Someone once said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” And scientific research backs it up. “The Maternal Brain,” an article in Scientific American, says amazing things about the brains of the women we call Mother. Apparently, chemical and physical changes happen in Mama’s mind when she is carrying, birthing, and nursing her children.
Here are a few things that mothers are blessed with in addition to their new baby:
I am guilty of poor multi-tasking. Recently my mobile phone rang while I was driving my kids to school. I took my eyes off the road for the briefest moment—and smashed into the rear end of a BMW. I’ve been told many times that men can’t multi-task. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try, right? My wife, research shows, is three times more likely to successfully multi-task than I am. We have three children, all of whom she has carried, birthed, and nursed. Due to child in triplicate, her brain has received three doses of various estrogen strains that I never got.
Just staring at the face of her own baby gives a mother a rush of endorphins. How’s that for unfair? I have to climb a mountain or build a rocket ship to get the same buzz she gets from playing goo-goo.
HUNT AND KILL
Mice that have been pregnant are much quicker at navigating mazes than mice who are virgins. And when they need to capture and kill prey, they are five times faster! It makes sense—moms have more mouths to feed.
Skills that were beneficial in hunting-and-gathering societies of the past are still useful to mothers in the modern family. Propelling herself out of bed at the slightest whimper, exiting deep sleep and entering the darkness of night, today’s mom weaves her way through unlit hallways, deftly missing couches, tables, and random toys underfoot—arriving at the whimper’s source in record time.
But if you think that’s fast, just watch a mom when her inquisitive toddler picks up a bug from the ground and prepares to eat it. Five times faster than your average non-mother, Mom saves the day! She vaults fences and knocks aside grown men in her single-minded goal to kill the enemy. The bug is unceremoniously squashed. The child cries from the shock. All returns to normal. That is, until the next time the world needs Supermom.
Mothering places demands on the human body to which fathers cannot relate. To help out, the mother’s body releases more cortisol, which will “boost attention, vigilance, and sensitivity, strengthening the mother-infant bond.”1
This gives Mom not only the ability to wait on every little hand and foot but also the desire to do so. Mother mice actually prefer their babies to cocaine! The chemicals that bathe Mom’s brain each time she breastfeeds actually make her feel good. And that’s a good thing, especially if you’re the infant who needs to nurse at 2 AM.
This is why, when Mom says she loves you, you believe her. She’s done amazing things just to keep you alive. And she does love you. It is also why most children do things their mothers ask them to do without knowing exactly why. I was once told, “A sweater is something you put on when your mother is cold.” We all want Mum to be happy—because we love her.
Women are better at finding and preparing food. There, I said it. We all knew it, but now it’s in print, and the men can go back out to the shed while the women make the sandwiches.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I have been unable to find something that my wife claims is in the pantry or fridge.
Mother Knows Best
“It’s behind the milk!” says the wise woman from the other room.
“Nope, already checked,” I reply confidently.
Enter wife (stage right). One simple flick of the wrist and the repetitious rebuttal comes: “There it is, right where I said it was!”
MEMORY, LEARNING, AND LONGEVITY
“Oxytocin, the hormone that triggers birth contractions and milk release, also appears to have effects on the hippocampus [the control center for our memory] that improve memory and learning.”* Amazingly, these effects remain for life.
While some mothers may feel their kids are making them grow old quickly, having children has been shown to slow the aging process. A combination of the hormones of pregnancy and the busy life of raising children floods the brain with all it needs to stay young! This combination results in moms living longer, wiser, more interesting lives. Go, Mom!
WHAT ABOUT DAD?
A young boy, after watching his father leave one morning, asked his mother, “Where does Dad go when he leaves every day?” His mother explained that his father had a job where he got paid for his time. The little boy ran to his room and returned with a handful of coins. He laid them out on the table, saying, “Mom, how much of Dad’s time will this buy me?”
Fathers who spend time with their children bring untold blessing into the lives of those youngsters. Just like mothers, there are benefits to the male brain that result from spending time with their kids.
One research program studied marmoset monkeys and found that male monkeys who were fathers (marmoset fathers help raise the babies) were faster and more accurate at finding containers with food in them. In human homes, the more time a father spends in the house, the less likely he is to be told, “It’s behind the milk.” I have become so suspicious of the milk in our fridge that I have been known to check behind the milk before asking if anyone has seen my socks!
In all seriousness, fellow dads, we’ve got a lot to answer for. We shouldn’t be grunting, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out!” before we are willing to know and be known by our children.
“Father” is one of the most frequent ways the Bible refers to God. The first thing a reader or listener instinctively does is to apply the image of their own father to their perception of God. We bear not only our heavenly Father’s image—we also bear His name. I don’t know about you, but that challenges me!
GOD’S RIGHT-HAND WOMAN
I once heard a preacher say that after making Adam, God took a good long look at the man and said, “I can do better than that.” And He did—by creating woman.
The Bible teaches that after making Adam, God waited until Adam realized he was alone before giving him a wife. Once the man asked for a mate, God put Adam to sleep, took a rib from his side—to show that man and wife were to stand side by side in authority and care of the family and each other—and created Eve.
Evidently, while God had Eve on the creation table, He took great care in making sure that every mom would have all the strength, wisdom, vibrancy, and love He could squeeze into her. The care with which your Creator fashioned your mother is second to none.
George Washington said, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” The wise author of Proverbs said, “Her children arise and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28).
Thanks, Mum. I know it wasn’t easy, but you are God’s most blessed creation. I love you. We all do!
1 Craig Howard Kinsley and Kelly G. Lambert, “The Maternal Brain,” Scientific American, Jan. 2006, pp. 58-65.
* Originally published in the May 2006 issue of Signs of the Times.