When Brains Turn to Mush: Is There Spiritual Hope for Young Mothers?

I have the mental capacity of a preschooler. This may come as a shock to those of you who knew me in my glory days of brainhood. You know, those days of late nights, straight A’s, Bachelor’s degrees, Deans Lists…The Thinking Times. Now, I’m a mother. I have no use for such things. My children have no use for such things. They do not care if I could write curriculum, prattle on about Early American History, or write music with triads. They want dinner. NOW.

Are you worried for my spiritual state? You shouldn’t be. Because though my brain is mush, the Lord is actually able to reach me much better in my current state than He could while I was cramming for exams. While I was doing “that thinking thing”. So much thinking. When you are surrounded by children, the Lord’s truths are obvious and brilliant and clear. Meditation isn’t necessary to feel His presence. You are bombarded by it like your baby’s foot to your head at 6 in the morning: “HEY. I’m HERE.” And it’s beautiful.

I realized that while these days I faint at the prospect of reading long passages from the Writings, what I am teaching my children about being decent humans, instead of gremlins, is a pretty good summary of what our adult relationship with the Lord should be like: Someone else is taking care of me. I have to listen carefully and follow directions. Ask for help nicely, and I’ll get it. Say “thank you”.

Now of course, it’s still important to keep up trying to read those long passages that make my knees quiver, but I also have in the back of my mind an image of a “grown up” patting me on the back saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll understand when you’re older…” The fog will lift one of these days. In the meantime, my children and my preschool students continue to pelt me with spiritual punches to the face.

My child tells me after the passing of my grandfather: “People go to heaven when they get dead. That’s the real life of this life.” Whoa. You’re right, Three Year Old. That really is what’s real isn’t it? What we are living now is a mere shadow of a life we have yet to live. A life more exquisite, more meaningful. Yes, I will get you more goldfish.

A preschool student in the middle of worship asks: “I like dinosaurs. Did the Lord send something to kill the dinosaurs?” Boy. I might need another cup of coffee to handle this question of the Lord’s power and His guidance through Divine Providence. Because what you are really asking is “Why is something I love not here, and what part did the Lord play in that?” Now please, keep your hands to yourself during worship, and no silly voices during the prayer…

I hear my children talking in the other room and eventually they call out to me: “Mommy! We both choose good. We both want to go to heaven.” Or the other day in the car: “Mommy. We decided to follow the Ten Commandments.” Phew. Parenting. Done. Yeah, it really does need to be my choice, huh? But it can be an easy one.

So perhaps you are a parent too and feel like you’re in a fog most days. Maybe you’re worried that with a religion that focuses a lot on our understanding, a parent of young children is doomed. But the Lord is very accommodating. He is (as we used to say when I was still thinking and getting a degree in New Church Education) “The Master Teacher”. He has an I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan) for each one of us. The Lord will reach us even if our brains are mush. For who else are closer to the Lord than the children in our care? If we listen to them, we can hear His voice.

About Rebecca Cooper

Rebecca lives in the Kempton New Church Society in Pennsylvania. She grew up in the Mitchellville, MD society, then moved to Bryn Athyn, PA to complete her highschool and college education where she earned a bachelor's degree in New Church Elementary Education, and met her husband Jordan Cooper, who currently teaches in the Kempton New Church School. Rebecca runs a New Church preschool out of her home, and is predominately occupied in raising three young girls. Rebecca and her husband Jordan take delight in running a theater company together in the summer that specializes in providing classic theater for children and their families.

10 thoughts on “When Brains Turn to Mush: Is There Spiritual Hope for Young Mothers?

  1. Yep. Pretty much. I remember those mushy brain days. I worried when I couldn’t even focus on a sermon. I figured it was a combination of hormones and as a mother of infant and toddler, my focus on them, kept me from having a thought for more than five minute spurts.

    But those years are short, and before you know it, being able to carry a thought through to the end. Enjoy your mushy brain years, and the special joys of teaching young children about the Lord.

    1. They are so short! I think the key to enjoyment is realizing that they are numbered.

  2. Rebecca, thank you so much for your humor and light touch, but also for saying some things right on the mark. I’m sure your brain will be less mushy once you can get full nights of sleep and command a few hours all to yourself each day! That’s the hope, isn’t it? Your great stories or quotes from your children and preschoolers reminded me that one day my then 5 year-old said dreamily as we were driving in the car, “I love the Lord, soooo much. Sometimes I just want to go to heaven and be with Him.” Gulp! Luckily, she did not leave me! My other daughter touched me with her valiant 6 year old efforts at prayer. She had written a note to the Lord and left in under the edge of the rug for Him. She kept running to check under the rug to see if He had answered yet. It said something like “LD, PS hlp me.” She explained to me that she was having such a hard day obeying the Lord’s commandments. I hadn’t noticed!

    1. So sweet! Hmm, I like the idea of leaving a note to the Lord under my rug 🙂

  3. I taught parent education and child development before I had my own children. I treasured my “child development lab” at home, but I missed adult interaction. I started a discussion group in my home for at-home mothers in the neighborhood to discuss life issues, with the children playing in our playroom, or circling the long dining room table where we were gathered. At first I lead the discussion, but we gradually shared the leadership. We participated in courses like Rev. John Powell’s “Fully Human, Fully Alive”, and we shared our religious beliefs and our spiritual experiences. The group lasted 15 years, with women from ages 17 to 95 attending. It was good mental exercise … and lifelong friendships were made.
    The time I spent with my growing children was the best investment I made in my life. And it was good to share the journey with other women to keep my mind and perspective alive. Thanks for your account of your busy life … and the perspective you bring to it.

    1. That’s a really neat idea. I like that you used the words “mental exercise”. Perhaps young mothers need to just work on reaching their toes rather than running marathons at first, with the goal that someday our brains will be strong enough, but not if we aren’t making them stretch a bit before hand. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Loved your mushy post which brings back memories as I sort through old photographs of 3 little boys with buckets heading toward Sycamore Creek or one little girl in a large washing pail so that the three rowdy boys
    would not squish her. It seems
    almost a dream. When they grew up
    I still had plenty of time to teach
    And even fit in ten years of Real-
    Estate. Life is very long but
    Days with little ones now seems
    Unbelievably short. Thanks for sharing.
    Affectionately. Gillian


  5. This is a great article! Thanks Becky! I like thinking that this mushy brain phase is part of the Lord’s plan and I am not supposed to be in another place right now. That’s a helpful thought. Also, glad I’m not alone! Thanks for sharing your voice on the matter.

  6. I’m a fan. These gremlin-wrangling years strip existence down to brass tacks. If I get a shower, feed everyone, smile at my husband, and read a verse or two from the Word, I look around for the Nobel Prize of Wife- and Motherhood. I get twinges of guilt for not aspiring to much beyond daily kindness to people around me and the care and feeding of said gremlins. Thanks for this perspective.

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