I’ve Been Busy Taking Care Of Everyone Else & Now I Have 6 Friggin’ Cavities

By the time I went into the dentist’s office last week, I had booked and canceled the appointment at least three times. And if I’m being honest, I think I may have no-showed at least once, too. All I know for sure is that it had been at least a year and a half since I had been there.

And I was anxious partly because I was unsure what horrors they might uncover in my neglected mouth, but mostly because of the shame I felt as a grown adult who couldn’t make and attend timely dental appointments for herself. Turns out I had six fucking cavities.

SIX. I don’t know exactly how many teeth I have, but I am pretty certain six is a considerable percentage of the total number. It seemed impossible, but the dentist had a set of $400 x-rays to prove it. I cried when the very kind and younger-than-me dentist broke the news.

At first, they were tears of fear because I hate dental work, and I was hearing words like “root canal” and “crown.” But then a bigger wave of emotion took over, one laced with guilt and shame as I wondered, how the hell did I let this happen?

I left the appointment with a detailed schedule of my plan broken into phases — yes, there were phases, something you always love to hear about dental work — and on the long drive home, my brain was working in overdrive. I started reprimanding myself for what felt like a massive mistake that I now needed to deal with. One that would cost a lot of time, stress, and money to remedy. But then, in the midst of all of my self-loathing, I had a realization. Of course I neglected to care for my oral health. I am too busy taking care of everyone else!

With four kids, a husband, a dog, a job, a house, and a million other little things that need my attention, my stuff comes last. Appointments get canceled when the kids get sick or practices get rained out, and I forget about things I’ve planned for myself when sleepless nights take over or stress is high at home. I am throughly exhausted, with a brain running on fumes and ADHD energy that has barely enough fuel to manage the appointments and schedules of the rest of my family, leaving me in the dust.

So rather than continue to beat myself up, I decided at that moment to show myself a little grace. I decided to pat myself on the back for all the kid’s appointments and shit that I successfully keep on track and attend, and I brainstormed ways to better keep track of my own stuff. Hopefully, a brand new planner and some iCalendar alerts will go a long way.

And I will use this startling (and costly) situation as a wake-up call. We’ve all heard the airplane safety protocol speeches about mothers putting their masks on first for the betterment of their children, but it’s so often hard to put into practice. I think when it comes to my health — mental, physical, dental, whatever — I have to make my needs a priority. If not for me, for them.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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