What Do You Know about a Parent’s Brain and Decision Deficit?

Within the last few seconds you made the decision to read at least this sentence, and you are deciding whether to continue to read. Have you stopped to consider what is involved in the process of making decisions?

diane sitting on steps with three kidsIf you decide to continue reading, you will find out some fascinating facts about making decisions. I also will invite you to learn about decision deficit, something I think is extremely common for parents to experience on a daily basis.

As a parent, I often noticed there were moments when I would freeze when I had to make even a simple decision. I felt like I had spent my day having to decide what felt like hundreds, if not thousands of minor to major decisions, around caring for my children.

Are you still reading?

I’m about to share some really amazing facts.

First, I noticed there are a number of discrepancies among those who have attempted to count how many decisions we make in any given day. For example, the website quora.com states: “A recent study from Columbia University found that we’re bogged down by more than 70 decisions a day.”

That seems like a lot of decisions. Picture of a head scan with brain waves running through it.

But several other websites talked about an average of 35,000 decisions a day! (Visit: “You Make 35,000 Decisions A Day: How To Ensure They’re Excellent.”) This is for business professionals, but I’m guessing parents have to make at least as many decisions as the average professional.

Then I landed on a YouTube video that contains intriguing brain facts that take the number of how many decisions our brain is capable of making out of the range of our ability to comprehend.

You might find the latter portion of this video most fascinating. Based on the neuroscience presented, the conclusion is the brain is capable of making 8 quintillion, 640 quadrillion decisions in the course of a day. I had to figure out what a quintillion meant and learned that there are one million trillions in one quintillion.

Moreover, the video says we do this with as much energy as it takes to keep a 40 W light bulb lit. As usual, the new facts about the brain that keep coming out are beyond dazzling!

All this brings me back to parents’ decision deficit.

The sheer number of decisions required for parents to make every day can eventually lead to decision paralysis, regardless of exactly which one of these statistics is accurate. It is visceral and can stop us in our tracks and make us feel powerless.

Mother snuggling her sonAdd one more interesting statistic from The Daily Mail out of the UK which states nearly 70% of parents feel judged on decisions they make for their child – and three-quarters are given advice without asking for it.

Add how often in any given moment we can be uncertain we are making the right decision…which can contribute to how quickly we reach that point of decision deficit.

As far as I know there is no known cure for decision deficit

…because it is the nature of parenting that parents have to constantly make all kinds of decisions, from obvious and simple ones to those more serious, complex and controversial.

We can work on passing the responsibility onto our children, once they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. We can try to streamline our days and have specific schedules for things so we don’t have to constantly make new decisions.

The bottom line for me? There is an explanation for that moment of feeling paralyzed—I wasn’t going crazy when I could no longer think clearly enough to make a simple decision.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for deciding to stick with me! At the same time, I hope I haven’t created yet one more decision bringing you closer to being in decision deficit.

Invitation to Reflect

  • Reflect on your day today, noticing some of the decisions you had to make. Can you estimate what the number might be? Is it around the 70 that the one website stated, or do you feel like you are up in those quintillion numbers or somewhere in between?
  • Have you experienced decision deficit in the past? Does this information bring a modicum of relief? Now can you identify when you have reached that spot of needing to step back and let someone else decide what the dinner menu will be, or whether it’s okay to let your child stay up for an extra 15 minutes just this once? I hope you’ll be kind to yourself if and when you hit that wall and just can’t make another decision.

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Lakeside Global Institute