Mommy brain is a real thing. A recent New York Times article, summarizing the science identifies the evolutionary benefits of moms’ ability to learn new parenting skills and connect with her newborn at the sacrifice of some memory and cognition – “an intensely narrowed focus means a blurrier periphery.” It can start with a constantly misplaced phone or lost keys and progress to the comical – cereal in the refrigerator; mismatched earrings; convincingly calling people by the wrong name. Some moms tell starker stories. Forgetting to fasten the car seat straps after moving the baby from a stroller to the car or serving milk that has been out of the refrigerator too long may raise concern that mom needs more sleep and support.
A testy combination of sleep deprivation, mental exhaustion and emotional distraction leave moms without that extra bit of brain space to manage everyday life. Seemingly simple tasks can fall through the cracks like toddlers stumbling over building blocks. But it takes a true genius mom, a real ace, to totally abandon her most important lifeline to the outside world – the blessed stroller – and forget to put it into the car before driving away on a busy street. With her phone and wallet in the stroller.
The first time I suffered this stroke of mommy brilliance, my sheer panic was interrupted by a surprising wave of satisfaction: this was the first time I had abandoned the stroller on the sidewalk after putting my baby in the car in the 10 burry months since my son had been born. What an achievement! When I remembered that my phone and wallet were with the abandoned stroller, my pride shriveled into exasperation.
I realized my mistake as soon as we arrived home, so we turned the car around and sped back to the scene of the crime. I had left the stroller on a busy corner in Venice Beach, California where a growing homeless population mixes casually with hipsters and surfers patronizing the cafes and bars on the buzzing street. An empty stroller with cash and a phone would not last long. Thankfully, someone had seen the lonely stroller and moved it into a nearby bar. I saw it through the window as soon as I pulled up, and the whole drama was over in less than half an hour.
The second time my genius struck, luck was not on my side. I left it on sprawling, loud Santa Monica Boulevard at a meter stop adjacent to car dealerships and a home furnishing warehouse. A salesperson at the Audi dealer said he had seen it but had not thought to bring it in, and that was where the trail went cold. The only upside was that I found my phone and wallet, which I thought were in the stroller again, in my car. So maybe mommy brain has its benefits.
Now I was faced with a decision. It was 2 weeks before my son’s first birthday, and I knew a stroller would continue to be essential for years to come. But I also knew a lot more now than when we bought our ill-fated first one. That purchase was made before he was born; before we had any idea what life with a baby was really like; before we perfected the shortcuts, cheats and tips that make parenting life just a little easier. I had all that knowledge now, and I was inadvertently given the opportunity to apply it and ask: Do I need to replace the expensive item I just lost or is it time to move on to something new?
This became a surprisingly profound question. The one-year mark is a meaningful milestone for all parents. Around this age, our children are transforming from babies into little people with big ideas and feelings, and it can be hard for some parents to make that transition with them. The anniversary of the birth itself can bring a spectrum of emotions on a deeply personal level. We have survived and thrived as a family in our first year together, and now it is time to move on to the next chapter. It is a good time to reflect on everyday patterns and where we are as individuals, couples and parents. Are we enjoying being back at work or is it time to consider going back? Are both parents contributing fairly and making time for each other? Do we really need all these toys, or should I just invest more in Tupperware and remote controls?
I am not happy that we lost the stroller or relishing the money we will need to spend on a new one. But I am happy for the pause. We will manage without it for now and take some time to think about our schedules and patterns in his toddler years and what we really need. And the biggest question of all: should we get a stroller that can carry two children instead of one? Well, mommy brain is hitting again, and I cannot quite focus on that right now.