Every once in a while I’ll see a blanket statement from a mom entrepreneur in my feed thanking “all the people who have helped her while the kids were growing up or while she was building her business.” Although if I were to be picky and totally honest, I’d like to see names, specifics, and even tags, I love that some people recognize that it takes a village to get things done.
While I admit that for many years after starting my business I was completely alone and can’t say I had anyone holding my hand or taking me under their wing to show me the ropes, I can’t entirely say I figured it all out on my own. Like one of the most influential scientists in history, Sir Isaac Newton, said: “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I didn’t get actual advice from anyone at that time but I did have great mentors growing up and their wisdom had stayed with me or came to my recollection as I prayed for guidance.
Even though my household situation was very dysfunctional, I found nurturing and affirmation elsewhere. I learned a lot from observing my teachers, my friends’ mothers, and other people in the community whom I grew to admire. When I discovered self-help books, I started to learn what healthy dynamics would look like, though I refused to believe I would ever become a mom.
It was tough to navigate being a first-time mom on my own, but again, I took parenting classes, read a lot of books, and asked a lot of questions to Bonnie, a senior lady that was assigned as my mentor as a military mom, which I was at the time. Her wisdom was invaluable and her influence in my life was priceless. I was terrified of doing it wrong and a little obsessed with doing it right, so she helped me find a balance in it all and assured me I was strong enough to break the cycle of dysfunction and brokenness with my own baby.
Having a mentor is a sure way to get successful results as a mom and a mompreneur. A mentor’s guidance, encouragement, inspiration, experience, perspective, and advice can make a huge difference between success and failure in motherhood and in entrepreneurship.
Experts say women benefit most from finding a mentor in the business field, and as mothers, it is even more critical to have a trusted advisor who is a veteran in those essential matters that have to do with raising humans.
In both cases, a mentor provides a safe place to ask questions, ask for help, and learn at your own pace. The Bible says that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” and though you are a strong, capable woman with motherhood instincts and business insight, having a mentor will give you an advantage you can leverage to become the best mother and mompreneur you could be.
The word mentor comes from ancient Greek literature, Homer’s epic The Odyssey, where Odysseus was away from home fighting and journeying for 20 years, and Telemachus, the son he left as a babe in arms, grew up under the supervision of Mentor, an old and trusted friend. In modern days, you don’t necessarily need a mentor who is older than you by many years, but someone who is further ahead in either the motherhood and/or the mom entrepreneurship journey and whose positive influence, wisdom, and support can take you further than you can on your own. Someone who knows exactly what it’s like to walk in your shoes. You need an anchor in your life, so getting your advice from your peers on may, at times, be like the blind leading the blind.
Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on people personally and professionally. A mentor can fulfill many roles: counselor, trusted advisor, role model, friend, teacher, and good listener. But be warned, an effective mentor will not focus on teaching you a particular skill or how-to. Instead, a great mentor will go beyond competency to help you build your character to accelerate your success as a mom and mompreneur. The right mentor will be committed to helping you become a grander version of who you are and will be focused on self-reflection and self-awareness.
Have you ever considered having a mentor? Every mom needs a mentor, but in order to make sure you are ready to pursue mentorship, you must be willing to be vulnerable and transparent, even though it may seem uncomfortable or embarrassing to ask for help and admit your weaknesses or something you don’t know. It is also necessary to commit to your mentor’s approach and open to honest feedback, and put effort completing each assignment. According to Fast Company:
“It would be a foolish mistake and a missed opportunity not to value the advice, experience, and knowledge a mentor can offer. Put your ego aside; be a sponge and soak up as much wisdom as possible.”
Being coachable and having the right attitude is pivotal for change. Arguing, explaining or justifying yourself is a waste of time. It’s such a privilege to actually receive direction from a mentor that has timeless insight you can’t just Google or find in a book, and that calls for gratitude, not defensiveness.
My best mentors have not always been peppy cheerleaders and I am grateful for the tough love they provided to help me grow. Mentoring is a partnership and, while many times you don’t really have much to offer to your mentor in return for her example, emotional support, practical feedback, assistance, and actionable advice, you can follow through on the tasks she assigns and report on what happened when you did. It helps your mentor to know you’re serious about mentorship and that you don’t take her for granted.
I know the mentors who chose to invest in me have significantly impacted all aspects of my life, but I also know I was diligent in heeding their counsel, even when they told me truths I didn’t want to hear or challenged me to come out of my comfort zone. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg explains that mentoring is not the ticket to success, but a helpful step toward it, when you do your part.
The best way to find a mentor is to look for potential mentors among mom entrepreneurs you admire, a mom who seems approachable and has the results you want in your life. Make sure you define in advance and in great detail what you are seeking to get out of the mentorship and the structure, expectations, and clearly defined rules of engagement you envision for your mentor-mentee relationship (i.e. when and how you will connect and for how long, what is appropriate, what is confidential, etc…).
The top criteria to find the right mom mentor for you is mutual trust. In addition, know what to ask in order to find out if the mentorship relationship will be a good fit for both parties. You’ll need a certain level of chemistry, compatibility in values and styles, and to feel comfortable asking questions. Asking takes courage, but follow your intuition and you’ll be steered in the direction of a mom mentor whose valuable insight will make a difference in your motherhood and mompreneurship journeys.
One of the main qualities I look for a mom mentor is that she doesn’t claim to be a Carol Brady-type supermom. Learning from another mom who knows and has faced your same motherhood challenges and made the same mistakes is highly valuable and more relatable. It can fuel your sanity to just see how her business and her kids have turn out even though she’s imperfect like you. In other words, she doesn’t have all the answers, but she’s a living testimony that it’s going to be okay eventually, and that it really can be done, tough times, flaws and all!
In the face of so-called supermoms, we feel so inadequate that we are hesitant to share our struggles, and the secrecy and silence that we go through not only adds to the problem, but prevents it from being solved. A non-supermom is sensitive to your feelings and circumstances, while providing a safe, compassionate, non-judgmental and respectful environment in which you can grow with loving, empathetic, and compassionate input, rather than motivational guilt.
I’m grateful for the mentors who have been instrumental in my success, for their willingness to ask the hard questions, to push me to think differently, to explore options and different perspectives, and to open my eyes and mind to my blind spots and limitations. My mentors became my personal advocates and infused me with lasting self-confidence that has helped me even in their absence and even after their passing.
It’s been an honor to have meaningful interactions with mentors who have provided me assurance, given ideas freely, demonstrated patience when I didn’t quite get it or was letting fears and addictions get the best of me. So much acceptance, compassion, empathy, vulnerability, openness, attention, and dedication.
My mentors were invested in my growth and I am in awe that they didn’t give up on me even when I chose not to listen and came back for guidance after falling flat on my face. Their brutal honesty and helpful suggestions saved me more time, effort, money, and sanity than I can account for and the shifts and breakthroughs they facilitated were a vital anchor and compass for me to navigate motherhood and mompreneurship.
When I think of Pascual Estrella, who inspired me to continue to learn English and be the best I could be, or in Ana Dolores de Datt, whose unexpected kindness and empowering words and actions nurtured my passion for becoming a writer, I see the effective qualities of a great mentor personified. I hope wherever they are, they can feel emotionally rewarded for what they sowed in me, and I strive to pay it back by mentoring others.
Are you ready to tap into the expertise of a savvy mentor? Mentorship is crucial to mastery. Share your experience and insight below!