I had to use a calculator the other day. To figure out what 12 plus 9 was. I was paying bills (during the 10 minutes my baby, Riker, usually agrees to sleep in the crib before he wakes up crying like he’s being murdered by a serial killer named Icepick Ivan) and trying to figure out how much money we’d have left over for frivolous things such as food and industrial strength “wall poop remover.” And then suddenly, this basic arithmetic problem stopped me in my tracks.
Ridiculous? Sure. But what’s even more ridiculous is how long I tried to figure it out in my head before I finally gave up and made technology do my brain’s dirty work (7.5 minutes but you didn’t hear it from me).
Now, it would be easy to chalk this episode up to our collective intellectual decline or even the new Common Core math. But considering I grew up doing math the old fashion way instead of this fancy “12 plus 9 equals a series of half circles colored blue” method, I can’t even blame my teachers.
I can only do the mature thing and blame my baby.
According to science, the average human only uses about 10 percent of their brain. I don’t know if science has ever examined a mom’s brain after they’ve been taking care of an infant for 14 hours straight, but if they did, I can almost guarantee that percentage goes down to more like 3 percent. And if they’d look really close, they’d see the brain staring vacantly at a Spongebob Squarepants cartoon as it stuffed its face with cold pizza rolls and cried.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t currently living it, but taking care of a baby is by far the most mentally draining thing I’ve ever done. So much so, in fact, that if my husband gets home late from work, I am unable to even string sentences together by the time I see him.
Him: “How was your day?”
Me: “Cry. Many times. Poop. Ceiling has. Dog bad. Licked naked baby butt. I pee now?”
And let me clarify, it’s not mentally draining because my formerly bright mind is now atrophying from lack of use. In fact, it’s the opposite of that. I’m using parts of my brain I didn’t even know existed (such as the part that can calculate the speed and airborne path a binkie is most likely to take judging from the angle of the baby’s head so you can catch it mid-air before it hits your disgusting floor you haven’t cleaned in two weeks).
I mean, granted, changing diapers and playing “Bouncy Knee Silly Time” 104 times in a row isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating. I’ll give you that. But it is an entirely different kind of intelligence being flexed when you’re spending all your time trying to stop a 16-pound unexploded grenade who is determined to seriously injure himself from either exploding into a tantrum or hurling himself off the couch headfirst in a misguided attempt to reach the dog.
Seriously, just think of the brain power you have to use to try to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language, can’t point or use hand gestures and only has three emotions (happy, NOT HAPPY and pooping). Or how many parts of your brain must work together at high speeds to plan for every eventuality that might happen if you leave the house with your baby so you can successfully pack a diaper bag and not be that idiot parent on the subway with a screaming kid everyone hates because you forgot his stuffed animal with the goofy sunglasses, Mr. Hiphop A. Potamus. Or even the mental marathon powers you must possess to be able to sing “Close To You” by The Carpenters over and over again until he falls asleep without your head exploding.
So, becoming a parent doesn’t mean your brain is on an extended vacation despite how much it looks like that from the outside. It just means your brain is becoming an expert in exactly one topic.
And sure, this expertise won’t win you the Nobel Prize or get you tenure at Harvard. Hell, it won’t even gain you respect, not even from your baby. But it’s a worthy, and happily temporary, sacrifice.
So, to the moms and dads out there, don’t feel bad when you forget things like basic math or that you put your keys in the leftover lasagna from last night or that you can’t remember the last time you had a conversation that didn’t include the word “poop.” You’re not dumb. Your brain power is just going to a higher cause. A cause that will pay off when junior is grown up and happy and healthy and rich and buys Momma that beach house she’s always wanted.