So, Mommy Brain… it’s a real thing and being able to overcome it or at the very least live with it takes work. Let me go ahead and put this fact out there before I start dishing out advice - I am absolutely imperfect. I have days when my Mommy Brain causes me to look for my phone for 5 minutes before I realize that I am literally talking to my mother ON THE PHONE while searching for it. I have also had many days when I left the house wearing clothes that are totally inappropriate… like the time I failed to remember that I was 9 months pregnant and couldn’t/shouldn’t wear a t-shirt and track jacket from COLLEGE.
But, I’ll tell ya what. I’ve learned how to laugh at myself when these things happen as well as ways to decrease their occurrences.
So, here I present to you:
1. Ya gotta get out and EXERCISE, Momma.
I know, I know, you hear this all the time from your doctor to the opinionated, know-it-all lady in yoga pants (Wait...is that now me? Sorry), and it can be annoying. Who has time for exercise when you're nauseous ALL DAY, or when you’ve been up 4 times during the night with your newborn and then again with your teething toddler? Hear me out, though. Not only does the actual act of physical activity make you feel good, but so will all of the compliments you get from folks at your gym who can't believe you're working out throughout your pregnancy and afterwards with your kids in tow. Find classes that allow you to be in control of the intensity, or meet with a trainer to get a personalized pregnancy/postnatal program. With Suzanna Grace, I paid $50 to meet with a trainer twice during my pregnancy so that he could show me different exercises to do during and after pregnancy. He showed me safe ways to use kettlebells and other pieces of equipment and created a little workout routine for me to follow. With Carolina James, I went to the YMCA 3-4 times a week to do the spin classes or walk on the track. The girls in my classes and the older men who sat around the track drinking coffee each morning began to keep up with me and my pregnancy and often commented on how great it was that I was staying active. They usually threw in a kind compliment about my pregnant bod too. I jokingly/seriously told Kyle that I only went to the Y for the compliments and to allow strangers to boost my self-esteem. Killing two birds with one stone here? Yes, and you’re welcome.
2. Always have something that makes you excited and keeps you looking forward.
I am a planner and when I have an “event,” whether it’s a date night, family weekend activity, or themed play date, to think about then my mind isn’t consumed with my due date (that passed 2 days ago…), or the fact that my 20 month old has only eaten popsicles and applesauce for two days. Having these fun events to look forward to keeps your mind busy and distracts from worrying, mommy guilt, and the list goes on. I have personally been overly excited about my new high waisted Old Navy yoga pants that I got for 40% off. Never in my young adult life did I ever think that any of those keywords would make my heart skip a beat, but can I just tell you that the second I walked into toddler time at the trampoline park with my 2 week old in the baby bjorn and my 20 month old wiping her nose on my shoulder that more than a handful of moms looked at me with envy and exclaimed, “Oh girl! I love your new yoga pants!” True story!
3. Don't neglect your social life while pregnant or once your newborn arrives.
Stay active. Just because you're pregnant or a new mom doesn't mean you should stay home. When SG was was 4 weeks old, we flew with her from Chicago to Oxford, MS for the Double Decker Arts Festival and we all had a BLAST! While you don't have to go on a big trip, you should take a shower (or just spray on a lot of perfume), swipe on a little mascara, and get out of the house. I promise once you're out you won't regret it. Everyone feels better when they are clean and seeing something other than the walls of their abode. Even when you think you're too tired or running late, just go to that dinner with friends, happy hour (whether you're sipping a Coca-Cola or a glass of wine), or play date. You'll most likely never return home and think, “well that was a flop. I guess I'll just stay home in my too tight, spit up covered casual yoga pants next time…”
4. Try a new genre by reading or listening to non-fiction.
I love a good “beach read” as much as the next, but when I find something nonfiction to read or listen to then I really feel my ole noggin growing. Having some relevant knowledge helps to not only enrich your vocabulary but it also helps to have adult things to talk about and to tie back into conversations when you finally get the chance to talk about something besides the reasons your daughter can't have her fourth Popsicle for the day. I found that listening to books and podcasts were easiest, and that I could do it during our quick 5 minute car ride to the grocery store or as I was sitting down to nurse. I always have a book or podcast downloaded to my phone. If you're a member of your public
It's important for you to make it a point to talk about the things you are reading with an adult. Not only does having to recall what you read help it to sink in a little better, but once you actually start explaining it and making connections with the information, you're having to use higher order levels of thinking which is the evil enemy of Mommy Brain.
I also love listening to Podcasts whenever I get a chance. You can literally fi
nd them on any topic and learn about anything in 30 minutes to an hour. My favorite Podcasts include “This American Life,” "TED Radio Hour," and “RadioLab.” Each one features a new episode every week. There have been more than a handful of times that I've paused my listening to write down a quote or fact from the episode, and there is no doubt that many have either changed my perspective on something or have helped me to have a more solid rationale for a belief which I felt strongly about.
5. Make it a priority to do non-baby related activities with your spouse.
Kyle and I have a book club where we take turns choosing a book, article, podcast, etc. to read or listen. Once we finish, we go to a nice dinner or out for drinks to talk about it. It sounds super nerdy, and I'm sure you'll now have a sick baby at home when we call you to go on a double date with us, but trust me the whole act of reading with your partner and then having a fun way to talk about it combats Mommy Brain in many different ways. My husband isn’t much of a “during the work day communicator” BUT he will forward me an article or podcast that he reads or listens to while traveling if he thinks I would be interested in it. I have learned to broaden my interest by being open to exploring the topics that he’s interested in plus it’s fun to impress your know-it-all husband with your ability to debate with him. (We of course find some way to always tie our reading back to the girls…)6. Do something nice for yourself.
Let me tell you a little secret - taking care of yourself is NOT being selfish. Motherhood is the MOST selfless job in the world, and if Momma falls so does the whole house. This makes it all the more important for you to treat yourself every once in awhile. You've read a lot up to this point so let me just give ya some ideas here:
- Get a massage.
- Buy something nice.
- Have a girls night out.
- Go sit somewhere by yourself (even if it's in your car while Daddy watches the kids). Lock yourself in your bathroom and take a long shower. Shave your legs, put on lotion without the help of your toddler, or make a pallet in the tub and take a nap.
7. Cut yourself some slack.
If you need to just sit on the couch and eat a bowl of ice cream while watching Housewives, then do it!
8. Start a small business.
Well, you don't have to start a small business, BUT you can. Or, you can just aim to start something exciting and new. Shoot, it could just be starting one of the things that I listed above. When you become pregnant or have a newborn, your mind can become totally consumed by that new baby, and for me, my OCD takes over and so does my general worrying. I could sit up all night thinking about the sleeping arrangements at grandparents’ houses when we go home for holidays, OR I could sit up all night doing something productive that ends with a solution rather than more worry. Grace & James combined with our last weeks as a family of three and of course the arrival of our precious Little Sissy has made for the best time of my life. Being able to learn about owning and operating a small business, outsourcing for manufacturers, designing clothes, and marketing our brand all while building a company and family whose goal is to help and support others makes my role as a mother all the more fulfilling. I want to teach my girls that they can do anything they want and can juggle family, friends, work, and play gracefully. I want to be the role model that they look up to, and I realize that whatever I want for them, I too have to be.
So, I encourage you to start small. Just do something to exercises your brain today and then do something else tomorrow. Don't let worry consume you, rather focus on positive things that bring joy to your heart and life. Most importantly, it's okay for your brain to get mushy. Give yourself this grace because sometime you WILL forget which room you hid the newborn from big sister in, but it's not okay for it to stay that way.
We'd love to know what you do to keep yourself sharp. Do you practice any of the things that we listed? How do they work for you? Please share your helpful tips in the comments section below to support other new or veteran mommas who follow the Grace & James mommy blog.
PS- While writing this blog post, Mary Agnes captured this picture of me typing away with my sweater (which I wore all day) on inside out. #mommytruths #mommybrain