The Personal Side of Mentoring
**Updated on March 19, 2019; Originally published on May 16, 2017**
As most of us have experienced, the lines between work life and home life have blurred in recent years. As a remote employee, I try to set boundaries for when I work so that I don’t lose my personal time altogether.
But I have also found myself seeing parallels between my personal life and what I do for a living—telling people about mentoring. Mentoring is one of those beautiful acts that can impact the whole person, not just their professional work or skills.
I thought of this in relation to my role as a mom to a child with special needs. My 7-year-old son has cerebral palsy and several other serious health issues. In the past 12 months, he has had two surgeries, and my husband and I are preparing for him to have his third in just a few weeks. As we met with doctors and specialists to prep for his all-day hip surgery (and the many weeks in casts that will follow), I became extremely overwhelmed. How will we move him? How will we care for him and bathe him? How will we feed him since he won’t be able to sit up?
I’m a planner, so not knowing how to deal with these coming problems was distressing to me. But as I spoke to the doctors and nurses, and as I struck up conversations with other parents (complete strangers who I basically accosted at the hospital) who had children going through something similar, I started to realize…I am not alone.
I have many mentors and supporters surrounding me, giving me advice, helping me deal with the struggles my family faces, and giving me strength to do what I need to do for the well-being of my son. Through all of this, I came to realize that I have a mentoring mantra, which can be applied by all of us, regardless of our circumstances:
I do not have to do this alone.
This mantra can be applied to participants in mentoring (mentees and mentors), as well as to mentoring program administrators. You don’t have to do it alone.
When I thought about this, I realized that our whole reason for being in business at River is so that people don’t have to go it alone. We have built business mentoring software to help administrators, mentees, and mentors. We have training to support everyone involved. We have a team of experts who can talk through issues with people and help them find solutions. In short, we are around so that no one has to launch, manage, or report on a mentoring program alone.
We often talk to our prospects and clients about building a mentoring culture; this mantra gets to the heart of that ideal. You don’t have to do it alone. You have people around you who can support you, guide you, catch you when you fall, and be a sounding board for you. You have a community of people here at River whose daily purpose is to support you. (I have also experienced this support from my colleagues at River as I deal with my family issues. They are truly a wonderful group of people to work with.)
So now I remind myself: I don’t have to do this alone. And the same holds true for all of you. Check out our white papers, webinars, blogs, and articles for free information about mentoring. It is just one of the ways that we are here for you.
Update: Connecting Again
It’s now been nearly two years since my son’s hip surgery, and you know the complete stranger I mentioned—the parent I struck up a conversation with at the hospital while we waited to be called back to see the doctor? It turns out our sons now have aquatherapy at the same time. The funny thing is that they were in these joint sessions with one another for at least six months before I realized that this was the same family I had leaned on for information about my son’s surgery.
My husband normally takes our son to his appointments, but one Friday I decided to take the day off of work and be the one who took my son to aquatherapy and then to and from school. I had heard my husband talk about the little boy who had an appointment at the same time as our son, and I knew he and the mom of that boy would sit together on the side of the pool and talk while they watched the boys work with the therapists. What I didn’t realize until that Friday I took my son to therapy was that this was the same woman who was so nice to me when I started talking to her out of the blue at the hospital two years ago. She was the same person who was kind enough to answer my questions about her son’s experience with his surgery and connect with me as another mom whose child was about to have the same procedure.
When I got to the pool that day, I said hi to her and told her my husband had told me all about her and her son. Once our boys were in the pool, we sat next to each other and started talking. I kept looking at her, knowing in the back of my mind that I had met her already somewhere, but I couldn’t place it at first. Then I heard her talking to her son’s therapist about their upcoming appointment with the hip surgeon for a follow-up. That is when the lightbulb went on for me. I turned to her and said, “That’s where I know you from! You’re the mom who I met at the hospital and asked about the surgery.”
She looked at me and started laughing because she remembered us meeting, but hadn’t realized it was our family that she had spoken to until I made the connection. All those weeks of her talking with my husband at aquatherapy, and neither of them had realized that we had all met before.
And that is the beautiful thing about these networks we create in our lives—they can consist of quick but very meaningful conversations that tie us together in ways we may not imagine at the time. I’ve found that the special needs community is a pretty tight-knit group; we tend to see the same people over and over at events, appointments, etc. And there is a comfort in that as well, because we know that these people can relate to our situation and circumstances, and that they are there for us—and us for them—if we have questions or need to talk.
That day at the pool, it was a great reminder to me of my mentoring mantra: I truly am not alone.