I’m not sure why the words, Mother Mentors, on the brochure asking for volunteers caught my eye. My daughters were grown. My days of full time mothering were over. But the word “mentors” sidled up next to “mother,” intrigued me.
Maybe it was because as a young mother I felt no matter how fast I went, I couldn’t keep up. I never drowned, for when you are a mom drowning is a luxury you cannot afford. But often I felt I was barely keeping my head above water.
Maybe mentoring was something I wished I had more of as a young mother. Sure, the act of my body giving birth made me a mom, but being a mother proved to be a much more complicated and difficult venture.
Perhaps part of me wished for a do-over; a second chance to reach that elusive balance between caring for my daughters and self care. Perhaps I wanted to know I wasn’t alone in my struggles.
Mother Mentors is a non-profit with a mission of nurturing mothers and other caregivers of young children. Their program encompasses all caregivers, but for simplicity’s sake, I will use the word mother. One part of their program provides one on one mentoring via in-home family support. The other program, called Playscape, is similar to a cooperative preschool giving families activities to stimulate healthy development. Both strive to instill confidence, build community and grow hope.
Hope was something that often seemed outside my grasp. Hope that I was doing enough but not too much for I wanted my daughters to be able to stand on their own. Hope that I was supporting them while also letting them feel the weight of their choices. And hope that I was keeping enough parts of myself nurtured so there would be a “me” to return to after they were grown.
For years as a full time working and homeschooling parent there were few slivers of time for volunteering. Now I finally had time to reinvent who I was. Being a volunteer was one of those things. I decided to volunteer in the Playscape program. The room is arranged like a preschool with areas for art, building, movement and dress up. There are also cozy areas meant for connection.
Mothers spend part of each day playing with their children, practicing healthy parenting skills. The balance of time is spent talking with fellow moms to build support in navigating the peaks and valleys of parenting. Sharing struggles and solutions as a way to build hope, for hope benefits both children and the mothers who care for them.
Initially I was nervous to talk with the mothers for although I have traveled more miles in my parenting journey, I am not an expert. My experience is simply my own. What I found is most appreciated is not what I tell them, but rather that I am willing to listen. For answers often lie within each of us; confusion leading to clarity in its own time.
Each day is different depending on what I am asked to do. Some days I sit by the wooden blocks. Children may come over and hand me a block which signals an invitation for us to build. Other days I might be given an unruly pile of artwork to sort or sit at a table making sure young artists have ample supplies of paint and glue.
At some point bubbles fill the air signaling the start of morning circle. They sing welcoming songs while small eager hands beat enthusiastically on drums. Books will be read while children sit still or wiggling within their mother’s patient laps.
At the end of the day we clean up. We return trains and cars to their proper shelves. We wipe down tables and put lids back on paint cups still dripping with vibrant colors. We dress baby dolls and tuck them under warm crocheted blankets. And then I leave, returning to the land of being the decider, the planner and keeper of time.
Each day I volunteer I enjoy seeing children happily engaged in play. But more rewarding for me is seeing mothers connecting with one another. In those times I feel I am getting the do-over I yearned for. In making sure hope and community is available to them, little by little I make peace with all I did wonderfully well and all I barely survived in my days of being a mom..
Here is the link to Mother’s Mentors: https://mothermentors.org/