Oh Mummy Brain Up Yours!

Sorry. There are better ways to reference X-Ray Spex than that title. But, really, I can think of no better battle cry to greet a particularly insidious little phrase that I’ve been hearing a great deal lately.

It was a review of a pushchair that tipped me over the edge this morning. “It has a four-step fold mechanism,” it said, “and is helpfully numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4 to show you how to fold it – this is vital for those of us with mummy brain!”

Well, bollocks to being spoken-to in that tone of voice. I’m heartily sick of it. In the last few weeks, every time I’ve made the most minor mistake, complete strangers have seen fit to chummily tell me I have ‘mummy brain.’

Actually, I don’t. I’m as clumsy and mistake-prone as I always was. I do not enter the wrong PIN because – as a shop assistant in Boots suggested yesterday – of mummy brain; I do it because I have five debit cards and I occasionally muddle which PIN is which.

Similarly, I do not find it at all appropriate to be accused of mummy brain by a doctor’s receptionist, just because I happened to give my son’s middle name when asked for his ‘second name’.

I must admit that part of this rage stems from an intense dislike of the contemporary habit of over-familiarity, because I think it too often leads to poor customer service, whilst effectively making it harder to complain because it would make you look like the bad guy. I like my boundaries to be respected, thank you very much. If someone wants to claim that they have mummy brain, then fair enough. It is quite another thing for a complete stranger to hand out that label as if it’s at all neutral.

But actually, I don’t think it’s a title that anyone should accept. Because what does it mean, really? It means you’re tired. It means your consciousness is overloaded with too many demands at once. There is nothing specifically ‘mummy’ about this experience. Does anyone accuse H of having ‘daddy brain’? Not that I’m aware of. And yet he’s tired too; probably more tired than me, as he gets up to feed Bert at four every morning. He has days when he finds things hard-going; but no-one ever questions his basic competence. He is still considered perfectly capable of folding a pushchair.

Well, mummy brain: up yours. I don’t want your over-familiar, conspiratorial tone. I don’t want your insinuation that I’m fundamentally more stupid than I used to be. I don’t want to revel in any sort of collective martyrdom. And I’m damned if I’m going to give up having high expectations of myself now I’ve got a baby. I’m just too busy.



7 Responses to Oh Mummy Brain Up Yours!

  1. Muddling Along 29/06/2012 at 15:48 #

    Well said that woman – I just intensely dislike the idea that somehow adding ‘mummy’ to anything makes it sort of less good – mummy brain, mumtrepreneur, mummy blogger…

    Sleep deprivation is one thing, your IQ doesn’t actually drop just because you’ve bred (I mean how could it, look at parents who adopt, they don’t suddenly get stupider?)

    • Betty Herbert 01/07/2012 at 12:59 #

      Exactly. We’re all out there doing a jolly good job of keeping a small person alive, and in return, the world tells us we’re stupid. Infuriating.

  2. Sam Deane 29/06/2012 at 17:09 #

    I used to work in the SEN team in the local education authority. Colleagues would refer to Mum, Dad or Grandma instead of their proper names and it drove me SCATTY. So patronising. I don’t have kids and I’m away with the fairies half the time – what’s my excuse?

    • Betty Herbert 01/07/2012 at 13:00 #

      Ooh dear Sam, you’d better have kids quickly so that you have an excuse! And, yes, I HATE being called Mum by random people who can’t be bothered to glance at my notes to check my name. Raar!

  3. Jess 05/07/2012 at 13:50 #

    Made me think of your post! You’re not alone in the rage :-) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2012/jul/03/women-sat-her-exams-28-hours

    • Betty Herbert 05/07/2012 at 17:44 #

      Thanks for sharing that Jess! What a gal! Those crazy postpartum hormones can get you through anything. I’ll never forget visiting my sister in law in hospital after the birth of her first child: she was sitting up with her laptop on her knee, closing the annual accounts for her company. Awe-inspiring!

  4. maria 06/07/2012 at 00:56 #

    I agree.. I still have mummy brain I guess and mine is over a year!! I also agree about boundaries.. we are NOT the same just because we had a similar experience.. Just like we are not alike just because we are all female.. but being exhausted bites!! ;/

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