There’s No Such Thing as "Mommy Brain"

I keep hearing this awful, little expression lately – “Mommy brain” – and each time it bothers me a little, but today I heard myself say it and that was it! It’s time to debunk an insidious myth (which I will now attempt to do with great feminist relish!).

There is no such thing as “mommy brain.” I think what people usually mean by that is that a mother, especially a mother of a newborn, is “really tired.” So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that by saying “mommy brain” instead of “really tired,” the message is that mothers are incapable of thinking clearly. Sadly, I’ve had many friends buy into that awful lie to different degrees and actually believe that while their children are young they are actually incapable of really focusing and doing intellectual work. I have heard it from women with graduate and post-graduate degrees even! Nonsense. Fathers of newborns are often just as tired as mother of newborns, but we don’t hear people saying “Daddy brain” when they go off to work as usual.

As a relatively newly-solo (practicing) attorney-mama of a newborn, I readily admit to being extra tired and occasionally losing my train of thought or letting something slip by me at first. I’m thinking this is just another reason why we Americans should follow the lead of our sister industrial nations and provide ample maternity leave (but don’t even get me started on all that…) It just means it might take a few extra proofreads (and I really need to get better at delegating the typo-hunting to my fabulous Client Liaison / paralegal). But I am so thankful to have wonderful, supportive clients and even prospective clients who appreciate and respect what I am doing here and extend me gracious patience.

For example, they let it slide when I do something like accidentally type “Don” instead of “Dan” in a first draft (oops!) because I also manage to make sure that we’ve properly spelled out exactly who should inherit what, when, and how from their estate and ensure that their children are protected and will only ever be cared for by the people my clients choose. In fact, my clients know that as a mom I “get it.” I empathize with their worries because I have shared them. As a lawyer-mama I was able to take my own personal experiences and turn them into valuable techniques for solving the possible legal problems facing any parent of young children.

As for my clients who do not (anymore or, often, yet) have young children, perhaps it helps that for the past two months, since she was 3 days old, they have seen and heard me caring for my newborn baby while I participate in conference calls and meetings with them, and type over her sweet, little, sleeping head.

So to be clear, I don’t have “Mommy brain,” I have a sharp, analytical, lawyer brain…that just happens to be extra tired right now.


About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: or call: 781-740-0848

5 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as "Mommy Brain"

  1. If being very tired and mistyping words is a sign of a mommy brain – then I got it too. Keep plugging – everyone is overworked nowadays! Sounds to me like you are doing what we all should be doing – taking care of our clients (and our families and ourselves). (Cute baby, too).


  2. I hate “mommybrain.” I think what it is is that moms juggle so much and we need to learn to ask for help more so it's not all on us. (Right now it might be all on you, this early in, though :-))

    Right now I am starting a business, trying to find a private school for my daughter, coughing and sneezing with a cold, getting ready for a professional conference, helping my recently widowed mom with Home Finances 101, managing the household, getting a halloween costume together, helping my sister plan her wedding, thinking about what's for dinner, and trying to figure out when my consultant/traveling hubby will be home this week.

    I never have “mommy brain.” I have “lots of balls in the air” syndrome. And I'm pretty proud of it and all that I accomplish each day…typos an all.

    Take care, good luck and congrats for giving yourself a break. Those early months are tough!


  3. Agreed. I never used the term mommy brain. Actually, I had to be really highly functioning fairly quickly (to deal with my dying father and going back to academia in a super male environment) after my daughter was born. They were words I just wouldn't even think to utter given the circumstances. -Christine


  4. Katherine Ellison's The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter (Basic Books, 2006) actually scientifically attacks this theme. Good for you for putting it out there, Danielle. I'm foggy sometimes because I'm trying to do too much, but I'm sure men are too!


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