I recently heard some anecdote that women aren’t mentally ready to go back to work until their babies are at least nine months of age – something to do with the brain having dissolved through sleepless nights, hormonal changes and too much nappy-talk into a soupy mess.
Apparently, the soupy mess thing is false, according to the American Psychological Association, which recently found that women’s brains actually grow following childbirth.
The study discovered that “gray matter volume increased by a small but significant amount in various parts of the brain”, namely, maternal motivation, reward and emotion processing, sensory integration and reasoning and judgment. Of course, the article doesn’t actually speculate whether the increase in grey-matter actually assists postpartum women to launch themselves back into demanding careers.
However, it did get me thinking about how I use my newly abundant brain cells during my days with 8-month old Magoo.
Unsurprisingly, and no doubt like many women, I found the transition from working life to motherhood quite tough. GONE is the structure of the 9-5 work day, GONE is the satisfaction of ticking off each little task on the list (or, on many days, ticking off any task whatsoever), GONE is the stimulation of chatting with work-mates all day, GONE are the weekly progress meetings with your manager. This is of course a massive relief, in many ways.
YET, when you have spent the best part of your adult life working to meet Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), where now are you to turn? When is your “work” good enough?
How can I really tell if my baby is happy enough, healthy enough, stimulated enough?
By way of illustrating the situation, Magoo is going through a “fussy eating stage” (shit, let’s hope it’s a stage). For the past few nights, I have prepared nutritious and tasty home-cooked meals, all of which have been rejected in favour of sweet fruit puree out of colourful packets. I am finding mealtimes increasingly stressful because of this. As soon as Magoo sees the bib coming her way it’s pretty much all over.
As usual, my Super Defacto (SD) has a much more practical and laid-back attitude toward all this. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry,” he advises. “She looks pretty healthy to me!”
But how can he be so sure?!!!
Yes, she met her weight and height targets during our visit with the health nurse, but how do we know she is not deficient in heme iron unless we get her tested?
In other words, what are my KPIs?!!!
If feeding your baby were a KPI, I imagine it to read something like this:
by nine months of age, have your baby eating three nutritious, home-cooked meals every day with minimum-to-no fuss, in order to gain weight and height within the “normal range” and have clear eyes and rosy cheeks. Also, have her starting to self-feed without throwing everything you give her on the floor and have progressed from finely-textured purees to little chunky pieces.
Trouble is, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him…eat. And at this point, Magoo is not eating as much as I would like her to.
I understand that having babies means that you have to relinquish control, roll with the punches and all that. It’s just that in so many ways, it’s different to the working life we get used to before we have them, before we get a new kind of full-time job. This time, it’s a job where, all of a sudden, you wake up to find that you’re now the CEO, and that your job description will change every single day.
 American Psychological Association, “The Real ‘Mommy Brain’: New Mothers Grew Bigger Brains Within Months of Giving Birth”, 2010,
http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/10/mommy-brain.aspx, viewed 14 July, 2013.