What Parenthood does to your Brain

Image: Domiriel/Flickr
Image: Domiriel/Flickr

Lately, I’ve been pondering the notion that parenting is basically like one big weird science experiment (without the Kelly Brock bits, obviously).

It’s pretty terrifying when you consider that the thousand random choices we make in a day might have a lasting impact on our children. And often my parenting choices are informed by questions like: “What would Lorelei Gilmore do?” or “Which option means I get to spend more time in bed?”

Scary, right? And when you’re a single parent there’s no other responsible adult around to tell you when you’re crossing the border into crazy-town. I think that’s why, if you peeled my head open, iRobot style, you’d see something like this:


Ah, look at Flea playing independently. That’s good, isn’t it?

Unless she’s like those babies that don’t get distressed when they’re abandoned, because they’re used to being ignored, and then they turn into serial killers.

Handy, though, that she only wants a sandwich for dinner after school.

Unless she’s malnourished and developing rickets.

Here have some grapes. Grapes are good for children.

Hang on, is she choking?

I’m so pleased Flea’s got a special friend at school.

But what if that’s only because she’s got no other friends?

Ah, bless. She’s so well-behaved. So glad I don’t have one of those stroppy, moany kids.

Although she could be storing up years of resentment because I’ve crushed her personality by being too strict, and it’ll all come out in therapy and self-harming in her teenage years.

Bedtime. I’m so glad her dry skin means we don’t have to have bathtime too often.

Although what if the other kids think she smells and I’m too used to it to notice?

I’m glad she didn’t worry about doing her homework tonight.

Although not if she’s falling behind her peers and cries at school. 

Anyway, let’s brush her hair. People always tell Flea her hair is gorgeous. That's nice. It’s good to give her confidence about how she looks.

But what if she gets vain and self-obsessed? 

Ah, look at her sleeping so peacefully. She looks so cute.  I made that. I’m ACE.

Oh my God, is she still alive? 


Being a parent fundamentally changes your brain, I’m convinced of it. 



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 10th January 2012 / 11:12 am

    Yes, yes, yes, especially the last one! And it gets worse. At school you briefly rejoice when they get a golden point, then battle envy and inadequacy because little Kevin got two. And you are smug when your daughter ignores a bag of Haribos, then fear she has anorexia. And you’re thrilled at your son’s rejection of gender sterotypes when he carries lipstick in a handbag, the worry that…well, never mind!

  2. 10th January 2012 / 11:53 am

    Oh my God, you are so right. Being a parent really makes you paranoid. I always wonder, if Amy eats enough, sleeps enough, if her toys are stimulating or maybe too stimulating. It’s scary sometimes but I guess that’s how adventures are, otherwise they wouldn’t be called adventures, would they?

  3. 10th January 2012 / 12:22 pm

    Oh so true. And while paranoia is clearly not the most brilliant thing to be celebrating, I’m so glad it’s not just me.
    And I also follow the Lorelei Gilmore approach to parenting, sadly without the witty and sparkling dialogue. The coffee and junk food addiction I can do though…

  4. Nikki
    10th January 2012 / 12:27 pm

    Yep, that paranoia is shared by all I’m 100% sure of it. Yesterday my fears were:
    1. Invited a friend of daughters round for tea – her mum replies that she’s not into play dates at the mo as she’s too tired – my thought, what’s wrong with my house or is daughter being horrid to her at school.
    2. Daughter tells me she’s changed phonics groups – my first thought was up or down. Apparently it’s up – now I’m thinking great, but will she cope?
    3. Called daughter a maniac in haste whilst trying to brush her hair while she’s running up and the down the hallway giggling. Daughter starts singing “I’m a maniac, maniac….” My thought – Oh god, I’ve just damaged her, please don’t use that word at school.
    4. Son’s got poorly dry skin – bit of psorasis and eczema – why didn’t I breastfeed, my fault.
    5. Daughter continually asks if there’s fat on her meat and to remove it as it’s bad for her. Asks is she doing enough exercise. No idea where this comes from – defo not us. Healthy mind?
    You are not alone. PMSL. There is NO manual. :-)) PS Not sure if having two parents helps or hinders – two lots of rules, regs and vices to pick up on – sure that does more damage lol.

  5. Nikki
    10th January 2012 / 12:28 pm

    PS – Who is Lorelei?

  6. Carolyn Hughes
    10th January 2012 / 1:24 pm

    Argh that is EXACTLY the internal monologue I have all day. Glad I’m not the only one!

  7. Hannah Freeman
    10th January 2012 / 1:43 pm

    This is brilliant! New mum of 4 month old – and previously known for being pretty chilled & laid back. Well … Not anymore! Parenthood has totally changed that! Must go – off to research the best way to baby proof the house even though she can’t actually move anywhere yet!

  8. 10th January 2012 / 2:41 pm

    Ahhh, I do love Lorelai. She never seems paranoid. I however am slowly crossing the line to crazy lady!

  9. 10th January 2012 / 7:37 pm

    I love this so true, i was once a sane rational individual as well but 3 and a bit years on my brain would look like scrambled egg if they opened my head up irobot style.
    Cat x

  10. 10th January 2012 / 7:44 pm

    This is all so true! My stress level has risen so high I couldn’t stop my eczema spreading!
    I constantly worry about head lice, small bumps and pains, is she having a lazy eye? Flat footed? Is broncholitis gonna kill my baby?! I think everytime we visit the GP he must be thinking: here we go again…

  11. 11th January 2012 / 12:31 am

    I am in the midst of the school horror at the moment. I was upset last week because the annual school magazine came out and Flea wasn’t in it AT ALL but two of her classmates had three mentions each – CRISIS!
    I’m so tragic.

  12. 11th January 2012 / 12:32 am

    Well, that’s one word for it. I think of it as “slowly giving myself a stress-induced embolism”.

  13. 11th January 2012 / 12:32 am

    I am also glad it’s not just me. It was a very long 20 minutes waiting for someone to comment on this post!

  14. 11th January 2012 / 12:33 am

    Ha! You’re my hero – I have done almost all of those things! But if you had breastfed, you’d just wonder whether your child’s allergies are basically your fault, because obviously you passed them on.

  15. 11th January 2012 / 12:34 am

    Gilmore Girls? One of the greatest TV shows ever. Dig out a box set or try and catch them on E4 – they show old reruns sometimes in the afternoons.

  16. 11th January 2012 / 12:34 am

    It doesn’t get any better. I don’t want to depress you. But it doesn’t get any better 🙂

  17. 11th January 2012 / 12:35 am

    I love everything about Lorelei. Except maybe the rhinestones.

  18. 11th January 2012 / 12:35 am

    I’m sure I used to be a fully-functioning professional woman. Long ago…

  19. 11th January 2012 / 12:35 am

    Flea’s never had head lice. I’m dreading it.

  20. TheBoyandMe
    11th January 2012 / 9:34 pm

    Love it, this is so true!

  21. Nikki
    12th January 2012 / 9:28 am

    Glad to have amused :-)) Not bothered about the breastfeeding bit in particular – just the disapproving looks and noises from others that induces silent rage and slight doubts. Good point though re allergies – that’s my new positive thought on the matter!

  22. Nikki
    12th January 2012 / 9:32 am

    We hadn’t either Sally till last week (I consider that pretty good going- to get to y2 before getting it) – euuuughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Drying hair and saw bugglies running about – lifted hair above neckline only to see about 20 eggs hanging like monkeys off trees. Thank god daughter has blonde hair and I could get them all – god bless the nitty gritty comb. Treated/conditioned/combed through on day 1, 3 and 5. Can’t stop checking now either lol. Yuck.

  23. Insomniac Mummy
    14th January 2012 / 5:45 pm

    Are you living inside my head?!