The Mama Vault – #8 THE HARD-FRIED, HURRY UP MAMA BRAIN
Okay Young Mother.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Others may have the luxury of easing on down the road, but you have no choice but to hit this season of “busy” running. Oh sure, you thought you were busy last month, but then November stepped into the picture with its stupid advertisements about how many days until…well I’m not even going to say it.
If you don’t own support panties and compression socks, you might want to get some. While they aren’t exactly sexy, they are essential for the long days you’re about to step into. And while you’re at it, double up on your Vitamin C, get your flu shot and a shot of B-12. If you’ve never trusted an ancient one before, please, trust me on this.
The human brain was never meant to hold so many details. It just wasn’t. Yet if you, the mother, do not cling to every single detail of the season, who will?
I’ll tell you who.
No one. And you know it—which is why you feel you have no choice but to jump on the stress train.
You and I both know if you turn loose of all the details, they will fall into some deep, dark abyss never to be seen again. And then what? Maybe life as you know it will cease to exist.
While you shudder at the thought, I’m sitting at my desk typing away this morning as proof that life will indeed not cease. No it will not.
My seasoned sister-mamas and I have collectively fumbled, bobbled or completely dropped the dang ball literally millions of times when we were caught up on holiday hurrying. Sometimes it was ugly, but we are still here. If you come over, I’ll show you the cartwheel I can still do (badly) just so you can see how happy I am we made it!
Though we can still hurry if we must, we mostly don’t. We live on the backside of hurrying now, but we remember. And we’re thinking of you. We’re cheering you on.
We remember well the effects of hurrying and busyness on the mama brain. We remember the fog.
Have you ever driven away from your home in the morning with no plans to return until after dark? Oh you have? Can you tell me exactly where you were when you realized you’d forgotten to wear a bra? Because I was forty-five minutes away in a neighboring town getting Starbucks before I was aware.
While the faux pas did make me feel quite festive and free, I simply could not make it a habit. It was not sustainable.
My friend Shannon was basking in the glow of motherhood with her youngest—just enjoying a spontaneous date with her baby boy at the local burger joint. Here’s how I picture her.
Laughing, in her big and boisterous way. Feeling oh so relaxed and calm without a worry in the world. I imagine Jingle Bells playing in the background.
Then her husband walked in and asked where their other child was.
It took a minute for it to register in her mama brain that she indeed had another child. When it did register, though, she remembered the last time she’d seen her daughter was when she dropped her off at gymnastics class—a class that had ended two hours before.
We need you, Lord, we need you. Every hour we need you.
My friend’s husband didn’t understand—because, while he was responsible for the important bread and butter things, he was not responsible for all the other “things”. He didn’t know what it was like to be “on” every moment of every day.
Mothering is so “daily”.
But imagine if you had seven.
Not seven kittens or seven goldfish or seven plants to water.
I mean seven real-life kids.
My friend Amy does. One Sunday after church, she and her family headed home. They had people coming over for lunch, so she was flitting about her kitchen making all the preparations. When everything was ready, she asked one of her “littles” to tell his big sister to come join in, but Sister was nowhere to be found.
Because they left her at church. And because she was a teenager, Amy’s daughter tested her mother to see just how long it would take for Mama Dear to miss her. It took a while. The mama brain is a mystery until you have one.
Imagine an egg. So beautifully oval and plump–the yolk, golden like sunshine.
It’s like your brain was before you became a mama—before it became hard-fried.
You would’ve preferred it be, say, over-easy, but then you got busy. You started hurrying. And now your brain is sizzling away.
And soon, these things begin to happen.
You wash one load of clothes three times because you can’t remember to put it in the dryer before the clothes sour. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you were born without a sense of smell, and therefore likely have sent your kids to school wearing soured clothes many times. Who even knew clothes could sour?
You rush to make it to a four o’clock dentist appointment with two kids, only to discover you hadn’t scheduled a dental appointment at all. You had instead scheduled an eye doctor appointment at an office an hour away. Next available appointment is in two months.
As you washed your face before bed last night, you realized you only put mascara on your right eye early yesterday morning. It’s no wonder you felt off balance all day.
Off balance is the way we can feel during this season of “hurry-up”. We mamas are a bunch of tough broads–we are hard-wired for busyness. We have a tipping point, though.
If I could have “overs” on all the seasons of busy in my own life when I was raising kids, I would lower my expectations of myself. I would not try so hard to be put together. I would try to put the holly jolly back in things. I would try with everything I had to slow down and savor the time of year I loved most, rather than choking down the fudge and hot cocoa while trying to make everything so picture perfect.
I would pick a few things to do with my kids and I would do them exceptionally well. All the other things I would allow myself and my kids to be rife with imperfection.
One day, a mama brought her pre-school children to my music class. It was at the end of a long, busy day and she was exhausted from work. Her energetic children ran in ahead of her, and as she turned to go she added this.
Oh yeah. That one refused to wear underwear today, so….
She didn’t complete her sentence because she had no words. She simply shrugged and left it there as she drove away. She was really good at being okay with imperfection. I admired her for it. Everything isn’t a Hallmark movie moment. It just isn’t.
Of course all these words of mine are hindsight. Hey, just the fact I have words at all should inspire you that your fried mama brain will one day revert back to normal. Kind of. You too will have words again. Just wait and see.
Until then, my tribe of middle-aged, empty-nester mamas and I offer you this.
To you, the busy and hurrying-around ones.
To all of you wearing a shirt inside out today. To you who forgot to put coffee in the pot before brewing it this morning. To those wearing mismatched shoes and only one earring. To you dear ones who felt like doing the “half-tuck” today, only to notice at lunchtime you’d not zipped up.
To all of you.
Cheers and cartwheels.
We see you. You’re doing great. Do not compare yourself to another single human on this planet. Cut yourself some serious slack. Let Elf on the Shelf hibernate this year. You are doing “you” better than anyone else ever could. Go with your gut if it’s telling you to say no. Maybe this is your year to test the whole less is more theory. Lay down in all your imperfections and make some snow angels. Let yourself laugh even when a few of the plates you’re spinning go crashing to the ground.
Call me. I’ll sweep up for you.