In the fall of 2007, a 40-foot pine tree snapped in half and hit me in the head. Both sides of my brain suffered severe damage, as well as the brain stem. My spine was compacted and I lost my motor skills, peripheral vision, balance, many memories and my mobility. My recovery took me from doctor to doctor and therapy to therapy over the course of several years.
Before the accident I was a woman who identified herself by her motherhood status and executive stature.
My measurement stick of what makes a good mother was derived from what my stay-at-home mom did, including having home-cooked meals ready on the table every night at six o’clock. I loved her cooking and the time around the table. I especially recall a chicken and mashed potato dish that she made often. It was favorite.
Even as a new mother, I compared myself and my success as a mom to my own mother. I was hard on myself because I couldn’t do all my mom did for me and my siblings. As a working mother, my time was split between the office and my home and family life. Most nights I wasn’t home by six o’clock, let alone having a home made meal prepared for my family.
Often I would resort to frozen meals and instant mashed potatoes, two things that my mother would never serve her family. Every time I placed instant mashed potatoes on the family dining table, I felt I was failing as a mother. This went on for years.
A decade later, the accident changed everyone’s life, mine and my family’s. While in occupational therapy, I had to relearn activities of daily living, one of the many was cooking. I started the foundational steps of meal preparation. As someone who had memory issues and physical limitations, it was difficult to remember to turn the stove on and off, measure ingredients, stir with one hand while holding the pot with the other and most importantly avoid burning myself, the pot or the food.
On my last day of occupational therapy I finally completed all the steps and felt over the moon elated. I was finally able to cook something for my family. It took me months of therapy to reach this step. After I made my dish, I asked my therapist if I could bring it home to my family.
I packed up the dish to take home to my family. Everyone gathered around the table and I revealed the first dish I successfully made for them after the accident.
It was instant mashed potatoes. The same instant mashed potatoes that had previously represented failure as a mother. And in the kitchen that day, I couldn’t fathom feeling like a failure. I had succeeded in a chore that challenged my fine motor skills, balance, memory and mobility. More importantly, I found joy in being able to cook instant mashed potatoes for my family.
It wasn’t until after my accident that I was freed of self-imposed judgements as a working mother. The accident and recovery journey gave me a new, unique perspective at life and offered me a do-over. My hope is that my story allows you to see life through this unique lens and get deeply rooted in your own happiness.
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