The Mommy Brain

Amazon.comIt being almost mother’s day, I thought a few tips about mothers as wives would be good. My comments here are based on information found in The Female Brain by neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D.. As a student, Brizendine realised fundamental gender difference meant we need to look at male and female brains differently. She has made the study of the female brain a major part of her professional life, and  founded “The Women’s and Teen Girl’s Mood and Hormone Clinic” so what she has learned could be put to good use.

In another post I will discuss some of the significant differences in male and female brains at birth, as well as changes that occur at puberty move the two even further apart. Today’s topic is what Brizendine calls “The Mommy Brain”. Women are pre-wired to be more nurturing than men, with pregnancy causing changes making women more nurturing still. Even before a woman knows she’s pregnant, hormones caused by the pregnancy change how she thinks and feels. Priorities change; she become far more concerned about caring for her body, and she feels a growing need for safe and secure surroundings. Hormones make her slow down, eat more, and sleep more.

Even the brain is effected – and changed. Some parts of the brain grow larger, others get smaller, as the brain is restructured. Science is a long way from understanding all of this, but the reality is pregnancy literally changes a woman’s brain.

Birth, nursing, and general contact with the baby produce huge amounts of oxytocin, and this further changes a woman. The needs of her child take precedent over her own needs – and the needs of others around her, including her husband. Mothers reassess almost everything, including their life goals and the baby’s father. A man’s brain is also impacted by birth of a baby (the “daddy brain”) but the changes are not nearly as sweeping or significant.

The bottom line is this, if you married a woman who had never had children, when she became a mother she became a different person. Not completely different, but also not the same. This means you will need to reforge your relationship, making changes, accommodations, and sacrifices all around. Husbands need to understand is this change is not something his wife has done – rather it is a change God ordained by the way He built her. A woman who becomes a mother can no more staty the same than a boy becoming man could choose to keep thinking like a boy.

6 Comments on “The Mommy Brain

  1. (A bit tongue in cheek here), But what about all that politically correct research that says that men and women are exactly the same. They are equal. There are not differences.

    I can relate to this article. My sister became a different person when she got pregnant with her first child years ago. She started driving more conservatively, took fewer risks in life; Just like this article suggests! This is very interesting. Thanks for the post.

  2. I have read the book and found it quite interesting. Even though it is a fact that female and male brains are quite different and built for different tasks inherent to each one’s functions in society and family life (which in fact could well be related with the biblical model for a society and a family), there is something very important that we should also consider. This book does not pretend, by any means to give an answer to all and every issue regarding differences between sexes and their actions and reactions. It very well show the primal nature of both, men and women brain structure, that will definitely will help a lot in understanding some of the main behavioral characteristics that are common in all women and all men, regardless of their nationality, culture, education, etc.

    The book and the investigations, thus the assumptions, claimed in the book does not take in account cultural, educational, experiential, as well as other circumstances, that may as well influence different behaviors in women, therefore it should only serve as a way to understand the basics of certain behaviors common in all women and not to define the reasons why one specific individual acts or reacts certain ways.

    It is an excellent read and should be taken for what it is.

  3. @ djay – I’ve always had a problem with the word “equal” because to me it means the same – and men and women are not the same. In reality our physical differences are far LESS than the differences in our brains.

    I agree that men and women have equal worth and value, but that is different than being the same.

    @ METALOMAN – You are correct, the author has limited herself to one culture, and as such her work can not be fairly applied to other cultures. That said, there is a growing body of evidence that cultural factors are not as significant as has been thought. Certainly the difference in male and female brains at birth are not influenced by cultural thought or learning, and those differences are huge.

    My guess is that much of what we see as cultural is actually a cultural mask put over a biological difference. That is to say each culture paints the same underlying structure.

  4. That is correct, Paul. You are just right. But actually what I meant, and wanted to make clear, is that guys should (must) buy this book, but should not make the assumption that it will be “the complete guide to understanding my wife” kind of book. They should not try to judge or deal with all their wife’s issues based strictly on what is written in this book. You will see that it is very assertive in pinpointing almost all the aspects related to “all women” common behavior throughout the world and the physical reasons for it. They exist and they are true. The hard wiring, the structural aspects, the hormonal, etc.

    When you have issues with your wife (or when you wife has issues) regarding their behavior, change in their usual behavior and/or reactions to any given (maybe specific) act, situation or stimulus, you might actually get to understand most of them and will learn to separate them from those that come from them been an imperfect human being. This book will definitely help you in achieving that.

    Therefore you have to be very careful not to confuse those that might be out of proportion due to other issues that she might be experiencing or that have marked them from past experiences. Those other should be dealt with carefully and professional help should always be considered (for both, you and her).

  5. Yes, my statement about men and women being equal was poking fun at those who would say this. (Thus my preface of tongue in cheek).

    Men and women are different just as this author points out in the research about mens and womens brains being different. Sorry for the confusion.


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