One of my friends, who is a mom, told me that when you become a mom, you become stupid. (These are her words.) She said it happened to her sister and now it was happening to her. I wasn’t buying it though. I thought maybe it was just her family. There were some pretty strong signs for that. But as I get deeper and deeper into this “mom” territory, I think she might be right. As each day passes, I can feel my intellectual capacity getting smaller and smaller.

In the past 6 months, I have locked myself out of the house four times (which I’ve never done before), forgotten the diaper bag, diapers, wipes, and Ellie’s food many times. I even ran out of gas for the first time in my life. And I only have one kid!  I don’t understand how parents with multiple children function in life.

Not only am I very forgetful, but my basic skills are diminishing too. Basic math, spelling, grammar, my vocabulary, talking and even listening. There have been many times when I was on the phone talking to someone and responded, “That’s cool,” at a time in the conversation where that made no sense.

“What’s cool?”

“Ummm. That thing you said, about the stuff?” I try to recover.

“Why is that cool?”

“I didn’t mean cool, like cool, but… wait, what did you say?” I say as I completely give up.

Or I’ll randomly say things like, “Oh that’s so cute, you’re too funny.”

“Huh?” They will respond.

“Not you, Ellie! Go on, I’m listening. Do you need to poop?” I say.

DS_2011_05_27bHaving a 16-month-old as your daily conversation partner doesn’t help much either. I know I’m supposed to talk to her and get her to mimic me. But it’s usually the other way around. She’ll make a face and say, “Gaga goo goo.”  And I’ll make that same face back and repeat her. We’ll just speak to each other in random sounds and syllables. “Blab garble jorp jorp.” So instead of me making her smart, she’s dumbing me down.

The more I think about it though, it’s not so much of a drop in intelligence as it is a lack of focus. When I’m with Ellie, I’m always multi-tasking. My mind is always split in at least three different places. Did I get her diapers from the dryer? Where’s the spit rag? Did she eat yet? Did I change her diaper? She really smells… or is that me? I’m always losing my thoughts and … ummm. What was I saying? Oh yeah. All these thoughts get clogged and jumbled together, making it very hard to concentrate. So I end up speaking in fragments making me sound like an idiot.

My wife doesn’t know what I’m talking about half the time.

“I’ll need that for tomorrow, would you mind?” I’ll say.

“What?” She’ll ask puzzled.

For tomorrow, I’m going, I’ll need it, would you mind?”

“What are you even talking about!?” she’ll say getting frustrated.

“Nevermind.” I’ll roll my eyes.

I am aware of my problem and I do try to write things down. I figure if these thoughts are out of my head, then I can be more focused. And they say, if you write things down you are more likely to do them. But I often lose my pen, and then my paper, and then my list. Or I’ll find my pen and forget what I was going to write down. I’ve made it to Meijer so many times with what I thought was everything I needed. My diaper bag, my eco-bags, my highlighter to cross off my list, my wallet, but dang, I forgot the list. When that happens, I’ll wander the aisles talking to myself with a bewildered (I used the thesaurus to come up with that fancy word) look on my face as I try to remember everything on the list. And then the next time I go, I’ll remember the list, but forget everything else. Luckily I’ve never forgotten Ellie anywhere. Yet.

While an over-abundance of thoughts is usually a problem, sometimes there is so much going on upstairs that my brain shuts down completely. It just turns off, leaving me blank. I just have a blank look on my face and can only communicate with shoulder shrugs and head nods. This usually comes after a day where taking care of Ellie feels like chasing a Venezuelan guinea pig hopped up on caffeine. I’ll sit quietly at the dinner table a broken man. Aya will ask questions and I’ll just shake my head yes or no, or an occasional head tilt.

DS_2011_05_27dBut despite all of the above, I do feel that I’ve gained so much more since becoming a parent. My brain capacity is dwindling and I need a calculator to do basic math, but I find that I am also acquiring and expanding new skill. I always thought of myself as a patient person, but I think I’ve come to understand patience in a completely different way. I’ve taken multi-tasking to new levels, too. To the point where it’s worth boasting on any possible future resume I may put out there. Also, I’ve learned creative problem solving. I’ve impressed myself with the trickery I’ve used to get Ellie to eat her peas, or to get her to take naps in her crib. Not to mention, learning critical thinking in high pressure situations, like when Ellie pooped in the bathtub or took her dirty diaper off in the crib.

It’s not a skill, but the best thing I’ve learned so far, as cliché as it sounds, is that there is something and someone more important than me. Someone who pushes and challenges me as a person every day. So while on some days it may feel like my brain is oozing out my skull, it must be because it’s making room for all this growth I’m experiencing.

So my friend was wrong. Being a “mom” doesn’t make you dumb, it makes you smarter. It just makes you socially dumb. And I didn’t have much of those smarts to begin with, so I think I’m going to be OK.

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