I wanted to spend some time today talking about the people we have in our lives. We’ve all heard the Jim Rohn quote that says “we’re each the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with”, right? I think we’re all aware of the importance of having mentors in our professional space, but it got me thinking about the importance of mentorship in our motherhood journeys. So I was thinking about my community of women – the people whom I’ve surrounded myself with that I can learn from, vent to, bounce ideas off of, and be encouraged by.
Back in the early 1980s, The University of Washington did this study on how support from a community affects the way a mother relates to her kids and her ability to raise them. They studied new moms who reported different levels of stress and varying levels of support from their communities. And they found that moms without strong support from a community had higher levels of stress, and moms with higher levels of stress were more worn down and pessimistic about parenting.
They also found the opposite true: mothers with strong support from their communities had lower levels of stress and were optimistic about parenting. So the research really supports that having a community around us gives us access to new skills and resources to make life easier and better as we navigate the twists and turns of motherhood, which reduces stress and allows us to be more optimistic about motherhood and and gives us a sense of connectedness with others with gives our motherhood journey more purpose.
And I wanted to share with you the three types of women I noticed in my life that’ve had such an impact, because I believe that these are the three people that every mom needs in her life.
- Someone a few steps behind us
This is someone whom we have the opportunity to mentor and pour into. This is someone maybe with children younger than ours, or someone who’s more recently married and doesn’t have kids yet. But it’s someone who can learn from us. Someone who we can share our experience, knowledge, and wisdom with. We’ve been there, so we can reassure that new mom, or that pregnant friend and give her some confidence, encouragement, and resources she can’t get anywhere else.
We already know that being a new parent can be overwhelming. We’ve been there – we know how it can feel to question everything we’re doing and wondering if we’re doing it right. And as a mentor, we can help give other women a sense of what is normal. We can answer questions and see their progress, which increases a new mom’s confidence.
Another reason being a mentor to a new mom is so powerful is because as new moms, we often don’t even know how to ask for help or realize how badly we need it! We all know how a new baby affects everything, right? Not just like the keep my baby alive questions, but it affects our marriages, our finances, our careers, our bodies, our brains – so we can be the first to see it in others because we’ve been there. We might be able to see the signs of postpartum depression when that mom can’t. We might feel the tension between her and her partner and give her some encouragement because we’ve been there too and gotten through it. We can help walk her through a conversation with her boss about different boundaries now that she’s a mom. We have insight others around her might not.
And this relationship is so important because we all need mentors, and if no one is a mentor, then there are no mentors, right? So this is the opportunity for us to pay it forward and be a mentor to someone else, which is beautiful.
But it’s more than that. Having someone a few steps behind us who we can mentor and support helps us remember and see that we have important skills. We have wisdom and experience that others don’t have and that’s valuable! It gives us a sense that we’re probably doing better than we think and that we can contribute. It gives us a feeling of purpose – that we’re needed outside the walls of our home or office.
And what an opportunity, right? What a gift and an honor to be able to encourage another woman in her journey. To give insight and challenge perceptions and help another woman connect some dots you’ve already connected. So I would encourage you to take an inventory of some of the women in your life that are a few steps behind you – maybe they have younger children than you do, maybe they don’t have kids yet and are navigating newly married life, or maybe they’re starting their careers and dating someone. It doesn’t really matter, because chances are you’ve been through things they haven’t experienced yet, and you can help mentor them in their journey. And then choose someone to reach out to – invite them to coffee or dinner and just start asking questions. Find out what they’re up to. What they’re working through. What they’re worried about – and pour in. Follow up with them, stay connected, check in and let them know you’re available and you’re in their corner. This is powerful stuff friends. It matters.
- Someone next to us
The next type of person every mom needs in her life is someone right next to her. Someone who’s also going through the thick of it. Someone in a similar season of life. This is that proximity mentor. This is the woman in the same space as you – maybe you’re at similar places in your career, maybe you have kids around the same age, maybe you have similar goals and hobbies, but whatever it is there’s a common thread that she just gets where you’re at, because she’s there too!
And there’s so much gold in this relationship. Not only do you share so much in common in this relationship, but you bring different perspectives and experience to it. You’re similar and can relate in so many ways, but you can really challenge each other and help each other grow in real time.
I think we’ve all felt the pressure at one point or another in our motherhood journeys to enjoy every moment. Motherhood, like a lot of life, is often romanticized beyond reality. So we’ve got to have women alongside us we can vent to. Motherhood is complicated – so beautiful and so messy. So joyful yet can make us angry faster than anything else. We can see the miracle in it yet be so exhausted we feel like we won’t make it to bedtime. It’s just so complex. So we’ve gotta be able to talk about it with someone who gets it. We need to have a space to complain because in sharing our common struggles, it brings relief that we’re not alone or abnormal.
So I would encourage you to seek out a group of women who are in a similar stage of life as you to walk alongside. And within that circle, I would also encourage you to find at least one overly optimistic friend. Maybe you already have one and can think of her now, but this is the person who just thinks you’re the best ever. They think you’re the best mom. They think you’re such a great wife. They ask you questions and they want to know what you think. They value your opinions and your strategies. They think you’re unstoppable and they believe in you so deeply. Because when you’re feeling down, discouraged, or defeated – which is inevitable because we’re human – you’re going to hear their voice in your head encouraging you. It can be almost annoying how much they believe in you and you can always reach out to them and they’re going to help remind you that you’ve got this. You can do this.
- Someone a few steps ahead of us
And finally, we all need someone in our lives who’s a few steps ahead of us. This is that person that we usually think of as a mentor. Not your favorite blogger or podcaster, but someone you actually know in your life. Someone who’s been there and can provide you support, feedback, encouragement, and insight.
We know that in the corporate world, people with mentors get promoted faster, earn a higher salary, and are more satisfied with their careers, and all of those benefits transfer in this same way, and in their own way to motherhood.
Before you consider asking someone to be your mentor, I’d encourage you to reflect on what you hope to learn and get out of the relationship. I always caution my clients not to take advice from anyone they wouldn’t trade places with and this is so true with a motherhood mentor. Evaluate their fruit. What do you know about their parenting philosophies? What do you know about their kids and how they raised them? What do you know about their marriages? What do you know about their professional lives?
Take a look at the community around you, including coworkers, family friends, relatives, neighbors, friends’ moms, and try to find someone just a few levels ahead of you. Who can you think of that’s open, loving, and approachable? Find someone that is similar enough – someone who’s life and parenting you want to emulate. Any kind of group setting in which you see a woman you admire and with whom you connect, is a great place to find that person. Be brave and ask her to meet with you. You will rarely, if ever, be turned down. Because first, you’re probably not going to approach someone who is unapproachable, or who hasn’t given you an opening through which to reach out to her. And second, women want to help women. And moms who’ve been through it want to help moms who are in the thick of it!
They don’t need to be 20-30 years ahead of you, but even 5-10 years ahead. In fact, someone just a few years ahead of you might have more practical and relevant advice than someone 20 or 30 years ahead, who may be less in touch with your day-to-day realities. And it doesn’t have to be one person either – I mean how cool would it be to have a whole board of advisors, right? So don’t be surprised if you realize that one person is unable to help you in all the ways you’re looking to learn about motherhood, marriage, and being a working mom. That’s OK. Remember that you can have multiple mentors at one time. Over time, the people you choose as mentors will likely change according to where you are on your path and what you need most in that moment.
So, muster up some courage and ask someone you’d like to be your mentor out for coffee. Worst case scenario, you spent 20 minutes with the wrong person. Most times, however, your intuition is spot-on, and you’ve engaged someone who’s really going to have an impact on your life!
It’s so important that we have all three of these people in our lives. We don’t only want mentors who are ahead of us, because it can leave us feeling like we’re never enough and so far behind. And if we only hang out with those friends who are beside us and in the same place as us, it’s hard for us to grow or see a bigger picture. And if we’re only hanging out with people who are a few steps behind us, we might get complacent or not be pushed to keep growing. We need to be reminded that we still have room to grow. We need advice and wisdom from someone who’s been there and cares enough about us and our future to impart wisdom upon us and push us to reach your goals. So I think it’s when we get all three around us that we hit the sweet spot where we have the most well-rounded perspective and opportunity to grow and thrive.
So those are the three people every mom needs in her life, but you guys know what I think about coaching and how much value a coach can bring to your lives, so I’m gonna throw in a bonus. The fourth person I think every mom needs in her life is a coach or a therapist or someone that you can just be brutally honest with. Someone you feel like you can say anything to. Someone who’s skilled and equipped to guide you through all your stuff – because we all have our stuff. If our stuff isn’t dealt with, it truly has a profound impact on our parenting and our marriages. So we all need someone in our lives who we can unload on and share those scary hidden parts with so we can release so much of the guilt, shame and frustration we all carry. Someone who’s going to listen to you and not just try to fix you. Someone who can hold that space for you so you can just let it out, because I know as moms we have so much we carry, and we need to be intentional about having a healthy outlet for it. So if you’re working with a therapist or a coach, incredible. I applaud you for taking care of yourself. And if you’re not, and it’s something you’d like to explore, head on over to michellegrosser.com and you can get in touch with me and we’ll find you a coach who’d be a good fit for you.
So, put some thought into and some action behind all of this. I know you can find these people in your life, but it does take some work. It does take effort. It does take time and putting yourself out there.
But it’s worth it. You’re worth it. So invest in yourself.