Becoming a parent changes almost everything. You find yourself having quiet Saturday nights, saggy boobs, soft stomachs, limited interior car space, bigger feet and a foggy brain. But it’s not just the physical, tangible things that evolve but there is a  new bunch of skills you naturally develop and a whole lot that regress.

Oh, you may develop a fine understanding of how a child thinks and what they need before they call. Your ability to cook simple meals or multiple meals will be outstanding. Everything seems to simplify when you have kids. With those finely honed set of skills you may feel justified in resting on those laurels, polishing your gold medals and giving yourself bruises, patting yourself on the back. But there is another set of skills that suffers as you grow into motherhood.

I have noticed the skill of listening deteriorates dramatically when you are a mother. Yes, we are busy, our brains are on overdrive but I think our listening becomes dodgy because we are out of practice. You see, mothers are great at listening in two minute intervals. Basically that’s how long you get before you are interrupted by a little ‘un, “Muuuuum, I need to go to the toilet; Muuuuuum Donny punched Matilda while it was HER turn on the slippery dip; Muuuuuuum I’m bleeding; Muuuuuuum I’ve got a booger; Muuuuuum…. I forget.” Interruption after interruption.

image by Lucidish

A mother’s brain is a distracted one. And when we get an extended moment to have a conversation, the brain may go into shock and freeze! It happened to me the other day, I just couldn’t think of what to say. There was silence as my thoughts raced. How do you carry a conversation? Where did I put my talking/listening skill set again? I know I had it once upon a childless time.

I’ve found I have forgotten how to ask people about themselves. One friend agreed saying that often when mums get together, we are so desperate to purge all our frustrations that all we talk about is ourselves and our kids and our common problems. So when your kids grow a little and get a little easier to handle, you can still find yourself distracted, stuck in the habit of distraction.

For all you mums out there who have lost the ability to converse, here are my top tips:

  1. Wait until you are asked about your ‘news’
  2. Ask others about their ‘news’
  3. Follow up with another question
  4. Eye contact is essential, make sure you focus on the other person
  5. If you don’t hear (or listen) the first time, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat what was said
  6. Try to avoid empathising by sharing one of your stories, rather, dig for more information on what their experiences are, people love to talk about themselves
  7. Ask about their kids – try to remain calm if they tell you something shocking their child has done. Treat it, instead with humour and a couple of handy phrases are: “Oh aren’t they full of beans” OR “cheeky monkey”
  8. If there’s a pause and you’ve exhausted all your questions (and your co-conversing mate has lost her conversation skills), you can introduce your news with a, “Oh, did I tell you about my new job/haircut/idea/bookclub/tv obsession etc”
  9. As the conversation draws to a close, get out before it dies completely. Awkward silences are the pits!
  10. Finish with a genuine reason to leave (people can tell when you’re faking it) and try and ‘mental note’ all the important points covered. Perhaps follow-up during the week with a text or ask them about it next time you see them.

You will be surprised how lovable you will become to people if you follow these steps. It may seem silly or contrived but these skills are so helpful when you find yourself coming back into the world and out of the baby fog. You may just become your own person again!