I have a distinct advantage at 54, I think, in offering a viewpoint on the dilemmas facing mentorship, from both the perspective of a younger woman (been there) and as an older woman (definitely getting there).  I’m going to plead the I Timothy definition of an older woman who qualified by being 60 before receiving assistance.  Over the years, I’ve heard many angles on mentorship, and read even more.  But, I’ve lived most of them.  Here’s the jist of the opposing viewpoints of both older and younger women in the context of mentoring.

I was part of starting our local mothers of preschoolers ministry because I saw a need for a vital means of encouragement for moms of young children.  That particular ministry, over the years, has served as a great help and a way for young moms to connect significantly with others at the same stage of life.  There have been some great ladies who have partnered with them by volunteering time to meet with them there, listen, and hopefully offer needed and valuable insight as needed.  Even so, I have heard for years, and continue to hear, that there are cracks in the plan of designed mentorship. Frankly, in a group setting, there are only a few mentors and only a limited amount of time.  And sometimes real life falls through the gaps.

  1.  Many young women feel on their own, but are reluctant to approach an older woman to mentor them.
  2. The older woman often interprets the reluctance of a younger woman as meaning, “I’m good, I really don’t need or want a mentor.”
  3. The younger woman feels she should be pursued and asked to be mentored.
  4. The older woman feels she should be pursued and asked for mentoring.
  5. The younger woman feels insecure about asking an older woman to mentor her, because the older woman appears to have it all together.
  6. The older woman feels insecure about asking a younger woman if she’d like to be mentored, because the older woman does not have it all together.
  7. The younger woman MAY not want input.
  8. The older woman MAY not want to be involved.
  9. A scheduled time feels awkward and fixed and too forced.
  10. They both may feel put on the spot.
  11. The younger woman feels that she does want to be mentored, but doesn’t exactly know what that should look like, or even what she expects from the relationship.
  12. The older woman feels like she should be mentoring, but doesn’t know what that should look like.
  13. The culture teaches us that the young have the answers, and the older generation just doesn’t get it anymore.
  14. The older generation feels useless and moves to Florida, to pursue their own interests.
  15. I have my peers, my friends who “get me,” and that’s enough.
  16. We’re all too busy.

That is just a capsulized version of the realities, and certainly not exhaustive.  You and I, undoubtedly, have our own unique reasons that we are not in a mentoring relationship with another person.

Suffice it to say, we need to continue the conversation and look at how we can overcome the obstacles to be involved in each others’ lives.  I’d love to hear from you about your mentoring experience on either end of it!