Stacy Maisch is a busy mom to eleven-month-old Robbie. Between her personal and professional obligations, she at times feels like she's losing her mind. Recent examples of what she attributes to "mommy brain" include folding an entire load of laundry only to dump it back into her washing machine. Or preparing dinner and returning dirty dishes to the fridge and milk to the pantry.
Cyndi Harper can relate. "Most of my mommy brained-ness occurred when my son Jack was a newborn. It could have been the hormones or sleep deprivation, but I'm fairly sure it was from the brain cells I lost while giving birth," says Harper.
Aside from the forgetful episodes, Harper says her biggest fear was that she would do something horrible because of her "mommy brain" like forget to take her son out of his car seat. "To this day, eight months later I still look in the back seat at least once a day to make sure that my baby is safe and not left somewhere at the dry cleaners or grocery store."
On the flip side, Joanne Hayes-White, San Francisco Fire Chief—and the first woman and mother to head an urban city's fire department—attributes raising three children all under the age of twelve to making her smarter and better at her job.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright took several years off work to raise her three daughters and said in an interview that she would probably put parenting on her resume if she were looking for a job today.
How can we explain the differences in these "mommy brain" experiences?
Pulitzer Prize winning author Katherine Ellison was also worried about getting "mommy brain." "I was so scared I would fall apart on the job that I had a dream back when I was a foreign correspondent, in which I heard space aliens had landed in Brasilia but couldn't decide if I should go report on it," she says.
Ellison wanted to learn more and has written a book, The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter, to address some of these questions.