Moms and Mentors
Supportive relationships for healthy parenting and families!
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Moms & Mentors
by Leanne Baugh-Peterson
First published in Island Parent Magazine, May 2005, page 14. Reprinted with permission of Island Parent Magazine and the Author. Island Parent May 2005


Pregnancy and childbirth can be stressful life events for any woman but if you are a teenager or a young woman on her own, the pressures are even greater. Many teen moms face an uphill battle parenting their children. Often support systems collapse: family ties break, friendships change, and school is interrupted or put on hold. Many young moms also feel judged and discriminated against in their communities. All these factors contribute to social isolation at a time in these young women's lives when they need support the most.

     'Moms and Mentors' is a program in the Greater Victoria Region that addresses this issue of social isolation by offering a support network to young pregnant and parenting moms. The program aims to connect mentors from the community – women of all ages and backgrounds – with young parents in order to provide friendship, encouragement and confidence in parenting. Moms and Mentors started in 1995 in the Western Communities by Maureen Hobbs, a former public health nurse, and several young moms she met through her work. Hobbs says she enjoys being a mentor and is grateful to others who have come on board by helping to expand Moms and Mentors to the Sooke Family Resource Centre, and to Victoria at Kiwanis House and the Single Parent Family Resource Centre.

     As a public health nurse, Hobbs counseled young women through their pregnancies and the birth of their babies. However, she observed that these young moms needed more support and encouragement than she could give them on the job. Outside of her nursing work, Hobbs began to mentor a few young moms. Hobbs' goal was to create a community of mothers. "It's about sharing good times and creating bonds that will help through the bad times," says Hobbs. One of Hobbs' first mentoring experiences was with a 15 year-old who had given birth to a baby boy. The young girl's mother described mentoring as like being with a favorite Auntie. Hobbs offered guidance, advocacy and friendship and says she was happy to spend time with, and watch this young mom soar. "I was her scholarship advocate for her going on to college, I was at her graduation from nursing, I was at her wedding and I was also her doula at the birth of her second son. These are important life events that I was so fortunate to be a part of. It's great now being 'old' friends of almost ten years and we can look back on growing up together." Another young mom under Hobbs' mentorship was estranged from her family and afraid and anxious about the road ahead. Through the Moms and Mentors program she found "a non-judgmental, supportive, respectful environment." She gained confidence in her parenting and in her life choices. Ten years later, this mom is now married with two children and mentors other young moms in the program.

     Relationships between mentors and young moms vary depending on the needs and interest of both parties. Mentors and young moms are sometimes matched based on their similar hobbies. One mom and mentor team shares a love of music. The young mom and her baby often join the mentor at her home for an afternoon of music and singing. Some moms enjoy outings with their mentors: wandering through Chinatown, a walk along the beach, or just chatting at a cafe. Other young moms only need to know that a supportive mentor is a phone call away. There are moms and mentors who prefer to attend group activities such as Thursday morning 'Drop In' at Kiwanis House, the 'Circles' in the Western Communities, weekly gatherings at the Sooke Family Resource Centre, walks in the park, picnics on the beach, community kitchen meal preparation, BBQ's, or seasonal parties. Mentors can be of help in a variety of ways. Kiwanis House mentor, affectionately known as Grandma Margaret, bakes cookies, makes soup, looks after babies and toddlers while moms do their homework, drives moms grocery shopping or to doctor's appointments, teaches Christmas crafts, and has even gone camping with a group of young moms and their children at Camp Thunderbird. Having a mentor like Grandma Margaret has meant so much to the families that live at Kiwanis House.

     Along with one-on-one or group mentoring, Moms and Mentors also offers a wide variety of outside activities and programs. In the Western Communities, computer training is available at various times throughout the year. As well as learning valuable computer skills, young moms can also access information and support during pregnancy, as well as obtain information on parenting, childcare and child development. A literacy project promotes reading relationships between parent and child and a nutrition program promotes preparing, planning and enjoying a healthy meal together. And a scholarship program sponsored by various community groups allows young moms to gain support for continuing their education.

     Through friendship and guidance, mentors make a significant, positive and lasting difference in the lives of young mothers and their children. Hobbs, currently teaching health promotion at the University of Victoria School of Nursing, sees Moms and Mentors as women helping women by building a supportive community for young families and children. "Volunteering as a mentor allows me to share what's important, and being an experienced mom, it enriches my life by simply being with so many wonderful people. That's the essence of it all."


If you are interested in volunteering with Moms and Mentors or would like to know more information about the program, contact:

    • Maureen 478-6658 Western Communities.
    • Denise 642-5152 Sooke Family Resource Centre
    • Marijke 382-1004 Kiwanis House, Victoria
    • Ann 385-1114 Single Parent Family Resource Centre, Victoria


    Writer Bio: Leanne Baugh-Peterson, who loves to cuddle babies and play with toddlers, is a volunteer with the Moms and Mentors program at Kiwanis House.


Island Parent Magazine

 

 




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For further information contact: Maureen Hobbs (phone: 250-478-6658 fax: 250-478-6165)
Victoria, Western Communities, and Sooke BC, Canada

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