We’ve all heard about the importance of having “mom friends.” They’re the people with the just right humor, sympathy and understanding we need as we navigate the challenges of parenting together. They're there for us in just the right way.
They're not quite enough.
In addition to mom friends, we also need a set of mom mentors. They’re the people we watch from afar. They’re the ones we ask directly for advice. They’re the ones who become our friends, too.
The best thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to observe, listen and learn from these women (and also men!). And if we’re lucky, we’ll have most of the following mentors in our lives:
1. A mom whose youngest kid is the same age as our oldest kid
Learning from these moms is like peering across our next parenting bridge. We can see what’s on the other side, but we can’t quite get to it yet. Nonetheless, it’s reassuring to know that our futures hold (mostly) full nights’ sleep and children who can wipe their own bottoms.
2. A mom whose oldest kid is the same age as our youngest kid
These moms give us perspective. We look at them and see how far we’ve come. We also look at them and remember just how quickly the time is flying by, even when the days seem to drag (or get dragged through literal poop and peanut-butter smears and spilled milk).
3. A mom whose political beliefs are different from our own
No need to befriend any proto-fascists. But there’s a lot that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Green Party supporters and conservatives and progressives of all stripes can learn from one another, if only we commit to remaining open-minded and courteous. (And avoid all hate and bigotry in our politics, of course.) Our shared experience of parenting might even help us find common ground and respect for those differences.
We can appreciate each other more when we take a moment to learn about our different experiences, sacrifices and joys.
4. A mom we admire
We should identify exactly what it is that we admire about them. Is it their volunteerism? The way they negotiate their career and motherhood? Their commitment to saying “no” when they don’t want to do something? We can try and emulate them. But we might also consider telling them just how much we admire them. I can’t think of anyone who hates hearing, “Hey, I admire you.”
5. A mom whose family looks different from ours
I’m not suggesting that hetero moms seek out a token lesbian mom to add to their circle of friends. That’s not how diverse friendships work. But there’s a real danger when we live in silos of friendship and camaraderie. We learn very little in an echo chamber. But we have a lot to learn when we expand our worldviews—and our friendships.
6. A mom whose work/life situation is different from ours
We can appreciate each other more when we take a moment to learn about our different experiences, sacrifices and joys. And unless we feel stuck in our own work/life situation, we’ll probably learn that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s simply a different shade of green.
And those moms we’ve dismissed don’t only have something to teach us about parenting, they often have something to teach us about ourselves.
7. A child-free mom mentor
Some of my biggest parenting breakthroughs have come via the insights of child-free friends. They don’t have any of the baggage associated with actually raising children. Instead, they can see straight through to the parts of our children’s personalities or behaviors that we might miss from our own parenting perspective.
8. A mom from a different generation
Whether they’re a lot younger or a lot older than we are, these moms have life experiences and cultural touchstones that don’t always match our own. This is a good thing. We can learn from one another, whether it’s a matter of reviving old school wisdom or understanding the latest parenting trends.
9. A mom we once judged
That’s right: We need to confront our judgment head on. If we have judged another mother for being too snobby, too lazy, too perfect or too irreverent, it’s time to quiet our judgy minds and stop for a second to learn. And those moms we’ve dismissed don’t only have something to teach us about parenting, they often have something to teach us about ourselves.
Lesson learned? Choose kindness over arrogance, and choose learning over judging. All day. Every day.