What Can We Learn from ‘Mom Brain’?

In the not-too-distant past, common wisdom placed the fault for a person’s psychological or behavioral problems largely at the feet of his or her mother. In fact, the mid-20th-century Refrigerator Mother theory formalized this view, blaming a mother’s lack of warmth for autism and schizophrenia. While most of us may not be so confident and scientific today in our conviction that everything is Mom’s fault, this mindset is still with us. When we’re trying to determine the source of trouble, we’re often suspicious of what may have happened during gestation, birth, early childhood, or beyond, in a person’s relationship with parents–and particularly mother. And more often, we direct this judgment at ourselves when something goes wrong.

Well, it turns out the coin has two sides. We moms may have some basis for blaming our problems on our kids.

That’s a facetious oversimplification, but one study has found that becoming a mother causes permanent changes in a woman’s brain: “in the psychology and physiology of a woman.” I find this kind of funny because once again science is telling us something we already knew. Every new mom is familiar with the frustrating effects of “mom brain.” Every mom knows about the lifelong impact of childbearing on the body. And it’s no cognitive stretch to believe the hormonal tsunamis of pregnancy and early motherhood cause disruption to a woman’s brain.

Yet there is a surprise here: these changes are permanent. Moms really are different, we can’t help it, and our husbands and children have only themselves to blame.

In a tide of new discovery in neuroscience, this is just one small illustration of our complexity as physical, emotional, and cognitive beings. We are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made! It’s no wonder we understand so little about how the human mind works–and how brain function is intertwined with our spirits, our souls, and the rest of our bodies. No wonder mental illness and disorder can be tricky to treat–it can draw its dysfunction from almost anywhere, even the most joyous of blessings.

I’d love to hear your reactions to this. What are the implications for psychology and counseling? for motherhood? for the common perception among Christians that mental and emotional difficulties are simply spiritual in nature?

Check out this article and post a comment with your thoughts.

© 2015 Amy Simpson.