Sun | Aug 9, 2020

Trevor E. S. Smith | Merging motherhood, mothering & mentoring

Published:Sunday | August 25, 2019 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith - Contributor

We learnt early in childhood that Mommy is in charge.

Who can hear echoes of “Don’t let me have to call you again”?

Or can you recall the dreaded “You are getting on my last nerve!”

Scientists are still struggling to identify the exact location of that nerve. But we know that it means it is time to shape up, or else.


Here is a perspective from the other side of motherhood.

Does parenting force mothers to adopt a dominant persona in order to protect us from harm or to get the best out of us?

Is that the motive behind the dogmatic insistence that we eat all our vegetables?

And since we came from dust, why the hysteria about our playing in the dirt after our baths?

And why does bath time always have to be so unbelievably inconvenient? Why do toys have to be packed up?

Only someone with a dictatorial instinct could insist that I sit and do extra work in addition to my homework when the laughter of my friends next door signals the level of fun that I am missing.

I am learning to be obedient. It might help me to understand it better if my demand for a snack got the same immediate, positive response that is expected of me. “Why do I have to ask twice, Mommy?”

Then again, what happens at night why it is so critical to bundle me off to bed early?

This persona that has captured mothers does not simply walk away when we grow up.


It often happens that when the children grow up, the protecting, instructing, directing persona has become so ingrained that husbands, family members and even work colleagues get subjected to the same treatment (caring).

It comes from a caring heart ... it is intended ‘for our own good’.

But it does not always land well. The adult children are as bewildered and resistant as their younger counterparts. However, they are more protective of their independence and that can fuel open conflict.

Husbands foolishly think that they know what to do and question the need for instructions. If they would only stop messing up they might be able to make a case.

Seriously, getting unnecessary instructions and correction wears thin over time and can become a source of frustration. Copy Family Feud and ask 100 men if they enjoy being instructed like a child. Men want to be husbands not grown-up children.

When the “mothering” enters the workplace is where another challenge occurs. People don’t bring their mothers to work and don’t expect to find one there.


Individuals who are entrusted with leading others at all levels are expected to provide guidance and instruction and to create a safe environment.

However, that is different from the more personal and intrusive approach that is linked to the mother’s role.

Women in leadership roles need to be careful to place boundaries on the coaching and mentoring that is a now an expected component of workplace leadership.

There are too many complications and misunderstandings that can arise when those borders are crossed.

One risk is that the mentoring slips into a quest to fulfil the mentor’s vision for the mentee. This is a carry over from the career guidance role in the motherhood phase. The danger here is that this can stifle the mentee’s interests and even bring them to the point where they lose their identity. They fall into the trap of pleasing their mentor instead of pursuing their own goals.

Another danger when mothering creeps into the workplace is the potential for the introduction of favouritism as the mentor covers the mentees under her wings. The flip side of that is a spiteful response if the mentee breaks out of the cocoon in search of their own identity.


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Trevor E S Smith/Success with People Academy DISCerning Communication interventions address Interpersonal relations, Team dynamics and Performance enhancement. They incorporate a battery of technology solutions that support Governance & Compliance Management, Learning & Development, Onboarding, Competency Frameworks & Performance Appraisals as well as behavioural assessments from Extended DISC on the revolutionary FinxS Platform.