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:





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. […] I was in charge of navigating, which was, of course, a terrible mistake because I was going by memory which — HAHAHA — I don’t have anymore.  […]

  2. […] I’ve written about being a Mombie before. Like when trying to answer questions which were once straightforward. Once obvious. Once easy. […]

  3. Oh so many moments to choose from but the one I will never forget is when I was spending every moment for the first four months of my son’s life sitting/sleeping upright in a recliner. My son was delivered early because his birth mom had preeclampsia and he had a complicated birth which resulted in several things but at that time it wasn’t readily apparent. All this first time thrilled momma knew is that he couldn’t handle any formula, he had reflux, constantly battled constipation but most challenging only could sleep upright comfortably and would only sleep one to one and a half hours at a time. My then husband was afraid to take care of him so I was on my own. So a couple months passed by and I was so completely beyond exhausted. My husband was sitting on a chair behind a footstool and I dropped my son’s binky on the floor. I remembered bending down over the footstool and reaching for the binky. Then nothing. I was out like a light. Was the first time in two months I had been remotely horizontal. When my then husband realized I was no longer moving he woke me up. Lol

  4. When I start zoning out, my kids fill in the blanks for me. Fortunately, they do it in an understanding way rather than playing Mad Libs with whatever I was saying.

  5. ALSO, Target is the worst… I usually end up standing there like the now extinct Do do Bird, looking at the cashier waiting for the receipt….while she’s waiting for me to answer the machine this MIND BOGGLING question…

    Do you want it all on one card?

    YES, DAGNABBIT, Just let me Mother Flipping check out.

  6. I swear, I should just make a card, that has all the information I’m constantly asked at the check stand… Name, phone number, Bank account, shoe size of my third, yet to be conceved child when he’s(she?) is 10… whatever Seriously…and barista at the Starbucks drive through… Do you not SEE the, papers, and cups, and jackets, and all the other tons of SH*T that have piled so high I can barely change gears….do you REALLY THINK I want a CUP holder to throw on the floor once each of my circus members gets their coffee? Or for that matter, an extra cup sleeve, or receipt? STOP SHOVING YOUR TRASH ON ME!

    Oh, and can you throw these 54,839 cups from my last week of not cleaning out my car???

  7. Standing in the shower holding the razor, thinking “which leg did I already shave….either? Right? Left? Neither? Both?” Eyes not focused enough to see which had a week’s worth of stubble….finally after about five minutes of stupidly standing there, it occurred to me that I could probably feel them to tell the difference….

  8. I have wandered my home or driving my car, talking on my cell phone while simultaneously looking for my cell phone!

  9. I also just recently discovered you and I have to say, THANK YOU for existing!! I have read through as much as time would allow so far and I have laughed and laughed and cried and cried. You are an amazing writer with the ability to dig out those thoughts and emotions that, I think, most of us think we are experiencing alone. It’s always so good to know that we are not alone!

  10. I am a constant mombie! The lady on reception at my Drs surgery thinks I am a terrible mother because I couldn’t answer this simple question….’what’s your daughters date of birth?’ After we had established which daughter we were discussing and I had taken 10minutes to work out which month goes with which date, she said very sarcastically ‘you don’t know your child’s date of birth?’

    1. Everyone but me in my circus has an 11 in the date… and I always put it in the wrong place.. Sometimes, i put my kids date, with my year, or my husbands date with our youngest’s year… the lady obviously doesn’t work often with parents… or isn’t herself one… Because it’s usually a bit of a laugh with the receptionists at all my son’s therapists and drs when I have to go through and work it out… Lol

    2. We were in a car accident a few months ago (everyone was fine), and the paramedics asked me the birthdates of my 3 children, starting with the MIDDLE CHILD. My brain was like, “Um, no. Nope. We do not do this out of order.” I’m pretty sure I asked him if I could start with my oldest instead, after a disturbingly long silence.

  11. I have ADHD so my brain is already at WARP speed 120% of the time. No clue what it’s gonna be like when I’m a mom!

  12. […] and you’ll be happy to know I do have a pulse. While I’m not yet a zombie—or mombie, if you prefer—I’m getting pretty darn […]

  13. I’m in Mombieland today. So I looked up your post. *wave*

  14. Laughed through all of this. Thank you. My oldest son is Robbie and my husband is Frank. Do you think I can get them straight??? The other three sons have J names. Really, who thought this was a good idea?? I can usually get my daughter’s name right… but there are times even she gets called by the wrong name. Let’s face it, I gave my brain away!

    It has long been my theory that moms, when they have kids, give their kids half of their brain. By the time you have more than three kids, there is really nothing left. I didn’t realize this applied to adoptive kids as well until I found myself without a brain and never having birthed a child. There are five of them. If I could figure out fractions I would tell you how much I have left. Sadly I can’t.

    1. I have to confess I’ve been known to address my children as “whoever you are” when, having gone through all 4 children’s names, I have apparently still not got the correct name out!

      It could be worse though: my sister has been known to address her daughter by the dog’s name – at least I’m sticking with the same species!

    Then I am trying to explain to my kids that mommy’s behavior just now was not OK, and please don’t copy mommy in public, and mommy needs to manage her stress better, ok? OK. Love you. Let’s go.

    1. Wow, that whole list of questions to swipe a darn card – does NOT happen here in BC (Canada). It asks which account you want it to come out of and your pin. That is it. Yep, I think I would get frustrated with a bunch of questions as well.

  16. One night I was trying to soothe my infant, twin son to sleep. While I was trying to figure out why he was crying, tired? hungry? wet? gassy? I landed on the thought that he must be upset because he didn’t win 2 Oscars. My son hasn’t had any experience in show biz but for a few moments, in my Mombie state, this made sense to me!

  17. You are an incredibly talented writer. I just found you through the piece the Huff Post ran and have been trawling through your blog, laughing and crying, since. I am a new ‘mom’ (I’m a new mum, actually) suffering eyeballs-falling-out-your-face sleep deprivation and pyjama-skin-fusion syndrome. You’ve cheered me up enormously.

    I can’t remember anything I’ve done since my son was born, but when I was pregnant, I went to the supermarket to do a big weekly shop. On my way out, I returned the trolley and took my token, walked to the car and had the sense that something was amiss. Face bright red, I walked back in and reinserted the trolley token so that I could this time take out my bags of groceries before driving home.

  18. Days after I had my second son I was (stupidly) attempting to leave the house for a friend’s son’s birthday party. After probably hours of preparation to leave, I was locking the door to our house (all the while my 7 yo jabbering on about something or another) when I was struck with panic: I forgot the baby! I remember saying out loud, “Oh my god, where’s the baby?!” My other son looked at me like I was nuts, of course, because he thought I was listening to his stories/questions and he calmly said, “he’s right there”. I was carrying my newborn in my other arm. At that point I knew it was probably not safe to be going anywhere, but went anyways because I said we would be there, and fortunately when I pulled up to the house a very dear friend scolded me for even attempting to be at the party with a such a fresh baby (more likely because I looked like I had been run over by a truck and she knew I should be at home sleeping). I asked her to apologize to the family for me and then turned around and went home… at least I think that’s what happened because I didn’t even remember the drive home.

  19. Oh, for crying out loud–I forgot to say how much I enjoyed your post. Linked here from the 20 things article (that was you, right? that’s how I got here? I think that’s how I got here…okay, I have no idea, but however I got here I’m glad it happened) and now will have go back and read everything else!

  20. I just read all of these comments and laughed so much–I think my husband took that as confirmation that I am crazy. Then I went and nursed my baby to sleep, thinking about all the mombie moments I would share once he was in bed. Of course now I can’t remember most of them–that was like 8 minutes ago, after all.

    One that has happened several times: I find myself standing in front of the diaper pail, holding the baby in one arm and a dirty diaper in my other hand, and think to myself, “Okay, now slow down. This is not like putting the milk in the pantry instead of the fridge, it’s important to get this one right on the first try.”

    My husband (a stay at home dad) told me of an incident he had as well, where he picked up his cup of coffee and poured it directly onto his shoes. He was telling me about it and said, “I don’t know what happened. I knew I was supposed to bring it to my mouth first, but it’s like my brain was watching this all happen and just couldn’t be bothered to remind my arm.” He also once poured his coffee from the pot into an empty vegetable can instead of the coffee cup. (Yes, we do keep empty vegetable cans sitting around on the kitchen counter, often right above yet not in the recycling container. I CAN’T DO IT ALL.)

    We’ve both needed to be reminded by our daughter to buckle her into her carseat. And when our second baby was quite new, we all went out shopping and I set my cell phone on top of the car to buckle him into his carseat. When I did this I said in my head, “Okay, do NOT forget that. You put that on top of the car. Do NOT forget it.”

    Somehow we made it all the way onto the highway before “something” hit the back of the car. I was all outraged that something had flown off of someone’s car and hit us until I thought, “Oh crap. Where’s my phone?”

  21. Been there done that one so many times. The other day I woke up with drool coming off of my mouth and it literally felt like a totally foreign thing because it’s been YEARS since I’ve had that happen to me. It was all because my husband rubbed my head to put me into a deep sleep (yes, I’m like a cat and needs my head rubbed to put me in a comma like state to sleep.)
    The next morning when it was time to get up, I swear to you I had no idea how to answer anything for several hours. It was like I woke up with one big huge hangover with no alcohol in my body.
    Loved this post (along with many of your other ones.)

  22. Love this!!! I am adding you my S4S Sunday event. I am focussing on Bloggers this sunday and I think my readers will love you! come check it out at http://www.facebook.com/mommytrying2survivemonday

    ~Queen Mommy

  23. so excited to read your blog after the 20 things someone linked on facebook. Then, i saw you joked about a brain tumor. since my husband had one, it is not a joke to me 🙁

    1. I’m sorry I hurt you with my choice of words, Kary. I know there’s a fine line between an excuse and an explanation. I hope this is an explanation, but you can decide whether you agree, of course. I didn’t mean the brain tumor comment as a joke but as an analogy. I have friends and family members who are currently fighting cancer, friends who have had surgery for brain tumors, and I don’t find tumors or cancer funny. Regardless, I acknowledge that I caused surprise and hurt, and I apologize.


  24. My most memorable mombie moment happened when I was pregnant with my eldest. In fact, I was so newly pregnant I had just been visiting my husband at work to tell him the exciting news. Once we’d had our moment, I went out to the car to go home. I opened the door and stood there wondering where the steering wheel had gone. Then, I had a chuckle at myself and walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door. Now I was stumped, there was no steering wheel on that side either. Then I realised, the steering wheel was on the other side of the car and I had opened the BACK door instead of the front. As I walked back around the car to try again, I heard laughter. My husband’s work was on a very busy intersection and about a dozen people were watching me from their cars, laughing!!!

  25. ROFL laughing until I cried, too.

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