Tending the Mother: Acupuncture as Self-Care for Busy Parents

A few weeks ago, lying in my bed having finally gotten the littlest kid to sleep, I checked in with my body for the first time in…well I’m not sure, really.  Racing, worrying mind: check. Shoulders and neck tense and sore: check. Generally feeling run down, exhausted, and like my body was not functioning optimally: check! I realized it had been too long. I picked up my phone and scheduled 3 acupuncture appointments for myself right then.

With a three year old and a one year old keeping me running all day (and often night too), I’m pretty much in the weeds with this mothering thing. It’s been nearly four years since I’ve had the pleasure of a full night of sleep. My toddler is incredibly busy and a fearless risk taker. There is rarely a moment in the day while she is in my care that doesn’t require constant vigilance to keep her safe from her own impulses. And for all the sweet, precocious blessings of my three-year old’s saner moments there are equal and opposite moments of hard-to-predict tantrum insanity. It can get pretty nutty.

These are not complaints. I know too well the pain of yearning to bear children without success and I don’t take my family for granted. This is just my reality right now.  My exhausting reality.

The culture of motherhood is often one of self-sacrifice. It is automatic as a new mother to put your own needs aside to tend to the needs of the babe. That’s basically a biological necessity in the early days with an infant. But it easily can become a habit to just soldier on, denying oneself the care constantly bestowed upon the family. In my case that tendency creeps in without me even realizing it. Eventually I tune in to find my stress level ratcheted up to 11 and only then realize my self-care has gone out the window. Take one depleted, exhausted mama and add in the nearly constant energetic demands of two growing kids (not to mention those of a busy acupuncture practice and house to keep) and it’s easy to see how some of the more demanding moments may be met with frustration, overwhelm and tension. It ain’t pretty, folks.

Here’s the thing: I know that I am better able to field family demands with patience, presence and creativity when I am tending to my own needs physically, emotionally and spiritually. I see the pillars of self-care as attention to nutrition, movement, adequate rest and moments of still presence and reflection. But when I am off-center and depleted even the thought of taking on these pursuits makes me tired and overwhelmed. It is this state that has me know I need my acupuncturist as she helps me recalibrate. Just creating the time for an appointment can seem daunting, but I know once I make the time the only work I need do is to show up and allow myself to be taken care of by another person.  

Acupuncture treatment helps me to tune in and feel with clarity what my needs are. By putting me back in the center of my orbit and reconnecting me with my body, treatment renews my commitment to those pillars of self-care. Even if it’s a renewed focus and energy for just one piece of daily self-care, from that flows a better ability to be present to my mothering tasks with patience and ease. It’s common sense and also one of the principles of Chinese Medicine that when the mother thrives the child does as well. Tending myself IS tending my family, and well worth the attention!

I’m lucky to experience this awareness from both the giving and receiving end with acupuncture. What I provide as an acupuncture practitioner is a place to be heard and to reflect on your body’s feelings and functions. What a gift for a mother to spend an hour focused entirely on herself! We identify what is not going as smoothly as it could and with the assistance of needles and essential oils we remind the body of balance, wellness and ease. The benefit of re-centering your energy can be seen in various ways. Getting relief from tense or painful body conditions has an immediate effect on mood and patience. With a calmer, slower mental landscape we are better able to respond to challenges and less prone to overreactions. With the boost to our spirit and a feeling of connectedness that acupuncture provides, our relationships can proceed more thoughtfully and mindfully and we are better able to be the person we aspire to be. I may not be able to provide a good night of sleep or more hours in the day and sometimes that’s just not in the cards with little ones in the game. I get it. But acupuncture treatment has proven time and again to be a powerful tool in helping me to be my best self. The version of me that I hope to offer my family as much as possible.  

It would be my pleasure to help you to do the same.  

Lauren Potts, L.Ac, has been supporting Baltimore area residents, mothers or otherwise for nearly a decade. You can find her practice in north Baltimore at Blue Green Acupuncture and Bodywork.