Does Having Children Affect Your Memory?

14 October 2011

Early(ish) next year I have one of those landmark birthdays. I'm still deciding whether to fully embrace it, go into hiding or just deny it completely. I've still a few more months to go so there is no pressure quite yet. However with this day looming, I find myself looking back at my former years. The other day I tried to think how I spent my last landmark birthdays ... my 30th, my 21st ... I can't remember either. It wasn't that I partied so hard they both ended in a drunken haze. No, I simply don't recall them.

My memory is patchy at best. I remember useless information: what I ate at a restaurant seven years ago; a dress my mum wore in 1979; the pattern of a wallpaper we had at home in the early eighties. When I look back through Lily and Arthur's baby albums I see babies snapped by the camera to record landmark times: first ever Christmas, first birthdays and such like, yet I struggle to recall any key elements of 'that day or time' ... they just all roll into one in my mind.

Try and take my memory back to life before kids and it really does struggle. Now, to remember when it was just myself and David is strange and surreal. The fact that we moved to a new city, where we knew just one person when Lily was just a few months old makes the line between 'before kids' and 'after kids' all the more definite; quite otherworldly. Yet children have only been part of our life for six and a half years. It's no time at all. My winter coat is older than that.

As any parent knows, it's a 24/7 job. Work, school and other commitments create a tight schedule that your days, weeks and years are organised around. I think it is just 'that' that highjacks your memory. As a busy parent your memory is called upon to store all the immediate and often random stuff you need to draw on frequently.

Take this coming weekend for instance, I need to ensure that Lily's swimming kit, ballet kit and school uniform is all washed ready for next week; I must buy two presents for two birthday parties that Lily is attending this weekend; I've got to pop to the florist to order flowers for a wedding cake I am making; I've a couple of work documents that I need to work on; I need to prep for a meeting with a possible intern for the business; I need to buy a new TV, a hamster cage and ribbon to edge the cake-boards of the forementioned wedding cake; then there are dinners to plan and food to shop for; an untold list of household chores to get through; the balcony needs clearing of summer plants that have died off; there is an Amazon order to return; and I really could do with getting down the allotment. I could go on. I live by lists - it's the only way. The amazing thing is I rarely forget to do any of this stuff.

But then I remember a conversation Lily and I had on the walk to school earlier this week. She asked me what my first teacher was called. It came to me in an instant. She then asked me who my teacher was the next year. It just rolled off my tongue. I ended up naming every teacher I ever had whilst at school. I surprised myself. So maybe it is all still lurking there at the back of my memory, ready to resurface at its own free will, when I least at all expect it.

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