A few of my Twitter followers asked that I elucidate on “ten lists” I’d turned out recently. Here goes with the third installment of my first list: “Things That Make Parenting Easier”, based off my ten-plus years being a devoted and hard-working parent. I hope you find it helpful. That is the only point of this post. To help those who could use it.
This is item #3. You can find item #1 here and #2 here.
Each post will have a picture from my life, my day, when I wrote the post. So from this afternoon: my children play in the beach. I posted lots of these pictures at my Flickrstream today, because as I went through them, each one showed the kids’ delight at being in the water, which they dove into without hesitation the minute we hit the sand. I couldn’t pick a favorite.
#3. Find mentors for something I’m new to & stay open. Very much worth the time!
Dedicated to my mentors… too many to list! Here are a few I talk about here: Wendy, Cheryl, Kathee, Sylvia, Jennifer, Charla, Linda.
A mentor is strictly defined as: an adviser. That’s it. What’s the difference between a mentor, a leader, an “expert”, an elder, a caring friend, a smart co-worker, a member of your mama’s group, book club, or poker night buddy?
I define a mentor as “someone who has something I want”. That is, they have a quality I want, and they have a quality I currently don’t have. I’ve had many such mentors. One woman had experience in the field I needed help in. One had an immense amount of faith, and a spiritual strength I’d never before witnessed in person. One had forgiveness that astounded me. One had loyalty that took my breath away. One had bravery and vulnerability despite incredible odds. One had generosity that surpassed understanding. One had leadership in the field of helping others.
A mentor should be willing to help me without regard for return. A mentor is willing to take time for me, even if the help is just an email response. A true mentor won’t take ownership of my life, nor try to force an outcome, or make my behavior requisite for their approval. They merely exist to serve. Sometimes, often, a mentor is also a friend. But they don’t have to be.
I have responsibilities in this relationship. It is my responsibility to recognize a mentor’s limitations. It is my responsibility not to hold them accountable for my difficulties. It is my responsibility to be mindful. It is my responsibility to receive from the mentor what she is capable of delivering. Some mentors can provide me skills in one area but not another. I don’t go to the hardware store for oranges, to use a phrase I recently heard.
I have been on the mentor side of the relationship, too. I have had the honor of assisting others and I try to employ the principles listed above. I do not require reciprocity in any form: financial payback, blog hits, a certain kind of friendship or alliance with me when my life has troubles. To the degree I can help others, I give it freely.
My responsibility as a mentor is to be kind and gentle, and to let people have their own problems. My responsibility is to listen as deeply as I can and to not project my own persona onto theirs. My responsibility is to be mindful.
The benefits I receive by being able to help others are immeasurable and profound.
Despite the world being full of caring friends, fun coworkers, loving family, elders, leaders, and “experts”, a mentor relationship is hard to find. It is worth it to consider who could mentor you. I’ve learned the most valuable life skills through my mentors. I owe them a great deal of gratitude and I take time to express this gratitude. Any quality I have today, that you admire, tell me about it – and I’ll tell you who helped me with it and how.
This is a really good point. My SIL has a 1 year-old and can be more than averagely anxious, due to her having bi-polar disorder. Like so anxious that she calls me and I have to talk her down so that she knows that small things are normal baby behavior. My advice to her was that she needed to find another mom near her to whom she could go for support and encouragement, simply because I feel like I can’t give her the support she needs from across the country and over the phone; I suggested LLL meetings or a mom’s group as a place to go to find that. Last month she called to tell me that she’d found someone who she’s made friends with, someone who is a mom of 2, who’s had postpartum depression (so has my SIL) so she can relate to her, etc. I was so happy for her. Because I didn’t find a friend like that until Maeve was almost a year old, I could totally relate to her feelings (though I wasn’t nearly as anxious, I think). And I knew that she really needed a ‘coach’ of sorts that was closer than me. I’m so glad she found someone.
I’m glad your friend found some support; and I’m glad she heard your advice and took it (many people can’t HEAR and then even if they do, won’t take action).
On a separate note, one thing I didn’t get on in my little piece is that one should be careful not to pedestal one’s mentor. I benefit from taking full responsibility for my own emotional, mental, and spiritual help. Often in the past, before I learned this responsibility piece, I’d put all my eggs in the basket of another person – be it parents, boyfriend, mentor, friend – and would be devastated if they made a mistake or were cruel or merely did something to disrupt my fragile sense of self-worth. Mentors are meant to help us, not to fix all our problems.