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.