I’ve heard of pregnancy brain and how sometimes your brain fails while you’re pregnant. And it’s true. It happened to me a couple of times. I’ve also heard of mommy brain and how sometimes your brain fails while you have babies and are sleep-deprived (and on into, well, forever!). But, there’s also what I call mom brain overload.
I have no idea if MBO has a real psychological term, but I know it most definitely exists and I’m guessing you’ve experienced it, too. I’m talking about all the stuff that moms keep in their heads and have to constantly be aware of. We can’t turn off our brains. We can’t lessen our overload. On top of all the other things we manage and deal with on a daily basis, like working, feeding our children, getting them to school on time or changing diapers, it’s the other thoughts that overload. It’s the constant processing of knowing when the kids had checkups and when they need them again. It’s remembering to call the school and report them sick. It’s knowing how many pairs of clean jeans are in your son’s drawer so you know when laundry HAS to be done again. It’s remembering to get out water bottles for gymnastics class or track down mittens on a cold morning. It’s remembering where you last saw their shoes on a hectic school morning. And let’s not even get started on clothes. Keeping track of who has outgrown what and needs replaced, cleaning out things that are too small, organizing what is there and keeping it all clean when needed is a constant struggle It. Is. All. Non-stop!
I’ve tried to explain this to my husband before. This MBO that is, quite frankly, exhausting. But, he doesn’t really understand it, and he is a hands-on dad. I can’t just turn it off. Right now I can tell you the level of trash in each trash can in our house, how much fresh fruit is in the kitchen, how much milk we have, what doctor’s appointments are coming up for the kids, how many more showers/baths we can take before I have to wash towels, how much children’s Tylenol we have in its two locations, which kid has school library day when, where we stand on lunchbox cleaning and prep, who has clothes for upcoming holiday performances, what spelling words need to be reviewed, what calls need to be made for appointments, who needs gifts for upcoming birthday parties or holidays and on the list goes. My husband and children don’t know these things. I don’t necessarily HAVE to know some of these things, but I do. I do, because I’m the one who deals with them.
I’m the one who makes sure we have fresh fruit and milk for the kids, clean towels, the right clothes, gifts bought and wrapped in time and Tylenol at the ready. I’m the one who makes calls or sends emails to schedule meetings and appointments based on the calendar I have for our whole family. I’m the one who reminds us to go over spelling words. I know my husband would do these things I weren’t able. I know the children wouldn’t fall into ill health without fresh fruits or milk for a couple of days. But it’s in my head. And that’s just the kids’ stuff. It doesn’t count all the stuff that I also maintain for myself and my husband as well like prescriptions, doctors’ appointments, bills, work deadlines and more. (That’s even with having automated all the things that I can.)
And then there’s all the other stuff, too. The worries that contribute to MBO like whether my son will pay attention walking on the icy sidewalk or fall and hurt himself or whether my daughter’s strep throat germs are going to spread to everyone else or whether I’m being too easy or too hard on the kids or whether I spend enough quality time with them or whether I let them eat too many sweets or whether I’m making them do enough or too many chores. The list goes on and on. Yes, I deal with anxiety and OCD a bit, but I think most of this is just mom stuff.
Our brains are constantly going and we are constantly thinking of pretty much everyone else. Our lives revolve around everyone else. I have lost track the number of times I’ve gotten interrupted just writing this one post! Along with MBO, we have to constantly multi-task. We have to be able to stop what we’re doing and brush someone’s hair or answer questions and then shift right back to what we’re doing then remember there’s a load of laundry that needs to go into the dryer and (oh, shoot!) it’s almost the end of the day and our to-do list has only gotten a third of the way completed. It’s constant, and it’s exhausting.
I wish I had some awesome advice on how to make it better and how to cope with it, but I don’t really. I’m in the midst of it. I have to think it will get better once I’m no longer responsible for so much for my children. One day they will be able to deal with their own clothes, food and laundry — both shopping and caring for them. But, I know there’s another part of my mom brain that will never turn off as long as I am breathing because you can’t just stop being someone’s mom when they turn into an adult. I know this from my own mom and mother-in-law!
I do think, though, that we need to acknowledge it. We need to realize the MBO is a thing; it’s hard and it’s contributing to our exhaustion level. We need to find ways to unplug when we get a chance whether it’s sneaking off to a movie alone, with your husband or with friends or taking one night each week after the kids go to bed and doing nothing else except reading or watching television or somehow relaxing. It’s being good to ourselves when we get a chance. It’s intentionally thinking of ourselves and what we need sometimes.
The thing with MBO is that if it’s left unchecked too long, it can lead to burn-out, anger and resentment. It can lead us to saying things we don’t mean and hurting those we love most. It can steal our joy. It can distract us from our spiritual walk. MBO is going to exist. We can’t stop our mom brains from being overloaded with so much information all the time, but we can do our best to be intentional about taking breaks, even for a short time. I’ve had moments where I say to my husband, “I don’t care what you decide, but dinner is up to you. I cannot manage another decision right now.” I’ve had other moments when I’ve left him in charge and escaped behind a closed bedroom door for an hour (especially when our kiddos were smaller).
Mom brain overload is just as real as pregnancy brain and mommy brain. While we may laugh and joke about it or complain about it with our mom friends, we need to also remember to take care of ourselves whenever we get a chance. Take a break soon, mama. I know you need it!