Right after my son was born I went through a phase when the world suddenly seemed a more threatening and dangerous place than I’d realized before. I’d be driving down a street and get nervous that a rock would fall off the overpass onto the car. Or I’d worry that someone would snatch my baby out of his stroller. Or that I’d accidentally lock him in a hot car. The anxiety was horrible, but I realized it was just part of the fierce protectiveness I felt for this tiny, helpless new being.
And one day during those months of worry, I had an “aha” moment. I suddenly understood why my mother would send me articles about women getting mugged near my college dorm. Why she worried that my first apartment didn’t have adequate locks. Why she would tell me about the interview she heard telling people how to avoid a carjacking. Why, long after I was an adult, she still worried that I wasn’t safe enough, comfortable enough, warm enough, happy enough.
It’s because she’s my mom.
And I now accept that the worry I feel for my son will never go away. Once you develop a mom brain, you’ve got it forever. And one side effect of this brain transformation is that you understand your own mother so much better than you ever did before.
The mom brain isn’t just about fear and worry. Why does my mother still comment on my clothing choices? Hate it when my hair is in my face? Think I might look better in high heels? Because she still cares about me. And even though she can’t dress me any more or brush my hair, I think she sort of wishes she could.
In fact, I think if she could have chosen my husband (for the record, she loves him), picked out my house, and arranged a job for me, she would have. Because it still matters desperately to her that I’m happy and my life is going well, and if she can do anything to further that, she would.
The mom brain is really just a product of love, a kind of overwhelming, all-consuming love unique to parenthood. When you realize that you would throw yourself in front of a train to save your baby, you realize that your mother felt the same way about you. And probably still does. And all of a sudden lots of things she says and does make perfect sense.
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
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