Cole Moreton: Forgetfulness is what keeps fathers going, too

Share
Related Topics

She stands in the doorway and yells. The new mum, clutching her baby tight. Clearly knackered, she has lost her car keys, forgotten where she is going, and even forgotten the name of that useless bloke she is screaming at. The father. "Hey... you! Where are they? Why haven't you done that thing I asked? What was it?"

There is, new dads can now reflect wearily, a scientific reason for all this. Mumnesia, a phenomenon as old as Eve, analysed and validated by the University of Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Women suffer memory lapses after childbirth, the scientists say, because they instinctively focus on their baby above all else; their oestrogen levels plummet; and they get shattered, losing up to 700 hours of sleep in the first year. But men have instinctive reactions to new babies, too: we panic, and lager levels rise.

Most of us share the sleep deprivation to some extent, according to the scientists (who say our testosterone levels fall while oestrogen goes up). I have a friend who rises at 5.30am to feed his young twins, gets a train to work, does a high-pressure job and is usually up until midnight helping with the babies. Then he does it all again. He still doesn't feel as if he's doing enough. But even if you "just" go out to work and do little else, new fatherhood can be alarming and exhausting.

If women get mumnesia, then let's call what men get daddy-mindedness. You place the bottle on the work surface, spoon in the milk powder to make a warming, nourishing liquid, and seal the top. Then you carefully unscrew it again and pour the contents of the bottle down the sink.

Or you take a lick of the chocolate left on your fingers from pudding, blow your nose on the nearest hankie, then remember you were in the middle of changing a terry nappy. And no, that wasn't chocolate.

There is always a fellow victim at the park: the guy with the messed-up hair and the werewolf eyes, rocking a buggy back and forth. He doesn't know who he is, or where he is. His mind isn't totally blank, though. This isn't mumnesia, it is daddy-mindedness: he is unconsciously listing the names of every player in the West Ham team of 1988, the year he first went to football with his dad. Parkes, Potts, Dicks, Gale... the baby's cry registers only as the roar of an imaginary crowd.

Let's be clear, daddy-mindedness is not the same as man-nesia. That can strike at any time, whether you are a father or not. Mannesia is forgetting the pint of milk you went out for in the first place and bringing back only a half-eaten packet of bacon Frazzles and a copy of Four Four Two. Mannesia mysteriously misplaces the three hours in the pub between nine o'clock – when you said you would be in, to help with the night feed – and midnight, when you get there.

Daddy-mindedness may actually be worth celebrating. The scientists say mumnesia is part of a woman's self-defence mechanism, helping her forget the pain of having a baby. Daddy-mindedness does a similar job, wiping out the memory of the devastating destruction of mystery and allure that takes place when you see the woman you love on her back with her legs in the air, during the sheer bloody mess that is childbirth.

If this Alien-like scene came to mind every time there was candlelight and oysters (or more realistically, a DVD and a Chinese) there would be no hope of brothers or sisters for the little one. Thankfully, it all gets forgotten. One flirty word, and more pressing matters arise. Three cheers, then, for daddy-mindedness and mumnesia. Without them, none of us would be here. Hip, hip... where were we?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss