This mom-to-mom mentorship network is transforming new parents' lives.

A woman peered into the double stroller and asked, “Are they twins?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“That must be difficult,” she said.


I heard this comment often when my twins were first born. It was difficult. Really difficult.

When I think back to that time period, two things helped me get through it: joining a group for moms of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) and having a mentor.

A mom mentor is a parent to older children who gets matched with a first-time mom.

She provides support and feedback for the new mom. In my case, my mentor was assigned to me through a parenting group. She called me weekly in the beginning and then less often as I became adjusted to my new role as a parent of twins.

There are various types of mentor groups available. I spoke with the founder of two, one I participated in. Both mentor programs use peer volunteers who are matched up with a recent-mom mentee.

The group I belonged to is called Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles.

I spoke with Pam Pace, one of the founders, about the mentor program she created with co-founder Donna Baker.

The mentor program began after Donna and Pam met in the hospital in 1994. Donna gave birth to triplets while Pam was on bedrest, pregnant with triplets. Donna became a mentor to Pam when her triplets were born three months later. They continued to support one another and then founded the nonprofit group. Their sister-like bond became the inspiration for the support they hoped to provide others.

I also spoke with Christine Sweeney, LICSW, who founded the Parent Connection in 1991. This program is based at Best Israel Hospital in Boston. It was created due to a need the OB-GYN nurses identified during followup calls from women who recently gave birth. Many of the new moms reported feeling overwhelmed or early symptoms of postpartum depression.

One of the greatest benefits that parents have gained from mentor programs is a support system.

When you first become a parent you may feel alone. If you don’t have family or friends nearby who understand your experience, it can be isolating. For many people, having a mentor provided a support system they were lacking. Even those who did have family or friends nearby said they didn’t always feel comfortable sharing the negative aspects of being a new parent with them.

Alexis Petru participated in the mentoring program Mentoring Mothers, located in San Francisco. According to Petru, “There’s still a stigma for women to talk about the ‘dark side of parenting.’ We’re still supposed to subscribe to that Hallmark-approved ‘enjoy every moment’ romanticized view of motherhood. During my mentoring group it was the first time I could really vent about my complicated feelings of motherhood … the anger, frustration, sadness and loneliness that goes along with the joy and wonder of raising children.”

Sweeney noticed a similar experience in her mentoring program: “Since there isn’t an agenda, expectations, or judgments, women feel safe discussing their struggles. Some women who had difficulty getting pregnant may think they can’t complain about how hard it is to be a new mom. A mentor gives the new mom a sense of relief and safety that they can talk about their feelings.”

Plus, women who are already moms can reassure new mothers, giving confidence and resources they can't get elsewhere.

Being a new parent is overwhelming. A lot of new parents question if they are correctly taking care of their baby. “A lot of new moms have questions about breastfeeding. Their mentor can help them provide answers and give them a sense of what is normal,” said Sweeney. The mentor can answer their questions and let their mentee know they are making progress, which increases their confidence.

In addition to answering questions, a mentor can help their mentee when they might not know how to ask for help or realize they need it. “Sometimes the new moms might have marital problems or financial issues, and the mentor will help them to get the resources they need,” says Pace. Sweeney also added that mentors are occasionally the ones to identify when a new mom is struggling with postpartum depression and will help the mentee receive the proper mental health services.

Ultimately, mentors can help new moms with their ultimate goal: being the best parent possible.

By having a support system and the proper resources, new parents are better able to care for their babies. Mentors help care for the new moms when they are focused on caring for their newborns. This enables the mentee to be a better mom to their newborn.

Where to find a new parent mentor program:

Check with your local parent groups or at the local hospital to find a mentor program for new parents. In Massachusetts, new parents can check out Keeping Pace with Multiple Miracles or Parent Connection, but many other cities host parenting mentorship programs too.

If you don’t have a mentor program near you, ask a friend or family member if they can be your new parent mentor or if they could recommend someone to mentor you. A weekly check-in phone call offering support and advice is what most mentors provide. Who knows — you could end up starting a mentorship network of your own!

This story originally appeared on Mother.ly and is printed here with permission.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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