What a Box of Legos Taught Me About Authentic Self Care
I’m about six months into rehabbing a mom injury. No, not an injury from childbirth or breastfeeding (although, been there, done that). I’m talking about an injury sustained in the line of mom duty. If you’ve lived with small humans who are mobile, you’ve probably sustained one too. Toys you’ve fallen over, cuts from assembling puzzlingly complicated toddler furniture, bumps from navigating a dark room at night. You know the drill.
In November of last year, I had a doozy of a mom injury. We had just moved into our new home and after a long cross country move, my kids and I decided to finally tackle the dozens of boxes of assembled Legos that were waiting to be lovingly played with (or meticulously inspected for signs that I had failed to protect them for their journey with enough bubble wrap, packing peanuts, etc).
After a few trips carrying boxes up and down the basement stairs without issue, I fell…hard. I knew right away that something was wrong. My pain tolerance is not great, but I like to think I do ok with discomfort. This was something totally different. Like 8 centimeters dilated on a Pitocin drip without pain meds bad.
I was convinced my ankle was broken. Not just because of the weird, floppy, Jello like way it laid there, but because the pain was just so bad. I’ll spare you the real drama and melodrama that went on over the next hour. In the end, the ER doctor explained that it wasn’t broken, just a “very bad” high ankle sprain.
What’s unfolded over the past six months has been a stream of appointments, procedures, and practices that have radically changed the way I think about self care. I’ve seen Physical Therapists, a Chiropractor, and primary care doctor. I’ve had electric sensors attached to my leg, worn a brace for 6 weeks and “written the alphabet” with my toes more times than I can count. I’ve tried ice, then heat, then more ice. I’ve done yoga style therapy and body work. I’ve tried it all.
And even though my ankle still isn’t completely back to normal, I’m grateful for what this experience has taught me. Because, all of the appointments and time taken to recover and then rehab have taught me to look at the idea of self care in a radically different way.
As mothers, we hear a lot about the importance of self care.But, the term “self care” itself can be a bit loaded. In fact, self care has received a bit of the “avocado toast” treatment. First, there was a boomer led backlash to the very notion that young people would feel entitled to name the action of putting their needs first. Then, there was a backlash to the backlash. Now, even celebritieswho long have been able to afford massage therapists, facialists and personal trainers expound on the importance of self care.
But self care, isn’t just about health and wellness. For moms, it’s about carving out the time and resources to take care of ourselves. It’s not just about the first doctor’s appointment when the injury or illness is acute. It’s about the follow up appointment, and the one after that.
Self care for moms is knowing that you would never, ever want your child or spouse to suffer unnecessarily or settle for feeling “just ok” for months on end. It’s about admitting that we need help. It’s about casting off the “toughest mom wins” mentality that’s permeating child birth, breastfeeding, and exercise culture. Mostly, it’s about putting ourselves first, even for a moment, so we can show up better for our families later on.