surgery recovery

8 Tips on How to Survive with Your Kids During Surgery Recovery

Having surgery at any point in life is always a major event.  There’s the actual procedure itself to prepare for, and typically a lengthy surgery recovery period follows.

During this time, routines and schedules are adjusted, and the entire process is that much more complicated when you throw kids into the mix.

In the last year and a half, I have had two major surgeries and another one is on the schedule.

The first one was elective (I got a tummy tuck and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made for myself), and the last two are to repair the damage that I have bestowed upon my now very messed-up knee.

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My First Major Surgery

I had originally torn my ACL on the slopes when I was in college.  I was mad at my husband (my boyfriend at the time), so in an effort to make him feel the fiery rage that was flowing through my veins (for something very minor and irrelevant, I’m sure), I raced down the mountain.

I caught an edge with my ski and proceeded to slide face first on my belly down a black diamond run, leaving my skis, poles, and various other gear in my wake, all while screaming at the top of my lungs.  Not my cutest look.

Fast Forward to Last Summer

Mark and I were hiking in the Red Rocks on the outskirts of Las Vegas.  I was feeling particularly strong and my ego was large and in charge.

As we were making our way back to the car, I decided to jump off a large rock in the dry riverbed that we were hiking in. The rock wasn’t that high off the ground (*maybe* 2 feet…but if anyone asks me to my face, I’ll tell you it was 7 feet tall for sure).

surgery recovery

I landed completely wrong, heard a pop, and knew that I had royally messed up my knee…again.

My diagnosis ended up being a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus.  In the words of my Physical Therapist, my knee was “completely shredded”.

Due to the ACL repair that I had in college, and the extent to which I injured my knee this time around, the surgery to fix my knee ended up having to take two major surgeries to fix instead of one.

First Knee Surgery with Kids

After my surgery, I had to wear my leg in a straight brace for 6 weeks.  I had to use crutches for 6 weeks.  I couldn’t carry my children for even longer than that.

Imagine not having the use of a leg and not being able to hold anything in your hands when walking…my surgery was certainly not conducive to chasing after children.


At this time, I have to make absolutely and abundantly clear that I’m not complaining in any way.  I am extremely fortunate in knowing that after a very short and temporary amount of time that I would walk again and carry my children.  I don’t take that for granted at all, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy.

During this time, it was Christmas and the start of a new year.  My kids were sad and confused at times with the number of things that Mom couldn’t do.

I was the one in need of care, not the one who was caring for my family, and that was an adjustment.

8 Tips For Surgery Recovery

As I prepare for my second knee surgery, now that my bone grafts are all healed up from the first, here are my 8 tips (and mostly reminders for myself) on how to survive with your kids after major surgery:

1. People *want* to help, so let them.

I was born and raised here in Reno, so I have family and close friends around to help.  What I didn’t understand when I had my first knee surgery in December was that they *wanted* to help.

I kept telling our village that we were fine, but I felt so loved when they would show up anyway, even if it was just to lounge on the couch with me.

I had family and friends help to get the kids home from school.  We got home-cooked meals delivered to us.

At first, I had a little difficulty accepting the help and the love, but when I realized that people wanted to help, we graciously accepted their generosity.

2. Give plenty of grace to yourself AND your caregiver.

I had to change my mindset about a lot of things.  Having my house organized and tidy is a priority for me…but it couldn’t be when I was unable to help keep our home that way.

There was no way that my husband was going to be able to care for me, our three kids, work from home and maintain everything in the exact way that I do when he was down a team player. That’s an unrealistic expectation.

I had to be accepting of the things that I couldn’t do, and I had to be cognizant of the priorities that Mark had when caring for all of us.  Cutting both of us some slack was needed.

3. Having some freezer meals on hand and shows ready to binge-watch will help.

You will thank me for this. Here are some other amazing meal ideas.

4. Your kids will not think it’s cool.

Kids will likely not dig the new immobility of a parent following a surgery.  Mine sure didn’t.  They hated that my knee was hurt.

They hated that they couldn’t snuggle me because I had to be in a certain position to avoid pain.  They especially hated that I wasn’t capable of doing the things that they were used to be doing (like walking and holding their little hands).

When I asked them about the tips that we could help another family with regard to another parent having surgery, they literally just kept coming up with things that sucked about it, and most of it was just that they wanted their Mommy back.

5. The process of surgery recovery is sloooooooooow.

Surgery recovery is no joke, especially when it requires physical therapy afterward.  I broke down at about the 4-week mark post-op because I told my husband that “I am a witness to everything and a participant in nothing.”

Was I being overly dramatic?  You betcha.

BUT the time was just taking for-ev-errrrrrr.  I wanted to walk.  I wanted to maneuver about without having to shove a million things in my pocket because I couldn’t carry anything while using my crutches.

The time took so much longer than I wanted it to, but now that I’m on the other side, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it felt.

6. Get LOOSE and comfortable clothes.

All I had was workout gear, which I thought would be fine.

Spoiler Alert: it wasn’t.  I ended up having to order loose pants that would fit over my brace and stock up on thick socks because my foot was so swollen that I couldn’t fit it into my shoes.

7. Have some fitness equipment available to you.

In physical therapy, you will be assigned exercises to do at home in order to aid your recovery.  Like, this part is super important.

surgery recovery

Resistance bands and sliders were really helpful for me.  I used them before my surgery, and I can use them after for at-home workouts. Invest in them.

8. Remember that it’s temporary.

Reminding my children and myself that the process would be over “soon” was helpful.  Now (almost 4 months after my first knee surgery), they don’t even really remember it (unless I remind them about it…).

I’m Grateful

Honestly, even though it was an extra ball to juggle in our family circus, I’m very grateful to have been able to get my surgeries done.

I know how fortunate I am to have the ability to get my knee fixed and to be in recovery with the ultimate goal to have a strong healthy knee as my body ages (cuz you kinda use your knee for a lot o’things).

My surgeries have made me even more grateful for my husband and the care that he takes for our family, as well as the village that we have for embracing us and helping us when we were too proud to ask for it.

Surgery recovery is a long road, and more windy with kids, but a temporary and manageable one.

Do you have any tips that would help a parent who is preparing for major surgery?  Please share!

Jenelle S

Jenelle Stathes married her high-school sweetheart and they share their love with their three darling and fierce daughters. She works as the CEO of their small family business and as a group fitness instructor for a local gym. Jenelle was born and raised right here in Reno, Nevada, and is doing her best at living a non-judgy and tribe-loving mom life. She has experience with infertility, weight loss, body positivity, fitness, and most recently, a tummy tuck. You can follow Jenelle to laugh either with her or at her as she traverses through the daily adventures of motherhood.