Tuesday, June 01, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: We are Smarter Than We Think by Shari Storm

Last summer, we enrolled our five-year-old daughter into summer camp. One day, I showed up when camp was in full swing.

I was astounded. The park was teaming with children, crawling over the playground equipment and playing various games in the grass. In their midst were a few teenagers, talking amongst themselves with one eye nonchalantly on the horde of kids.

Why weren’t they paying more attention? They should be hovering. Didn’t they know how easily a stranger could snap up a kid? Didn’t they understand how a child could fall off the playground equipment and get a concussion? Didn’t they realize they should be listening for bullying?

Then I thought back to the years when I was a lifeguard. As a teen, I worked summers at a public pool. It never occurred to me that a child could die during my watch. I had no perspective as to how tragic it could be.

While I am comfortable with our decision to have children later in life (I am 40 with a 6, 4 and 2 year old), I do wonder if I would worry less if I were younger.

I’ve always been a professional high achiever. I’ve been blessed with a healthy dose of self-confidence that has helped me throughout my career. It wasn’t until my first child was born that I knew what it was like to feel uncertain about my abilities. With the arrival of my baby, I not only felt overwhelmed at home, I also felt insecure at the office. Suddenly I was sleep deprived, distracted, forced to forego any overtime, and chubbier than I had ever been in my life.

I imagine that if I had been in an entry-level position when I was having kids, things would have been different. But as an executive, my loss of confidence had a profound impact on my happiness.

Then I read a book called The Mommy Brain, by Katherine Ellison. The book outlines the scientific evidence behind the theory that motherhood actually makes us smarter. A few pieces of comforting facts I took from the book.

• Mother rats far outperform their bachelorette counterparts in memory and learning tests.

• Mothers showed a significantly higher understanding of self and others and held more responsibility than their childless counterparts in a 40-year study of 121 graduates from the same elite college.

• Mothers had stronger activity in the amygdala when faced with stress during a brain scan than their non-mother counterparts, indicating that mothers' brains tend to react quicker and with more intensity in the face of trouble.

It seems like the older we get, the more we worry. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed my young counterparts don’t necessarily fret over their children as much as I do. Also, the higher on the org chart you are when you have kids, the more difficult it is to maintain your pace.

If my observation is correct then we older moms need all the pep talks we can get. After reading Ellison’s book, I felt smarter, stronger and more capable. And that, when you are a mom, is always a good thing.

Shari Storm has been an executive in the credit union industry since 1998. She has an undergraduate degree from University of Washington and an MBA from Seattle University. She recently published her first book titled, Motherhood is the New MBA: Using Your Parenting Skills to be a Better Boss. (St. Martins Press, hardcover). She has been featured in Time Magazine, Redbook, Body & Soul,  Martha Stewart’s radio program, BusinessWeek online, etc.

Shari speaks around the country on various topics and mentors at Seattle University’s graduate program. Her accomplishments also include participating in Filene’s international think tank, leading business people to teach free enterprise in the communist country of Belarus and raising three daughters. Visit http://www.sharistorm.com/.

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Blogger janetlansbury said...

Shari, thanks. I don't have something wonderful to add. I read a lot of posts about parenting, and yours brightened up my day. Oh, and I'm a 50 year-old mom with a 17, 13 and 8 year-old. I do feel smarter, but slower at the same time. Hmmm. Maybe slower is smarter!

9:34 PM  
Blogger Callie Lorentson said...

Beautiful article, Shari. Made me feel more appreciative of my own mom's worries.

Thanks for this.
-Callie Lorentson

5:13 PM  

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