Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Neuroplasticity and My Twinmom Brain

One of my followers commented once that she was exhausted after reading my post. My schedule overwhelmed her. She, like many of my friends, wondered how I do it. My answer to that question, "How do you do it," has always been "with a lot of help." I have parents who will drop everything to help, colleagues who understand the life of a non-tenured faculty member, and a babysitter that keeps my kitchen sink clear and my kids' clothes clean - and folded neatly in the drawers I have labeled with my label maker.

Organization also plays a role, and though some of my coworkers give me a hard time about planning ahead, planning ahead and keeping my options open (my mom's consistent advice to me growing up) has served me well in this balancing act I perform.

So until today, I assumed the answer to the "how do you do it" question was in asking for and accepting help and in organization. Today I learned that another factor might also be at play. My brain might have adapted to this crazy life I lead.

A few of my colleagues and I have decided to start a book club in order to push our thinking about teaching and learning in the contemporary world. Our current selection, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, deals with the human brain, its malleability and the effect of the Internet on its functioning. Carr introduced me to the concept of Neuroplasticity, a relatively new understanding in the world of brain. Neuroplasticity suggests that the human brain is flexible and that neurons are not solidified in their connections during childhood. In fact, neurons can be re-wired in adulthood according to daily functioning and experience. (This is my layman explanation and understanding of a very technical concept that I've only read about in this one book. Please be kind in your feedback.)

My first aha moment came as I read: No wonder it is difficult for moms to re-enter the workforce after taking time away to rear their children. Not only do they need to catch up on the 5 to 20 years of growth in the field, which is exponential in today's society, but they also need to re-wire their brains, which have literally adjusted to the routines of working in the home.

My second aha moment came during a conversation with an expecting twin mom. This mom has an older child, and she will be adding twinfants to a family that has already established norms for child rearing. I cannot offer advice to twinmoms in this situation because my only experience is twin experience. As I've said to many, we simply didn't know anything different. I do not know whether it is easier or harder if you have twinfants after you have had a singleton experience. What I think I've come to understand today, however, is that when my children were born, my routine changed. That change in daily stimuli started a process of re-wiring in my brain. I have adapted.

So, my new addition to the "organization and lots of help" response is that my brain is now wired to manage it. And, in fact, I'm pretty sure I'd have no idea how to manage the life of a work at home mom. But eventually, my brain would figure it out.

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