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Giles Coren: ‘Us Dads Think We’re Clever. Mums Actually Are’

It’s time to face the facts, says Giles – women are the smarter sex when it comes to, well, everything about parenting

I’m sure you read the recent news story about how scientists have finally proved that men and women have different brains. In fact, you probably read it while holding a baby in one hand, pushing a toddler in a pram, sending a text, filling in your tax return and baking a cake.

Because what it proved was that, while men are likely to be better at learning and performing a single task (such as lifting their pants off the floor with their feet and flicking them deftly into the laundry basket), women are better at multi-tasking.

All hail, women

This, claim researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, is because men have more connections within each hemisphere of the brain whereas, in women, the two hemispheres are more closely interlinked. So, not only do women multi-task more efficiently, but you have better memory and cognition skills. Hence enabling you to answer such seemingly unsolvable riddles as, ‘Where the hell did I leave my car keys?’ and ‘Why are my children crying?’

All this we can boil down to ‘men’s brains are excellent in themselves, but women’s brains work better’. Which we already knew, without needing American boffins to go cutting people’s heads open and looking inside while asking them to perform certain tasks (if that’s how they do it. I’m just guessing).

But how does this affect our respective parenting abilities? The truth is, a lot. I’m currently teaching my three-year-old daughter Kitty to swim. I drive her to the pool every Sunday, throw her around for a few hours while shouting, ‘Swim! Swim!’ then take her for hot chocolate. I do this excellently.

Kitty picks things up by some sort of mystifying woman-to-woman osmosis

Then we come home and my wife demonstrates how to cook, sing, dance, get dressed and generally be a good and wholesome person, all at once, in ways that have allowed Kitty to pick up all those things by some sort of mystifying woman-to-woman osmosis.

One thing at a time

Then I teach her to read, relentlessly, for hours and hours, before taking her into the garden for some fighting. Meanwhile, my wife is demonstrating how to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a journalist and a relaxed person at peace with the world, while holding our nine-month old son. 

I think I’m doing terribly important stuff with my one-thing-at-a-time, task-based approach to child-rearing, then I realise everybody can swim, read and fight and that everything I do so urgently and concentratedly with my daughter, I am really just doing to please myself. And she knows that and merely indulges me – because of that socially-cognitive, multi-faceted, ever-so-well-connected female brain of hers.

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