As a work-at-home mom of five, I have long prided myself on being a person who Gets Stuff Done. I fancy myself the female version of Carson in my own much smaller and remarkably-less-grand version of Downton Abbey.

Sure, I delegate around my house…but even delegating requires attention, action, and the presence of Yours Truly.

So when I found out that I would need to have surgery this spring (a hysterectomy due to a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer), I took the news pretty hard. In addition to all the stress of such a scary-sounding diagnosis, and my general fear of anesthesia and surgery, I worried about recovery time.

Recovery from hysterectomy takes 4 weeks or more, and from what I’m reading, it often takes much longer before you get your former energy back. Even a month of being out of my groove was pretty terrifying to this independent mama.

But after a successful and uncomplicated surgery, I’ve spent the last three weeks recovering, and have learned a few things along the way.

The Realization:

Being stuck in bed – for a short time, at least – is really not so awful. For the first week or so, I spent most of my time re-re-reading old favorites, starting with the Anne of Green Gables series and leading to Jane Austen. I also started playing Candy Crush, something I’ve never allowed myself the time or attention for in the past.

Turns out it’s actually kind of nice to have a legitimate reason to absorb your time with “unproductive” activities. Like napping twice in one day. After all, when will I get a chance like this again?

The Lesson:

Allowing yourself to “waste” time might not be such a waste of time after all. Weeks into my recovery, I feel incredibly relaxed, if a bit mushy in the brain.

I also feel very ready to get back to work and “normal” life and imagine I will hit the ground running (at a reasonable speed, of course) once I get the all-clear from my doctor.

The Realization:

My family is amazingly capable of coming through. On a typical day, my teens might do a half-hearted job of the dishes or even try to pass the job I’ve given them off on a younger sibling.

But with Mom stuck in bed and recovering from surgery, the household ran with surprising smoothness and everyone cheerfully chipped in with everything from pushing the ottoman up under my feet to scrubbing pans.

The Lesson:

I can expect more of my kids than I might always, well, expect. From now on I’ll be doing more than delegating: they’ve proven they can take ownership of certain tasks with responsibility and a good attitude, and I won’t forget it.

The Realization:

People really want to help. A week before my surgery, my good friend Missy set up an online care calendar where people could sign up to bring us meals. I felt a little sheepish about asking for meals – certainly with a spouse and teenage kids, we could cobble together our own food, right?

But as it turns out, it was tough on Jon, my husband, to suddenly be in charge of every area of running the household – and as for myself? Between an odd sleep schedule and some seriously trippy pain medication, I wasn’t even sure what time of day it was most of the time.

So, having those meals show up like clockwork was an amazing blessing. What’s more, people seemed genuinely happy to be able to help in some way.

The Lesson:

Letting people help you helps them, too. Let’s face it: we would have survived (albeit on a lot of pizza and sandwiches) without help, but an important opportunity would have been lost: the opportunity to lean on those in my community.

When my friends delivered those meals, I felt loved and cared for, and my friends felt useful and helpful. And when you allow somebody to help you, you’re making it OK for them to ask you for help when they need it. Really, it’s a win-win all around.

As much as I dreaded my surgery and recovery, the process has been an important reminder in letting go, leaning on others, and taking good care of myself.

Because even though I might sometimes think that what I do for my family is what makes me indispensible, in the end, it’s just me that they need – whether I’m puttering around the kitchen or resting on the sofa.

Have you ever been in a position where you had to lean on others more than usual? What did you learn?