I’m currently reading Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari). This has been such a fascinating book so far, so many new concepts to consider so I’m taking my time with this one.
One of the concepts that has particularly lingered for me is that of the evolution of the way our brains think and process different pieces of information.
Harari comments that the evolution of script (primitive forms of writing) was the catalyst for changing the way our brain processes the world and its stimulants.
“The most important impact of script on human history is precisely this: it has gradually changed the way humans think and view the world” (Sapiens, Harari pg146).
So writing forced us to change the way we thought, viewed the world, functioned in every day life and just generally how we live. Our incredible minds are now so flexible we can change the way we think about what we are doing to consider the vast numbers of variables and stimulants we are presented with as soon as we wake up until we go to bed.
This made me think of the changes our brain and body undergo during pregnancy and becoming a Mum. As a Mum I’m constantly saying how things are different for me since I’ve had kids.
- I place emphasis and value different things.
- I worry constantly (while this not that new from my previous state, now the worry is usually fixed on child related concerns).
- I sleep so lightly I can hear almost any peep from the kids.
- Things that smell awful are tolerable because the kids need me to tolerate them.
- I’ve eaten extremely questionable food that may or may not have come out of my kids discerning mouths (when you’re at the supermarket, what do you do!)
I started to think about the actual science behind actually why so many things change when becoming a Mum. It’s always been something that has been somewhat of a given but reading more widely about the history of humans has made me start to wonder just why this has happened.
I realised I was quickly stepping out of my scientific depth here (having not completed ANY Science for my final year of school) so I turned to Google. It was there I stumbled upon the Guardian’s article ‘Pregnancy causes long term changes to brain structure, says study” (Nicola Davis, 20 December 2016) https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/dec/19/pregnancy-causes-long-term-changes-to-brain-structure-says-study.
(I vaguely remember what it was like not having Google at your fingertips to answer all of life’s questions, a world I will one day have to explain to the kids no doubt!)
Here I learned of the empirical evidence in studies demonstrating a woman’s brain does in fact undergo physiological change, specificity in the form of a slight reduction in grey matter. The study notes that though it’s not certain, this could potentially allow for adaptation to the demands of mothering.
Our brain becomes focussed on helping us bond, nurture and protect our little ones as they are rely on us for survival. Yet, many of us return to work very soon after giving birth when we are still evolving our brains to manage the challenge of mothering an infant (and for many Mums, still sleep deprived and just generally exhausted).
It leads to a fairly simple conclusion. Humans, and the Mums that produce and grow little humans, are amazing.
Those Mums that stay at home are solely responsible for both the nurturing, education, development and entertainment of their kidlets. They are constantly on duty, at the beck and call of the little ones. Constantly prey to their little ones fits of anger. At the mercy of the little one’s precarious moods and responsible for stemming the spurts (or gushes) of tears (that often appear for no reason). But they are exposed to almost all of the smiles, giggles, cuddles and other priceless rewards.
Those that work and Mum somehow manage to juggle the challenges that both generally completely opposed spheres that work and mothering (including all of the above!) present them. The spheres often spill into each other (we worry constantly – we are programmed to do it. And the phone often rings on days off for work) yet we manage – no, we succeed!
So we keep adapting to all of the challenges multitasking mothering and work throws at us – ever changing and evolving to be best equipped to overcome the little (and often big) challenges of every day mothering.