I Didn't Do Anything For My Family For A Month

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
Adam Kuylenstierna / EyeEm / Getty Images

After an unexpected complication during what was supposed to be a simple outpatient surgical procedure, I recently ended up staring down a six week recovery period where I was largely confined to a bed. Or the couch. Or a recliner. To put it simply, on doctor’s orders (and because I literally couldn’t move), my ass didn’t move for weeks on end.

My first thought upon the scary realization that I — the one and only person who actually gets shit done in the house — would be unable to actually get any shit done was that my entire household would fall apart within days. Hours maybe. Minutes? I mean, I do all the things. All. The. Things.

Nobody else does all the things. Hell, nobody else even knows what all the things are. They just magically get done, cleaned, cooked, washed, folded, organized, and prepared. And then all the things get done over and over again, with nobody really noticing any of it getting done at all. So what was it gonna look like when all the things were immediately neglected, and my family of six had to fend for themselves because I was horizontal for weeks on end? From my hospital bed, I cringed at the thought of how epically shit was going to hit the fan, took another pain pill, and then prayed for the best.

But you know what?

Shit got done. My family did things. And we all survived.

We moms tend to think we’re irreplaceable. We pat ourselves on the back about how we have to do everything and we get no help from anyone. I sometimes wonder if that’s because we simply don’t allow anyone else to do things. We’re convinced that the (dictator)ship we run so efficiently will face in dramatic and Titanic-like demise the second we’re not at its helm.

I’m here to tell you that it won’t. As a matter of fact, you’ll find when the captain is literally seasick, all the seemingly helpless sailors on the boat (in your house) step up to the helm and get shit done.

I know. I was just as shocked as you. Trust me.

During those weeks when I was down for the count, I didn’t grocery shop, yet food appeared in my pantry. My husband and teens are capable of buying food — who knew? I didn’t wake up with the kids in the mornings and prepare a hot breakfast, yet the kids woke up on their own (there’s this amazing technological invention called an alarm clock) and managed to scour up something to eat before school.

I didn’t pack a single lunch, yet nobody went to school without sustenance for the day. A miracle? Nope. Just kids who know where the panty is, and are physically capable of stuffing Cheez-Its into lunchboxes without assistance.

I didn’t sign a single permission slip, homework packet, or teacher note, yet they all got signed. Turns out kids are able to speak the words, “DAD, CAN YOU SIGN THIS?”

I didn’t make one single dinner, yet nobody starved. Neighbors and friends brought over some meals here and there, but most surprising was the fact my kids fed themselves without complaint or hesitation. Hungry kids can and will make do when the alternative is, well, hunger.

I didn’t do any laundry, yet everybody had clean clothes. Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s also the mother of: “I don’t want to wear dirty underwear to school anymore, so I guess I’m gonna teach myself how to add detergent and hit the start button on this thing called a washing machine.” And they did.

My kids are teens so they are physically, emotionally and mentally capable of doing things that younger kids can’t do yet, but ironically, the greatest achievement during my recovery wasn’t the fact that my kids stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park while mom was on the DL. No, it wasn’t that at all.

The greatest achievement was the fact I let them hit it out of the park. Because I was too tired to chime in and interfere with their independence, they actually got to be independent. I wasn’t hovering and demanding it be done my way (i.e., the “right” way). Because I wasn’t able to jump in and take over, it provided them the perfect chance to prove to me they are willing and able to contribute to the running of the household.

In the end, I learned that letting go is crucial not just to my sanity, but to their development as self sufficient young people. Besides, being in a bed for 6 weeks wasn’t all that bad anyway. Because Netflix. Amen.

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