The last time I was at the gynecologist I picked up a copy of Pregnancy & Newborn magazine. Mostly because there was a thing on the cover about whether motherhood makes you smarter, and also because the receptionist told me they were free copies.
Knowing my feelings about children already, I figured it would be interesting to get the viewpoint of people who genuinely want children.
Long and the short of the 2 page article? Having kids doesn't actually make you smarter, unless you use a person's ability to take care of children as an indicator of intelligence. Maybe it's just my rigid vernacular structure, but I was hoping for actual Wechsler or Stanford-Binet data where we compared the IQ scores of people before and after they have kids.
What the article is actually about?
...certain parts of a mom's brain actually grow during pregnancy and during the postpartum period, leaving us slightly larger in specific areas - including those that deal with maternal motivation (hypothalamus), reward and emotional processing (substantia nigra and amygdala), sensory integration (parietal lobe), and reasoning and judgement (prefrontal cortex).
The article goes on to say that you also create a lot more neurons and neural connections during pregnancy. I argue against this because your brain deals with any new experience by trying to connect established neural pathways or by creating new ones. Treating this like a unique and amazing occurrence that only happens when you're having a baby is bullshit.
Being a mother changed the brains of female rats enough that they were able to plan ahead to be sure that they had enough food and water to feed their pups.
Similarly to the last point, this has nothing to do with being "smart" and more to do with being a good parent. I'm not trying to specifically define "smart." If you get a 600 on your math SATs and a 100 on your verbal, you're still incredibly intelligent in math. Reverse, and you're incredibly intelligent with your verbal skills. The moral of the story is that having a baby does things to your brain that hopefully will make you a better parent. It doesn't increase your intelligence in any other areas.
It's as if our brains know that nourishing our children (and perhaps even getting in and out of the grocery store in record time) is more important than recalling the trivial information we tend to bank on.
The specific "trivial information" the article is referencing is knowing which Shakespeare play, "to be or not to be," comes from. It's as if knowing how to change a diaper (or, in the case of this article, shop for groceries in an efficient manner), completely obliterates the need to know general things about Shakespeare. If you know one, you literally have no fucking clue about the other. I'd also like to ask what the fuck we're "banking" our knowledge of Shakespeare on before we have children? Is it the final Jeopardy question?
Current evidence suggests that mother rats get an additional boost [of brainpower] after a second pregnancy.
This is in a sidebar, which means it's one of those quickly accessible factoids that people with not enough time/attention span to read the entire article (attention: new mothers!) will be able to quote. It's also a subtle incentive to have more children.