'Mom Brain': The Real Reason Why Mama is always TIRED

One thing I've noticed, when I encounter a mom and ask how she's doing, I always seem to get the same answer, "I'm OK just really tired." I often notice how exasperated they look most especially at the supermarket with their young children in tow, trying to get them all to behave or either stay in one place, as she tries to remember why she's at the grocery in the first place. I see me in her. That tired look. And it's not because of lack of sleep mostly (which I know, to parents, sleep is a luxury), it's because of MOM BRAIN.

The other night I had a full 8 hours of sleep which is rare. When I woke up, I was in a good mood. But, after that brief moment of pause upon waking up... You know that second where your brain registers your surroundings then goes on overdrive and flashes your somewhat long "to-do" list... Laundry, vacuuming the house, sweeping up the dried leaves, scanning for dog poo on the lawn, watering the plants, making breakfast, helping my son brush his teeth, giving him a bath, making sure I remember to give him his vitamins, and the list just goes on and on. You either close your eyes shut just to block everything or you do what us moms do...jump out of bed and get moving. Because, if we don't, nothing and I mean NOTHING will ever get done. No one else is going to do it.

Typically moms have morning routines they follow. I also try my best to follow a routine. During the time I am trying to get everything done, I hear a cough coming from my son who is in the next room and I backtrack and think "Did I remember to give him his vitamins? I think I should make an appointment with his pediatrician. I'll make the call after I'm done mending this hole in the pocket of my partner's pants. No...no...I should make the call now before I forget. Anyways, the doc's secretary is already in. Wait! I forgot to feed the dogs!" And I hurriedly rush to put dog food into our dogs' bowls. Then, I rush to make a phone call to the doctors and finish what I was doing earlier. Whew! I'm already tired and it isn't even 8am yet. In the back of my mind, I am hoping that nothing out of the ordinary happens til noon so, I can at least get some rest after all my work and of course, chores are all done. Well..most of it.

The thing is while moms are doing all those things that are expected of her, her brain isn't just focused on what she is doing at the moment, it's multitasking. Continuously... For example, as I wash the dirty dishes, my brain is making up a grocery list of items that I need to restock and computing how much I can spend from my budget. While I do the laundry, my brain is flashing with neon lights the bills that are due, doctor appointments, that tomorrow is Wednesday and that I have to make a trip to the bank because usually there are fewer people on that day of the week. While I cook dinner, my brain is already preparing the menu for tomorrow and for the day after that. While I write, my brain is telling me that I forgot to purchase a birthday gift for my son's best friend who's birthday is coming in 2 days. While I purchase items at the supermarket, my brain is calculating how much I need to save so I can deposit some money into savings for my son's education. As I press and fold laundry, there's my brain telling me that my son needs new clothes and shoes because he will soon be outgrowing them.

When heading out of the house or before traveling, doesn't matter if it's near or far, all moms make sure that they have all they need in their trusty girl scout ready "mom bag". If they can't fit everything in their mom bag, they bring an additional baby bag or kiddie bag. While I am getting my son and myself ready to head out of the house, I am already recounting my steps thinking if I packed this, did I forget that, if the amount of formula and distilled water is enough, if I have enough diapers, baby wipes, and plastic bags packed, should I bring some medication with me, if the number of shirts and shorts are enough if a much needed 'costume' change is required. I double check everything while my son's father just jumps into the shower without offering any help. The good thing is that usually, the only thing I forget is to put on some deodorant. Okay okay...it's a really bad thing.

Those are just a " few" things that are running through a mom's brain. There's still the bigger picture going on- the fears, the worries, their hopes, their dreams, their health, the kids dirtying up the already tidied up house, the kids education, the well-being of their husbands, how to save up for that new bike my kid wants, how to save up for a nice birthday party, how to get my kid to start eating vegetables, that purple stain on his new shirt and so forth and so on. It doesn't end. And when moms close their eyes to sleep, their brains just keep going. Maybe if we weren't physically exhausted from all day to day activities, we wouldn't fall asleep. Sometimes I even wish that the day can go on a little bit longer so, I can fit more into my schedule. I even wish that certain establishments could be open just a little bit longer so, I can get things done today and not tomorrow. These are usually government offices. Had to go back to Davao City Hall the next day after being there the whole day so I can pay the real estate tax of our home. With so many government employees working, it was a wonder why it took so long for my priority number to be called. 30 minutes before closing, the employees said that they will not be entertaining anymore and we were advised to come back the next day. Way to go! Like I don't have enough on my plate.

To be honest, even if we move constantly, feels like nothing is getting done. You finished a load of laundry, in a few hours, there's a new batch waiting for you. You tidy up the house, in 5 minutes, there's a whole boxful of lego scattered on the floor. In this post on the Scary Mommy, the author uses a hamster wheel as an apt description. A mom's brain is always spinning like a hamster on its wheel. The mental load is burdening, an ultimate challenge at that, you try to change but, seems like nothing will change. That's how a mom's brain is programmed. But, all moms know it's worth it.
#momlife Image credit: Pixabay

In the movie "Bad Moms", I love what Kiki had to say about mothers in general. That " In this day and age, it's impossible to be a good mom" and "the problem with being a mom is you don't know if you are doing a good job until they are all grown up" sums up most of what moms have to go through today. So much is expected of moms. As much as we would all like to do a little less, we just can't. But, it is so much nicer when you have friends (just like the three in Bad Moms) who understand you and share all your sentiments on what being a mother is all about.

I feel better when I get the chance to chat with other moms and they tell me their stories. I know that I am not alone. When my son's father goes out of his way to get me something I like whether it's food or a small trinket, I feel appreciated. When my son kisses me on my cheek (which I know will soon come to an end when he starts school), I feel some of that tiredness ebbing away.  Yes, all that stuff that's racing through my head is all well worth it.

So, the next time you see a mom and ask her how she is, if she gives the " I'm tired" answer...acknowledge it. Tell her she's doing a great job. It's not really about sleep but, how her mind is going into overdrive- mom's brain. Try and put her mind at ease.  Lend her a hand. It may be a small gesture but, it helps.

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