Dull-Witted Mom Syndrome

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March 2004

Before I became a mom, I was really clever, quick-witted, funny, and the life of the party. I can't shake the feeling that becoming a mom has somehow removed those things from my personality. My child is 2 years old now, so I'm a relatively new mom. I just feel so serious and dull. Is it something that other moms experience? Does it pass? I hope this doesn't sound like a strange question. Dull mom

Wow, I could have written your letter. Feel like I have lost a lot of IQ points to motherhood...and I have a graduate degree. My guess is that there are a lot of factors behind the change: the sleep deprivation, the amount of brain capacity that is utilized by all the detail of responsibility for baby care etc. I attempt to keep a sense of humor about it; my friends and I joke about ''mommy brain.'' Also, I try to keep in mind the importance of the job I am doing, fostering a little person's mental and emotional development. I am praying that decline in brain power is not a permanent thing, and mostly a function of the infant/toddler years. So, my advice to you is to try to not to be hard on yourself given the demands of parenting, and hope your all faculties return as your child grows :) Jan
You're not the only one! My friends call it ''mommy brain'', and it's a phenomenon I never heard of til I had my first daughter. She's 4 now, and her sister is 2, and I'm JUST starting to get that ''sharp wit'' back. I think what happens is that from the time the baby is born, we spend so much time and energy thinking about his or her needs, that we forget about our own; we survive; we shift all focus from us to them. I think your wit and cleverness are still there, you're just using most of it up on a high-demand person now, your baby. It's still there, and it will come back! I was surprised how witty and pleasant I could still be the other day, when we attended an adult birthday party (no kids allowed)--when I could relax and not think (they're too quiet...which room are they in...what are they doing...I better go check on them...) about the kids first and foremost. Heidi
Hi DWM, I experienced a bit of what you are talking about - well probably a lot but it was almost 12 years ago now and my memories have faded. As I thought about my reply I realized I could go the psych. route: ''Hmmm, so it feels like you are no longer the life of the party...'' But after years of therapy, who cares - you miss feeling like you used to. Let's not assume it is anything pathological.

For me, it came back. My behavior was/is so connected to my images of being a mom and, not counting Lucy (The Lucy and even she got duller after Little Ricky was born), the images I grew up with (including my own mother) were pretty invisible. But, we aren't so invisible anymore. My daughters are 12 and 8. Both are very funny but also self- conscious, as I was when I was young. I realize I didn't really know how to play when I became a mom. I'm verbal, quick-witted, etc. and that is great around a group of lawyers but not quite as helpful or entertaining around a two year old. My schtick got stuck.

Everything seemed so weighty - cloth or disposable, homemade organic or gerbers, cotton or polyester - remember, we live in the Bay Area. Our crazy, indiviual, gotta be me style of life is very proscripted. God forbid, you actually do something out of convenience or choice - it better be politically correct, well-researched, documentably proven and recommended by atleast 7 experts. That makes anyone dull-witted.

You didn't say much about your dull life other than a two year old. If it involves any other human beings, what have they noticed? I bet you do still make people laugh. I felt so numb a lot of the time back then. It is hard to be the life of the party when you have to stop to breastfeed.

I am different now. I hardly even go to parties - In the beginning it did feel like I was losing something. Then I realized I'd much rather sit around in a smaller group of friends and laugh and visit than keep everybody entertained. Have you read Annie Lamott. Everyone told me to read her in the beginning too so, ofcourse, I resisted. She is one funny mom. When I read a line about wanting to stick a fork in her mother like a baked potato I laughed out loud. Man, have I been there.

I am not going to say go out with the girls more, get a babysitter, etc. You'll figure out how to be comfortable and yourself over time, not only when you can get away from the house.

Best wishes on your life journey. Just another red-headed mother

You're not alone! Pre-baby (16 months ago), I felt like the life of the party too! Now, I feel like I can barely have a coherent, let alone interesting, adult conversation. I also have no wit or short-term memory left. I attribute my own blandness to sleep deprivation (our toddler still doesn't sleep through and I'm working full-time). I've seen girlfriends go through the same and most bounce back, some with even more zest than before! Hang in there! Anna
Yes, I felt this too. I feel much better now and more like myself who also happens to be a mom (recently a single mom). Key ingredients: Enough sleep, healthy food and walking. Working outside the home (this works for me, please do not open up the home vs. work can of worms). Taking a fun Adult Education class every once in a while. That my child, 4 yrs old, can do many things on her own, potty, snacks, rest, etc, and the time we spend together is really fun, like reading together, playing cards, playing tennis, etc. Good Luck A mom
Hi sleepy mama. I know just how you feel. I too was a quick- witted smarty-pants until my children came along. I was alarmed when (particularly during pregnancy) I couldn't solve the tough math puzzles and make the quick comebacks and do all the other things I used to do with ease. First, I'm sure everyone will tell you this: you need to be sure you're not clinically depressed. But if you are sure you aren't - I want to give you the encouragement that your brain does come back as the hormonal influences fade, as you get more sleep, and with some effort on your part. Could it be that part of the reason you're feeling dull is that you are 100% consumed with motherhood? We all need other outlets and interests. You deserve to give yourself a break and pursue these things. A large part of social interaction is discussing common interests, and even if you are hanging out exclusively with other moms of 2 year olds, they may not want to talk about diapers, tantrums, rashes, etc. Give yourself some ''me'' time to resume your other interests and I think you'll start seeing some of the old spark come back. 75% back
1. Rest
2. Seek communication with people who don't talk about kids - especially single adults. Very refreshing!
3. Move your kid's bedtime to 7 or 8pm and have 2 hours adult time alone or with spouse before you go to bed.
4. Remember what hobbies you had before child.
5. Pick one activity (ideally a physical one) you can practice once a week - could be at home.
6. When you talk to other parents, ask them questions about how/who they are. I am so tired of women who only want to talk about child related matters - passionately with no end! There is more to talk about in this world.
sign me as: No longer dull
YOU ARE STILL SLEEP DEPRIVED. You don't mention your age, but I went from pregnancy & lactation straight into a menopausal brick wall, and I felt the way you describe for 3 years. andrea kean davand1 [at] earthlink.net
I know exactly what you are talking about. I am a mom of two adopted children and began to have that feeling when our son (now nearly 8) was less than a year old. I think it comes from focusing on the responsibility for small children--a person is literally changed--but not for the worse, although it may seem like you don't think the way you used to. Its some kind of survival instinct, where the brain kind of sobers up a little when a parent is around his/her kids. Karen
I'm sorry I don't have any advice for you. I just wanted to say that I am experiencing exactly the same thing. I have 2 kids now (3.5 and 1) and constantly (at home and at work) feel like I am working with a quarter of a brain. I have almost no short-term memory and feel just downright stupid a lot of the time (and I never felt like this before the kids). I have always thought that it must be at least partly from the lack of sleep. It must do something to your brain to not have more than 2 hours of sleep in a row for month after month, year after year. I think that another factor for me is that I never get to think about anything but except just barely keeping up with the kids, the laundry, my work, the cleaning, the family obligations etc. etc. etc. ---there is never any time at all to think about myself or about anything else. I am really hoping that it gets better when the kids get older and I can sleep more and have more time for my own thoughts.
-another stupid mom
I definitely relate to what you describe. While my pre-baby self wasn't necessarily the ''life of the party,'' I definitely feel like I'm unable to express myself as well as I used to. I was at a reception with a bunch of Cal faculty a couple of weeks ago, and I felt like a total idiot, unable to make coherent comments. I feel the same way at work, like I've forgotten stuff or am unable to hold my attention on things. I hope it passes. I love being momma to my 20 month old and would like to have more kids, but this makes it hard when I feel so unlike myself. anon