Typically I would save a podcast episode about mothers for Mother’s Day, but I think it’s important to discuss this topic now, especially during the busiest time of the year for accountants. With everything you already have on your plate on the off season, I thought you might need a little support right about now.
As a mother, you probably know all about mothering a child, whether you would consider yourself a good mom or not. You most likely know the do’s and don’ts, the basic expectations for taking care of a child, and have a general idea of the ongoing things you need to learn as your children go through various stages of development.
You’ve probably done the diaper stage, the potty-training stage, and the temper tantrum stage. Depending on how old your children are, you may have gone through the teenage angst stage, the fighting for independence stage, and the “Wow Mom was right all along” stage (if you’re lucky).
Although most mothers would say that being able to have and raise children has been one of the greatest gifts they could imagine, they might also admit that being a mother isn’t for the faint of heart. And when you add the word “working” to the title of “mother”, you’ve got a whole lot more to deal with than the typical diapers and temper tantrums.
But here’s something that you may or may not know about being both an accountant and a mom – statistically, well educated mothers are at an even higher risk for stress. Studies have shown the following:
As a group, we often take on more of the child care activities than well educated fathers
Our high intelligence is frequently linked with high tendencies to ruminate and worry
We tend to not only be the caretakers for our children, but also provide care to other adults, including elderly parents and partners.
What research has also found is that when well educated mothers were asked who gives the same type of mothering support to them, for too many, the answer is nobody, at least on a regular basis. These highly intelligent mothers were tending to everyone else’s needs, spreading themselves incredibly thin, and unfortunately they were rarely asking for, or getting, others to tend to their needs.
Consider these questions to see where you stand on this topic:
Who is mothering you?
Do you allow people to take care of you or do you struggle with this?
Do you find yourself wanting to do all the caretaking?
Is it difficult to ask for what you need?
Do you even allow yourself to consider what you need?
If you are taking care of your family and your kids, are you allowing people to give back to you?
Are you allowing yourself to be mothered?
These are all important questions to consider, especially as both an accountant and a mom, and especially in the United States where mothers are seen as some type of super woman. In this country, we tend to hold working moms up on a pedestal, writing books about how we don’t know how she does it, and rewarding her for how much she gets done, but also forgetting to ask what we can do to help.
While it’s nice to be seen as a strong mother and woman, what most people forget is that mothers need mothering too. We need a soft place to fall, someone to take care of our needs, someone to say “Sit, I’ve got this” even when we want to argue, and someone to stop saying “I don’t know how you do it”, but to instead ask, “What can I do for you, as you do it?” instead.
Let me ask you this – does this topic make you uncomfortable? Then here’s some tough love – you probably need to hear it.
This week I’m going to discuss why it’s challenging for mothers to allow themselves to be taken care of and how to find the balance of prioritizing your own needs with everyone else’s.
Why it’s challenging for mothers to allow themselves to be taken care of
If your own mother is alive and you are lucky enough to have her to mother you, it truly is a blessing. But even if that is the case, I’m going to bet that it’s still challenging for you to allow her to take care of you, especially since you are a mother doing all the caretaking of your own children.
My mother passed away unexpectedly a few years ago at only 70 years old, but I know what it was like to be mothered by an amazing mother. Even as I got older and had my own children, there was nothing quite like going to her house and feeling like I could relax because she was there to help me with whatever I needed.
Whether it was a shoulder to cry on, a compassionate ear to listen to me vent, or an advocate for me and my children when I was falling apart at the seams, she was truly a mother who loved mothering. But even though she was ready, willing, and able to help me whenever I needed, I often had a tough time being vulnerable enough to ask for help or allow her to take care of me when I really needed it.
She loved to tell the story about when I was 5 years old and had started kindergarten – I told her she didn’t need to get up in the morning and make me breakfast because I could take care of it myself. Even at such a young age I was showing my independence and my desire to do things for myself.
While that’s a wonderful quality to have, especially as I grew up to be an independent, strong woman, it wasn’t always in my best interest to not allow myself to be taken care of by others. Once I started college and entered the competitive field of accounting, I think my need to prove myself just took on a life of its own, always adding more and more to my to-do list, and wanting to prove my value and worth.
I know I’m not alone in this because the issue for most of the women I speak to is that we intertwine our value and our worthiness to how much we do. We think that if we do more, achieve more, and cross more off our to-do list, that we are somehow better, more valuable, or more worthy.
Does that sound familiar? The issue is that, when we’re trying to be supermom all the time without allowing someone to mother us, we feel drained, overwhelmed, exhausted, and as if we have no more left to give. We’re putting our oxygen mask on everyone else until we’re blue in the face from a lack of oxygen ourselves.
Because of limiting beliefs like we need to do everything for everyone, or that it’s important for us to measure up against other supermoms, we find ourselves unable and unwilling to take off our supermom capes and be taken care of. I’m not even talking about self-care things, like taking time for an uninterrupted bath or setting aside time to get your nails done – I’m talking about being vulnerable enough to say that we need someone to love us, to hold us, and to take care of us.
What I’m talking about is that deep, soul-nurturing, unconditional love connection that we give to our own children and those we love. In essence, we need someone to mother us, the way we mother others.
This can be especially challenging for women in the accounting profession because we are surrounded by a good amount of masculine energy, often leading us to take on that masculine energy ourselves. As female accountants, we can become so accustomed to doing and achieving that we can lose some of that feminine energy that allows things to come to us, rather than us going after things.
Unfortunately, over time we wear our ability to get so much done as a badge of honor, without paying attention to how much that badge is actually poking us and making us bleed. We’ve become so used to associating our strength and our worth with being able to do so much that it makes it difficult to stop and admit we need to be nurtured, to be held, and to be taken care of – if only for a short amount of time while we catch our breath.
So if you’re ready, willing, and able to allow yourself to be mothered, then let’s figure out how.
How to find the balance of prioritizing your own needs with everyone else’s
I know the idea of allowing yourself to be mothered might feel uncomfortable or unnecessary, but that’s just your brain’s way of convincing you not to do anything differently. While well-meaning parents and teachers may have given you the message, like most intelligent young girls, that you’re smart and you can handle anything, your brain then continues to apply that message as a working woman and a mother, whether it’s in your best interest or not.
In order to find the balance of prioritizing your own needs with everyone else’s, you need to first start with noticing the identity that you, or others, have given you. See if you identify yourself as any of the following:
I’m just someone that must operate from a to-do list
This is just my type-A personality
I’m better at giving than receiving
My personality is that I just don’t like being taken care of
I’m the “strong one” in the family
The thing I want you to notice is that these aren’t facts – they are all optional thoughts that you have made true by repetitively thinking them. They are just beliefs that have become your identity, but thankfully, they don’t have to be.
If you’ve had the chance to listen to episode #132 – Why Your Personality Isn’t Permanent – I shared that in the book “Your Personality Isn’t Permanent” by Benjamin Hardy, PhD, he explains that the trouble with personality tests is that they forfeit your right to choose. He explains that your personality is NOT a fixed thing and that you get to choose your own way in life because as humans we have the amazing ability to be flexible.
So in essence, the way you describe yourself when it comes to not being able to prioritize your needs, is actually an optional sentence in your brain that you believe is the irrefutable truth, but it’s not. You’ve just practiced it for so long, and looked for evidence to back up the belief that it feels like you’re stating a fact, when in reality, you’re just stating an optional thought.
So why is this important? Because it means you get to tell a different story. You get to only hold onto the beliefs about you that serve the future that you want, and let go of the past beliefs that are no longer helpful or that you no longer want to be true.
Instead of telling the story about how you are someone that has to do it all, all of the time, you get to question that and see if there is something else that is also true. For example, the story could be that some of the time you like to take care of people in your family and some of the time you like to be taken care of.
Truthfully, as strong, intelligent women and mothers, we all really need someone to take care of us too. Just like we are mothers to our children or a caretaker to others, we need someone to love us, care for us, and see us.
So now the question is who? As I said before, if you’re lucky enough to have a loving, nurturing mother who is still alive, that’s wonderful, but what if you don’t? Where can you turn to when you’re a mom that needs to be mothered?
While a therapist or a life coach can play a supportive role in your life, that is still a professional relationship, so I recommend that you also have other people in your life, like friends or extended family, who you can allow into your life and allow yourself to be vulnerable with. If you are in a romantic relationship, I actually recommend not relying on that person to take on the mothering role, even if they are loving and supporting – romantic love is different than mothering love.
It should be someone who sees you, who lights up when you see each other, who is comfortable giving to you, who you’re comfortable being around, and who you can be authentic with. It should be someone who understands what the action of mothering is.
If you don’t have someone in mind, or don’t have anyone in your life that fits the bill, no worries. To be honest, it's more of a mindshift than anything because as soon as you start to become someone who says, “Yes, I allow people into my life to take care of me when I need it”, then that will be what you become a match for.
Again, it might be uncomfortable to allow yourself to be taken care of when you are the person doing all the taking care of others, but that’s exactly why you need to allow the discomfort but do it anyway. You need to be able to give AND receive.
By making that mindset shift, then when someone offers to help you out by picking up groceries for you because it’s your busiest time of the year at work, you let them; or when your mother-in-law offers to help with the laundry, you let her; or when your friend sincerely asks you how’s it going, you let her be there for you as you share what you’re struggling with.
Let me be clear – I’m not saying that you’ll get to the point where all you’re doing is taking from others because, let’s be honest, as a woman and a mother, you know that’s not something you’ll ever do. What I am saying is that you have to find the balance between being a mother and being mothered.
As I shared before, my mother passed away suddenly a few years ago and I have to admit that I was lost for awhile, not having her to mother me when I needed it. But thankfully my friendship with my good friend, Dee, has grown deeper and stronger since my mother’s passing, and we have developed such a soul-nurturing, unconditional love for each other which allows us to mother the other when we need it.
So what does that look like? We typically speak every other week, we share what’s been going on in our lives, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and discuss the challenges we’re facing, we listen, support, and celebrate, and more importantly for me, I allow another woman to love me. Most of the time I’m strong, independent, and in control, balancing a career with motherhood, but when I talk to my friend I allow myself to be nurtured and to receive her love and support.
We’re both intelligent, strong women and mothers, but we also know the importance of allowing ourselves to be taken care of as well. While we might be capable of being supermoms, that doesn’t mean we need to be – and neither should you.
I hope you begin to let go of the idea that you have to be the mother that does it all, and instead be the one who allows herself to be mothered as well.
Here’s something that you may or may not know about being both an accountant and a mom – statistically, well educated mothers are at an even higher risk for stress.
While it’s nice to be seen as a strong mother and woman, what most people forget is that mothers need mothering too.
We’ve become so used to associating our strength and our worth with being able to do so much that it makes it difficult to stop and admit we need to be nurtured, to be held, and to be taken care of – if only for a short amount of time while we catch our breath.