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Time spent golfing a sure-fire cure for "Mommy Brain"

By Jennifer Mario, Contributor

Some call it momnesia. Some call it pregnancy-induced short-term memory loss. I call it Mommy Brain.

Jennifer Mario
Seen here putting, golfer and columnist Jennifer Mario says golf is one of the best cures for "Mommy Brain."
Jennifer Mario

All you mothers out there know what I mean. It starts with the first waves of morning sickness and doesn't end until your youngest starts college (if you're lucky). Symptoms range from calling your kid by every name in the family except his own - "Gre-, Cha-, Je-, YOU" - to finding the milk in the microwave.

My theory is, when you become pregnant, your brain, along with the rest of your body, becomes a shared item. And there's only so much brain to go around—you're the family's CPU, and you're operating with just 128MB of SD-RAM. You're flooded with such a large information overload that some of it just doesn't stick anymore. And the more kids you have, the more cerebrally challenged you become.

It's such a universal phenomenon that entire books have been written about it.

Some might argue that this loss of brain function is simply a byproduct of age. They might be right, but I maintain that there's still a causal connection, because motherhood ages you exponentially faster than the mere passage of time.

One of my girlfriends is an executive for a major international corporation. She has multiple degrees from top universities and will probably be a CEO someday. Yet during her recent pregnancy—her first—she casually remarked to me, "Something's wrong with me - I feel like I'm getting dumb or something. I keep forgetting things, and when I walk into a room I can't remember why I'm there." Welcome to motherhood, my friend.

In my case, I have indisputable evidence that my brain ain't what it used to be: Back in the Middle Ages when my husband and I were dating, my husband posed a brainteaser. Three men are sitting in a row of chairs, each wearing a hat. They're lined up such that the one in front cannot see the guys behind him, the guy in the middle can only see the one in front, and the one in back can see the two in front of him. None can see his own hat.

"There are five hats total, three white and two red," explained my husband, "and the three men know this. Someone asks them what color hat they're each wearing. The guy in the front says, 'I don't know what color hat I'm wearing.' The guy in the middle says, 'Neither do I.' The guy in back says, 'I know what color hat I'm wearing.' What color was he wearing, and how does he know?"

My young, agile brain, uncluttered by times and days of future play dates and whether or not the lunches have been packed, zipped through the puzzle quickly and within moments I arrived at the correct answer.

A few weeks ago I recalled the riddle and asked my husband to repeat it, since I had long since forgotten the details. He did, and I pondered it for a moment. Then another moment. "Let's see, if the guy in back knows what color he's wearing, then that must mean that one of the guys in front is wearing ... Oh dammit, I give up!" Where once it had taken moments to solve, now the answer eluded me.

I felt like Charlie Gordon after his surgery wore off. And I blamed my children.

Uncluttered clarity on the golf course

That's why I was so relieved when I hit the golf course the next day. A hole or two in, I found myself working once again on the brainteaser and this time the answer came to me immediately. "Of course," I thought. "Duh!"

Maybe my subconscious was steadily at work on the problem like a hamster trotting along on his wheel during the night. Or maybe on the golf course, the brain has a chance to disengage - away from the humdrum of everyday life, free from worrying about everything from whether we're low on orange juice, to what am I making for dinner, to oh crap, aren't I supposed to be somewhere right now?

Maybe on the golf course, you can focus on just one thing: your next shot. And with that kind of uncluttered clarity, when you pose a question to yourself, the answer comes, quickly and effortlessly, like a buttery 7-iron.

Good to know for next time you're facing a brainteaser, like figuring out who's wearing which hat, or what you should tell your friend who's having marital problems, or how best to approach that problem at work, which just might get you promoted.

So the next time I have a "mommy brain moment," I'm taking my overtaxed cerebrum to the golf course.

Oh, if you want to know the answer to the puzzle, here you go: If the man in back knows what he's wearing, that means he must be seeing two red hats in front of him.
Therefore he's wearing a white hat. Duh!

Jennifer MarioJennifer Mario, Contributor

Jennifer Mario is a regular contributor to the TravelGolf Network and the author of "Michelle Wie: The Making of a Champion" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2006). A graduate of Duke University, she lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina with her family.

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