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A blog to support, encourage, and mentor at home moms in all aspects of home making and family life.

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Thursday
Feb282019

The Life Changing Value Of Finding A Mentor

 

Few people in your life will be able to guide you like the ones who’ve already been, where you are now.  Fewer still will be interested in trying.

Everyone is busy.  Everyone has their own commitments and concerns, their own priorities for their time and their energies.  So if you find someone, just a generation ahead of you, who you relate to, and they to you, grab ahold of them and don’t let go!

When I was a young mom, with a newborn and a 17 month old, as well as an ambitious self-employed husband, who left the house at 6am and got home somewhere between 10 - 11pm every night, I was about to lose my mind! 

 

"She listened, and understood, and cared.  She didn’t try to solve all my problems, although she easily could have!  Instead she walked alongside me, and pointed me in the right direction to solve them myself."  

I would pace our tiny house, crying babe in arms, while our toddler would wander around my feet happily chattering, “Dada, Dada, Dada.”  

“Ya!  Where the heck is Dada!!!  It’d be nice if he was around a bit!  It’d be nice if he was ever here to talk to me, and help out a bit!!!!”*  
(*Note: I’m not saying he was in the wrong, to go out and work himself to the bone to solely provide for our rapidly growing family.  But it sure felt like he was at the time!)

There were days that I quite literally thought I was losing it!  The girls who had been my close friends just a few years earlier, were backpacking through Europe, working on their degrees, the other Moms were 8-10 years older than me, and not interested in hanging out with the young mom.**  I was in the most damanding stage I had ever experienced, and I didn't have a single actual "peer" to rely on. 
(**Again, for the record I was in my 20’s, but it was the 90’s, no one seemed to be having babies before their 35th birthday!)  

There was no Facebook, no Instagram, no texting or email, there was no Pinterest. There wasn’t even Netflix to provide the diversion of Paw Patrol at whim. Just magazines and Sesame Street between the hours of 8am - 9am. 

But there was also…  my mother-in-law. 

Who, I, after getting up at 5:30 with the baby, and talking only to our toddler since 6:00, would call day after day, AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING, ‘Just to chat…’  And she never acted like she minded!  

She would listen, to my mind numbing stories about weaning, sleep training and household budgets.  About discipline issues and frustrations with her son. Yup, I told her when he was bugging me, and all the things I had decided he was doing wrong.  And you know what… not only did she never pick up the phone with a pointedly sleepy voice, so I might take the hint that it was too early to ‘chat.’  She never even rushed our conversations!!  She never ‘had to be somewhere.’ She would listen, and talk through each of my concerns, she would offer kind advice and tell me about when she was a young Mom.  That she remembered how lonely and isolating it could be. She just seemed to know and understand how learning to navigate a marriage while at the same time learning how to mother, was overwhelming.  

"...it took 8 years for me to realize that what I had been given was a once in a lifetime gift. Someone who was fully invested. Someone who actually knew all the answers and was willing to take the time, to help me find them."  

She would remind me that my husband was not my enemy, and that he was only trying to do his part in creating our life together.  She would ask if the kids and I wanted to ride along when she went to the mall, knowing I didn’t have a car at home once my husband had left for work.  She listened, and understood, and cared. She didn’t try to solve all my problems, although she easily could have! Instead she walked alongside me, and pointed me in the right direction to solve them myself.  She didn’t buy me fish, she taught me how to fish!!

She died in 2006.  At the age of 62. When I was just 37, and still needed her desperately.  She died from a horribly invasive and very long bout with breast cancer. And I mourned her.  Hard! I kept looking for her equal another. In other older women, just one generation above me.  I kept thinking if I could just find someone who I connected with in like mindedness on parenting, marriage, faith, homemaking…  that this new woman, could fill the agonizing gap losing my mother-in-law had left in my life.

I never did.   

And after about 8 years I stopped looking.  But it took 8 years for me to realize that what I had been given was a once in a lifetime gift.  And that it wasn't coming back.  A gift many of my friends never had. Someone who was fully invested. Someone who actually knew all the answers and was willing to take the time, to help me find them.  Who always had my best interests at heart. Who I admired, and was happy to emulate.

Looking back, at all she gave me, and all she taught me, I can see so much of her in who I am now.  And that’s what I want you, young Mom, to know.  To really hear.  That the good things in life, the really instructive, important, lessons, won’t always be there for you to learn.  That if you have someone in your life, who’s guiding you, take heed. Now! Listen and learn, emulate and ask the questions.  Now! While they’re still there to give you the answers. 

I would say, that looking back, from my 50 year old, 30 year marriage, vantage point, that I didn’t really grow up, until I finally realized that there was no one ahead of me steering the ship, and that there wasn’t anyone coming.  There were no lifeboats for me to cling to anymore, or climb into if the seas got rough.

When it finally dawned on me, that I had to figure things out for myself, was when I really began to learn from my mistakes, instead of looking for someone to tell me how to fix them.  I began to look hard at what I’d done wrong, and expressly purposed not to it do again. To plan ahead, to book in advance, because no one was going to make things right if I’d forgotten something.  To gather the family, cook the turkey, hide the eggs, if I wanted special memories for my children.  And to strive to understand what my husband was feeling, to listen better and to respond more kindly, if I wanted a peaceful, harmonious marriage.

Ya.  The benefits my mentor, my mother-in-law, gave me were two fold.  She gave to me during her life, and in her death. During her life, she taught me, comforted me, instructed me.  And in her death and through her absence, she forced me to become the woman I had been inching towards under her tutelage, but had never really had to become, until I lost her.

I’m very proud of the ‘mature woman’ I’ve become.  Recently on the morning of my 50th birthday, I sheepishly admitted to my husband, that ‘I like me.’  And that I was proud of myself.  Something only age and experience could have taught me to recognize and appreciate.

I’ve grown into the woman I followed, the woman I admired.  I’m not exactly like her.  I wasn’t trying to be. I proudly carry so much of the beautiful homemaker and mother, my own mother was to our family.  I’ve been influenced by the acceptance and security I’ve found in the 30+ year friendships I have with girlfriends, and the soul stirring love and belonging that my husband and daughters have given me.  

We’re all combinations of so many people’s influences in our lives.  But during a time, when I was drowning with new responsibilities, and no peers with whom to talk it through, she was my life line.  She kept my head above water.   She required more of me, simply through her elegant example.  And showed me, that I had to work through these necessary, hard, early years, to build something of strength.  To become someone the people I love can lean on, someone a family can be built around.

I love my roll as matriarch of our family, it suits me.  I see my grown daughters often and I’m ferociously proud of the marriages and families they’re creating, of the lovely and godly women they’ve grown to be.  I dote on my four grandchildren.  I love them so much I could bite them!!!  But it didn’t come easily, or quickly. It didn’t come without a price, and a whole lot of hard work.  And it most certainly didn’t come without the selfless investment of someone above me, older than me, who had already been where I was.  Who already steered through the choppy waters I was navigating.

This knowledge weighs on me.  It holds me to account. I’m very aware of what I was freely given.  And of my responsibility to freely give it, as well.

Motherhood is hard.  It can kick the crap out of you, bring out the worst in you and make you feel like a failure.  It can give you the sweetest, most tender moments, as you learn selflessness, forgiveness and to respond with tenderness even through exhaustion, and somehow find the physical strength to continue caring for these precious little souls God has entrusted you with.  Who look at you as the beginning and end of their whole, little world.

Motherhood is an astounding honour.  One that requires much support, and much advice to maneuver well.  My prayer for you, is that you will find someone who’s been where you are now, and can guide you, from a place of wisdom and understanding.  And my commission for you, if you are that  person, is to give of yourself.  To invest in those younger than you.  Who are struggling. Who are still learning.  And who sometimes feel they will drown under the weight of it.  It’s so much harder than we remember through hindsight. The exhaustion, the relentless demands, and the terrible guilt when you get it wrong.  Be the hand, be the voice that comes along and makes it a little easier. They won’t always need you. But hopefully, one day, when they no longer do, they will have become, just a little bit of you.

 

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