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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: