is it okay to mention “mommy brain” in a job interview?

A reader writes:

I’m curious whether you think it’s ever okay to mention that you have “mommy brain” as a sort of disclaimer to an interviewer. I ask this because I am a new mom (five months postpartum), and I noticed that since I’ve gotten pregnant and especially since I’ve had my baby, I feel less mentally “sharp.” There are often times when I don’t speak as clearly or as concisely as I used to and I often forget words — sometimes right in the middle of a sentence — and when that happens, I kind of blank out and it’s a bit hard for me to recover, especially in the middle of an interview.

I had an interview in November where I feel I was off my game and definitely not the same sharp, charming candidate I was prior to getting pregnant or having a baby. I haven’t heard from the employer yet, which I know can be totally unrelated to my performance in the interview, but I do wonder if my general mental fogginess negatively impacted me for that role.

There have been scientific studies which suggest that women’s brain chemistry does in fact become impacted by pregnancy, and the brains of women lose about 8% of their mass while pregnant, with unknown cognitive impacts. So “mommy brain” is likely not some dismissable misogynistic stereotype but a biological reality for many, and I feel I am experiencing that at the worst time for me career-wise!

So, do you think its ever okay to mention “mommy brain” to an interviewer? And if so, how?

Nooooo, do not do that!

It’s possible that you’ll have an interviewer who’s sympathetic, but it’s very, very likely that you’ll instead (a) highlight the mistakes, (b) make your interviewer think that you’re bringing motherhood into a business situation in an inappropriate way, and (c) make them wonder if you’re ready to come back to work. Fairly or unfairly, at a minimum it will make many interviewers uncomfortable and at worst will make them worry that you’re not up to what they need for the job.

If you’re in a situation where you feel like you have to say something to explain, for example, forgetting a word, I’d rather have you say “sorry, brain blip!” instead of attributing it to being postpartum.

{ 293 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Even if you don’t have misogynistic motivations doesn’t mean no one else will when they hear it.  The term, although rooted in facts, is still dismissive and demeaning to women and is rife with negative implications and stereotypes.

    You can say you need a minute or two to gather your thoughts.  That mental slip can happen to anyone — moms or not.  That’s the neutral ground where you need to stay.

    1. Blurgle*

      The “science” is actually poor. Pregnancy and motherhood are stressors, certainly – but they’re not the only ones. It comes across as really “tee hee, I’m a feemale, you can’t expect me to think!”

      1. Temperance*

        It hearkens back to a time where we weren’t really allowed in the workplace because of our delicate sensibilities.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. And when all kinds of “science” was busted out to explain why were weren’t physically or emotionally capable of doing our jobs.

          On the brain size thing, the study that seems to get cited to all the time examine nine healthy pregnant women and five with pre-eclampsia, and found changes in brain volume (as measured on an MRI) that were reversed six months after delivery. No conclusions about how this affected memory, thought or anything else.

          1. Honeybee*

            And neuroscientists aren’t actually sure whether human variation in brain size has anything to do with cognitive function, either.

          2. Robert Bobby*

            Thank you for pointing this out and providing a link to the study! Sadly, journalists and science writers like to read the results of a study and draw their own conclusions, even when the evidence is lacking. The study wasn’t even trying to make a connection between brain volume and cognitive function, but that’s how it’s been interpreted, unfortunately. Sigh.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yes, this. I’d react super negatively to this as an interviewer. Um, plenty of moms are plenty sharp.

        1. MommyOP*

          Didn’t mean to imply or even suggest that mothers aren’t sharp, just to highlight in as clear a way as I could (so as to get a point across for the readers) how my mental acuteness has certainly been affected by my major life change!

          I definitely find that there are other ways I have biologically changed in positive ways, but this is absolutely one way in which I feel I’ve been hindered.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            No, I know. I didn’t mean to pile on!

            If this has changed your biology, then that’s your new reality. It’s not “mommy brain,” it’s you, for better and for worse. They’ll assess that in the interview. It’s possible that you with “mommy brain” isn’t the right fit because they need someone who can think on their feet better than you can now, but that’s no different than if you had simply always been someone who wasn’t quick on her feet, right?

            1. Meg Murry*

              If this has changed your biology, then that’s your new reality

              This times 1000. FYI, OP, while the fog and fuzziness will get a little better once you start getting more consistent sleep (and if not, you should have a checkup to make sure you aren’t vitamin deficient – my iron and vitamin D were both way low postpartum), this is pretty much your brain’s new reality – so you need to figure out ways of making it work for you, because you probably won’t be ‘bouncing back’ to your original pre-pregnancy, pre-baby brain (or body either, but that’s a different matter). So you may need to come up with new coping skills – like the previously mentioned pausing before you start to speak. Or for me, this means I had to learn to take much better notes and be much more organized with my paperwork and writing things down – because my amazingly good memory that I had coasted/leaned hard on could no longer be counted to fill in the gaps. Someone once said to me “look at you with your color coding, you are so organized!” and I admitted “no, this is the only way I can have a clue as to what is going on, because I just can’t hold it all in my brain anymore.”

              Not to pile on, to you OP, but while the fuzziness will get better, it’s not going away. And if someone is hiring you, they are hiring you at the level you are today – not where you were pre-pregnancy, not where you will be in a year.

              1. Anna*

                I was just going to say that a lot of it might be lack of regular sleep, so it’s probably not a permanent state, which make it all the more crucial not to draw attention to being temporarily scattered.

                1. BananaPants*

                  This is very true. I had this to a surprising extent after our first was born, but working in a mostly-male environment there was NO way I’d have ever admitted it to my coworkers or actually used the term “mommy brain”. I sort of soldiered through and developed some coping skills so I didn’t feel like a total moron in meetings, and eventually it went away.

                  The scattered feeling or not being able to think of a word or concept decreased very dramatically once the baby was consistently sleeping through the night and I wasn’t waking up myself to nurse several times. The mental scatteredness didn’t really happen at all with our second baby, probably because I was already used to functioning on interrupted and irregular sleep.

          2. Blurgle*

            I don’t think you get that you’re not pointing out a temporary issue. You’re making an excuse.

            1. MommyOP*

              Interesting that you say that. I see it as an explanation and not an excuse? What about it makes you think excuse and not explanation?

              1. anoooooon*

                Because it’s like saying, “Sorry I’m having communication issues, I didn’t sleep well last night” or “Sorry I forgot the word I wanted to use, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet”. It immediately makes you look defensive.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Well, sure, but that means it’s on you to come up with strategies to compensate for the challenges you’re currently experiencing. This makes it sound like you think not being as sharp is excusable because you have a kid, and it opens the door for people who already hold prejudices about mothers in the workplace to go, “See! Women ARE less capable, particularly once they have kids.”

            Since having my children, I find that I do not have the laser-sharp memory that I did before that, but I chalk it up to (a) having a kid who physically does not need as much sleep as your average kid (and thus my not sleeping well for the past 8 years) and (b) having a lot more to remember now between appointments, activities, and homework on top of work. (NOT some overwhelming biological thing that uniformly affects all moms.) It’s not that I’m less sharp, it’s that there’s more of life to deal with now. I’ve started relying upon reminders and calendar invites for nearly everything, particularly if my husband needs to be in the loop, too (and he usually does because he works part-time and does a lot of the actual appointments/pickups). I prioritize what actually needs memory versus what can be put into a reminder system to poke me. (I would rather calendar “prepare memo for boss” and have a reminder sent to my email than show up at the meeting with my boss unprepared.)

            1. Ashley the Paralegal*

              I’m glad I’m not the only one dealing with years of poor sleep. Calendars, task lists, taking notes and setting reminders have all been essential to me not looking like a total fool at work/life. I feel your pain!

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                And, if your user name is accurate, you’re in a high-attention-to-detail position! My hat is off to you for doing that on poor sleep, it can be a tough job even under ideal circumstances.

                My kid is awesome, but his two-years-younger sibling slept through the night reliably before he did! When your six-month-old is out for 10 hours and your 30-month old goes max of three in a stretch, it really messes up your world view. He’s in elementary school and sleeps MAYBE 6 hours a night, if we are lucky. We’re dragging, and he’s raring to go… maybe I should have HIM keeping the calendar/reminders! :) He does have the memory of an elephant.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I remember once dragging around the office at 3 a.m. preparing for a huge trial, and bumping into a co-worker who (like me) looked like ten miles of bad road. When I expressed surprise because I hadn’t known he was in trial, he said “I’m not. The baby isn’t sleeping through the night.”

            2. Bunny*

              Very much this.

              I am not, and will never be, a parent. But I have always had a scatty brain. I’m smart – very smart – but I have a poor memory for things-that-are-not-numbers and will often stutter over my words as I temporarily forget them.

              And I’ve never excused a brain-fart in an interview by hand-waving my memory issues away as something amusing or cute. Instead, I’ve turned it into a thing that has landed me jobs in interviews.

              When they get to the “tell us about your weaknesses” part of the interview, I bring up my memory. I make clear my awareness of it, and explain that it has helped me learn excellent organisational and record-keeping strategies. That whatever it is I’m doing, I’ll have a spreadsheet ready for it. That I will always have meticulous notes, and that I can – and have – easily and quickly turn those notes into quality training and instructional documents to help colleagues. That while I might not be able to offer an off-the-cuff answer to a scheduling question, if you give me a good minute and a half to open my folder-of-spreadsheets I will be able to give you a detailed answer and will have anticipated your follow-up questions because *there’s a column for that in the spreadsheet, too*.

            3. Ruthie*

              Yes! Turns out, all those studies that stress the importance of sleep are right. My one-year-old doesn’t sleep through the night, and I feel like I’m always one step behind work conversations.

              You know who feels the same way? My husband. But of course, no one is concerned about Daddy Brain.

              1. BananaPants*

                YES. No one assumes a male worker is any less capable, and a new dad who forgets something in a meeting doesn’t blame it on “daddy brain”. People may rightly assume he’s not firing on all cylinders because he has a 2 week old and a recovering partner at home, but it’s not an excuse. A female worker who’s a new mom does the same thing and it’s a cutesy “mommy brain” wave-off for why she isn’t as capable as she used to be. You figure out ways to deal with the memory lapses rather than making excuses.

          4. TW Andrews*

            On one hand, I think it’s great that you genuinely seem to have expected that your interviewer would a) know about this and b) wouldn’t immediately hold it against you. It speaks to your general expectation that motherhood shouldn’t limit you, and I think that’s fantastic, I hope my daughters grow up with the same internalized belief!

            Other commenters have already pointed out that there are better ways to phrase your point, so I’ll make a more general one–if there’s a situation in which you performed below expectations (your own or those of others), the approach I’ve found works the best for me is to just say, “sorry, that didn’t go as well as I hoped/as it previously went/as I can make it” and then ask for another shot, give an example of it having gone better, or simply leave it at that.

            The goal of the apology isn’t really to apologize, but to refocus them on the possibility you can do better. Any details around why your performance wasn’t good keeps their attention there, and not on the potential for an improvement.

            It may be the case that they will ask, in which case provide the necessary explanation, without too many details but also without sounding evasive(!), and reiterate that you can/have done better.

          5. HREscapee*

            Here’s the problem – you don’t know who you’re saying this to. I work in a highly technical field now, but previously, I worked in HR and my degree is in Biochemistry. If a candidate started citing studies at me, they’d be going straight to the reject pile because one of my biggest pet peeves is “laypeople” citing studies they themselves haven’t actually read and that they themselves don’t actually understand. The study you’re citing, for example, studied fewer than 20 pregnant women and drew absolutely no conclusions about cognitive function – and similarly, very little research has been done about reduced brain volume and cognitive function. You are drawing that conclusion from the study because it makes sense to you and it’s convenient for your current cause (which is how a lot of people without formal scientific training take these things) and citing it to legitimize your statement, when it doesn’t back it up at all. That kind of thinking won’t work in my industry, so we’d be done at that point.

            I encourage you to think more critically about the sources of your information and to form your own opinion of the evidence, not just cite what some blog you read told you a study means. And to not assume that your interviewer doesn’t actually understand the medical evidence and is unimpressed by your citation.

            1. Honeybee*

              I want to take this comment and frame it. I’m trailed as a health psychologist and I have the same reaction to this kind of thing.

          6. Clinical Social Worker*

            I think this is less “Mommy brain” and more chronic sleep deprivation. New moms, med residents, folks who work pm/midnight shifts all have the “brain fart” that lasts longer than it should and word slurring. New moms (and dads) are chronically sleep deprived.

        2. RoseTyler*

          Yes. I don’t know if I could keep a poker face if an interviewee said that to me, and it would definitely be something I’d mention to the hiring manager.

      3. blackcat*

        The science of sleep deprivation (particularly long term) having these sorts of effects is pretty solid.

        It’s not “mommy brain.” It might be “sleep deprived brain.”

          1. Cucumberzucchini*

            Regardless of “stressor brain” or “sleep-deprived brain”, just curious, does the research indicate these are permanent changes or perm?

                1. Cucumberzucchini*

                  Haha, no. Not too long ago I went through an intense stressful period… well two years almost with no downtime and extremely high stress… and I’ve found myself having short-term memory problems I have never used to have. I’ve always had really good recall and now I feel almost brain damaged from the experience. I’m not stressed out anymore and it’s been about 5 months since the end of that stressful period. I’m just wondering if it’s just going to take more time to get my normal memory back and was curious what sleep-deprivation/stress research might say.

        1. MommyOP*

          In my case I am personally not necessarily sleep deprived. For the first 2 weeks of my son’s outside of the womb-life I was absolutely sleep deprived. In that situation I could barely put 2 sentences together!

          Since about 4 weeks postpartum, my son sleeps through the night, only waking for a few minutes maybe 2x a night for feeding. I get more sleep than many of my unwed, non-parental co-workers. I am totally convinced theres a biological component at play here.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Being woken up twice a night every night to nurse is stressful and is an interruption of sleep.

          2. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

            Those few minute interruptions might still lead to poorer overall sleep quality.

          3. Observer*

            Also, and the little SOLID science there is seems to back this up, you do have a whole new and extremely important set of issues to keep track of. At one level, you are not thinking about your baby’s feeding as a major big thing. But on another level, one that you are probably not conscious of, you are thinking about it that way, because ultimately it’s your baby’s survival. So, you notice and track toms of information that you may never even have been aware existed before.

            1. Honeybee*

              I remember watching my cousin sleep while her daughter (a toddler then, maybe 2 years old) slept on the floor beside her (she’d wandered into the room in the middle of the night). Every time her daughter turned in her sleep, my cousin fidgeted in her own sleep. At one point the girl’s breathing changed – I think she stopped breathing for maybe 2 seconds and then coughed – but my cousin woke up and leaned over the bed to turn the girl into a more comfortable sleeping position and open her airways.

              I think these things may only be semi-conscious, but they’re still there.

          4. pieces of flair*

            You might be surprised how severely those brief interruptions in sleep can affect you. My 2-year-old didn’t sleep through the night until about 3 months ago, but I wasn’t too bothered by it because she would wake up usually just once a night, nurse for 15-20 minutes, then go back to sleep. In terms of time spent sleeping, I was doing fine.

            At the same time, I was having a lot of problems with mood, memory, and ability to concentrate. I thought I was seriously depressed. I finally sleep trained my child and once she started sleeping through the night, all the problems I was having magically cleared up. I’m not necessarily sleeping more, but my sleep is not interrupted anymore and it’s made me feel 100% better.

            I’m not saying you should sleep train your baby yet (although I definitely don’t recommend waiting 21 months like I did!), just that you shouldn’t discount the impact that getting up with him at night might be having on your cognitive abilities. I don’t think there’s anything about “mommy brain” that can’t be explained by stress and inconsistent sleep.

          5. BananaPants*

            Working mom of two here – you really just don’t get as much restful sleep when waking to feed a baby twice during the time you’re used to being asleep. It makes it less likely that your body will get into and stay in a sleep stage that’s restorative to your body and brain. If you’re a nursing mom and/or are co-sleeping or room sharing it’s compounded even more because those tend to keep mom into a lighter sleep state; you sleep less deeply as a protective measure for the baby.

            We couldn’t room share our babies much past around 6 months because I was *so* attuned to the baby’s presence a few feet away in the bassinet – if she rolled over and whimpered in her sleep, I woke up. Even though she was still waking to nurse once overnight, I slept SO much better when she slept in her crib in another room.

            With both kids the scatterbrain lifted quickly once they were sleeping through the night or were only waking once to nurse AND were not sleeping in our bedroom. The sleep deprivation scatterbrain didn’t affect me as much with the second baby, probably because I’d already found coping mechanisms like making lists and keeping a calendar and to-do list.

            Regardless of the reason why, you certainly don’t want to draw attention to it in an interview in such a gendered way. You’d be better off blaming a “brain blip” as Alison says, because EVERYONE has those from time to time.

          6. Ruthie*

            I’ve also found that nursing itself drains me of my energy. I love it, and am still at it 13 months postpartum, but my friends have confirmed that their sharpness returned after weaning.

          7. HRChick*

            “I am totally convinced theres a biological component at play here.”

            And here’s your problem. You are clinging to this excuse based on weak “science”. Despite reasonable alternate explanations, you want this to be true. It’s not that you’re tired. Or distracted. Or out of practice. It’s “mommy brain” – you want this to be a medical excuse for your state right now.

            Except it’s not a reasonable medical excuse. It’s a cutesy cop-out. That’s why you shouldn’t use it.

            1. PlainJane*

              Adding to this: as someone upthread pointed out, female biology has been used as an excuse to justify discrimination for a long, long time. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that, in the aggregate, there are differences between men and women. But we need to be very careful about blaming lapses on our gender, because when we do that, we’re essentially saying, “I’m less capable, because I’m female”–and expecting to be given a pass for it.

          8. Honeybee*

            You would be surprised how much small interruptions in your sleep can affect your cognitive function the next day. There’s quite a bit of research on this in people with sleep apnea, who wake up for a few seconds throughout the night (because they involuntarily stop breathing) but don’t even realize that they’re waking up. Over the course of the night the total interruption time might only be a few minutes, but they have marked decreases in cognitive functions the following day. A couple of my friends study sleep and it only takes really minor disruptions in a good normal sleeping pattern to make a difference.

        2. Suz*

          Exactly. I had a bad case of sleep deprivation when my dog was sick for a few months. She is my fur-baby so maybe it really was mommy-brain.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I’m a hopeless night owl who has to leave the house for work by 6:00 in the morning, so I basically never really get enough sleep.

            I used to get up at 4:00 to give my elderly dog the pill she had to take an hour before breakfast, go back to bed for 45 minutes, and then get up again for real. I did this for almost two years.

            I don’t use that as an excuse, though. My sleep issues, my problem.

        3. MsChandandlerBong*

          I don’t have any kids, but I haven’t had a good night of sleep in years. In fact, the last time I felt rested was April 17, 2006 (I only remember because I had a minor procedure that day, and they used Fentanyl; I woke up feeling I had the most restful night of sleep ever, and I didn’t feel groggy or sick like I do with general anesthesia). Most mornings, I stumble around like a drunk for the first hour of the day, and it takes me two or three hours to really get going. It’s a good thing I’m self-employed; I’d never make it in the corporate world.

          1. Honeybee*

            A lot of people in the corporate world stumble around like a drunk for the first hour or so of the day, too. I know my brain doesn’t really charge up until I’ve had a coffee, lol. One of the reasons most people hate morning meetings.

      4. Honeybee*

        Yeah, I was going to say something like this. There are a lot of things that change brain chemistry that people of all sexes and genders experience. Some things are more appropriate to highlight than others, but all have the risk of bringing attention to mistakes an interviewer may not have notice and shedding some doubt over whether or not you are ready to return to work.

    2. CDJ*

      I would rather attribute a blip to interview nerves. In fact, that’s what I recently did! I had gone through multiple interviews and completely spaced the names of two of the interviewers when I came to the final interview. Honestly, I was just nervous. So that’s what I said “I’m so sorry, but I forget the names of the two women I met with earlier – Interviews can make me a bit nervous!”. Any interviewing manager who is human will be understanding.

      I was offered (and accepted) the job on Friday with a small company that has a very involved interview process to screen for the right skills and culture fit. So obviously, my “blip” wasn’t enough to scare them away!

  2. J.B.*

    No, please don’t! Also know this fog is not forever, you can get your sharpness back. But it depends on having enough sleep and having kid things largely under control. That does happen, even if it seems like it never will.

  3. Blurgle*

    Oh, no. Oh no no no. I’d infer that you believe women – not just you, all women, even non-mothers – are less competent and talented and worthwhile than men.

    It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and it’s really awful.

      1. Myrin*

        Right? There is no expression for this term in my language and I’d never heard of even the thing itself before starting to read this site but it’s always, always made me uncomfortabe and I cringe everytime I so much as read it. Can’t even explain why but I think the infantilising is a big part of it (I’m creepd out by baby talk in general).

          1. Penelope Pitstop*

            This!! Thank you for giving voice to this. I cringe anytime ‘mommy’ is used by anyone who’s over the age 10. To me, it’s an awful stew of patronizing, smarmy and infantalizing. And don’t even get me started on “mommybloggers…”. :), sort of.

            1. matcha123*

              “Mommy” was never in my or my sister’s vocabulary when we were little. Honestly, I really hate that word. And “daddy,” too.

        1. Tau*

          True – “Mama” is the closest I can think of, but you wouldn’t use it in the same contexts. And “Mamagehirn” sounds like a brain has managed to reproduce somehow (Mamagehirn und Papagehirn und das kleine Babygehirn… just me?).

          1. Myrin*

            Oh Gott, aufhören bitte! xD
            I hadn’t thought of it that way before but now I definitely do. Forever.

      2. OriginalEmma*

        I experience an almost reflexive cringe when adults use infantilizing words, too. Mommy, belly, tummy, daddy, potty, and more I cannot recall all make me skeeve when adults say them.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          I agree except for ‘belly’, which is a good old Anglo-Saxon word which I happily use whenever I feel the need to.

        2. Liana*

          I honestly thought I was the only person who hated the word “tummy”. I was once casually seeing this guy who wasn’t feeling well, and he kept saying “my tummy hurts” and it was just such a turn off.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            EEewwwww. Yeah that would leave me flaccid (and I’m a woman). Gross. I’d so much rather hear a guy talk like a disgusting bro (“Brb, gotta plop”) than a baby (” excuse me, have to use the potty”)
            blurguururuuuuugggghh now I’ve grossed myself out.

      3. AcidMeFlux*

        Oh, thank you! “Mommy” is what kids call their mothers. Using it otherwise is just infantilizing. Enough already (and I’m still reeling from the dodgy science of “mommy brain”. Really, is this OP punking us?

      4. BananaPants*

        I cringe when a grown woman refers to another mother as “mama” or “mommy”. The only people who get to call me mommy are my children!

  4. Bend & Snap*

    Oh God no. I’m a mother and totally get mommy brain but that term shouldn’t be used in the workplace.

    Interview practice and talking to adults about things other than the baby/motherhood should help. My brain sharpened back up once I came back to work and wasn’t trapped with an infant all day.

    Definitely try some adult interaction and other brain exercises to help with this.

    1. overeducated and underemployed*

      Yes, this. Practice and preparation can make up for so much! And if you need a minute to think that’s fine – I’ve never had anyone react negatively when I’ve said, “hmm, I’d really like to think about that for just a moment before answering,” and it sounds like you’re being thoughtful, not slow.

  5. Regina*

    Even though it may not be the reality for the person in question, my understanding is that a lot of people experience pregnancy very differently from each other and some mothers may not want the term “mommy brain” to be tossed around casually when it could hurt their careers and further bias against women.

    1. Ad Astra*

      That, and “Mommy brain” attaches that fog to a specifically female condition, which isn’t fair. There are 10,000 different reasons that may cause someone — man or woman — to be feeling a bit foggy.

  6. Menacia*

    I think the issue is being distracted, and overwhelmed by the change in your life. This can occur for many people, related to different events, not just having a baby. You need to make the time to compose yourself, prepare as much as you can, even going so far as to practice interviewing, get a good night’s sleep (this could be part of the problem!), and focus on the interview. I really hate it when pseudo-science creates these “syndromes” to explain something that could otherwise be something completely rational. Please don’t believe everything you hear/read about how having a baby makes you less than what you were previously. Employers definitely don’t want to hear about it, and it will only make you stand out (in a bad way).

    1. Analyst*

      +1 on the sleep issue. We don’t realize how hard on the brain and body the lack of solid sleep is until we’re in the thick of it with a baby. When your kid sleeps through the night, the mental clouds will probably lift. But yikes, don’t say anything about it in the interview.

    2. Sunflower*

      I really agree with this. Honestly reading the description of what’s happening sounds pretty standard for me when I’m dealing with personal problems(distraction) or even when I’m dealing with bouts of depression. I’ll often start sentences and forget midway through where I was going with it. Or I won’t be be able to finish my thoughts. Or it’s just harder to process information. And yea the only thing that has worked for me is telling myself I need to buckle down and really focus.

  7. A Non*

    I usually say “sorry, I’m loosing my words” when I need a couple of attempts to get the right thing to come out of my mouth. At least, that’s what I call it when I remember not to say ‘brain fart’ at work!

    1. MillersSpring*

      I disagree about mentioning “my words.” It sounds like the reminder you give to toddlers learning to talk: “Use your words, darling!”

  8. Temperance*

    If a professional adult used the phrase “mommy brain” to me in the workplace, much less during the interview, I would unquestionably lose faith in her as an employee and not hire her if I was an interviewer. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

    Using the phrase “mommy brain” infantilizes women and is not something a competent professional would say.

    1. overeducated and underemployed*

      One of my grad school colleagues said it to me when we were both pregnant at the same time. I just stared at her blankly, like, “what are you talking about?”

    2. neverjaunty*

      It would make me very, very concerned about that person’s treatment of co-workers and direct reports. Will she be less inclined to give challenging assignments to someone with a young child because clearly that employee must have “mommy brain”?

      1. Ruthie*

        Right. Introducing the idea of “mommy brain” to the workplace has wider effects: concerns about women employees losing their edge after having kids could just reinforce gender inequity in the workplace. “We can’t promote Susan because what if she has kids?! She’ll have “mommy brain” and not be able to keep up with the work!” Even on a subconscious level, that thinking has real impacts on all women–moms or not.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      My mother actually had superhuman hearing for a few days after a brain surgery. She heard a whispered conversation I had outside her hospital room and several doors down the hall.

      I am SO GLAD she lost that skill after a few days. The last thing anyone needs is their mother able to hear everything they say…

  9. F.*

    I have to agree with everyone else, please don’t blame it on “mommy brain”. And while we’re at it, I also hate hearing “menopause brain”. Both terms are demeaning to women.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, I work with about five women on my immediate team who use that phrase/excuse often. Gets old plus I don’t like excuses in general, just say you’ll fix whatever mistake and move on.

    2. MommaTRex*

      I have ADHD brain. So when people complain about “mommy brain”, “menopause brain”, or “senioritis”, I want to reply, “Welcome to my world!”

      1. Ad Astra*

        Me too! I’m going to start saying “Yeah, that’s how I’ve felt every day for my entire life!” I find a way to function at my job despite ADHD brain (and, on really good days, I make my ADHD brain work to my advantage). Moms are surely capable of finding a way to function despite mommy brain.

    3. Argh!*

      I have heard the “manopause” excuse! I mentally say “I have even less testosterone than you do, and I can meet my deadlines!” but of course I just say “Well, I’m sure your doctor can help you with that.”

    4. Retiree57*

      I’ve heard and used this one as “having a senior moment.” All these kinds of terms may be fine in a social setting, with others who may share your “affliction” such as old friends or siblings who have known you for decades and with whom you might use self-deprecating humor. But in a professional setting, don’t self-deprecate if you want to be respected, or hired.
      For the LW, doing some interview practice, like role playing with a friend, could be helpful to transition verbal mode from friendly-hospitable-home style to office-professional style. It’s like riding a bicycle; it will come back to you.

  10. TotesMaGoats*

    Allison is absolutely right. DO NOT do this.

    While a lot of women do experience it, it shouldn’t be mentioned in an interview. For all the reasons Allison said. I had it really bad while pregnant and the first 6 months or so after my son was born. It was bad. Really, really bad at times. With certain coworkers, I could absolutely joke with “mommy brain”. They had kids too and understood why I suddenly blanked out completely. Other coworkers I would never have even thought of using the phrase because of everything AAM said. It wouldn’t have been safe to say that.

  11. Monique*

    I really wouldn’t mention it. It would sound like you’re asking for a bit of leeway before you’ve started the job, like you’re asking them to set a lower target or make allowances somehow. That’s not going to convince anyone you’re their #1 candidate.

    I’m sure your fogginess isn’t anywhere near as noticeable or bad to your interviewer!

    1. Observer*

      I’m sure your fogginess isn’t anywhere near as noticeable or bad to your interviewer!

      So, so true!

  12. LadyMountaineer*

    Many rigorous studies disprove “Mommy Brain” and attribute it more to major life changes. If the men around your office are not saying “I have Daddy Brain” then please, please stop.

    1. MommyOP*

      Well I don’t work there yet and there’s only 2 men at my current office. Neither have children, so they definitely don’t say Daddy Brain :P

      But fun fact: I do know of a few men who use the term daddy brain.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Do you correct them, because they didn’t give birth and so don’t have the biological realities that causes “mommy brain”?

        1. Panda Bandit*

          While men don’t give birth, they do go through some physical changes of their own when they have a pregnant partner. It’s a topic that doesn’t get looked at much because people are so focused on the mother.

          1. neverjaunty*

            We are in enthusiastic agreement! I was just noting that the LW seems very invested in believing that “mommy brain” is a biological reality of pregnancy and birth – which means “daddy brain” as the male analog can’t be a thing, because presumably these daddies have not given birth.

        2. Chinook*

          No, men don’t give birth but they do live with a child who sleeps sporadically, can be involved with midnight feedings and also have new worries in their lives – all things others pointed out above can be the real cause of “mommy brain.”. Plus, they have to function at work much sooner than the mother (i.e. most are back a day or two after the birth) so they have had less time to adjust to their new reality. This is why I have given slack to new dad’s in the first few weeks – even if it is child 3 or 4, I takes time to readjust to the new sleep schedule.

  13. Gandalf the Nude*

    This might be the wrong thing to focus on in this answer and very possibly overthinking, but… Alison’s use of “brain blip” stuck out to me, since I usually see/hear/use “brain fart”. And now I’m wondering if that was intentional and if “brain fart” is also to be avoided?

    1. 12345678910112 do do do*

      I’ve been told that one does not “fart” in the office. However, I don’t want to work at a place where I can’t use the word.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I don’t want to work in such a place either, honestly. That sounds ridiculous. I’m personally of the opinion that ordinary bodily functions shouldn’t be demonized. I might even intentionally try to work in a “brain fart” in future interviews just to screen for that sort of mismatch.

          1. Anna*

            I think what Gandalf is saying is that if they knew it was discouraged at a place where they worked, it would tell them something about culture and might have them consider if this is the right fit; not that they’d take up a sign and protest, walk out, or pass around a petition against the “fart police.”

            1. MommaTRex*

              I think it’s fair to say that just because use of the word “fart” in a interview might be looked down upon doesn’t mean you can’t say it in normal (not formal) use.

        1. moss*

          I in fact DO want to work in a place where the word “fart” is discouraged. Because I can be more confident I won’t hear other TMI conversations and that hazing-type harassment will be discouraged.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yeah, I’d avoid “brain fart” in an interview. I’d avoid all words related to bodily functions like “fart” in an interview. “Brain blip” “brain freeze” “Couldn’t find a word for a minute, sorry about that” – all ok. But as my 4 year old says “that’s a potty word” – avoid “potty words” at work, and especially in interviews.

      For the OP in general – I definitely forget words halfway through my sentence at a higher rate since become pregnant/having kids, and so does my husband. I believe it’s more related to long term sleep deprivation, or now that my kids are older running right on the edge of getting just barely enough sleep to function. I’ve found that I really have to pause and think about what I’m going to say, instead of just opening my mouth and starting to speak and assuming the right words are going to come out when I get there. That might be something for you to practice in mock interviews – a brief pause before you start speaking is way less jarring (and is often considered a good thing) compared to a pause mid sentence. I’ve also been known to finish a sentence with “I can’t think of the exact right word, but [describe thing I’m thinking of and finish my thought]” and often by the time I get to the end of the sentence I’ve come up with the right word. This wouldn’t be the most polished approach if I were interviewing for a position where I have to answer questions on my feet all the time (person in charge of responding to the press with a mic in my face, for instance – example there of not being able to come up with the right term) – but it worked out ok when I used it once or twice in my most recent interview (where I got the job I have now).

      1. Meg Murry*

        And in my case – while it isn’t a huge part of our job, at my company any employee may have to interact with our customers at least a few times a year – and possibly more if they are good at it. And some of our customers are extremely conservative businesspeople (ok, mainly older white men, but it’s finally reaching the point where it isn’t completely homogenous). I am going to assume that if you would say something like “brain fart” or “mommy brain” in an interview, you would potentially also say it in a customer meeting. So at least for my company, part of the interview screening is: could we put this person in front of our customers and trust them not to say anything too terrible?

      2. TW Andrews*

        As a father of three children under 6, I find this happening to me as well. Even when I don’t feel tired, and it seems like I’m getting a lot of sleep, my best just doesn’t seem as good as it was. I assume I’ll eventually get back to my regular mental acuity, but for now, I think of myself as about 85% – 90% of my best self.

        But I’d never highlight that to a potential employer. I’d get a ton of sleep, prepare like crazy and caffeinate myself to the gills for the interview(s)

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Yes. It honestly had not occurred to me that such an innocent colloquialism would have potential employers turning up their noses.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m a big user of profanity and have no issue with it in the workplace, but I think “fart” would definitely be out of place in a job interview.

          (Not that “fart” is even profanity, since I guess it’s technically not.)

          1. Anlyn*

            I sometimes use it in place of profanity (though I wouldn’t use either in an interview). “Oh, fartblossoms” is a favorite.

          2. TheSnarkyB*

            Yeah, I’d almost rather say “shit” (in a casual way) than “fart” in a job context. (Eg interviewer says he spent last week in Aspen, I reply “Well shit, can’t beat that!”) – at least it’s.. more grown up than fart!
            Now if we could just get “brain pass gas” trending, we’d all be on our way. :P

        2. bridget*

          Yeah, I don’t think it would be the end of the world, or that any interviewer would really be able to put their finger on “brain fart” being a problem. But it reads quite young and casual, which can contribute to an overall impression, so in ideal circumstances I’d try to find an even more innocuous word like “blip” or “freeze” or something.

          1. The Butcher of Luverne*

            Using the word when you’re meant to be impressing someone with your professionalism makes no sense to me at all.

            1. Anna*

              You make it sound like someone would be planning on using the word. “Hm. What word will I use when I forget something and I can’t say brain fart?” Not actually how it works.

              1. Gandalf the Nude*

                Well, in fairness, I did say upthread that I might intentionally work one into an interview, which seems to have come off more seriously than I intended.

                I still think all of your aversions to body functions, even metaphorical ones, are silly and old-fashioned, though. But I guess that’s part of the professional world that I will never appreciate.

        3. Ad Astra*

          I think it’s probably a forgivable offense — people sometimes blurt out things that are slightly less polished than they meant to sound — but it’s surely not your best choice among possible phrases.

        4. Helka*

          It falls under the category of “don’t discuss bodily functions when you’re on good behavior.” Even if you’re using them metaphorically, things like brain farts, word vomit, diarrhea of the mouth are not phrases you want to trot out in a job interview.

    3. Nina*

      I once said brain fart at work, and my coworker became quite distressed and asked me not to use “fart” again. Some people get very squicked out by that word.

    4. Temperance*

      I work in a place where we all regularly curse … and I think it would be seen as weird and inappropriate to use the word “fart” in any context.

      1. SL*

        Yeah, for me as well. I love to swear (although I try not to at the office), but “fart” seems crass and … inelegant. I can feel myself flinch every time I hear the word.

      2. Honeybee*

        Haha, I was just thinking the same thing. It’s totally common to hear people shouting “fuck” all day (especially if they’re working their way through a game, lol) but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say fart. I’m trying to imagine a context in which it would be ok, and failing.

  14. MechE31*

    I think it depends on the interviewer. If you would have said that to me pre-children, I would have no idea. But now that I’ve seen my wife go through it, I understand. I still agree with Allison and wouldn’t risk it.

    I’ve done my share of interviewing and hiring and I’ve never seen someone who doesn’t display some bit, however minor it may be, of nervousness during a professional interview. The occasional error or two can be chalked up to nerves.

    1. Suz*

      I was just about to post the same thing. OP, if you feel you have to mention it at all, I’d say it was interview nerves.

    2. MsM*

      Yep. Don’t pre-emptively apologize, OP. You have no idea how you’re actually coming across to the interviewer. And they have no idea what your A game looks like, so why encourage them to look for flaws? If you mess up, apologize for that specifically and recover as best you can.

  15. Allison*

    Please don’t do this. You don’t want the interviewer to think you’re unable to balance your job with motherhood.

    Also, to me, “mommy brain” makes me think of women with small children who are in “mommy mode” all the time, and talk to all young people (including young adults) like children.

    1. Windchime*

      Or expect to be catered to in the workplace because they have young children. That we will have to hear about every waking moment at work.

        1. HRChick*

          I’ve definitely worked in places where preferential treatment was given to mothers with kids and I would be worried about hiring someone who expected that.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      Or expect to be held to lower standards than everyone else in the office because they’re a *Mommy*…

  16. super anon*

    There are often times when I don’t speak as clearly or as concisely as I used to and I often forget words — sometimes right in the middle of a sentence — and when that happens, I kind of blank out and it’s a bit hard for me to recover, especially in the middle of an interview.

    I’m not going to join in the resounding chorus of “no!” because I anticipate a lot of that in these comments.

    But I am wondering – do you know another language/are you learning one/have you learned one? I found that after I started to speak and learn a second language my communication skills in my first language began to suffer, especially as I spoke more and more in my second language. I would often forget very simple English words completely and for a prolonged period (there was a 2 week span where I could only think of the Korean word for Green Tea, for example), and it would often happen in the middle of a sentence at an inopportune time. I found this got worse the more languages I learned and used.

    So – if you don’t want to say “oh, I had a brain blip”, you could always attribute it to learning another language (if you are). Whenever I explained to people they understood and I never got the impression they judged me harshly for it – they usually were impressed that I could speak a language so different from my native one.

    1. Myrin*

      Oh god YES, this is absolutely something I experience! As I often mention, my mothertongue is German, but basically all of my reading (especially on the internet) is in English. Many English expressions will come to me much faster than the German ones and it’s now come to a point where it’s actually hindering my ability to express myself eloquently in German – which was very shocking to me and is something I’m actually actively trying to change, especially as I live in Germany and majored in German and will soon be starting my doctoral studies in German literature. The brain blips are becoming worse as of late and ugh, that needs to change.

      That being said, I feel like OP would have mentioned it if that were the case for her and she’d probably experience the brain blips differently if they were connected to learning/using another language.

      1. Suz*

        Me too. I’m a native English speaker. I studied German in college but haven’t spoken it much since then. If I were to try to remember the German word for something right now, I’d never come up with it. But I’m currently learning Chinese and when I try to remember the Chinese word for something, the German word will pop into my head.

        1. Chinook*

          I think it happens to everyone. When I was learning Japanese, French words would pop in. Then, years later when I lived in Quebec, Japanese words would pop into my French sentences. It is quite annoying when my brain won’t do what I want it to.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            My brain files languages in two piles: My native language (English) and everything else (Japanese, Korean, and French end up in the same heap).

            My tendency to accidentally speak Japanese in my Korean class was kind of a running joke.

      2. Chinook*

        This happened to me when I was overseas. I swear that there was a point where I couldn’t speak any language fluently. It truly became a mishmash of English, Japanese, French and (thanks to Diana Gabaldon being my only reading source) Scots. I learned to apologize at not knowing a word and as for a moment to reorganize my thoughts.

    2. Ife*

      Wow, I’m so glad it’s not just me!! I’ve studied 4 or 5 languages, fairly casually (although one of them I’m pretty proficient in). I definitely noticed that starting with language #3, my native language got harder. It’s been years since the last language, and I barely use the second languages now, but I still sometimes forget words when speaking out loud or second-guess my phrasing. (I almost always end up telling the stepkid to put “toothbrush” on her “toothpaste”. Cepillate los dientes, that comes out fine though! :)

    3. JC*

      I don’t disagree that this is a thing that happens, but I would not recommend that someone stretch the truth about it if they are not actually actively learning a second language, even if they had this experience in the not-distant past. It could lead to awkward follow-up questions about their learning of the second language. Nothing wrong with chalking it up to a “brain blip” and moving on.

    4. matcha123*

      Yup. This is me with Japanese.
      It’s particularly bad for words that I never used or knew in English before I came here.

      “Moyashi?,” sure, that’s fine. In English? Er…hmm…”bean sprouts”? I never ate them in the US, but they are in so many Japanese foods.
      And “nok-cha” is a pretty cool sounding word, if I do say so myself.

    5. Development professional*

      I get that this happens, but unless she’s actually learning another language AND it’s directly relevant to her work, it’s just going to sound like a humblebrag and I would find it super off-putting to attribute a momentary lapse to “learning Japanese” or whatever.

    1. Telecurmudgeon*

      This would have been funnier if the last was something other than a letter entirely, and ideally something that’s not normally used to count. a), b), [emoji of an ice cream cone].

  17. Mephyle*

    On the sidetrack discussion about causes, isn’t lack of sleep the most logical one? I’ve seen some articles recently about the fact that research agendas are finally considering that insufficient sleep could be a major factor in postpartum problems.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Plus I’m against internet diagnoses in general, but there are all kinds of post-partum things that could cause this (iron deficiency! Thyroid deficiency!) so if this is happening a lot, it might be a good idea to get some blood tests from a doctor, just to make sure it’s not something simple that can be sorted out.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        How about the When is the Sun Coming Back brain? (I also get I can’t How Do People in Tropical Environments Deal with All this Humidity brain in the summer.)

  18. Mena*

    Um, NO. Excusing your inability to answer a question isn’t going to be viewed sympathetically and will look, well like an excuse. In a job interview, please avoid anything gender related, especially if it is in attempt to gain sympathy or excuse a weakness. It will not benefit you in any way.

  19. INTP*

    Besides the comments about the unintended gendered implications mentioned above, I’d also argue that it’s not worth mentioning because the cause of your mental fogginess is irrelevant. You come across as together enough to do the job, or you don’t. There’s no guarantee that the cognitive effects of pregnancy (or anything else) will lift in a predictable time frame, so I don’t think that they would rule you out because of fogginess of undetermined cause, but be okay with it just by knowing it’s due to pregnancy.

    I have inattentive ADHD and get horrible brain fog anytime I’m slightly sleep deprived or dehydrated or have missed a meal, so trust me, I know the horrible feeling of knowing that you’re coming across as much dumber than you are and wishing you could just explain the cause of “brain fart” moment and have it excused. But unless you have some convincing explanation that practically guarantees it won’t happen on the job – like oh, I just had a concussion yesterday – I just don’t see the cause being relevant to their decisions. You might be able to prevent their making inferences about your overall intelligence from your absent-mindedness, but at the same time you risk highlighting the mistakes as AAM pointed out and introducing concerns about your attentiveness and clarity of thought when they might have just thought you were a bit of a spacey conversationalist otherwise.

  20. Kiki*

    I wasn’t interviewing, thank goodness, but I had a six month or so period last year where I was in a mental fog every afternoon. My strategy was just to say “oh can’t think of the word right now” and move on, no big deal. (I’d just started powerlifting again, and the stress on my 58 yr old body was unbelievable. I also ate unbelievable amounts of protein, lost 5% bodyfat, and gained 18 lbs, lol. I feel great now and the fog’s gone thank god.)

  21. CaliCali*

    As someone who had to look for a new job when her son was 3-4 months old, it was somewhat nerve wracking to try and collect my “professional self” while I was still in a bit of a postpartum haze. However, I think it came across a lot better that I just carried on normally and, if I was having to collect my thoughts, that I took time to pause and regroup so I could answer questions well. No one knew I was a new mom (except when I deliberately mentioned it in the context of expected work schedule, but that’s another story). And yes, I successfully got a job.

    In general, I think it’s a better life tactic to own mistakes, small and large, rather than attribute them to circumstances or conditions — not that the latter don’t affect your abilities, but people will hear them as excuses rather than just a human being human.

  22. Juli G.*

    Also, keep in mind that you may be harder on yourself than others are. About 7 months post partum, I finally felt “normal” again and mentioned to my boss. He had barely noticed the things I thought were glaringly obvious.

  23. hbc*

    If it’s bad enough that you think someone isn’t going to hire you over it, you need to identify that this is not your normal state, and ideally give a reason to believe this isn’t your normal state. “Mommy brain” does neither–you’re going to continue being a mommy for the foreseeable future, so it’s not like that’s reassuring.

    I might go with a simple “Sorry, I seem to be off my game a bit. Let me know if I didn’t actually answer your question.” Just acknowledge and get on with the purpose of the interview. If you’re feeling a good rapport, you might be able to comment about your kid having an unusually rough night or you apparently needing a few more minutes to adjust back to work conversation after taking time off, but definitely use phrasing that makes clear it’s a temporary thing.

    1. get some perspective*

      “you’re going to continue being a mommy for the foreseeable future, so it’s not like that’s reassuring.”


      If the issue is a clearly temporary state – such as i you asked to interview by Skype instead of in person because you were getting a cold and told the interviewer that, or you were flown in on a red eye flight for an interview, then mention it.

      But if it’s something that will continue for some time, then don’t draw attention to the cause. It’s not reassuring. Instead, it sounds like you think it’s OK.

  24. jaxon*

    This is a sincere question, as I’ve never heard of the concept of “mommy brain.” If a woman is concerned about mental fogginess and cognitive slowness shortly after giving birth, maybe it’s too early to return to work? Will the fogginess clear further in another 6 months? This strikes me, on first reading, as a pretty clear sign from the body that it needs more recovery or some other kind of care. Or am I wrong?

    I’m sure OP has given tons of thought to this, and/or there are circumstances that may require her to go back to work now. I just can’t help wondering.

      1. RoseTyler*

        Given the state of paid parental leave in this country (assuming OP is American) this is sort of wishful thinking. And, much of the fogginess is from sleep deprivation, which won’t clear up until the baby starts sleeping through the night. I got lucky-ish on that front, but have many friends whose kids didn’t sleep all the way through until well after their first birthdays.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I would think getting your brain re-accustomed to the kind of functioning it does at work would be a huge factor. You might need more than the standard 12 weeks for any number of reasons, but eventually you have to get your brain back to doing the things it used to do.

    1. MommyOP*

      I love this question! I never anticipated many of the side effects of pregnancy, but I’ve experienced 3 that have rocked my world– this mental fogginess is one of them.

      I personally believe and am firm in my belief that I would have 1000000% benefitted from at LEAST a year of maternity leave. But alas, I only had 12 weeks! I had to return to work because I’m the sole income in my family (my husband is a stay at home dad). Other women have totally different experiences and I am sure would answer this totally differently.

      I also firmly believe (and I anticipate a wave of passionate disagree-ers lol) that there are certainly biological realities that women face that the work place is not sensitive to. Heck! There are biological realities that HUMANS period face that the workplace are not sensitive to. In our quest for equality, we can sometimes pretend that to mention these issues “sets us back” when many of us are just being honest about (our) reality (ies). That is perpetually fascinating to me.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It does in fact set us back when you take “this is how pregnancy has affected me” and try to turn it into “this is an unavoidable biological reality for all women, for all time, because SCIENCE.”

        I mean, some women have pretty debilitating PMS. But I don’t think you’d appreciate it much if your boss told you that he wasn’t going to give you long-term assignments, because he knows that it’s a biological reality that women become irrational once a month. And you sure as hell wouldn’t appreciate it if co-worker Wakeena said “well, that’s how it is for me, so he’s right!”

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Plus, as above, the reasons may be things like iron deficiency etc etc etc, so medically valid, but not a “this is what pregnancy does to all women”.

        2. PlainJane*

          Exactly this. Besides, as you note, there are lots of biological realities that all people face that the workplace isn’t sensitive to. Every one of us, regardless of gender or parental status, has to adapt to workplace standards–and some of us try to change those standards for everyone when we think it’s necessary. I went back to work 6 weeks after I had my son (who’s now 17), and I’ve worked full time ever since. Like everyone, I have days when I’m not at my best, but so do my male co-workers, and so do my female co-workers who don’t have kids. Let’s not assume that gender dictates competence or performance.

    2. Lizzy May*

      Even if a body needs more recovery time, that isn’t always an option. Cue up comments about the ridiculously short parental leave available to Americans. Even if you want the time, you don’t always get it or can’t always afford it.

      1. jaxon*

        Yes, I should have been more explicit in my comment, obviously it would be great if we had sensible family leave laws that applied to all citizens, and I’m aware that many women don’t have the best choices in front of them.

        But this doesn’t seem to be a case of a woman who only got 8 weeks of leave or something. She’s looking for a brand new job just a few months post-birth. I understand that there may be financial realities pressing in on her and I appreciate that. (I also don’t want to assume, since she doesn’t reveal any details whatsoever.) It just highlights what a terrible situation this is.

    3. J.B.*

      The standard in the US is 12 weeks (if you qualify for FMLA) and for many of us it was too early, but if you must remain employed you must.

    4. KH*

      It’s a lovely thought and all but some people don’t have the option of deciding “it’s too early to return to work”.

  25. MommyOP*

    Hi all!

    Thanks for the passionate feedback lol

    I had the interview this past Friday and did NOT use the term mommy brain! I didn’t even mention my son during the interview but to my horror there was a time where I totally blanked on a word and had to say “I’m sorry, can I rephrase that?” and started answering a question from the beginning.

    The reason I felt that this would be even remotely in the realm of possibility to mention in an interview is because of my interview style. I am a professionally personable interviewee and I like to connect with people on a personal level (in a professionally appropriate way, of course!) I figured it might be a bit weird for me to blank out (probably more than once) and assumed mentioning “mommy brain”** would be an easily understandable explanation (not excuse) as to why I had so many communication issues in the interview.

    I would never degrade women or even suggest that we are somehow less capable because we can reproduce. I just didn’t want to come across as if I can’t communicate efficiently, which I know is very important in careers.

    ** I didn’t think of the term as something that is immature or not-professional. I actually thought it was a word that is common in US colloquialisms…. guess not! haha!
    And I get that some might argue that interviews aren’t the place for colloquialisms, but I also do not like to be robotic in how I communicate with people. In a cover letter I would NEVER EVER EVER think about mentioning it or my son!

    1. Christy*

      I think you’re responding really well to this feedback, btw.

      I think if you’ve been active on the pregnancy/parenting blogs/forums you can get a little lost in them and can lose a little perspective on the outside world. (I know I can get like that here–like how *dare* employers do XYZ even when it’s something common, because it’s something that Alison says is horrible.) Personally I think mommy brain might be somewhat common talking new mom to new mom, but that’s it, I’d say.

      1. MommyOP*

        Thank you! :)

        And yes, I think you’re right. I’ve LIVED in pregnancy forums for the past year and I can definitely agree that it has colored the way I interact with people. Pre-parent Me would have probably never even thought about this as a something I would consider saying!

        1. neverjaunty*

          Oh gosh yes. STEP AWAY from this stuff. Especially with a first child, where you often have no idea which end is up, people obsessively try to parse everything.

        2. Honeybee*

          You know, something tipped me off to that too :) I used to hang out in fertility and pregnancy forums (out of curiosity, and because I donated my eggs a while back) and they use an entirely different language, it feels like! But that’s common in any community of people with shared interests; there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s the beginnings of a culture.

    2. Cat*

      For me the issue isn’t that it’s not a common colloquialism. I know the phrase and understand it. It’s how it positions mothers (and by extension, the majority of women) as (a) infantalized (“mommies)” and (b) lesser than other people.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes – this is similar to the conversation here about not using the term “girl” at work. I don’t call myself a girl or let others call me that, and I don’t refer to myself as “mommy” at work (or anywhere other than interacting with my kids, for that matter).

        I know it’s not quite the same, but saying “I can’t think of the word, I have mommy brain” seems too close to “oh, I’m just a silly girl, I’m not good at XYZ” – which I don’t ever want to hear anyone say, but especially not at work.

    3. Ad Astra*

      In my experience, “mommy brain” is a common colloquialism among new moms. I have never heard anyone speak about another woman’s “mommy brain,” and I would venture a guess that telling a new mom she has mommy brain would not endear me to her. I think it’s supposed to be kind of a self-deprecating thing, but you have to be careful about self-deprecation when it involves a group that’s frequently discriminated against. “Sorry, I can’t think straight because of my mommy brain” in an interview is a little like saying “Sorry I’m late; you know how black folks are.” At the absolute very least, it’s not helpful.

      And yeah, I agree that you’re taking this feedback very well. I also think, as others have mentioned, your brain fog is likely not as obvious to outsiders as it is to you.

      1. MommyOP*

        Ah! Understandable! And I think you’re totally right! I’ve definitely only heard parents say “mommy” or “daddy” brain. I guess since that’s my new reality, it colored the way I view the world, unfairly, I suppose.

    4. TheAssistant*

      First, congrats on getting through that interview! Well done.

      I’m not a new parent, but I experience a lot of the same issues you’re newly experiencing now – I have difficulty at times coming up with a word, I’m forgetful, I’m better at written communication than oral. I also have a more colloquial, less polished way of speaking and I think it’s one of my interviewing strengths – I sound real. (I could be wrong, but I have a very high success rate securing both interviews and offers from those interviews.) Here’s how I cope:
      –I’ll bring a small notepad with a few questions for my interviewer, but leave space at the bottom. While the interviewer is asking me a question, especially one that has multiple parts, I’ll jot down key words of those parts. This helps my verbal self remember the question better, and I’m able to think on my feet much better since I’m forming the answer in one part of my brain while still hearing the entire question.
      –If I feel like maybe I didn’t get all the bits of the question, I’ll ask the interviewer if I’ve answered it. It’s a good segue into a followup, especially for folks who might be less inclined to ask a follow up or maybe just didn’t ask a great question to begin with! It allows me, in the moment, to give a better answer than maybe I gave the first time.
      –I practice interview questions a lot. A LOT. I go through each bullet point and make sure I have a story for a time I did the thing, or I can readily admit that I haven’t completed that task, but I’m excited to learn it because of X and I’ve demonstrated readiness through Y. I practice the words out loud in a mirror. I practice the words in my head. On the train to the interview, I’ll use my notepad to just jot down some accomplishments I know I want to highlight. For me, writing things down helps me remember them so much better.
      –If I forget a word halfway through, I just talk my way around it. Usually someone in the room volunteers it, and it’s not awkward.
      –I try to…well, parrot sounds wrong, but I’ll latch onto my interviewer’s vocabulary because sometimes my own fails me.
      –Depending on the job/interview vibe, I might mention this as my weakness, then bring up all my coping skills.
      –At work, I can’t remember verbal instructions or “do this task, please” to save my life. So my computer is littered with PostIt reminders of the procedures I do most often or have forgotten once before. My calendar is filled with reminders at certain times of the day. If it’s a particularly busy day, I’ll plot out all of my to-dos for the next day on a calendar, with the amount of time I think I’ll need for the task, and will include everything (send the email. Eat a snack. Check your mailbox).

      This may be your new normal, and while it seems horrible right now, developing solid coping skills so nobody even notices is usually a pretty solid strategy. Good luck!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m so glad I’m not the only one with this issue! I’ve never been particularly well-spoken; however, over the last few years I’ve noticed my speaking is even less polished. I don’t know if my mind is way ahead of my mouth, or if there’s something going on that’s making me like this. I sometimes struggle to find the right word. Or when I’m telling someone something, I often skip ahead as if they can read my mind and I don’t need to fill in the blanks. Or I want to say something and I just can’t get it out; it’s in my mind, but I sometimes have trouble translating it to speech in a way that someone else can follow. I see confused looks on people’s faces sometimes and it makes me very aware that I’m not being clear, but damned if I can get out of my own way to be more clear.

      2. Honeybee*

        ” –I try to…well, parrot sounds wrong, but I’ll latch onto my interviewer’s vocabulary because sometimes my own fails me.”

        There’s evidence that verbal mimicry actually positively people’s evaluation of you – they like you more if you speak like them, essentially :)

    5. Monique*

      Just a comment to say that from my recent experience interviewing people. it is perfectly normal for people to blank out and lose their train of thought several times during an interview, new mum or not, so please don’t worry about this too much. It happens to all of us, no matter how well-prepared and well-spoken we might be. Interviews make people nervous, nervousness makes people lose the ability to use words at times.

    6. Argh!*

      I’ve never heard of it until this post.

      When speaking to a total stranger, something personal that you consider an attempt at bonding could have the opposite effect. Not everybody has children, and not everybody who has children has problems. If you are interviewing to replace someone who blamed their poor performance on their children, then went on maternity leave, and then quit the job without notice at the end of maternity leave, mentioning “mommy brain” would be the most unwelcome thing you could say!

    7. Wendy Darling*

      I don’t think it’s worth being horrified because you blanked on a word in a job interview. It’s a stressful situation and an occasional brain-failure is totally expected. To blank on something blindingly obvious during an interview is human. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “I seem to have made a mess of that sentence, let me try again.”

    8. Mookie*

      I would never degrade women or even suggest that we are somehow less capable because we can reproduce

      Just to clarify, because we’re being rather imprecise belowthread: it takes two people (or more, if you’re using a test tube) to reproduce; not all women can become pregnant and some men can; and there’s no peer-reviewed, replicable science to back up this theory about Mommy / Pregnancy Brains. You have the right, of course, to fervently believe in it or anything else, but I’d suggest you keep this kind of essentializing out of any work environment you find yourself in because it may come across as demeaning and close-minded whether you want it to or not.

      You’ve just experienced a life-changing milestone in your life, something fraught with new, insurmountable anxieties and worries on top of the joy and excitement. You’ve been knee deep in this, emotionally, for nearly a year. It’s not unusual to have to re-acclimate to a professional life and routine, to balance old priorities with new preoccupations. That’s going to cause mental fog and slowness for some people. But it’s no different for anyone returning to work after any big, personal upheaval, like a death in the family, re-location, or divorce.

    9. Jaydee*

      “I just didn’t want to come across as if I can’t communicate efficiently, which I know is very important in careers.”

      Effective communication is definitely important. But people are human. Everyone forgets a word or struggles with expressing themselves sometimes. So if it’s not terribly frequent, you may be more aware of it than others would be.

      It can be embarrassing and frustrating to feel like you are losing competency at something you used to be good at. As other commenters have said, it may be temporary and improve as you get more sleep and adjust to the work environment again. It may also last longer or even reflect a previously hidden or compensated-for problem (in my case, I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD after I realized that getting “back to normal” after my son was born did not mean all the problems were gone).

      Regardless, the real issue isn’t explaining why it’s happening. That’s really only/mostly helpful to you so you can set realistic goals and strategies for dealing with it. The real issue is, if this going to have a significant, ongoing impact on your ability to do things at work, what are you going to do about it? What needs to happen for you to be successful at work? That’s what an employer will care about.

  26. Susan*

    I know this isn’t really the same thing, but I was a writing major in school, and half the time before we critiqued someone’s story, they’d give the disclaimer “oh, I did this the night before” or “this is a super rough draft!” I’m not trying to say you’re making excuses, but to me the similarity is that I think when we’re worried about being criticized, we’re hypersensitive to how we’re coming off and want to make sure the other person knows we’re also aware of these flaws that *they must see because they’re such a big deal to us*, and thus they can (hopefully) decide not to attribute these flaws to us. I think there probably really is scientific proof for what you’re saying, but there’s also a degree of nerves, and you should do your best to choose to believe you’re a rockstar during an interview (it’s hard, but yes, I’m prescribing faking it until you make it despite not feeling 100%).

    1. CM*

      That’s true, it’s so natural to be hard on ourselves for flaws that we’re worried others might perceive, and to make pre-emptive excuses.

      OP, YOU know how smooth you are at professional communication normally, but your interviewers don’t know. I’m sure that your “mommy brain” isn’t throwing you off so much that they would notice something off… and even if it is, I don’t think explaining it will help. Maybe you’re at 90% now and not doing everything you’re capable of, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it even though you might find it personally frustrating. For most people, 90% is plenty. And the example you gave, where you started an answer over, is no big deal.

      Honestly, if someone explained away subpar interview performance by claiming “mommy brain,” I would be offended because I’m a mom and I feel that the implication is that moms are dumber than they should be. Also, I would feel like this person is not sensitive to workplace issues of discrimination and bias (but then, I’m a lawyer). But even if someone said something I found to be perfectly understandable like, “I’m dealing with a family crisis,” I don’t know what they’re like normally. I’d feel sympathetic and might forgive some amount of distraction, but I wouldn’t really be able to assess what they’re like when they’re at 100%.

    2. Rana*

      That’s a really good point. I remember once talking with a professional storyteller, and she told me that one of the most important things about storytelling is that you should never, ever apologize to your audience for your story. All it does is make them wonder why you’re apologizing, and predispose them to look for mistakes – mistakes that they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed, or which might not even exist. Being confident in your abilities and in your story are what allow the audience to focus on the important parts instead of the rough bits.

  27. Anna Banana*

    I have 3 children (17yrs, 7yrs and 18months) I honestly think for the first year after I gave birth my brain didn’t function the way it did before. Thankfully, being British I got 12 months mat leave so by the time I got back to work it started to resolve itself.
    My husband once said to me “what happened to you? You used to be so smart” – he didn’t mean for it to be as harsh as it was but it hit home that I really wasn’t as quick in my brain capacity as I once was.

  28. MommyOP*

    This is all very fascinating feedback, thank you!

    So from what I am understanding from the comments some of the issues with the term mommy brain and my question specifically is that it seems to be creating an excuse with gendered implications. I can sort of see it from that perspective.

    But does that mean that there is nothing to be said about the differences between males and females (men and women) and how those biological realities and experiences impacts them in the workplace? Should that not be a part of the discourse? For me, ignoring biological reality assumes that as soon as a person walks into the work place they should become blank slates and leave their realities– biological and otherwise– (and its effects) at the door, which to me, is unnatural and unfair.

    I do not advocate for any “damsel in distress” (or male equivalent) mentalities, of course, but there are situations which impacts people and that’s just reality. Should we pretend that doesn’t exist to make for a “professional” workplace?

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      An interview is not the place for any of that, though. You may feel strongly that biological imperatives impact the workplace, but an interview is a very short opportunity to make an impression and the interviewer has only that to go on. It brings to mind a host of implications that are going to detract from the actual interviewing part. So this is all a separate and larger question, which is more about where you can draw the line in taking people’s personal lives into account in the workplace.

      1. MommyOP*

        I guess I shouldbd’ve been more clear in my hypothetical question. I didn’t mean that at an interview these conversations should happen, I just meant generally, in how we view workplaces, is there a place to consider biology and how that impacts what is okay to say and not to say.

        AAM comments might not be the place for that conversation either lol but I think its worth a thought.

        1. Kiki*

          I don’t think so…as a manager it would put me in an awkward position…I’d be thinking, is she asking for special accommodation? If not, no reason to bring it up. Among like-minded coworkers in the break room, sure. But not to your boss — she’s not your bestie.

          1. MommaTRex*

            I want my boss to know that I occasionally have off-moments for biological reasons. That I will try to minimize the impact, sure, but that there are sometimes my brain fades out and no one should take it personally.

            Also, I think there is too large a stigma against mental issues. Some reasonable accommodations can sometimes be made without making a huge deal out of it.

            1. Honeybee*

              But everybody occasionally has off moments. I mean if it happens more frequently or more prominently than in most people that makes sense.

        2. MK*

          But, OP, this is not about how we view workplaces, it’s how the people in those workplaces view us. The place to discuss the phenomenon “mommy brain” and whether it exists or not as a biological reality and not just a personal reaction to having a baby is when advocating for longer maternity leave for those who want it. On a personal level, there is not much to discuss: you have to be able to do the job at a satisfactory level. Yes, of course it matters if the reason you are less focused is because you had a baby or because you decided to adopt a party lifestyle and go out drinking every night or because you would the Nobel and are distracted working on your acceptance speech. But in the end it matters more that you can’t do the job than why you can’t do it.

        3. Argh!*

          I’m a woman, and I don’t want to hear about mommy brain, hot flashes, PMS, or being tired from getting laid the night before, or being hungover, or anything else like that.

          As a supervisor, if I hear about hot flashes, which would necessitate a thermostat in an office – that’s something I can do something about, so there’s a possible exception.

          Excuse-making in general turns people off, but especially managers. If you have a medical condition, you’re responsible for getting it straightened out medically. If you have a lifestyle problem, you’re responsible for straightening out your life – no more parties until 4 a.m. on Thursday nights!

          You can say “I’m a little slow today” or “I’m tired today” without giving out TMI. If you say “I’m a little slow every day” you’re pretty much asking to be fired.

          I have heard this line and it makes me cringe: “I’m not making excuses, I just think that as my supervisor you should know….” and thence proceedeth the excuse. (My response is “You should know that as your supervisor, unless your doctor works something out with HR for an ADA accommodation, I expect you to perform at the same level as everyone else”)

        4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I think I get what you’re saying. Employees are humans, and humans have stuff going on beyond work. We have diseases, everyday worries, upcoming vacations, bodies that age, novels we’re thinking about when we should be focusing on spreadsheets, and so on. I hear that, and I do wish that there was more acknowledgement of our essential humanity in the workplace. We’re not automatons, and while that makes us imperfect for some work it’s also what makes us come up with innovations, spend time helping others, and so on.

    2. CM*

      “Biological reality” is debatable. For instance, there are all sorts of “scientific” studies showing that certain ethnic groups are not as smart as others, that women are not capable of performing at the same level as men, etc. When a person walks into the workplace, or anywhere else, they should be treated as an individual and not as the result of biological realities. If Bob has a new baby, we can expect Bob to be distracted for a while. If Sue is ill, we can expect that Sue’s attendance at work may be spotty for a while. We don’t have to reduce people to their gender, ethnicity, or other identities to be fair to them as people.

      1. Monique*

        Exactly, statistics don’t tell the truth about singular data points.

        Even if women who are mothers were found to generally perform at a lower level (which I doubt sincerely and which hasn’t been scientifically proven to my knowledge), that doesn’t mean any woman that walks in for an interview who happens to have children should therefore be stereotyped as being less than a woman without children or a man.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        I would also be interested in the context of the studies – what’s the control group? How do they account for other factors such as insomnia, stress etc?

    3. Monique*

      I think the issue with the gendered language is that you’re effectively going into the interview saying, “I won’t be as good as a man, but don’t hold that against me”, which is terribly damning for all of us ladies.

      Men who aren’t getting any sleep probably experience a similar type of ‘mommy brain’, they just wouldn’t dream of a) apologising for it, b) calling it that or c) calling it out in an interview.

      What’s expected of you when you come into work isn’t to be a blank slate, but to do the best you can. It’s up tot he interviewer to establish whether the best you can do at the moment will allow you to fulfil the role he looks to fill to a satisfactory standard.

    4. neverjaunty*

      That’s not really a hypothetical question so much as a false dilemma.

      Of course workplaces should not assume that all employees are ‘blank slates’ with no lives outside the workplace. The remedy for that is not to assume that all employees fit into one of two boxes, male or female, and to assign a load of capabilities and limitations to them based on which box they’re in.

    5. Meg Murry*

      Because I don’t care if you are a man or a woman or a 3 headed monkey – what I care about in a job interview is “can you do the job I am hiring for? Are you the best person [or creature in the monkey example] I can get for the job?”

      And yes, I totally get you on some of the biological differences, and sometimes I’m torn about it. On one hand, I want to say “I’m the same as everyone else, I’m still the super tough awesome employee I always was.” On the other hand sometimes I wanted to say “I’m freaking exhausted because I just finished growing a darn human over here, lets stop pretending everything is the same as it always was and cut me a break”

      And now at this point in my career, I will admit that my kids have come up in job interviews – because they are very much part of the answer to “why did you leave Job A and why are you interested in this job” (I took a step back when my kids were younger to work part time, and at this point in my career perks like flex time and additional vacation days are more important than a high salary). But even so, I don’t demean myself with a term like “mommy brain”, nor do I try to pretend like the biological differences between me and another person are what make me better or worse for the job.

      But I’ve also been part of the transition in my industry from one that was solely men to the point where there were more women at my level than men (but upper managment is still predominently male). And therefore I don’t want to point out my female-ness, in case some old school person sees it as a detriment, because it’s almost never seen as a positive (and honestly, I don’t want a certain position because I’m a woman, I want it because I’m good at what I do, gender notwithstanding). And honestly, after spending tons of time being the only woman in the room, I often relate better to group of men (especially of the engineering-brain/numbers/data type) than groups of women (especially those who do better on the social/emotional/relationship management type).

      So yup, other than where 100% necessary (ie, I need you to clean the boxes out of the women’s locker room, it’s no longer a storage space, I need to use it – had to have that conversation once), check your biology at the door.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Okay, but “I just grew another freaking human” is a temporary thing – and it isn’t one that means you are doomed to be flighty, emotional or forgetful for X months afterward.

        1. MK*

          No, but an interviewer has no way of knowing that it really is due to the pregnancy and not just you; or more generally, what you are like in “normal” mode. Nor can they be sure you will indeed bounce back, or even how soon that will be; maybe they can’t afford a good forgetful employee for the next year.

          If you are already employed, a reasonable boss who knows what you can be will take reality into account. Not only supposed biological realities, but just life in general. And will make allowances if someone who has had a child is not at the top of their game because they don’t sleep or when a grieving person is too emotional or when someone who will get married I two days is a little distracted.

          1. Argh!*

            The potential employer has no way of knowing whether there is another pregnancy on the horizon with even worse “mommy brain” affecting performance!

            1. Middle Name Jane*

              Exactly. It’s not legal to ask (and I don’t think it should be anyway), but I wouldn’t want to hire a woman with a baby or young child. Not only because the woman might have more children, but because kids are little germ factories always catching something from daycare or school.

              A woman in another department had her first baby last June and stayed out on maternity leave for nearly 6 months, while the rest of her department had to cover for her and do her work on top of their own. I think that’s incredibly unfair, and I would have been highly resentful if that had happened in my department.

              Is it unfair of me to feel this way (especially as a woman)? Maybe, but I don’t care.

              1. Observer*

                Based on that, no same employer should ever hire any woman under 55, because you never know if she’s going to decide to have a baby. In fact, your employer should not have hired YOU.

                Also, you are making provably false statements. Parents of young children do NOT necessarily spread more germs than non-parents. There are SO many sources of germs, and you have no way in the world to know who is bringing in what. (By the way Typhoid Jane didn’t get it from her kids…)

                Lastly, the fact that your employer did not see fit to get some coverage for someone who was out for 6 months is not the fault of the woman – who you can be sure was not getting paid if you are in the US. Why are you pointing the finger at HER, rather than the people who chose to save a few dollars at the expense of the staff? And, why is her leave worse than the leave taken by a guy who has a sport related injury? Or anyone, for that matter, that needs to be out for any reason?

              2. neverjaunty*

                If you don’t care about being ridiculously sexist – because apparently men with babies and young children are germ firewalls? – then you’re not merely unfair, you have no business being anywhere near the hiring process.

                1. One of the Sarahs*

                  It’s the biological differences that cause “mommy brain” that mean only women catch germs from their children, but can pass them on to anyone else!

              3. k8899*

                Yes it’s unfair. And sexist. And wrong. It takes extreme situations for me to say this, but you should be ashamed.

                Also, stop blaming mothers for employers being cheap.

            2. Observer*

              The potential employer as not way to predict the future in general, not just future babies. So, that’s really not relevant.

    6. bridget*

      I think that this particular “biological reality,” which is happening to you specifically, is too historically tied up with insidious gender expectations and stereotypes that have been unfairly projected on an entire gender, which is made up of individuals who may respond very differently to their biological circumstances. Women were excluded from my profession for decades because we were too “emotional” and delicate to handle the serious nature of the law. It’s true that like clockwork, due to biological hormones, I cry much more easily for three days per month. It’s unpleasant, but I work through it and think of personal workarounds and get my job done. If the woman down the hall said she needed someone to take a case because it made her too emotional because she’s an emotional woman and that’s totally fine because BIOLOGY, I’d be pretty upset about what she’s implying about the other people around her who share her gender/parental status. If a person can’t do her job because of her biological realities, fine. But when it’s explained by saying “it’s because I’m a woman/mother,” it’s implying that *I* can’t do that job either. Let me be the decider of that.

      Additionally, “mommy brain” is not obviously time-limited to the average hearer. Many people just have the impression that being a mother at all (not just a very new mother) makes women dumber or less competent. It could read as you saying you should be held to a lower standard than your peers because of the biological realities of your life for the indefinite future. In the American workforce, this does not fly (at least where the accommodation would be an undue burden, relating to your actual job duties, cue ADA rundown).

      If you had the same mental fogginess because you’re recovering from a mild concussion you sustained while skiing last weekend, that’s not going to be nearly as much of a problem, because 1) it’s not tied up with gender stereotypes that can be imputed on half the world, and 2) people much more easily understand that it’s temporary and not representative of what you’ll be like in the future.

    7. Just Another Techie*

      Those differences between “males” and “females” that you refer to are differences between averages across a large population. The problem is that when you try to apply those averages to individual people, you run the risk of relying on stereotypes and prejudices instead of evaluating the actual, specific, non-average, non-hypothetical human in front of you. This hurts both the job candidates who are getting overlooked and the workplaces who are missing out on some great talent. For example, on average men are bigger and stronger than women, but I guarantee you Rhonda Rousey could beat the stuffing out of any man in my office.

      And that’s not even getting into how terrible some of these studies touting “innate differences” between men and women are. These studies are susceptible to bias on the part of the researchers, bias in the pipeline to getting published in journals, and bias on that part of journalists who sensationalize the results for a non-scientific audience. The one you indirectly cited about losing brain mass has a sample size of 15 and has never been replicated, and yet, somehow, it has entered into popular culture as some kind of immutable law carved on stone tablets.

      Personally I am about eight thousand percent more impacted by sexism and misogyny in the workplace than by any alleged biological difference between me and the guys.

      1. neverjaunty*

        +10000 to that last sentence.

        It’s funny how the stereotypes about men are rarely invoked to suggest that maybe they’re not just up to the demands of the workplace, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields. Nobody says “Wakeen, you know men are just so full of testosterone, so we’re not comfortable putting you in charge of a collaborative project.” Or “Well, Fergus, men just can’t help thinking about sex all the time, so if you miss a beat in that interview, be sure to explain it’s just your ‘little brain’ getting in the way of your answers.”

        1. Just Another Techie*

          “if you miss a beat in that interview, be sure to explain it’s just your ‘little brain’ getting in the way of your answers.”
          *dying laughing*

        2. Kiki*

          Used to work with someone who’s would loudly state that men are simply too hormonal to be reliable. It was hilarious. I could never get away with saying that, but she always did and it always lightened up the mood.

    8. Orbit*

      I think what you’re pointing to is a larger issue about gender in the workplace that doesn’t necessairily pertain to your question. Should the workplace be adjusted to better fit the biological, situational, and other differences between employees? I would say probably. But should you use the term “mommy brain” in an interview? Probably not, because of the way that workplace norms and attitudes are right now.

      There are biological difference between men and women (although I would point out that many women in the workplace are not mothers and do not experience the biological side effects you mention (or are mothers and don’t experience this either), so this isn’t even a men vs. women issue). But there are differences between many different people for many different reasons – some people are night owls and do better work later in the day, some people are easily distracted and would do really well with private offices, but not every workplace can accommodate every difference for every employee.

      Saying “I’m not interviewing well because I recently had a child” (removing all of the implications surrounding the term”mommy brain” mentioned above) isn’t really any different than saying that someone isn’t interviewing well because they experienced some other huge shift in their life (a big move, a death, etc), or were out late partying, or are feeling under the weather, or had an off day. I don’t think it is erasing the context, it is looking at what a candidate is bringing to the table. If being able to think quickly or remember details or come up with the right words is important to the job then the candidate may not be the right fit – regardless of the reason why.

      As a sidenote, when talking about gender differences – countries like Japan and South Korea have paid menstrual leave for female employees experiencing painful periods. I think that can be a way to account for biological differences in the workplaces. There is an accommodation, without using “PMS” as an excuse for mistakes or unprofessional behavior.

      1. Chinook*

        Hey, if you want to recognize biological differences, then requiring that all day meetings have breaks every two hours so we can use the washroom would go a long way. Some things I can physically control by crossing my legs and thinking dry thoughts, other things are going to gush out of me no matter what I do. As a result, I appreciate meetings filled with smokers because they insist on their breaks instead of just pushing through so we can leave earlier.

    9. AnonAcademic*

      Why does “biological reality” as you describe it only breakdown along gender lines though? What about disabilities, economic disadvantages that affect biology (e.g. chronic malnutrition), etc.? Most of those things are not job interview appropriate topics; they are appropriate after accepting an offer and possibly negotiating accommodations (like a place to breastfeed, or administer insulin, etc.). I think bringing up those types of things is fraught for anyone. That’s why there are laws to supposedly govern the accommodations process.

      On the side of the employer also, they are not required to consider differences in “biological reality” as a curve to grade on when evaluating candidates when those realities impact job functions. Someone with “mommy brain” might not be the best air traffic controller or whathaveyou, if attention to detail is crucial to the role. I don’t find that particularly unfair.

    10. anonymouse*

      Maybe, but that mindset veers towards acting as though all women and men have the same biological conditions. It ignores the people who don’t have “traditional” biological conditions.

      Gender is only one aspect of an individual. All women are not the same. Some are poor, some are middle class, some are infertile, some fertile, some healthy, some have chronic diseases. Looking at every women and assuming she has the same issues because of her gender creates a much larger problem.

      If we should be having a conversation in the workplace, it should be about intersectional identities.

      1. anonymouse*

        And by conversation, I don’t mean “let’s sit everyone down and talk about the best social justice platform”, but more that people should take other factors into account instead of going, “you’re gay, you must have A issues” or “you’re a woman, you must have B issues”.

    11. Student*

      A job interview is not the place to have that discussion, in any way, shape, or form. It’s completely the wrong time for it.

      It’s the wrong time for a discussion on gender differences and their impacts, it’s the wrong time for discussion of the state of the current presidential race, it’s the wrong time for deep discussions on race relations, it’s the wrong time for a great joke you heard over Thanksgiving, it’s the wrong time for a discussion of your favorite hobby. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion on those things, and that doesn’t mean they can’t impact any workplace ever.

      However, this is a job interview. You’re trying to learn about their company and sell your candidacy for the job. Such a discussion promotes neither objective.

      Last: do you really, honestly believe you are less-qualified for your job because you just had a baby? If you truly feel you are temporarily less-qualified, do you think that will turn around within a few weeks-months as you and your baby get into a routine? If you honestly think you can’t cut it, then you should apply for jobs you feel better qualified for.

      If you think you personally can’t cut it right now due to the baby, please also don’t paint the other 50% of the population with the same brush just to make yourself feel better. I find that insulting, and you’d better have a pretty hard-core study I haven’t seen, with many different test subjects controlled carefully for many variables, to back up such an assertion. It sure sounds like you’re just trying to reassure yourself that everyone goes through exactly what you are to make you feel better about your loss of “sharpness”. I have sympathy for you going through a difficult time, and I’m sure your response is reasonably normal, but don’t tar the rest of us at our jobs because you’re having a rough time, please. Pregnancy and birth impact different women differently. It sounds like it may have hit you hard. I’m sorry for that, and I hope things turn around for you personally soon. However, not everyone goes through exactly what you’re going through to the same degree. Some women have a longer physical recovery time. It wouldn’t surprise me if some women have a longer mental recovery time, and I’d expect that to be due to biochemical effects AND environmental effects.

      1. PlainJane*

        Yes to all of this. And most people, regardless of gender or parental status, have mental lapses from time to time.

    12. Argh!*

      If the job requires thinking, telling the potential employer that you have trouble with thinking is a bad idea. If you really have a serious problem, see a doctor or lower your professional ambitions. If you can’t think in an interview, and blame it on a condition that could go on for years (how many babies will you have?) why on earth would the employer choose you over someone who can think every day?

      The ADA requires “reasonable” accommodation, and hiring someone who can’t think straight for a job that requires a sharp mind isn’t a reasonable accommodation.

    13. Helka*

      There are very, very few differences between men and women that are both a) broadly universal and applicable regardless of any other intersecting issues, and b) relevant to your average workplace.

    14. One of the Sarahs*

      Genuine question – when you get a job, do you expect to be held to less high standards than co-workers who aren’t mothers of new babies, because of the biological differences you believe in? If yes, how long do you think this should last for?

      1. Erin*

        If I were to guess I’d say no, she doesn’t. Everyone has different strengths and weakness, some of which may be health related, and I think this would fall in that category.

        She wouldn’t need special treatment, just an understanding that she may have a “brain blip” now and then. Just like say, Fergus has health issues that prevent him from sitting for long periods, so that would be taken into consideration with long meetings or something like that.

        If anything she may expect to have to work harder to prove her value, not be held to a lower standard.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          But if immediate clear communication is important in the job, and she says she can’t do that because of “mommy brain”, she is expecting to be given the job when she performs less well than people without new babies. Fergus’ health issues don’t impact his ability to do the job in that case, but presumably OP’s “mommy brain” mean she’ll be having the same issues on the phone to clients/in big meetings etc. I’m genuinely interested in her thought process about what happens when she gets the job.

    15. Erin*

      I hear what you’re saying, but I think “mommy brain” is one of those health issues you just have to keep to yourself at work.

      A recent commenter wrote in about having to frequently use the restroom post surgery – sometimes having to leave mid-conversation to do so. Bear with me here because I understand there are huge differences between the two situations, but I would think of the mommy brain as something like that – something health related you do have to deal with in the moment, but no one needs to hear the details.

      To use a more related analogy – During your first trimester, maybe you were already starting to have mommy brain (or pregnancy brain), in addition to morning sickness, but you were keeping your pregnancy a secret until the second trimester. You just had to deal with the pregnancy symptoms as best you could while keeping mum about the cause, right?

      Now, as work life and real life blend together more and more, I could see the mommy brain maybe being something acceptable to bring up in the future. But for right now, (as Alison sai, rightly or wrongly), I think you should keep it to yourself, as you would certain other health issues in the workplace.

    16. Anonymous for This*

      So, this is going to be TMI and medical

      I have endometriosis. That is something only women can get. For me, what it means is that every 22 days I am in excruciating pain for 3-4 days. Like, so much pain that I throw up pain.

      Because this is a recurring issue for me, I cannot afford to take leave. I’m sure I could take FMLA, but that would cause a hardship for my job. So what do I do? I power through it. Every month. I make sure I am extra prepared, have the meds I need on hand, and I do not make excuses.

      So, if someone came to me and tried to excuse their distraction with “mommy brain” I’d be less than sympathetic and annoyed. Not only because it makes it look like women are a slave to their lesser biology, but because to me, there are so many useful ways to get around that excuse (like “let me reword that”) that pleading weakness means you weren’t prepared ahead of time.

      People – men and women – go through things every day. Don’t use pseudo-science to try to make yours out to be more excusable. For every study that says women get dumber during pregnancy/post-partum, there is one that says they don’t.

      1. Middle Name Jane*

        I have endometriosis as well. Some months aren’t terrible, but other months I’m in excruciating pain from my waist down to my knees for days on end and nothing relieves it (not OTC or prescription pain meds, not birth control pills, etc.). I can’t stay home every month when I’m in pain and sick to my stomach from it. I have to come in and meet my deadlines like nothing is wrong.

        1. Weezy*

          Wow. I’m sorry you experience this (as well as the commenter above). A friend of mine in college was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis, after racking up thousands in hospital bills, having to miss semesters of work, and being unable to graduate because she could not pay off her tuition balance (plus she was an international student on a visa). I’ll always remember what that woman went through as hell on earth. I lost touch with her, but I really hope her condition improved.

        2. HRChick*

          Exactly – those deadlines aren’t going to go away because I’m on my period. I have a responsibility to my job – whether I’m in pain or think I have “mommy brain”

    17. PlainJane*

      The problem is that there are very few generalizations that hold true across all people of a given gender. I don’t want to be evaluated in the workplace based on whether or not I have a uterus, nor do I want anyone to make assumptions about me because I present as a particular gender. When we do that, we lock people into roles based on dubious evidence–and we have plenty of history to show the damage that can do. Let’s treat everyone as individuals with individual needs rather than generalizing based on someone’s category.

      I’m curious, though – what biological realities and experiences do you think impact women–and only women–in the workplace?

    18. Honeybee*

      I think the problem is that often people assume there are much larger biological differences than there really are. There’s a lot of bad misinterpretations of science out there, but the actual science hasn’t really found a whole lot of indications of cognitive differences between men and women. And when they do exist, they tend to be pretty small (and there’s large variations within gender, too). They’re too small to really make any sort of judgments or decisions about in a workplace context.

  29. BananaPants*

    I’m a working mother – no, no, no. Do not use the term “mommy brain” in an interview, or even in the workplace at all. Some women do experience mommy brain, others don’t, but it’s a very gendered term. Really, when it comes down to it you can either do the job or you can’t, and I wouldn’t use a term that gives them information about your parenting status AND makes it seem like it’s OK to blame a brain blip on being a “mommy”.

    1. Argh!*

      It also gives the impression that mothers deserve certain allowances that other people don’t, that mothers are better than the rest of us. All the single women who have held down the fort while mothers take time off for maternity leave, doctor’s appointments, and teacher-parent meetings certainly don’t want to have to take up the slack when the parent is actually at work too!

  30. Bend & Snap*

    I had a concussion this summer that really affected my memory and vocabulary for a few weeks. I didn’t disclose it outside my team, and instead just prepped to the teeth, wrote everything down, spoke more slowly than usual and took more pauses to find the right thought or words.

    Nobody ever commented on it. I think things like this can be compensated for and kept private with the right coping mechanisms.

  31. Short and Stout*

    If you really are concerned about a change in cognition you should go see your doctor. Things that can cause reduced you to think more slowly include but are not limited to sleep deprivation / depression / anaemia all of which women are at higher risk of following pregnancy.

    Not trying to imply that the OP is or could be suffering from any of those, just that if my thinking was as severely impacted as the OP describes I would want to know from my doctor if it was normal.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This is an excellent point. Sometimes serious health concerns get handwaved as “oh, what did you expect, you just had a baby”.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I wrote off my postpartum exhaustion for way too long, and when I finally went to a doctor and said “this can’t possibly be right” it turned out I had very low iron and Vitamin D levels, among other things.

        That said, even with my vitamin levels back up to acceptable ranges, I still have brain freezes, and too many things to hold in my head (what is the project XYZ deadline? crap, is daycare closed friday? Do we have anything in the fridge to cook for dinner tonight? etc) – I have to rely on some major life organization skills to hold it together, which I didn’t have to do pre-baby.

        But yes, getting a check up is not a bad idea.

      2. Rana*

        Oh my gosh, yes. It’s bizarre how you go from being scrutinized medically for every. tiny. thing. while pregnant, then after the baby arrives, it’s “welp, we’ll just see you in a month or so, try not to bleed to death or kill anyone until then.” I just don’t get that, at all.

  32. Argh!*

    Don’t ever make any disclaimer about poor performance in any interview!

    …or in any professional interaction generally unless it’s a very rare thing, like “Sorry, my sick baby kept me up last night and I’m a little groggy.”

    “Baby Brain” is like saying “You should hire someone without children because mothers can’t think straight.” (which I dispute – you should see a doctor if it’s really a problem)

    1. Middle Name Jane*

      >>Baby Brain” is like saying “You should hire someone without children because mothers can’t think straight.>>

      That’s exactly how it comes across and why I dread dealing with co-workers who have babies or young children. In my experience, these women are completely scatterbrained. The industry I’m in is stressful, high paced, can involve a lot of travel, and doesn’t tend to attract parents. The only parents on my team have teenagers, and most of us don’t have any children.

      1. PlainJane*

        Not trying to pick a fight, but, “That’s exactly how it comes across and why I dread dealing with co-workers who have babies or young children. In my experience, these women are completely scatterbrained” indicates a pretty strong bias that you might want to question. I traveled fairly regularly when my son was a toddler, received raises and bonuses both before and immediately after becoming a parent, successfully managed the biggest IT project of my career (on time and under budget) when my son was 2, and was promoted to management when my son was 2 1/2. I don’t mean this as, “I’m so great,” but rather, “New parents can be high performers.” I won’t say I was never scatterbrained–I remember working on just a few hours of sleep quite a few times, and I’m sure I wasn’t sharp as a tack on those days–but I know how to use a calendar, task manager, and Gantt chart to keep me on track. Other people–regardless of gender or parental status–can do the same. Please don’t tar all new parents with the same broad–and unjustifiably negative–brush.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I imagine those co-workers don’t like dealing with you much either, given your obvious and proud sexism.

  33. Mando Diao*

    I’ll approach this differently than other commenters: I don’t like it when my coworkers blame long-term performance issues on normal (albeit stressful) life circumstances. It always bugs me when a small vocal percentage of people go on about something under the assumption that the non-vocal people aren’t going through their own issues. You get to a certain age and absolutely everyone is going through SOMETHING. Most people have kids eventually. Everyone (sadly) copes with the loss of close relatives and beloved pets. If OP brings up “mommy brain,” there’s a good chance the interviewer will think, “Huh, I’ve had kids and I dealt with it without lowering other people’s expectations for my work performance.” I don’t buy it as valid, is what I’m saying.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, plus, why would you want to lower expectations of your work performance IN THE INTERVIEW? I just don’t get that. If you’re making excuses in the interview, what are you going to be like at the actual job?

  34. Observer*

    I have not read the replies yet, but a thought.

    The “Lose 8% brain mass” sounds like a totally made up number. Also, the studies actually don’t find that women’s cognitive skills are negatively affected by pregnancy. Studies have founds some changes in mice and rats, but the few studies done on humans have not found the same thing. And, in fact a couple of recent studies that were focused specifically on this issue IN HUMANS, found that women tend to self report impaired cognition in some areas, but actual performance is as good or even better in some areas, during and after a pregnancy.

    So, aside from what Alison said, please don’t feed an untrue and damaging stereotype.

    1. neverjaunty*

      There is one study, which I linked to upthread, that looked at MRI scans for a handful of women to compare normal and pre-eclampsia pregnancies, and made no conclusions about how ‘observed brain volume’ temporary changes affect pregnancy.

      Then the Internt gets hold of it, and people in parent chat rooms turn that into “mommy brain is hardwired”.

      1. Observer*

        I saw the link you posted. And, after reading it, I would modify to “almost” completely made up. I say this because there is a clear attempt to make this sound like a very accurate and precise scientific study, although it CLEARLY is not. With a total population size of 14 you simply cannot talk about “statistically significant” variations in your population. There are other issues but the most important point here is that you simply CANNOT draw any sort of reasonable conclusions from a study this small.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Indeed – and I don’t think that the study authors were attempting to draw any conclusions; at least from the abstract, they were saying “Hey, we observed this thing. Maybe more research should be done.”

          The LW mentioned she spends a lot of time on new parent discussions/chats, and those places are a wretched hive of people who desperately want to believe that hoary old Mars and Venus stereotypes were graven in stone at the beginning of time, so it doesn’t surprise me some third-hand version of that study got waved around as !!!!SCIENCE!!!!.

    2. Rana*

      Yes. My anecdata as the mother of a toddler is that while I wouldn’t want to be in any job that required a lot of driving, my ability to memorize things has returned to levels I haven’t had since I was a teenager. (I can now recite picture books verbatim after only 1-3 reads, for example.) On the other hand, keeping track of things is more complicated now. Becoming a parent is a major life change, even without biology factoring in, and it’s hard to predict all the effects.

  35. MsMollyD*

    I’m in my forties, haven’t had any kids, and my brain still does this. I think everyone’s does from time to time. Mine has definitely gotten more frequent as I get older. I just say, “I’m completely blanking on ____” and no one ever seems to have a problem with it. If I remember the word, name, or phrase later and the conversation hasn’t moved on too far yet I’ll say “_____! That is her name!” or whatever the thing was that I couldn’t access in my memory.

  36. Mean Something*

    Just wanted to echo one of the comments above about being checked for thyroid deficiency (and its caveat about Internet diagnosis). It is very common among postpartum women and causes mental fogginess that is very easy to blame on lack of sleep and the demands of caring for small children. I wasn’t diagnosed until my daughter was 2, and I had about 80% of the possible symptoms, including disturbed sleep, dry skin, weight gain, cold all the time–and awful mental fog, which is part of why I couldn’t figure out that there was an underlying cause apart from motherhood! Good luck to you.

  37. Chris*

    First off, way to go OP for being so cool in the comments. It’s so rare to see a nice back and forth

    As a complete aside, I (a 30 year old single man) find the word “mommy” to be incredibly grating when spoken by anyone over the age of 10 or so. To me, it sounds, well, childish, and I instantly associate it with the sort of person who defends any opinion solely on “won’t someone think of the children!” or declares that they know things because of “mommy instinct”, and my eyes roll into the next county. Now, OP, as you’ve demonstrated in the comments, you certainly don’t seem to be that kind of person, and of course most people who use the word aren’t. That’s just the association that comes into my brain when I hear it, whether I like it or not.

  38. MV*

    Please please do not mention this. Would the company be OK with having someone who is forgetful and does not communicate clearly working for them? I am sure not. If you present yourself this way in an interview I would think you find it OK to not do the best you can at the job either. An interview is your A-game. You should be on your very best behavior during one. If you indicate to me that you are OK with being less acute during an interview then I will assume you feel OK with being less as an employee and I am on OK with that.

    Having a baby is no excuse for lowered performance, I would not mention it, do the best you can do, and if the company likes you as you are now they will hire you.

  39. Middle Name Jane*

    OP–this right here is one of the reasons women continue to experience discrimination in the workplace.

    I’m a woman who has chosen not to have children, and I can’t tell you how sick I am of parents who get away with doing less work or work that isn’t as good because they’re parents. Those of us without children are often held to a higher standard or forced to make up the slack.

    1. neverjaunty*

      You yourself insisted you’d never hire a woman with a baby or a small child (men with babies are small children are OK, it seems) – yet you’re now complaining that women experience discrimination in the workplace? You’re going to give yourself whiplash like that.

      1. PlainJane*

        Exactly. I responded to that comment upthread. I won’t repeat myself here except to say that those of us with children are often tarred with this kind of broad brush–undeservedly. How about we hold everyone to the same standard and evaluate them on their performance rather than their gonads or reproductive status?

        1. neverjaunty*

          Oh, but then people like Middle Name Jane can’t position themselves as the Special Snowflakes, who don’t deserve to be treated as badly as those other dumb females who breed.

          1. Middle Name Jane*

            And…so begins the attack against the evil childfree monster. How dare I resent getting saddled with extra work and higher expectations?

            All I said is that it’s been my experience–not the universal experience of workers everywhere–that those of us without kids end up having to pick up the slack when mothers take extended maternity leave (I’m talking 5-6 months) or frequent sick days because their kid caught a bug at daycare or school. In a perfect world, working fathers would share some of the burden. But it tends to be the mom who gets the call from the nurse’s office when the kid is throwing up. This is what I have seen over the course of my career. It’s not written in stone.

            Time to catch fresh snowflakes. The ones I have now aren’t special enough.

            1. Mookie*

              Yes, how dare life not be fair to you and you alone. If you believe you’ve only ever picked up the slack at work for women with children (men with children are always forgotten in these conversations, of course), you’re mistaken, you’re a bigot, and you’re willfully blind. For as long as you’ve been in the workforce, you’ve been affected — in obvious and less obvious ways — by other people’s personal lives, people who’ve kept secret physical impairments and diseases, turmoil and anguish and upheavals, learning disabilities, lack of access to education and training, poor mentoring, worse management. A thousand little things, none of which you can outlaw, none of which is your business. But, again, we’re pretending that when people have children, women (if they’re a member of that family) have committed some exceptionally terrible and egregious sin they need to be publicly shamed for. As though babies aren’t born everyday.

              If you’re actually invested in ending discrimination against women, I can’t fathom why you would be critical of maternity leave, which enables many women to remain employed. The alternative, whether you approve of it or not, is chronic unemployment for many, many women, because we’re not living in a progressive fantasy and childcare and rearing is still disproportionately performed by women. We’ve been granted so few perks designed to offset the effects of decades’ worth of male affirmative action, male-only unions and guilds, the wage gaps that follow, political inequality, the unequal distribution of domestic labor, and now you’re suggesting that the piddling little unpaid leave some people is anti-feminist or anti-woman or whatever you’re on about. Are women going to be phoned less from the nurse’s office because they’re not in the labor pool for reasons precisely like this… or no? Think this through, please. What is the alternative?

              If somebody’s calling you a monster (nobody did, of course), it’s not because you don’t have children, because nobody cares. Nobody cares about child-free people. Nobody.

            2. Observer*

              so begins the attack against the evil childfree monster.

              You MIGHT have some more credibility if you skipped all of the vicitmology.

              How dare I resent getting saddled with extra work and higher expectations?

              That’s not what anyone said. What people ARE saying is that you are not being expected to perform better because of women who have children.

              that those of us without kids end up having to pick up the slack when mothers take extended maternity leave (I’m talking 5-6 months) or frequent sick days because their kid caught a bug at daycare or school.

              And, the reason that no one believes you is because it is SOOO out of the norm that it’s not a terribly credible claim. Given some of the other things you have said, you simply don’t have the credibility to expect people to stretch their credulity.

              People, including Mothers of young children, pick up the slack for others all the time. It’s not just these women who need to stay home because of family members. Some of us actually have OTHER family members that we need to help out, and may need to stay home for.

              And, people take extended leaves all the time, not just women who just had a baby. And, you cannot blame the new mother for the fact that her employer was too stupid or stingy to cover the position. But, that’s true if the person were for any other reason. And, it does happen. That you have chosen to ignore that speaks more about you than the qualifications of “breeders” to be useful employees.

            3. CM*

              The points you’re making remind me a lot of my coworkers when I had a high-powered job at a large law firm. Work was their #1 priority. For the most part the partners were men who had wives at home caring for the children and running the household, and a very small handful were childfree women. As a mom of young kids, I cared a lot about my work but it was a close #2 priority. The workplace (like yours, I imagine) just was not structured for people with any competing priorities.

              So I hear what you’re saying. Moms often prioritize their families, whether it’s by taking maternity leave or staying home with a sick kid, while dads often prioritize work. Your logical conclusion, based on your repeated observations and not on your perceptions or judgments, is that moms are a pain to work with.

              The problem is that this creates a self-perpetuating cycle where moms are pushed out of the workplace or down to lower-level positions. And it’s really not necessary. It’s possible to accommodate people who want or need to have outside lives without sacrificing productivity. For example, you can establish expectations that people can go home for dinner and not email between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and honestly, you can still remain competitive and responsive. You can allow people to telecommute when needed, without penalty. (When I say “you” here I really mean “an employer,” not you personally.)

              You’re right that in a perfect world, working fathers would share childcare. I strongly believe that if (hopefully when) that happens, the workplace will change so that we’re all allowed to have lives without being perceived as less reliable or dedicated. I also think it’s already starting to happen that companies are losing excellent people who have families or outside priorities, AND those people are starting to compete with the companies they were pushed out of. So I hope that will also encourage change.

    2. MV*

      I don’t think you a bigot at all. As a CF women it is often incredibly hard to shake the (unearned by me!) stereotype of the scattered mother. Mentioning “baby brain” like the OP suggests does nothing but perpetuate this stereo type.

      IMO we ought to except the same performance from parents are we do for non-parents. I have had to pick up the slack for people who need to take their kids to this and and that and need to be out because of this and that. Some of these folks also pick up the slack for me when I need to take a cat to the vet or take the day off for a bike race I am participating in. I do get the distinct vibe from several past coworkers (and a boss once) that my interests are not as valid because they are not related to doing something for my child and that HAS made me bitter and impatient about that.

      I admit that when a colleague goes on maternity leave and says she will come back I figure there is a 50/50 chance she actually will. That’s been my experience, really more like 30/70 but I am feeling generous :)

      So I think women with kids or pregnant women really need to not excuse their performance or attendance issue as “that’s what mommies do! Tehe” because that makes things harder for parents who don’t act that way and people without kids. Don’t be the stereotype ya know? If you don’t want people at work to roll their eyes at you for using your child to be scattered, perform less, have attendance issues, drop the ball then don’t do that. Stop blaming/using your kid a catch all excuse is step one I think for mother’s not getting such a bad rep at work.

  40. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    As someone who does do mission hires, I wouldn’t look kindly on a woman blaming “mommy brain.” I consider it not relevant and I would have to wonder how your performance on the job I’m looking at you for will be affected and for how long. People try to evaluate your ability to perform to the tasks that they require; in a similar vein, if someone came in a said they didn’t sleep all night because of video gaming, I would have to wonder where their priorities actually are. I’ve had people pause and admit they’re nervous so they need time to collect their thoughts, which would fit much better than someone admitting to a distraction like “mommy brain.”

    Also, it’s almost like the OP is apologizing for their family, in a roundabout way. The interviewer has no way of knowing who you were months ago. Everyone has off interviews or days they could have interviewed better, it happens.

  41. Bonnie K*

    I think your question is very relevant and fair! I’m a mother of two ( 3 years and 6 months). I get very little sleep (3-4 hours broken sleep a night max). I mind both our kids for 12 hours a day and I’m just starting my interviews for going back to work after being off for 1 year. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to answer competency based questions whereby the interviewer is asking me to give examples. I cannot remember what happened yesterday given my hectic daily life and lack of sleep never mind what happened a year or more ago. I also get no time to study for my interviews and run from breastfeeding a crying baby into an interview so I’ve no time to get into the frame of mind which always helps people prepare. I might add I had a senior managerial role in a top tech firm before I left for baby number two. So all in all I actually think it’s very unfair to judge me against someone else who’s getting a full nights sleep, who is still in the workforce being well able to keep up with the lingo, and can access info about their current role that helps them give examples to competency based questions. I do feel if I said I had baby brain that I’d be accused of making an excuse but to be honest, it’s real! I’m not making it up! I’m a smart rusty cookie who needs to be given a bit of rope for my lack of acronyms and examples because to be frank my brain is fried from running a household with two very young kids and I should be commended for being able to go for the interviews with the knowledge I do have, even just making them on time! Hope you got the job anyways or one that you were happy with.

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