WESTMINSTER — Linda Standiford says she feels like she has been a wife and mother forever.
"I feel like I have been married and had children ever since I can remember," said the 31-year-old Finksburg resident.
She thinks her parenting experiences, coupled with her training, will be a comfort to another mom. That's why she decided to be a "mentor mom" through the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.
The new program pairs mothers of children under age 5 with experienced mothers who will provide parenting information, emotional support and guidance in weekly sessions at the extension service's Westminster office. Participants vary in age, marital status, background and experience.
"Through this program, moms will receive encouragement and realize that there are other parents who have the same problems with raising children," said Standiford, the mother of Kelly, 4, and Mandy, 2. "That way, you know you are not alone."
Standifordis one of 10 women who volunteered last summer to complete a nine-session, once-a-week parent training program taught by extension service home economist Sharon Grobaker.
The training included such topics as understanding children and their behavior, building self-esteem,communication and discipline, and nurturing emotional and social development.
"The other part of the mentor program dealt with mentoring skills," Grobaker said.
After the training, the participants will be paired with 10 other moms who are preparing to take a seven-week workshop, also taught by Grobaker.
"This is our first class to go through the training as mentor moms," Grobaker said of Standiford'sclass, which completed training Thursday.
Said Standiford, "I would like to help my partner mom realize the importance of building a child's self-esteem. For instance, when a child is misbehaving, I havefound that there is always a reason. It's important to stop and ask yourself why they are doing this instead of having the conflicts."
Mentors and their partners were required to supply information abouttheir backgrounds, families and interests. During interviews last summer, Grobaker, with help from a nine-member advisory board of citizens and working women, picked the mentor moms. Grobaker interviewed and selected the partner moms.
Each volunteer was required to attendtraining sessions, which would allow her to be matched with a mom she would coach through a seven-week parent-training workshop.
Volunteer mentor moms were solicited through word of mouth, contacts in county agencies and an ad in her newsletter, The Cradle Crier, Grobakersaid.
"I actually had 17 women express interest, which was seven more than I needed," Grobaker said. "There were some women who had todrop out because of continued education, schedule conflicts and various other reasons. I was still able to use all that were interested, and I ended up with 10 wonderful candidates."
The partner moms also were required to be the parent of a child or children under 5, attend the seven training sessions and be interested in having a mentor friend to talk with about parenting issues.
Westminster resident Sharon Miller, who will be participating as a partner mom, said, "I am looking forward to having . . . someone who can listen to my concerns.
"I think that I am doing a good job with Samantha (her 4-year-old daughter)," the 25-year-old single parent continued. "But I want the support, and I feel that I could strengthen my parenting skills from this training."
Mentor moms will meet their partners at a get-acquainted session Monday and set a schedule for the seven-week workshop.
"This will give all the moms a chance to bond," Grobaker said. "During the seven-week workshop the mentors are required to keep in touch once a week either in person or by phone to make sure everythingis going along smoothly."
Grobaker said mentor moms also will continue to meet with one another for support group meetings, possibly twice monthly.