Come on now, ladies. You all know you’re smart cookies. But did you know that you’re even smarter now that you’re a mom? Despite the fact that some days you feel like you’re losing your mind, motherhood is actually sharpening your intelligence. This week we’re telling you all about how motherhood makes you smarter!
You and your mom friends may jokingly refer to temporary brain malfunctions as “mommy brain” and you probably mean it in a less-than-flattering way. However, research indicates that “mommy brain” may actually have a positive impact on cognition. That certainly seems to be the case with aspects related to child rearing, but the implications beyond motherhood are also eye-opening. This theory was written about by journalist-turned-author Katherine Ellison in her aptly named book The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes us Smarter.
In her book Ellison calls out five areas of intelligence where mothers excel based on neuro-scientific research: perception, efficiency, resilience, motivation and emotional intelligence. These categories cover sensory improvements, time-management, survival skills, research, networking, problem-solving, memory, risk-taking, creativity, prioritizing, multi-tasking and empathy, among other critical skills for mothers.
You may not realize you are improving these important life skills during motherhood, but you absolutely are. For example, the chores you may have had all of a Saturday to complete prior to having a baby now must be squeezed into one naptime – serious efficiency and motivation at work. Negotiating a two-year-old off the temper tantrum ledge takes a great deal of emotional intelligence and resilience. And networking about pediatricians, educational toys and nutritious recipes at your play group are all ways you use perception and motivation to ensure the well-being of your children.
Science backs up these claims as well. In a study done earlier this decade, mother rats showed higher mental capacity than rats without young. This was true in several fascinating iterations. First, mother rats were better able to complete mazes than non-mothers, indicating greater intelligence. They were more advanced at finding food once they had been trained where to find it, showing improved memory. Mother rats were also less stressed when faced with distressing situations such as nurturing and protecting multiple young or defending against potentially dangerous situations.
Longwood University biology professor Adam Franssen’s research shows that many of these cognitive changes are happening during pregnancy. The size of an expectant mom’s neurons is growing and new connections are being made while her baby is growing and developing in the womb. Franssen and others believe this is in preparation for being good mothers and the neurological changes improve a mother’s brain for her new role and beyond. Other research also cites that pregnant women become more perceptive at noticing their environments, from what they see, to what they smell and taste. These are also areas where moms-to-be are honing their skills to nurture and protect their babies.
The skills you acquire in motherhood are applicable in other areas of life, including the workplace, PTO, neighborhood associations, social committees, and daily interactions. The mommy resume should not be ignored when it comes to working hard, strategic thinking, creative solutions and managing multiple projects on deadlines. That’s basically what mothers are doing all day long, usually without being paid!
Additionally, mothers have newfound passion and motivation thanks to their new priorities. Accomplishments come in new forms and have new meaning. That’s not to say that dreams are forgotten, but moms find avenues to channel their goals in new and better ways.
These are only some of the ways motherhood makes you smarter. Later this week we’ll look more specifically at how breastfeeding makes you smarter. Stick around for more brain-boosting benefits of motherhood!
Sources: BabyCenter, Smithsonian, The Bump, The Alpha Parent and The Mommy Brain