Hi, I’m Lori, and I’m a volunteeraholic. During my mom reign, I’ve been cub scout leader, baseball team mom, silent auction mom, room mom, soccer registrar, class party planner, field trip mom, school newsletter, robotics mentor (me?), swim team mom, TSA mom, competition judge, PTA, PTO, PTSA, and PTwhatever. WHEW.
Now that I’ve established my street cred, trust me when I tell you that over the years, I’ve learned a few things about volunteerism. Moms, you are a hot commodity in the volunteer market…you have some crazy impulse to say yes to everything! Learn when to say NO and when to say YES to a volunteer job.
WHEN TO SAY YES
Is it a skill that you already have and enjoy using?
If your first thought is “hey I already know how, that’s easy for me” or “hey I love that,” then do it! You love making 100 snow globes and your hot glue gun is already plugged in? Do it! For example, I really enjoy teaching an occasional Junior Achievement class in a local school. I find that it is rewarding and really recharges my batteries. But ask me to make 10 phone calls? It is never going to happen.
Is it a skill that you would like to develop?
Have you been wanting to learn more about social media campaigns? Perhaps building for a future career? What better way than to volunteer to do it for a group that has low expectations (ha!). You’ll gain practical experience and will quickly become known as the go-to expert on it.
Are you already going to be there anyway?
Then heck, help out. Why watch the team mom stuff envelopes? Grab half and get busy! You’ll probably make a friend in the process. Time sitting at practice goes by so much faster when your hands are busy and you are chatting away with other moms.
THE BEST YES
Is it something your child is into?
Then do it! Look, it’s not a coincidence that the coach’s kid tends to be the best pitcher. It’s not a coincidence that my boys *loved* cub scouts when I was helping. Something special happens when you are involved in the activity your kid is in. He sees that you care and then he cares about it even more. It becomes a family commitment and the source of so many shared experiences.
And wow, what a difference it makes when you are not “just” mom, but you also totally get how hard the butterfly stroke is or know the rules for the photography competition. It’s a real conversation starter when you have more in common than just the chore list!
WHEN TO SAY NO
When it is NOT a skill you have or something you enjoy.
I would prefer to wash the team jerseys and jock straps before committing to make 10 phone calls or bake 48 cupcakes. I’ve learned this by failing at a volunteer job or two (or ten). Save yourself the headache and be brutally honest with yourself about what you don’t like to do! Be honest with the person asking you, too, maybe there’s another way to help that fits you.
When it’s out of guilt or on-the-spot
Your resolve may fly out the window when a teacher, coach, or other harried mom asks you on-the-spot to commit to something. HIT PAUSE. Simply say, “Thank you for thinking of me. I will check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow.” Buy yourself time to think it through! And if you end up saying no, the class party will happily go on without 100 snow globes. Don’t let guilt or pressure be your driving force in saying yes.
When your child is not in it and it is not a passion of yours.
Think about this one long and hard…your time is a limited resource, so something should be VERY important to take away from family time. Put it in terms of money (the most famous limited resource). Give yourself a fictitious hourly pay rate. If your involvement could be measured in dollars instead of hours, would you cough up the cash? If not, then you should turn it down. No one wins if you end up resenting the time the activity takes.
THE MOST IMPORTANT NO
When you are helicoptering more than helping.
Those shared experiences I mentioned above? Yeah, they should be positive experiences, so watch carefully for signs that you are helicoptering. My kid already has a coach or advisor, that’s not my job. My message to my son is: I am in this thing because you picked it, but I have other stuff to do that isn’t about you. I’ve gone to whole 3-day competitions with my kid and not seen him until he runs out of money (hint: don’t give him enough money). Bow out when you feel yourself simply shadowing your own kid, give him the space he needs to fall and get back up on his own.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are so many ways to volunteer that ADD to your family’s experience, not subtract from it. If you choose wisely, your child will get the chance to see you commit, work hard, and follow through on something important to you. And isn’t that the exact behavior we want from them?
So tell me, what has been YOUR most rewarding volunteer experience?
Hi I’m Lori. I’m a recovering volunteeraholic with three sons, a husband, a full-time job, and a cat (who is usually trying to kill me). I’m a Knoxvillian of 25 years, transplanted from Kentucky so I love the Vols but I still bleed blue. You can find me volunteering at Gulf Park Pool and Hardin Valley Academy. And Junior Achievement. And sometimes Cedar Bluff. And, well who knows where else.
My boys are older now, my baby is 16 (what?!). That means there are three people in Knoxville that I taught to drive. Be afraid. Raising all boys was certainly a challenge, and I was a single parent for a whole lot of that time. I’m grateful to my entire community of moms, I could not have made it this far in motherhood without them.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but don’t email me now, I’m making 100 snow globes for tomorrow’s event.