Most of the motherhood and entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to emphasize again and again the importance of finding a mentor. Someone whom you can learn from, look up to, aspire to be, and converse with along this complex journey.
I couldn’t help but think that this is an area of life in which I have not had a lot of luck / success. I’ve had an interesting life path in which I haven’t had many mentors in my life other than my god father and grandfather (family.)
When my daughter was born, I was fresh out of losing my Mum to cancer and swimming in a world of overwhelm and grief and total lack of knowledge in the whole motherhood world. I was terrified and insecure. Unprepared, I was thrown into the deep end without water wings. I didn’t know how to bathe her, dress her, or anything. (We chose not to do birth and babies classes because we were so busy caring for my mum through chemo, medical emergencies and the hospice process.)
In those few months of the fourth trimester, my friends all banded together and supported me in various ways, whether it was showing me the ropes, explaining the totally overwhelming world of baby bottles, or how to dress a newborn (this was totally intimidating to me.) I also did SO MUCH you tubing, from figuring out my stroller, to installing my car seats in the car.
I have become pretty open to (and comfortable with) asking for help, knowing the day will come when I can help others. Asking for help is hard, because you never want to be the one draining resources, but there is something more challenging than asking for help – finding a mentor. It is a two-sided process. The mentee has to seek out or expand their social networks in the search, but the mentor also has to open up, and voluntarily step into that role, which is a commitment in itself, because it asks the mentor to open up and share their insights, successes and failures.
Last year, I met a wonderful friend who also became a business mentor – from whom I have learnt an absolute ton, which I am so thankful for. Mentorship in this area has been deeply foundational for me as I step into the entrepreneurial world. Mentorship can be as simple as a voice that says “I believe in you” and “these are some of the ways you can do it” – someone to learn from as well as bounce ideas from. The value of mentorship is being able to have open, honest conversations about strengths, weaknesses, fears and excitement.
Do you have a mentor in any area of your life? In your spiritual life? Motherhood life? Self development life? Athletic life?
I longed for a motherhood mentor whose style I looked up to and identified with. Being one of the first of my social group to have kids, was in it alone. I had a few friends with older children, with styles of their own, who gave me tips and tricks which was wonderful, but the deeper stuff was experienced internally and at counselling.
People like to complain about the internet but I am SO thankful for it – for vloggers and websites like the pregnant chicken – who kind of became my mentors as I figured things out.
Eventually, I found my groove and the confidence to try things out myself and get a system going that worked for me. But it was a lonely journey.
But then, looking back, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t have a mentor. Because, in the absence of information, I went out looking. I read about RIE parenting, I read about mothers bringing up babies in foreign countries, I created a Pinterest board with about 10 different lifestyle / mom blogs, and threw friends and older parents a million random questions. I listened to podcasts and searched the internet for different perspectives. The best way to learn is to seek out the information yourself.
I gathered information, sifted through it, picked a few things I liked and tried them out.
But there was a second piece to developing my motherhood style:
I went through a process of journaling, strengths exploration and values exploration with a life coach. I figured out what I really stand for, who I am and what I am good at. What kind of life I had, and what kind of life I want for my children.
Knowing what your foundation is is so important. It becomes your own compass – a compass upon which I base my parenting and all decisions regarding the life I am creating for these lovely children. No decision feels 100% correct or secure, but if the compass is pointing in the right direction, I just go for that decision with no regrets.
Mom mentors are wonderful, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry – you’ll find your way and you will develop an internal compass within a few months – or maybe a few years. As long as you keep exposing yourself to information, exploring yourself, learning about who you are, and reflecting. Who knows, maybe one day you will be a mentor to another mama. Maybe they will look at you and think “I want that person in my life.” Maybe they will look at you, and admire you, and want to understand your journey.
And the thing is, you’ll understand how they are feeling and what they are going through. And that is what makes the best mentor.
The challenges you go through now – including feeling isolated or lonely – are meant to happen to you, because they are forming who you will become.
And maybe the person you are becoming, is going to help another mama somewhere down the road.