On Being a Mombie and Cutting Ourselves Some Slack

Questions. They’re too much pressure. I think we should make a pact right now to stop answering them.

How are you?
Do you want a receipt?
What’s for dinner?
Are you finished in the bathroom?

Sometimes I don’t know.

I’m not trying to avoid the question; I just honestly have no idea.

I’m sorry, Mr. Barista, who’s waiting patiently for an answer while the line piles up behind me. I can’t possibly decide whether I want a receipt. I already made a decision in this coffee shop. It was to order a cappuccino. Then you wanted to know whether I wanted it wet, dry or traditional. Traditional, please; I think; I don’t know. For here or to go? “For to go,” I said. Do I need a sleeve on it? “No?,” I said with conviction.  

The receipt question, though, while well-intended, is a bridge to far, man. My brain flickered and went out, and now it’s stuck in an infinity loop. Do I want a receipt? Do I want a receipt? In this scenario — complete brain meltdown — I’m having trouble processing what a receipt is, much less whether I want one.

It’s not your fault, Mr. Barista. You’re doing a great job.

The problem is me. Or not me, really. It’s the brain tumor. Called motherhood. A big, old lump of motherhood right there in the middle of my brain. It’s progressive, this motherhood, and it causes my brain to respond unpredictably, running enthusiastically at warp speed or grinding gears to full stop. Moderation? Steady as she goes? Pffttt. These things are dead to me.

Sometimes this erratic brain of mine is good for a thousand questions like it should be in the Gifted and Talented Program for Moms, raising its hand at the front of the class and ooh ooh OOH, pick me-ing.

More often, my brain shuts down at the first question of the day, all slack-jawed and put-upon like a grumpy teenager. I think it’s faking. Playing dead. Hoping I’ll leave it alone and let it sleep in. And I’m stuck telling my brain that my kid just needs to know where his undies went, and, honestly, can’t it do this one thing to help out around here? But, no. It can’t. Infinity loop: Where is his underwear? Where is his underwear? What does the word underwear even mean? Why am I standing in the laundry room again?

Here’s what I want to say. My whole point, really.

If you ever feel like a mombie, or a space cadet, or like your brain is stuck in the middle of the highway and all the other brains are zooming past you; if you ever feel like you should be more present, more in the moment, but you can’t get your brain to turn over; you are not alone.

It’s OK.

It’s OK to be a space cadet. It’s OK to have a stuttering brain. It’s OK to have tumor called motherhood — or whatever — that takes over cognitive function or sometimes just shuts it down. It’s OK if your tumor has metastasized to your heart so it goes fluttery and soft and terrified in rapid, missed-beat succession. It’s OK if it’s moved to your lungs and affects the very air you breathe.

It’s OK.

Your brain will be back at the front of the class in no time. Or eventually. Cross my heart. In the meantime, let’s all cut ourselves some slack.


Yeah; don’t answer that. 😉


I’d ask you all if you ever feel this way or to share your mombie experiences, but, you know, questions. They’re hard. If your brain is working at warp speed today, feel free to tell us a story about a time it wasn’t. Especially the one about how you almost went to work in your tights and no skirt; that one’s a classic. For the rest of us momrades who want to encourage each other even though our brains are stalled, we can just wave at each other, like this:





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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. A couple of months ago, after buying groceries at the local produce store, the cashier asked “Do you want a copy?”, obviously referring to the receipt. Obvious except to my sleep-deprived brain. I asked him to repeat what he said because I thought he asked “Do you want a coffee?”. Even the second time he said it, that’s what I heard. I was so confused…Why is he offering me coffee right now? I don’t drink coffee, but I don’t want to insult him. Is he asking me out for coffee, and if so, WHY, because my husband and kids and I go to that store all the time and have had several conversations with this man, who seems to be married to one of the other people who works there! I stammered and blushed and made some unintelligible sounds until he took mercy on me and pointed to the receipt machine and carefully enunciated every word “Do you want a copy of your receipt?” Ah, right.
    I laughed until I cried reading the other comments here last night. About twenty minutes later, I lifted my hand and felt some leftover tears around my eyes and wondered what I had been sad and crying about.
    Oh dear, I fear for you, my little sleep deprived brain.

  2. Leslie B. spoke in my class today about her kid’s magical powers. She was so funny and so cool that I went straight up to her at the break and said,
    “Do you know Beth Woolsey?”.
    Because she just had to.
    She does. Then we good-gossiped you for awhile.
    So glad this town has you to inspire them for their mamas and kids with special powers!!!

  3. Thank you for this post and for all the comments. It’s so heartening to know I’m in good company. I was really starting to wonder if something was wrong with me the other day when I couldn’t remember which was the letter “S” goes. I wasn’t writing it, just thinking about it, not sure why that was on my mind, then I started to panic – I’ve been writing S for like 35 years, how can I not think of which way it goes? And then it was all I could think of and I could picture it forwards and backwards and I had no idea which was right… Sigh. Could be the sleep deprivation, stress, utter exhaustion, million responsibilities, etc. Ya think?

  4. I just found your blog this morning, and you & I must be kindred spirits. I saw this post and I’ve been sitting here laughing with tears running down my face.

    Here is my most recent Mombie moment: We took our kids to a small town apple blossom festival parade. I covered them in sunscreen, my husband, my face, neck, back etc. All fine until about 4pm that afternoon when I looked down and realized I had put covered one arm in sunblock but forgotten the other! Nice reminder for the next week as it healed that I’m an idiot.

    One of my shining moments from when my oldest was two and I’d just had our 2nd boy, (we had 3 boys in 3.5 years, see why I’m nuts?) and we were driving and the toddler wouldn’t stop yelling. We finally get wherever we were going (not a chance in the world I would remember that) and I’m so bugged that he’s screamed the entire way. When I go to unbuckle them and realize I snapped the 2 yr old into the newborn carseat and the newborn into the front facing toddler carseat. *Facepalm*

    My mom’s (also mom of 5) favorite saying growing up was ” I know you got your brains & smarts from me, because your dad still has his!”

    1. I’ve actually done that trick with the car seats too. I snapped at my kid for refusing to get into his (brother’s) seat. Ooops. And guess what, I have 3 boys in 3.5 years too! Plus a fourth four weeks old today, but at least my youngest was over three when he was born.

  5. Last night my husband asked me if the twins took a nap. I said firmly, no. WAIT! Yes. WAIT!! No? YES! He looked at me like I was insane.

    1. Based on your reply to him, I would guess “no”….. I think you should have napped if they did! I keep telling my husband that I haven’t really slept for a year and a half…. Why does my brain exhaust me with busy dreams on the rare occasion that no child wakes me during the night?

    2. Korie, you are so tired. I L O V E these comments. You people understand me.

  6. Yesterday (Tuesday), I took the bus from work to a physiotherapy appointment, only the appointment was LAST Tuesday (yes, I even went to it). So I took a bus back home and chose to laugh at my mistake . . .

  7. Last night, I put the ice cream in the pantry instead of the freezer. It was quite a surprise this morning! And gross…so please, don’t ever do it!

    1. My mother-in-law was a sweet source of entertainment when we went to dinner one night and she offered ice cream for dessert because she had just bought some. When she went to get it from the freezer, she couldn’t find it anywhere….searching finally revealed it–on TOP of the closed freezer.

  8. I hope I remember this post tomorrow!

    I’ve been so hard on myself lately because while my brain doesn’t allow me much it does remind me of how on-game I *used to* be. Like it is teasing me that my glory days are all behind me.

  9. I drive my kids to school EVERY DAY. First the middle schooler and 45 minutes later the 3 elementary schoolers. We have had this routine for Two YEARS. My 13 yo now has on an endless loop as we come to the stoplight to leave our neighborhood “left turn mom; drivers side; we are going left to the middle school; no mom the other way; left turn mom” because otherwise automatic pilot kicks in and I turn right to drive to the elementary school. This happens at least 3 out of 5 days before she started the loop. And that is only because her father drives her to school once a week.

  10. Mombie things I’ve done? Forgotten my kids names, looked frantically for my cell phone while talking on it, had my husband call my phone so I could find it, then notice two missed calls from him later and call back wondering what the emergency is, stand in the living room wondering what I’m supposed to be doing, picked up my baby upside down in the dark because I was so tired and tried to soothe him, forgot to put makeup/deodorant/matching socks on, AND forgotten an entire 6 weeks of my life because my (newly adopted) child wasn’t sleeping more than 2 hours at at time. Like, completely forgot what happened. No clue. Hopefully I fed the children and was dressed most of the time.

    1. Picking up the baby upside down is awesome. I just laughed out loud at your whole response. Thanks.

  11. The tears are steaming as I sit in the dark room of my 3 YO while he goes to sleep… again.
    Tonight at dinner we were discussing having a super hero themed birthday party this year for the kids. We all dress up because it’s halloween season. My hubby says he would have to think about who he would be. And I said “Oooh, you could be a Evil…” Mind is Blank. To which he replies. “Ooh, is that like a baddy? Do you mean villain?” Duh…
    Loving all the comments. I lose my words and mail all the time.

  12. For our anniversary, my partner and I got babysitters for our kids (then 17 mo and 6 mo) and went out to dinner. We came home and visited with our sitter friends for a few minutes…and then they asked “Did you mean to wear two different shoes out to dinner?) *Facepalm*

  13. Can’t stop laughing. I needed a good laugh today, too. Yes, I also feel like I’m not alone.

  14. Oh yes. Just yesterday I told my husband (as though the poor man needed to be reminded), “I used to be organized, smart and fairly pleasant. Now I’m disorganized, stupid and cranky.”

    The quads chipped away the last of my question answering ability before they were even here. When I began to dilate at 28 weeks, I had to be admitted to the hospital. The admissions lady asked 5 bazillion questions and I somehow replied to each of them until she stumped me with, “What are you having?” I asked her to repeat the question and she again asked, “What are you having?” After a minute, I managed to stutter, “Um, babies? Quadruplets? I don’t think I understand the question!” I then began crying. (For the record, she was just asking if I was having any boys and, if so, if I would like my son circumcised)

    Yep, that was the beginning of the end.

  15. Often when I sit down to pee, I assess everything.

    “ok, the toilet seat is up. My pants are down” etc because my brain is so destroyed that peeing just feels wrong and I’m positive that I’ve missed a crucial step in the urination process and I’m about to feel warmth in my pants or pooling at my feet.

    1. On a related note, I am often so tired that I have difficulty convincing myself that I am actually awake and peeing on the toilet, and not just dreaming that I’m peeing on the toilet but actually wetting the bed – probably because any time I sit down in relative quiet, I immediately enter a state of semi-sleep.

  16. Hahaha! Tears are streaming down my face in laughter as I am so eternally grateful I am not alone in this world. What terrifies me is I don’t have any children yet. Seriously, when I get done laughing, I just might cry for real! LOL!!

  17. Can I share a non-mom flake brain story?!

    I decided it’d be fun to have a movie night for kids at my house. Sent out a mass text to about 15 kids’ worth of parents a few days ahead of time. Almost all were so down!! The movie was picked. Everyone was excited.

    About forty-five minutes before the MOVIE night, I had vacuumed, prepared popcorn, moved the couches around to look like a theater, and a a dozen kids were on their way over to my tiny grad student hobbit house.
    when it occurred to me that I…

    a TV.

    1. and???? Please tell me how you saved this situation!

      1. See below. 🙂

    2. Oh my gosh, my husband and I are laughing so hard. And we’re dying to know, what did you do with all those kids when they got to your place?!?

      ps. You are an awesome friend. I’d love to get a text about a movie night for my kid. =)

      1. 🙂
        I face-palmed. Surveyed my options. Thought about how much I really, really, really want to be, slash, be *thought of as*, a capable adult (I’m 24).

        ….And decided instead to swallow my pride and sent out a mass freak-out text to everyone I could think of who could possibly loan me a TV (??!!!).

        The dad of three of the kids coming, thank goodness, had a portable-size flatscreen which he brought over and hooked up to an old DVD player I wasn’t sure even worked (it did.)

        And everyone told me I was their comic relief for the weekend. Y’know, whatever I can take for the team.

        I just think it’s kind of amazing they still trust me to take care of their children…

        pictures here: http://longonstaying.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-kinds-of-crazy.html

        1. You know, you prpbably made some parents REALLY feel more normal that night!

          1. I aim to build others’ self-esteem 😉

      2. and thanks to your ps :-). I am so blessed by the families here!! (I live in the same sleepy Oregon town as Beth :-)).

    3. Emily – as a fellow 24-year-old who works with kids at my church, this makes me very happy. Because we had 20 people (kids and adults) over two Sundays ago and we’re doing it again. Your own blog post relieves me to no end, because my husband and I are only the first kind of crazy: we would invite 15 kids over for a movie no problem… but at least we own a TV?

      A fabulous story, though. Thanks for the read and the camaraderie!

      1. Hahaha! So glad. 🙂

  18. Hug to you. It was nice to see you at Red Hills the other day!!

  19. Fantastic, so nice to know it’s not just me!
    I often turn up to the wrong place – like at the kids school when I’m meant to be grocery shopping. That auto pilot is a killer!

    I too talk to the shopping trolley when I have no kids! I have also been known to hold a teddy and automatically start rocking it like a baby without realising.

    Even WITH a shopping list I still forget a million things at the shops.

    Once I walked into school pick up with my skirt stuck in my undies, there was a guy behind me the whole way, and I didn’t realise for at least a minute when I pretty much died of embarrassment!

    We just bought some chickens and i”ve been reading up on them and couldn’t for the life of me work out what a “roo” was – I’m sitting there thinking, it’s not a kangaroo, what the heck does this word mean. Eventually asked a friend, he looked at me, and very slowly said…ROOster… Seriously, I have two university degrees.

  20. I was so excited this morning when my daughter and I actually got out of the house and arrived at school on time…only to realize that I had totally forgotten to, not only bring, but make her lunch and my coffee. This led to sheer panic on my daughter’s part (I tried to mask my own panic from lack of coffee) as she fretted between eating the cafeteria food or starving. Is it Friday yet?

  21. So I’m a librarian but I couldn’t even spell what I am just now without help from my phone. But that wasn’t even my point- my point is that I just read aloud the word “toothed” as “toot-head” and it took me a bit, murmerming aloud, to figure out what was wrong.

    1. KORIE I love you so much.

    2. Korie, you are so tired. I L O V E these comments. You people understand me.

  22. Oh my word these comments are hilarious!

    The pound of butter. I love it!

    I went to church with my dress unzipped. Not just a little bit and I may it through a very welcoming crowd that way before someone I didn’t know pressed herself up against me to zip it. We’re totally friends now.

  23. I do all of these things…so glad it’s not just me! The one I do most often is forgetting the kids names. I try to play it off like I meant to just call you everyone’s name but your own. Now I just say “What’s your name again?” before speaking…the kids think it’s hilarious.

    1. I am laughing so hard! I have only two kids and can’t keep their names straight! And I remember my mom calling me the dog’s name sometimes.

      1. My all-time favorite was when our dog was doing something annoying and my dad snapped, “Nicky!”–which was my best friend’s name.

    2. OMG!!! I do this all the time! I have 3 kids and my oldest is Tyler. I call him Jtyler (ja-tyler) all the timw because his younger brother is Josh. I have run through all their names including my husbands and the dogs before getting the right one or just asking :whats your name again?”

    3. I have ONE kid and occasionally can’t remember his name! I get him mixed up with my brother – who is about 15 years older than my son. Thankfully, it’s not just me who mixes them up. My parents have done it too and we’ve been doing it since my son was born. Now we just shake our heads and correct ourselves.

      Matters did not improve when my brother married a woman whose name is one letter off from my son’s name… And my name, my son’s name, and my SIL’s name all start the same way. We don’t believe in having a variety of names in our family, apparently.

  24. Last week I sliced my finger, but good, with a bread knife. I actually had to get stitches. They told me to come back in 10 days to get them removed. I couldn’t find an afternoon time that would work, so I scheduled a half day at work so I could take care of it in the morning. I even did this far enough in advance to get a really good substitue, so I knew my classes would be okay. Since I was taking the time off, I also made an appointment to go into my son’s school and talk with his teacher.

    This morning, my husband and I went into school. Then we went out for coffee. Then we went and looked at pets in the pet store. Then I said, “Well, I’d better be getting to work.”


    I couldn’t figure out another time in the next few days I could get in, and I am not tough enough to just take them out myself. So I had the embarrassing ordeal of calling in and begging another teacher to cover my next class, since we only hire substitutes in 4 hour increments. I was all, “Um, the line at the emergency room was a lot longer than I anticipated…oh, and also I didn’t show up until about almost two hours later than I should have”


  25. I USED to pride myself on never forgetting a face. Once I birthed that second baby though, my memory just flushed itself. I am constantly seeing people and thinking, “how the “h” do I know them?” I spend long periods of time staring at their faces trying to remember. When my kids were much smaller we took them to a children’s museum in the Los Angeles area. This man, who I kept seeing at every turn, was SO familiar, but I couldn’t place how I knew him. We kept making eye contact and I knew he was thinking the same thing. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I asked him, “Have we met before?” and he replied (with a nervous little laugh), “uh, I don’t think so.” My husband grabbed my elbow, steering me away and whispering, “That’s Brendan Frasier!” Ugh.

    1. Oh my gosh!!! This one wins my vote for first prize!!! I’m still laughing!!! HAHAHAAAAAA!!!! *siiiiiiigh* Bless your heart for lifting my spirits. My very good friend had the same experience except the man was her OB/GYN that delivered her baby 2 months previous.

    2. I was at a restaurant where Noah Wyle was eating a few tables away from us. I knew that I knew him…but same thing…didn’t make the connection where or how because I surrendered that with my memory. So I make eye contact, give him a nod, smile, wave and say hi from across the tables. It took me a good half-hour to figure out why he was so baffled and awkward in response. And for that whole time I was thinking, “Geeze, what’s wrong with him?!? Why is he acting like he doesn’t know me and thinks I’m crazy?”

    3. I LOVE that your name is “Mensa” and you are contributing a story!

      1. Unfortunately, I married that name. I can’t lay any claim to it.

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