some toys while we’re out instead of just putting some in her bag (WTF, I know). I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I needed toys with novelty factor, something special, like a new book or some stickers, and we didn’t really have anything like that at home. But my meeting wasn’t until 10.30 am so I made it ‘future Jess’s problem’ and concentrated on the next immediate thing on my to-do list, which was taking Zoey for a haircut.

We get Zoey’s hair cut, which takes a lot longer than I’d anticipated (we had to wait), so by 9.30 am I’ve up all my emergency snacks. (At this point I’m still thinking I have time to remedy the situation). Then we go to the library, and I think ‘perfect – we’ll get a couple of books out’. Then from the library, Zoey spies the playground, and well, her enthusiasm won me over and we didn’t check out any books. Then, at the playground, Zoey was having such a great time that I lost track of time.

Then (and this is by far the worst part), Zoey refuses to leave the playground (she’s a really fast runner and quite difficult to carry when screaming, so it’s not as simple as just picking her up). So I suggest that we get a cup of tea (code for ‘fluffy’ or ‘babycino’) and she’s like “yep, SEE YA playground” (she literally said this and waved) and happily holds my hand knowing she’s about to get a baby-farking-cino (this is parenting in 2019, my friends).  

By this point, we have 15 minutes until the meeting, but I’m still under the (TOTALLY DELUSIONAL) illusion that I can make good on my promise to get her fluffy AND nip into a shop to pick up some stickers and all will be well. I think this outlook epitomises mum brain – poor decision making combined with relentless optimism. It’s an interesting mix.

Of course, I didn’t have time to nip to the shops after our little fluffy date.

As I was walking to the meeting (which was with a potential supplier for our upcoming wedding, not a client, thank god), I thought to myself: ‘it will be fine, I’ll just hold Zoey on my hip and let her rifle through my wallet or whatever’. We were meeting at the supplier’s store so I felt like Zoey could potentially even have a wander around or sit in a corner or something.

Then the supplier cheerfully suggests that we’ll go out for coffee, and I swear to you, I felt the colour drain from my face and I break out in a sweat, but of course I say ‘sure, let’s do it!’ even though I know Zoey has a cafe-attention-span of approximately seven minutes – AND SHE HAD LITERALLY JUST DOWNED A FLUFFY.

We get to this new cafe and no one offers to bring a high chair and for some reason I decide Zoey will be fine on my lap. Mum brain is in full force by this point, I’m exhausted from a morning of toddler activities and I’m just going with the (very flawed) flow.

The lovely supplier offers to buy Zoey a fluffy and of course I say yes (Zoey is like YASSSSSS!). Fast forward a few minutes and Zoey is sitting on my knee, shovelling milk froth into her mouth so fast that most of it is going all over her top and face, that even the polite, kind supplier (a mother herself!) is looking at her like she’s a bit feral. Her exact words were “wow, she made quick work of that” and I’m like “shit, we’re literally out of tricks now, this should be fun!”

Actually, Zoey was exceptionally good. She wriggled a lot and regularly tried to climb off my lap (so she could sprint for the cafe exit) but for most of the meeting, she seemed to vaguely understand that I needed her to chill and that two adults were having a conversation.

But I still felt stressed and like I was containing a firework on the verge of exploding (by this point Zoey had had two chocolate fish and three marshmallows). And the whole time I found myself thinking, why didn’t I pack a few toys? Why didn’t I at least pack her colouring books? Favourite books? Anything! Literally ANYTHING would have been better than the nothing I had in my nappy bag.

And that, my friends, is mum brain. Or at least, it’s how mum brain unfolds in my life  these little situations happen more often than I’d like to admit. Like that time I left the house without nappies or without wipes or without my keys…

Writing this down has made me realise a few things:

  • I need to create a few ‘novelty toy stashes’ (in the car, in the pram, in the nappy bag) so I can always whip out some stickers or colouring books if needed – these items are now as important as nappies.

  • I’m a total pushover and probably need to work on my toddler negotiating skills, as now she’s definitely going to expect a fluffy every time we leave the playground!!

  • I should probably avoid taking my toddler to meetings full stop – even if I did have novelty toys, it would have still been stressful.

  • I love giving Zoey everything that makes her happy (like playgrounds and fluffies), but I should probably work on trying ‘no, not right now’ more often…

  • I’m so incredibly lucky that I could spend this morning hanging out with Zoey at the library and playground, that her little world includes the bliss that is a babycino, and that the lowlight of my day was feeling embarrassed about a small mum brain moment. I almost don’t want to publish this post because it feels so privileged, so trivial – such a stupid thing to write about compared to other topics. But, this is my life right now. And I promised to be raw and real… and maybe that doesn’t always have to equal deep.

Does mum brain unfold for you like this, too – or do you experience a completely different kind of mental lapse?

Would love to hear your stories.

Jess x