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Momnesia

Oops. Missed another doctor's appointment even though it was written on the calendar.

Oops. Forgot to pack lunch in the backpack.

Oops. There's wet laundry in the washer?

There's actually a name for all that forgetfulness. It's called "momnesia," writes Liz Szabo in USA Today.

"Few parents enjoy feeling so scatterbrained," says neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain. "And momnesia can be dangerous, such as when moms forget to fasten the straps in an infant's car seat. Yet momnesia may give modern mothers an evolutionary advantage," Brizendine says.

And moms also gain from giving birth.

"You are learning a lot," Brizendine says. "Once your mommy brain gets readjusted, you get more efficient, and you become smarter and learn things faster, but it won't happen all at once."

Add sleep deprivation to the hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth, and a mom's brain is sure to be more fuzzy. I can't count -- in fact, can't really remember -- the number of doctor's appointments that I only remember because of an office's reminder phone call. Or the number of times my husband tells me something that goes in one ear and out the other. (See, honey, there's a real REASON for it!)

What are some of your momnesia or dadnesia moments? And what have you become more efficient at since becoming a parent?

This Week's Talkers: Identical In-Vitro Triplets Born in NY ... Coloring Outside Curriculum Lines To Depict the Drop in Arts Education ... Cut Through Baby Chaos ... Non-Toxic Tots

Recent Recalls: Infantino Rattles ... Girls' Hooded Sweatshirts ... Aunt Jemima Pancake & Waffle Mix Products

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 7, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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Comments


Oh, Lord, is this a problem. I've always been forgetful -- things like walking to school without a coat in February because my head was somewhere else (don't know how my mom got through my childhood without killing me). But now it's worse. I only get by by making things as "unmissable" as possible. Appointments go into my blackberry as soon as I make them, with reminders set to give me time to get there. Anything that needs to go to school or work goes in my purse or right in front of the front door, so I literally cannot leave without tripping over it -- and if it's something like lunch that needs to be refrigerated, I stick a note at eye level on the door.

But 2 weeks ago was my absolute scariest, stupid moment ever. I pulled into my driveway, got out, got the boy out my side while the girl got herself out the other side, turned around, put him down, turned back to grab my stuff, and saw the car rolling slowly down the driveway. 25 years of driving a stick, and I've NEVER forgotten to put the emergency brake on -- until now. I threw my shoulder into the car to stop it, sent the girl inside to get dad -- and turned around to see the boy standing about 3 feet behind the rear wheel. I couldn't get to the driver's door to get the brake on; I couldn't let go of the car to get him for fear that it would roll over him first; I couldn't get him to move (went from completely ineffective "please go over to the grass" to shrieking banshee in 3 seconds flat, which of course just caused him to freeze and start crying). So I just hung on in a panic until my husband came out. Luckily, our driveway isn't terribly steep, so it wasn't that hard to hold the car in place. But boy, have I relived that moment hundreds of times since -- how could I be so stupid, shoulda just grabbed the kids and run (but they're on opposite sides of the car), shoulda had the girl come around the "safe" side and get the boy out of the way before going to get dad, what else could I have done, etc. etc. etc. I got hugely lucky.

Posted by: laura33 | March 7, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

I have terrible momnesia. The worst is looking back in the rearview and see my son happily in his carseat with no straps. But that's only happened twice. Or maybe three times...

The stuff I forget usually doesn't involve the kids. Forgetting to meet up with friends after weeks of planning a get together, forgetting birthdays (I was a great birthday rememberer before kids!)

Posted by: md | March 7, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Laura! Indeed scary! I am glad that everything turned out okay!

I wonder if "momnesia" affects different people to varying degrees, and I wonder why that would be. Definitely, I have my forgetful days. I've forgotten to tighten carseat straps, errand lists, where the keys are (in my coat pocket!), etc. Mostly I forget to change wet diapers. For stuff like deadlines, appointments, husband out of town, I have a big calendar on the way to the door that I write every appointment/event on and check a couple of times a day.

And, I really try to put my keys on the hook (adjacent to the big calendar) every time that I come inside the house, but I won't tell anyone that I'm 100% successful at remembering to do that.

Posted by: harerin | March 7, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

This makes me nuts! Before kids, I was the person who never forgot anything. Ever. I basically had a photographic memory. Now I have to write myself notes so I will remember even to pay the bills. It's so embarrasing- I hope it gets better!

Posted by: reston, va | March 7, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm I can't remember if I've ever had momnesia....

Posted by: anne.saunders | March 7, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Laura, I was wide eyed with horror reading your post. Thank God nobody was hurt.

In the future, in addition to the emergency brake, for this very reason you should ALWAYS leave a manual transmission car in gear. That way it can not roll (unless you push in the clutch), and then the emergency brake is only a backup, perhaps if the car slips a gear.

Posted by: Ryan | March 7, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Oh, this is me. But, what do you call it if you don't have kids?...

Posted by: Sweetie | March 7, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Oh, this is me. But, what do you call it if you don't have kids?...

Posted by: Sweetie | March 7, 2008 10:16 AM

Me, too...I think it's ADD with me, but I keep procrastinating on making an appointment to see if that's correct. Okay, I keep *forgetting* to do so...

Posted by: WDC 21113 | March 7, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Laura, how scary! I'm glad everyone was safe in the end.

Posted by: UCLAgirl | March 7, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Here's a big question:

My wife is experiencing Momnesia big time, no really, BIG TIME. This is our second kid, but it's the first time this happened. I am seeing her turn into a different person right away.

The problem is that she continually blames me for it. It's not that she wasn't listening when I asked her to do something, it's that I never told her. It's not that she gave me the wrong information, it's that I misunderstood it. Last night in the car I caught her contradicting herself and wanted to point it out to here right there, so we could nip this in the bud and she got super-defensive like I was being critical when... I just want a solution to all this! I want this confusion and miscommunication to stop.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Oh, this is me. But, what do you call it if you don't have kids?...

Posted by: Sweetie | March 7, 2008 10:16 AM

Um..it's called "being tired". Same thing happens when you are in college and working at the same time...

Posted by: ME | March 7, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I've heard stories of momnesia but I don't buy that it's a hormone-induced phenomenon. I think it's just that people who are busy and pulled a thousand different directions will tend to forget stuff. It happens to both men & women. I've always been absent minded (leaving my wallet on a plane seat, etc) and becoming a mom didn't make it worse. In fact, I've become more vigilant & mindful knowing that I have a tendency for absent-mindedness, so I make lists to help me remember what to pack for the kids each day, I try not to multitask, I check the master calendar, etc. Of course, I still occasionally forget the keys, forget to pack the kids' lunches, etc. but that's just me, not momnesia.

Posted by: skeptical | March 7, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree with skeptical. For me, it's just a matter of being organized. I'm a mom, a wife and a full-time student with a 4.0 GPA in a math/science undergrad program (so nope, no froufy courses).

How do I do it? Sure it's stressful, but that's what calendars are for, and writing notes, and planning my hours/days/weeks. Something's gotta give of course, and for me, it's usually housecleaning.

It's just a matter of learning discipline & organization ... the same things we should be expecting from our kids!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

@ 11:10--you're probably better off assuming she will have forgotten the first time you told her, and just gently tell her again as if it was the first time. Also encourage her to write things down. My husband does both for me and it really helps. (Usually I then remember that he told me the first time, but he's so calm about it that I don't get defensive.)

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

To 11:10: she probably gets defensive because she is highly aware of it and terrified and sensitive, so any time you point it out, to her it feels like piling on something she already can't deal with. Pointing out "proof" that it is her, and focusing on who's right/wrong, are only going to make her less receptive to a reasonable discussion -- the more you push her to acknowledge that she has a problem, the more she will dig in her heels and insist she's fine. You might want to try talking about it when it's NOT happening, as a "I'm concerned, how are you feeling, what are you thinking, are you worrying about this?" type of very non-judgmental, supportive thing.

One suggestion: go see a doctor and ask them to run a thyroid check (though seeing a doc is always good advice for any sudden change in personality). Symptoms of hypothyroidism are things we all complain about when we have kids and get older, things like tiredness, brain fog, weight gain, low energy/interest in stuff -- which also makes it easily for a lot of docs to just automatically chalk the complaints up to "get more sleep, eat better, exercise more," without even checking for some other cause. And it affects more women than men, and pregnancy can trigger or worsen it.

I had a pretty serious bout with this -- brain fog so bad that even writing a paragagraph was a huge effort, leaving me in tears about the prospect of early Alzheimer's, etc. But one simple blood test discovered the problem. And after I was diagnosed, I realized I had been suffering for close to a decade, which about 4 different docs had missed (the parade of "just get more sleep/exercise" I had heard, without a single freaking blood test, seemed pretty pitiful once I learned how common this disease is). It's amazing how cheap the medicine is, and how quickly it returns you to normal.

Posted by: Laura | March 7, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

To 11:10 - 1) Laura has a great suggestion re: the blood test. My problem ended up being hypoglycemia - soooo obvious AFTER it was diagnosed. 2) Our strategy for tactful reminders is to preface things with "We're both so busy, I can't remember if I told you this..." Works well as there often are things we think we did tell each other, but had actually shared with third parties.

Best ever Christmas gift - Smart Find Remote Control Key Locator. Sounds silly, but it has dramatically lowered the stress levels in our house, especially in the morning. No more misplaced keys, tv remotes, pdas or books (attached a receiver to a clip style bookmark) - wonderful!

Posted by: two terrific boys | March 7, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

two terrific boys -- but how do you avoid losing the receiver before you attach it to the book? :-)

Posted by: Laura | March 7, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

laura - always have at least one book on deck, so as soon as i finish a book, the receiver is immediately transferred to the next book on the list ;-)

Posted by: two terrific boys | March 7, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Laura: glad to hear everyone's okay.

And to 11:10: I have the same thing with my DH (is that you?). And I sit there all the time: hmmm, I KNOW I told him XYZ. Am *I* the one going crazy, or is it him? I mean, it's one of us, I suspect, but which one? I will vividly recall telling him something: down to exactly where he and I were standing, the time on the clock, etc, and even when I've mentioned stuff more than once, he says: no, you never said that! So I think: one of us is going insane (yes, at first I would be defensive, etc) - but which one?

And I've had TONS of blood tests/MRI/cat scan/ etc over the last two years (due to multiple things) and every single time the doctor says: nothing wrong.

Which leads me to think I'm insane.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 7, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Is this just an extension of what I hear a lot of people get pregnant and have "pregnant brain?"

And how do women deal with this as 'another female problem' and not allow it to be used as another reason they are less capable to handle hard life?

Posted by: Liz D | March 7, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Liz D: check out:

http://www.amazon.com/Price-Motherhood-Important-World-Valued/dp/B000GQLD2M/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205112333&sr=8-1

Which has studies in it that indicates women are MORE prepared to handle things precisely because of motherhood.

An interesting read (til the ver last chapter or so, I'm not so into: everyone else should do something about that...)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 9, 2008 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh, this is me. But, what do you call it if you don't have kids?...

Posted by: Sweetie | March 7, 2008 10:16 AM

Yep. ADD. My husband has it. It can be treated with talk therapy (to develop coping mechanisms) and medication if it is bad enough.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | March 11, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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