I never imagined motherhood would be so isolating.
I was prepared for the sleepless nights. I was ready for the snotty noses and dirty diapers and even the Lego minefields, but I was not prepared for the loneliness. And I was certainly not prepared for the uncertainty.
Before your child is verbal, your guess is as good as any to determine why they are crying. All the obvious needs are met, and yet they’re still not sleeping. Is it her teeth? Is he too hot? Too cold? Is she overly tired? Overstimulated?
It can be maddening. Then, as they grow into toddlers there is a whole new set of worries- what battles do I choose to fight? Am I expecting too much of them? Not enough? Is that behavior normal? Is it a just a phase or do I need to nip it in the bud?
I cannot even imagine the challenges brought on by adolescence or *shudder* the teenage years.
Mentoring: A real-world solution
I have often thought how lovely it would be to have an older woman come and sit with me for a day, just to observe me and my toddler and tell me how I’m doing. I long for some support and direction. Then, one day, it occurred to me: that support is out there; it’s called a mentor.
I have had mentors throughout my life–in high school, throughout college and into my professional young adult years. But I never considered I might need a mentor as a mommy. Some part of me expected motherhood to feel more natural than it actually does. I thought I would simply know what to do. But it turns out, aside from the basics, there’s a lot I don’t know.
I need a woman who is older than me and has successfully raised a child in a manner I admire, to come alongside me and show me the ropes.
So what does a mentoring relationship look like?
For me, it has looked like an occasional cup of coffee in my living room while the kids played around us. It is just a friendly check up: how am I feeling, what am I worried about, troubleshooting ways to handle various problems with the kids. It is often a time of encouragement in my marriage, a reminder to stay connected to each other during these busy days of child-rearing. It is also a great many text messages- asking for prayer, sharing funny stories, seeing how the baby slept the night before.
I think sometimes women hear the word “mentor” and shy away from it- afraid it is a major time commitment or that they aren’t “mentoring material”. But mentoring is simply creating an intentional friendship with someone a little further along or behind on the road than you.
It’s all about self-care
“Self-care” is a huge buzz word these days, and speaking up for yourself and asking a friend or acquaintance to mentor you is a great act of self-care. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community is key to survival in this mommyhood game. Of course, you need friends who are in the thick of your current life stage. Who else will send funny GIF’s to you when your toddler flushes your keys down the toilet- again? But you also need a mom who’s a little further down the road from you to encourage you, guide you, and cheer you on.
Look around your community. Is there a woman a few years ahead of you in the childrearing game? Do you admire the way she raised her kids? Could you feel safe sharing your insecurities with her? If so- speak up! Ask her to share a cup of coffee with you one afternoon. We might be tempted to think the burden of establishing a mentoring relationship is on the mentor but, often, the first move is up to the mentee.
That being said, moms with kids who are a little more independent these days: is there a younger mom who has captured your attention? Do you think of her often or feel the urge to give her a hug when you see her around? Why not ask her if she’d like to meet once in awhile for coffee? Why not check in with her and see if she’d be interested in being mentored.
I think we overestimate how well most people are doing. There is no harm in asking! I think we’d be blown away to realize how often they’ve wished for this very thing.