Having a mom mentor helps immensely during the first few years of motherhood. We tell you how to find someone who can help support you.
Women have relied on other women in their communities for mothering advice, guidance and support since the dawn of time. But these days, that circle of support—from fellow moms who are in the trenches with you to the been-there-done-that mama who's a year or two ahead of you—isn't always so readily available . "Today our mothers, aunts, childhood friends and cousins often live far away, so it's important to find other friends who can help mentor you through some of the rough patches," says Emma Johnson, author of The Kickass Single Mom.
But how do you find the right parenting guru? Try these tips:
Where can you find a mom mentor?
You can find mentors just about everywhere—at a birthing or lactation class, on the playground, in a coffee shop, or by asking around. If you don't know where to find a mom group, ask your pediatrician, church or librarian if they know of any, suggests Leighann Marquiss, a life coach and mother of four in Pittsburgh, PA. Chances are one of them will be able to point you in the right direction. Sometimes it's about throwing out the net as wide as possible. "Finding a mentor mom sometimes means getting out of your comfort zone," says Marquiss. "Talk to as many moms as you can and you'll naturally click with a few of them."
- RELATED: 4 Easy Ways to Find Your Mom Squad
The internet can also be a big help in your quest for other mom friends. "Being a new mom is not easy and finding groups online through Facebook and meet up websites help so much," says Tamika Bush, DO, a pediatrician who provides life coaching services and mentorship to mothers. "Finding a group and someone who understands what you are going through makes a difference." She explains that's why she mentors other moms. "I know what it is like to balance, work, life and family. I am a pediatrician and I am not perfect—letting other mothers know that puts them at ease."
Also, while it's convenient to meet people online, it's also important to meet up in person. "Nearly all new moms are looking for new social connections, so don't be afraid to post and request a gathering in person with other moms," says Sally J. Parrott Ashbrook IBCLC, a lactation consultant in Rochester, NY. "Even if you don't find your mom mentor at a given gathering, having that social outlet is so important when moms are often alone with a baby all day."
What should you look for in a mentor?
Think about what your parenting style might be like, and look for someone who seems to subscribe to the same philosophy. "I always encourage moms to think about something that is central to the kind of mom they want to be: Do you plan to be a crunchy mom? A working mom? A free-range mom?" says Ashbrook.
You also want to consider how they view certain hot-button parenting issues, and look for mentors who will support you. "You should be on the same page when it comes to important issues like breastfeeding, circumcision, co-sleeping, baby wearing and general lifestyle choices," says Johnson.
It's also important to pick someone who isn't critical. "Make sure the woman you choose as a mentor will be a shoulder and not a boulder, meaning, she will not constantly try to correct things she sees as mistakes, she will not give unsolicited advice and she will try to see you through difficulties by being present and knowing how to be gentle in telling you things she sees as red flags or ways she can help," says Monique Cowan, a birth and postpartum doula and parent and family coach. "This will cut down on any additional stress in your life."
How do you build a relationship with your mentor?
Meeting with your mentor on a regular basis is key for establishing a solid relationship.
"Hanging out at playdates, going out for drinks, sharing meals or going on hikes, with or without the kids—as long as it is healthy, positive and you both enjoy it, it can't be wrong," says Johnson.
When you've found a mom mentor you connect with, really let her into your life. "Let her see your house when it's messy. Get together with her even if you haven't showered in two days," says Ashbrook. "When you can, take a chance to get out in the world with her, whether it's a trip to the library or to Target. But also just invite her and her kids over to have a cup of tea on your couch at home."
How do you know if it's a good fit?
"A mom mentor is the right fit for you if you feel engaged and at peace when you're with her. Being around her should make you feel secure in your parenting and also, at times, inspired," says Ashbrook.
The mentor moms that are the most effective are the ones who are there to pass on their knowledge and experience without having to convince you it's the only way to approach the situation, explains Marquiss. "They are encouraging and open with their struggles and successes and make you feel like you're all in the same boat. That last thing you need is a mom who is critical and judgmental."
Why is having a mom mentor important?
"Isolation in new parenthood is really common in the United States," says Ashbrook. "But mothers desperately need social connections who understand during this huge life transition."
Having a mom mentor is incredibly helpful because everything is so new. "Even after reading parenting books and articles, it's nice to have a real life person who's been there to bounce ideas off of and get practical advice," says Marquiss. It's helps you from feeling isolated and alone. And helps to know you aren't the only one who doesn't have all the answers or isn't doing it right all the time.