(Photo/pexels.com CC0)
(Photo/pexels.com CC0)

Return of the mommy brain: the teenage sequel

My mommy brain is back. I thought that foggy postpartum brain-drain feeling was supposed to go away once my babies started sleeping through the night. But toddlers became young children who became teenagers, and then my mommy brain came back.

It’s not like the sleep-deprived fuzzy feeling of those first few months of motherhood, when I was suddenly given a baby to take care of and had absolutely no experience and no idea what I was doing. Teenage mommy brain is different (my kids sleep through the night; the shock of being a mother has worn off) yet similar (I have no prior parenting experience — when it comes to teenagers — and I sometimes feel overwhelmed).

My kids think I am simply flaky. I often forget where I put my wallet, and I can never find my keys. Sophie bought me something called the Tile, which looks like a small card and lives in my wallet. I use the Tile app on my phone to ring the little card in my wallet so I can locate it. The problem is, I need my phone to do this, and I don’t always know where that is.

Last week, I made a doctor’s appointment for Sophie to get her flu shot. When I told her this, she reminded me that she had already gotten her flu shot, months ago. Recently, I was late to pick up one of my kids. Once I was in the car, I realized I had forgotten my shoes; then I realized I needed gas. I stopped at the gas station to fill up the tank in my socks.

My absent-minded mommy brain isn’t disorganized. I like to organize all sorts of things. I like spreadsheets. I like lists. My books, after I read them, are organized by genre. So are my cookbooks. The pantry is organized by category, and I transfer staples like flour and sugar to matching glass jars with labels. I like order.

I’m also really good at multitasking. I bet most mothers are. I can sign permission slips, make doctor’s appointments, send professional emails, unpack lunchboxes, make dinner, find a lost calculator, check a date on my calendar, investigate a weird rash on one of my children’s arms and call the plumber, all within the span of half an hour.

Teenage mommy brain is making space for new and more important things, so sometimes the little stuff fades away. Teenage mommy brain is checking three times to make sure I signed Sophie up for the SAT. It’s waking up in the middle of the night to remind me to check one more time, because it’s critical to her future and feels way more important than it did to make sure her soccer socks were clean in the mornings when she played for a hot minute in third grade.

Teenage mommy brain is what happens when your child drives over the Golden Gate Bridge alone for the first time. Everything that was in my head prior to that went away, and some of what left may never come back.

Teenage mommy brain is when your kid is negotiating with you for what seems like hours; you cannot keep up with their argument, as hard as you try and as smart as you think you are — they are winning — and this drains your brain more than any toddler tantrum could.

All of a sudden, new words and phrases like “I can be in charge of my own life,” “college” and “18” have entered my head, throwing me a little off balance, and stuff like remembering my shoes when I get into the car to pick up a kid feels trivial.

I may be a little forgetful at times, but in my defense, I’m present and I’m all in. I’m the one behind the scenes making it all work, and that takes work. My kids might not always understand that. I need them to be a little more patient with me. But honestly, I think I just need to be a little more patient with myself. And hopefully this teenage mommy brain is only a temporary state.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.