Frazzled moms just say ‘NO’ to volunteering!

The New York Times is reporting that across the country frazzled mom are just saying ‘NO!’ to volunteering at their schools.

From The New York Times:

“Around the country there are a number of altruistic, devoted and totally burned-out mothers just like Ms. Lentzner who are becoming emboldened to push back against the relentless requests from their children’s schools for their time. What started out as an admirable civic gesture somehow snowballed into an inability to say no to any committee assignment or project request, and spiraled into night, weekend and after-school commitments, middle-of-the-night e-mail exchanges, as well as frozen dinners, takeout pizza and baby sitters at home. …”

“Many parents are happy to volunteer uncoerced, and most everyone recognizes the worthiness of the cause. But the heightened need and expectations are coming at a time when many parents have less and less time to give. ”

“ ‘Volunteerism is way down at our school this year,’ said Gary Parkes, the PTA president at Carmel Elementary School in Woodstock, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. At the school’s recent annual fall festival some games had to be closed down because of a lack of adult volunteer supervisors.”

“ ‘Economic necessity, Mr. Parkes said, has forced some stay-at-home mothers to go back to work. ‘People are so busy trying to stay afloat, they just do not have as much time as they would like to give,” Mr. Parkes said, adding that he has heard similar laments in regional PTA meetings. ‘This seems to be a problem for a lot of schools. ’ ”

Mr. Parkes has gotten creative to finder volunteers. He’s using Cub Scouts to help with the fall festival, a girls’ lacrosse team for face-painting station and looking into corporate and ROTC volunteers.

We’ve talked before on this blog that it’s often the same group of mothers doing everything at the school. I think it’s finding a way to let everyone pitch in a little bit so the burden is spread out. The same mothers get asked because they know they will do it.

The article mentions a new online service to help schools coordinate volunteer work so you don’t have all the irritating back and forth emails. It’s like Evite but for volunteers. (I swear I had this idea two years ago and never did anything with it! Kicking myself! I will definitely check out this site and I just sent it to our teachers.)

The site sends “a calendar of volunteer opportunities and allows parents to sign up for those of their choosing without multiple e-mail exchanges. She now runs a company called VolunteerSpot that markets the system, coordinating 460,000 volunteers, 75 percent of them parents in schools.”

I think this sounds like a great way for folks to see where the needs are and where they can fill in.

A couple of other interesting points in the article:

It talks about mothers volunteering out of maternal guilt.

It talks about women quitting their jobs to stay home but then doing so much volunteering they aren’t actually home with their kids. They are hiring sitters, feeding their kids frozen food and are generally stressed out.

Several mothers mentioned their husbands being angry about their over-commitments to the school. One even said a husband left his wife because of it. (Michael has definitely been angry at me in the past for volunteering too much between church and school.)

So what do you think: Are the schools looking for too much help? Are there extraneous activities that really don’t need to be happening at schools and could reduce the need for repeat volunteering? Do you think the group online sign up sheet would help more parents fill in instead of the weight being on a few?

Are you volunteering too much? Are you ready to jump off that train? Has your husband ever been mad about your volunteer commitments?

134 comments Add your comment

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shaggy

December 3rd, 2010
6:46 am

You know, there are good volunteer groups that your kids can participate in with the parents. One locally, is Chattahoochee River Keepers. Yes, little Johnny might not be immediately on board to clean up other morons left trash, but you can actually make that fun, and maybe let him invite his best friend to come along to make it an adventure. Why not do your volunteerism and kid raising together?

It would seem that at least some of that would rub off on junior, and you never know, junior might even decide that mom a dad are pretty good “role models”, maybe even better than Taylor Swift and Jake -”can’t even remember that last name”-, right?
Jeez, it occured to me that the kid just might learn something about the real world, maybe dream of doing something significant and rewarding…no it’s just the coffee.

catlady

December 3rd, 2010
6:53 am

I like Shaggy’s suggestion. I think every child should do volunteer work of some kind.

At our school (630 students, 84% white, 15% Latino) we have three (3?) parent volunteers. They are exhausted. The rest just sit back and let the teachers do whatever it was that parents used to do (bring food for parties, etc). At PTA, unless there is a special program, we have less than a dozen parents who show up. (Now on Latino parent night, be have 120-130 parents and kids show up). For special activities after school (sock hop, fall festival) teachers do it all except for these handful of volunteers.

ABC

December 3rd, 2010
7:11 am

Sorry Theresa, but you seem to be the very definition of “frazzled mom.” I volunteer when I can at school, but I’m realistic since I work as well and don’t want to turn into one of those moms. And yes, it does seem to be the same people who step up time after time, and some parents you’ll never meet or hear from. I don’t know if it’s a public school thing since we never experienced that at private preschool/K. But it’s simple: just sign up for what you can manage without pulling your hair out!

Christina

December 3rd, 2010
7:11 am

One teacher of my daughter’s at Open House night had a bulletin board with scraps of paper tacked to it with volunteer opportunities, classroom supplies needed, etc. Her instructions were pretty simple. Pick one. So if you are not able to volunteer you can send your kid in with 2 packs of Expo markers. If you cannot afford supplies or the time to come into school to volunteer, you can stuff envelopes from home. Very diplomatic. Something for everyone. I liked it!

madmommy

December 3rd, 2010
7:28 am

When I worked full-time, I was one of the parents who would try to do what I could, when I could do it. Now that I am home, I still try to do what I can, but I have found that the teachers like “their helpers” and I feel as if I am getting in the way. As much as the “mothers” complain, most of them feel they have to do it in order for it to be done right. I say screw it and let the same one’s do it then. I will find something else to do with my time.

Anyone else gone through or going through this?

karma

December 3rd, 2010
7:32 am

Wow, it must be tough, dealing with the babysitters, nannies, house cleaning services. It probably gets old driving those SUV’s around, talking on the cell as you drive, settin up those vacations, gossipin’ with the other moms. It’s gotta be hard spending hubbies money, day in, day out. One of these days you’ll get that catering business going or you’ll write that book, just like that lady on TV did, but for now back to the grind, sweatin it out, in a sauna, at the gym, tanning next, wishin’ somebody else would pick those damn kids up every once in a while, you need a break.

Former Voloholic

December 3rd, 2010
7:47 am

@ catlady

The Latino moms more often than not don’t work, and the father’s often have jobs that bring them home at a decent hour. Their lifestyle and culture are so vastly different for the American way of life, including their work life. They also have extended families that help out!

The downfall is often is often monetarily, these communities are poorer.

shaggy

December 3rd, 2010
7:57 am

karma,
Just what is your point. Generalization usually arises from jealousy, envy, and ignorance.

Photius

December 3rd, 2010
7:59 am

I never understood why some of the Dad’s participate? it’s almost always 100% Mommy.

Atlprofguy

December 3rd, 2010
8:04 am

OMGosh..It’s the awful writer with a Sarah Palin-esque point of view again! Would you please donate your computer to any passing person with a shred of intelligence. That would really help us all and will probably help lift the ajc circulation. Also, it would allow you the time to explore returning to school!

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
8:06 am

@ Christina…your experience is exactly what I did when I taught Kinder. Instead of asking for someone to co-ordinate a party, I would put a list ( at the beginning of school) up like this:

2 Parents to attend the party:__________ and _____________
Send in the paper goods:_______________
Send in four 2 liters of Sprite or Juice;________________
Send in something sweet: ________________ and salty: ___________________
healthy:_____________________
Prepare games and send them in with the instructions;________________

Since we had 4 parties per year, I asked each parent to sign up once. If you cannot attend, you CAN send in 4 two liters of juice or Sprite and if you knew about it in August, you will not be called the week of the party with a frazzled request from another Mom who forgot about it.

This way, all kids can be proud that their parent helped out.

Some parents try to do everything and if I put this list up and asked everyone to do one thing that seemed to spread it out.

I do see less volunteers, in the schools I am in. I volunteered at the check in desk during the 6 years my kids were in middle school Two hours once a week. I caught up on paperwork and cut coupons from magazines etc. Once, a lady came in to check her son out and said ( to me) , “Oh my…this is a cushy little job now isn’t it?” I replied, “Oh yes…since I get paid less than 5 cents per hour…it is pretty easy…YOU TOO can volunteer…want to sign up?

“Oh NO…I have a real job!”

“Me too… I have my own business but make time to volunteer too!”

WHAT????

Yes, I think children do need to see their parents volunteer but if they are always frazzled and over committed, than that message is not essentially a good one either. You make time for what is important to you!

If everyone did a little, a lot could get done.

catlady

December 3rd, 2010
8:07 am

Vol: Half our Latino parents are Mexican; half are Guatemalan. Most of the Mexican mothers do work. None of the Guatemalan mothers do (nor do they read–no schooling). In our area, there is one major employer for the Latino folks, and they run morning and evening shifts. (an employer who, btw, uses everify on its applicants-haha). Many of our dads are on the evening shift.

On extended families–most are cousins and siblings, who also attend our meetings.

We have been working for about 10 years to improve the relationships between the school and the Latino community. That has been an important effort of mine. The first time we met, we had 45 parents and kids, crammed into a teacher workroom. Many of our parents, particularly the Guatemalan parents, have little positive memories of school, and only a third of the dads are liteate in Spanish. Their home language is a spoken language, and is NOT a dialect of Spanish! It is a completely different Native American language.

I feel proud when we have events (like our first PTA meeting of the year, when the Latino parents outnumbered the “white” parents by over two to one. Or when we hold Reading Night, and over half the folks there are Latino. Or when 4th grade has a stargazing night, and almost everyone who signs up is Latino.

In our area, the “white” parents cannot use the excuse of “I work nights”, as there is only one employer that has evening shift, and those jobs are routinely given to the Latinos.

The Latino parents in our area place great emphasis on their children getting educated. For one thing, their children can be of more help to them if they can read or write. And, too, it is a family pride thing, something that many of our Anglo parent lack (drawing on public assistance for so many things).

BTW, although our Latino kids are 16% of our student population, they represent about 50% of our honor roll. (It would probably be higher if their parents were able to help them more.) They also are very over-represented on behavior and attendance rewards.

Too bad we can’t get more of the Anglo parents more interested.

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
8:10 am

@ Photius…my husband loved to volunteer and ate lunch with our daughter nearly every Friday at school when he was working 4 day work weeks. He also chaperoned our son’s Kindergarten field trip to the Atlanta zoo…took off work for that one. It is wonderful when Dads show their child that their life is important too and show up at school every once in a while. Neither of us had Dads that modeled this with us…their job was too important to miss!

BShepC

December 3rd, 2010
8:22 am

Arggghhh. What a sore subject with me. I stay at home full time and have a part time job that allows me to work around the kid’s schedules (preschool and elementary)..I either work while they are in school or nights and weekends. I give my time when I feel like I can but it is MY time to give.

I am not a stranger at the school but they certainly don’t have a spot reserved for me. Yes, I do see the same moms there when I go in and if that is what they feel like they need to do…fine. Just don’t pressure me into it. My day is so full with laundry, errands,spending time with my kids and working that I truly don’t get much free time. I stay at home for our kids…not for everyone else. I also will not babysit the neighbors kids on a regular basis…sorry. Have no problem helping a n’bor out…but do not expect me to watch little Johnny every Tuesday b/c you can’t/won’t find a real babysitter.

Last year I heard my son’s kindergarten teacher say “Ask so and so …she’s a stay at home mom and has no excuse for not coming in.” SERIOUSLY????!!!! What people do with their time is their business…if you want to volunteer…do so. If you don’t or can’t, then you shouldn’t feel obligated. But don’t volunteer and then b**** about it the whole time or take on the martyrdom crown. Not going to buy it…all about choices people. No one is holding a gun to your head to do this.

fred

December 3rd, 2010
8:23 am

I take off of work a few days a year to help in my daughters’ classrooms, however as a teacher myself I am never able to be there on the “fun” days, 1st or last days of scool, holiday parties, etc. as I ma with my own school at the time. However, I do volunteer a few days with our school watchDOGS (Dads Of Great Students) program. I also volunteer weekly as an EMT with our local rescue squad. I have always preached to my students that it is important to give whatever you can to your community to make it a better place for all. And the best way to do that is through example. I tell my students about all of the volunteer opportunities that are around and try to get them involved. I was recently part of a “Main Street” beautification project where we had over 30 students show up. we even outnumbered the number of “regular” volunteers. The most important thing about volunteering, espe cially if you do it on a regular basis, is not to burn yourself out. Make sure that you still enjoy what you are doing, It is OK to take a break from volunteering. the community will survive without you, and I think that in the long run you will do a better job once you come back from a break.
JMHO

mom of 3

December 3rd, 2010
8:32 am

Life is about priorities, choices and doing what you want vs doing what needs to be done. At the end of the day it’s your choice and if you can put your head on the pillow and sleep. No need to beat a dead horse.

frustratedmotherof3

December 3rd, 2010
8:37 am

To madmommy – I absolutely agree. This is the first year I have really been able to get into my kids’ schools without having to arrange babysitters, etc. My youngest went off to kindergarten. I have tried to get in to volunteer at both of their schools, and it has been pretty hard to break in. I was just told that I would have to wait for an opportunity next month because I had already been in the classroom once this year. I have also been inundated for email status updates and advice on how to handle things from room coordinators for things that were delegated to ME to handle. I signed up for several things at the beginning of the year to help with, and it took until now for me to break into one of the positions. I have offered to sub spots for parents who only want to trade their shifts (which I don’t have to trade because I am not on the schedule) – they won’t just let you come in and sub for them….. I think these very same parents who are experiencing “burn-out” are also very unwilling to pass along duties to other very willing and able bodied parents. It is a vicious cycle!!

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
8:38 am

HOORAH fred!

In the past, I often got sucked into projects I really did not want to do. BShepC…I did wear the martyr crown! LOL

Once I turned 40, I adopted this perspective:

When you ask me to do something, if I will be mad at myself for agreeing and you will be mad at me if I do not agree to do it…guess what…I do not want to be mad. So, I am not going to volunteer for something that makes me angry. You will just have to find someone else. Sorry if you are mad. There are lots of other things I can do that will not make my blood boil.

Here is a funny story that teachers and those who are involved in the classroom might like:

My neighbor was planning a classroom spring party for 4th graders about 10 years ago. She asked a Mom to send in fruit. The mom asked if she could send in grapes…Yes, that is fine.

There were 22 kids in the class and the Mom send in a baggie with 22 grapes! I still remember that kooky MOM. I would have expected perhaps 22 baggies each with a small cluster of grapes. OH NO!

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
8:44 am

@ frustrated….some volunteers act like they have been hired for the job and it is a power play for them to hold the position. This is funny to watch ( to me).

In defense of teachers, sometimes they have had too many Moms who forget who is hired to teach the class and who is there as a volunteer and may not have educational credentials but know a better way to do everything. This tends to shut the door on parents in the classroom, as the teacher has to do his or her job and cannot be distracted.

I never had this but some of my kids teacher’s have and when I asked them why no volunteers they told me …after they knew I was a teacher too.

Former Voloholic

December 3rd, 2010
8:54 am

catlady

Your experiences with the Latino culture are always vastly different than the norm. Why is that?
I have also seen where you have grossly exagerated facts in various blogs. Sorry, but I find your biased on this subject to the point that there is some sort of hidden agenda.

I gave my observations at what happens at my school, but your school is always held up as the perfect example. You are always right, everyone else always wrong. Just take a look at your diatribe above.

In a nutshell, in your eyes “white” parents are always lazy and unattentive and Latino parents are lauded for everything! Please stop laying it on so thick. I am just not buying what you are selling!

JJ

December 3rd, 2010
9:02 am

I’m so thankful I don’t have to deal with this anymore. I know I served my fair share of volunteering at my daughter’s schools. I was fortunate enough to work and live close to her schools, so I was able to go help before work, on my lunch hour, etc. But those days are over now, since the kid is off at college now……

Happy Friday Ya’ll!!!!!

Rachel

December 3rd, 2010
9:11 am

As a stay at home mom, I am just sick and tired of being expected to do everything. Right now I am a co-room mom with a working mom. As soon as she found out I was a SAHM, her eyes literally lit up. Now when planning the Holiday party, I wanted everyhting planned yesterday and she has come up with every excuse imaginable.

I have learned not to volunteer if I can’t commit. I was asked to be a room rep for my younger child but refuse because I knew there would be instant conflicts.

At my school, we also have a large handful of moms that want to be everything and really just want the recognition. They are the ones that are the biggest complainers (quietly in their little group) and look down on those that do even just a bit less. These women’s (yes all moms) lives are in a mess personally and their houses are kaos.

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
9:15 am

@ Former…what are you talking about. catlady has spent MANY years inside of schools. Due to her experience she does not need to exaggerate, in stating her opinion. I am also aware of her geographic location and I think she is presenting valid information to back up her beliefs.

In some areas of our country, white families ARE lazy and backwards while immigrants strive to give their children a better life and will do whatever it takes to enhance their education.

The painter who painted my house is Hispanic and worked very hard. He did an excellent job and I would hire him again, in a minute. He has enrolled one daughter in private school, as their public school was not working for her. I admire that sacrifice as he is not wealthy but sees the need to do what he has to do and work hard to have it. Not all folks realize this…no matter what their ethnicity.

Jesse's Girl

December 3rd, 2010
9:28 am

I absolutely underrstand the need for PTA/PTSA…..HOWEVER. Some of them could give crime families a run for their money. Its ridiculous! Last year I was HOUNDED by the newly elected PTA Prez. Because of my career and what she mistakenly thought to be “connections”….she was on a mission from hell to get me to head up any and all artistic/music oriented committees. Um…how bout’ no. I work…full time. Thank you baby Jesus most of it can be done while my kiddos are in school. But still….I do not live to be stationed at the school store, ice cream table or Secret Santa Shop. I made the HUGE mistake of agreeing to sit for an hour at one of the Fall Festival booths. But The Boy came home vomiting a la Linda Blair and I had to find a suitable replacement. Even though I covered it…this lady still called, emailed and texted all night berating me for not showing up. Get an effin life Gotti and stay the heck outa mine!:) Perhaps…and I’m just spit-balling here….if some of you PTAer’s would come to the realization that we’re not all like you and we have other pressing matters to attend to…both our worlds would spin a little more smoothly. AND…done.

First time poster

December 3rd, 2010
9:28 am

I’ve always been a working mom, but did take time off of work to volunteer when my daughter was in elementary (not as many opportunities now that she’s in middle school). Our school had to put out strict guidelines because there were so many parent volunteers, particularly those that wanted to sit beside jr. in class all day, that the eliminated in class room volunteering. You could help out the teachers by doing things in the work room, or the media center, but not in the class room. It just became too disruptive, particularly when said parents brought their younger kids with them!

First time poster

December 3rd, 2010
9:29 am

Enter your comments here

Jeff

December 3rd, 2010
9:29 am

I enjoy volunteering at my daughter’s school but it would be nice if I was asked to do something besides carry stuff.

Jesse's Girl

December 3rd, 2010
9:30 am

my sad little rant is floating around in blog purgatory somewhere Theresa:)

@catlady

December 3rd, 2010
9:35 am

“We have been working for about 10 years to improve the relationships between the school and the Latino community. That has been an important effort of mine”.

I’m intriqued by this–can you share with us what your school has done to over the years to increase the participation so much. It sounds like amazing results and I’m curious what you’ve learned in working with the Latino community that could be applied by communities/schools that have low participation from parents.

Jesse's Girl

December 3rd, 2010
9:38 am

Spanish. They learned Spanish. sorry…:)

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
9:49 am

@ jeff…I know you have some skill that you could share with the class. Perhaps you might mention it to a teacher. My husband and I visited middle school, on career days and shared what we did at our jobs. Does your school have field day or festivals? Some schools cultivate their own garden or greenhouse…that ( to me) is really neat. You could share a science project. Even coming in and reading a story to the class would be super, as not many Dads will do it. I would have grabbed you ( for the class) in a minute. Teachers tend to be up to their eyeballs keeping up with the agenda but if you come in with a wonderful idea, they should scoop it up!

Former Voloholic

December 3rd, 2010
9:49 am

@motherjane Did you not read my comment in regards to catlady’s rant about the wonderful Latinos vs. the horrible “White” people? We are all here in metro ATL, right? My school statistically looks similar to catlady’s, but the participation level is vastly different! I can also safely say that others that I know of there experiences are similar to mine, NOT catlady’s.

I have read on several instances where catlady goes on and on in the same manner and calls people out if their experinces are different. Again, she is right, everyone else is delusional.

Again, what is the agenda?

Cammi317

December 3rd, 2010
9:56 am

I volunteer 2-3 mornings a week in the front office, BEFORE I go to my office, at my daughter’s school. I usually volunteer from around 7:50 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. typing up documents and working on databases. On those days I make it to my office right at 9:00 a.m. I am also vice president of the parent association for her dance school. This is actually a light-year as far as I am concerned. She is in middle school now, but when she was in elementary I was also team mom for her soccer team, cookie mom for her girl scout troop as well as volunteered around the school and her dance studio.

Oooops.......

December 3rd, 2010
9:57 am

I meant to address my earlier question/comment to @catlady, not look like I’m using her name!

Just wanted to clarify—–and I am curioius what you’ve learned that may be helpful to other schools looking to increase parent/family involvement

HB

December 3rd, 2010
9:58 am

How is catlady sharing her own experiences in her rural county “calling people out”? You’re angry because her school has successfully engaged immigrant parents in their children’s education? Why are you more interested in convincing people that your school is the norm and therefore her account must be an exaggeration than in learning about how her school has achieved the level of parental participation it has? What is your agenda?

ajay

December 3rd, 2010
10:08 am

I agree with madmommy. The school volunteer moms can be very clique-ish and they want to be able to beat their chests about everything they do. On multiple occasions I’ve asked to help out with projects and I get the “we have enough volunteers” notification. That is okay, I still find a away, but trust that some of these frazzled moms bring it on themselves.

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
10:15 am

@ ooops…thanks for clarifying…I was confused. Sometimes it helps if just pick one name and use it whenever you post. Many of the rest of us do this.

Cammi 317….good for you! Thanks for your contribution and I mean it sincerely!

@ Former: I am making the assumption this is sarcasm:We are all here in metro ATL, right?
Sometimes it is hard to see and eye roll on the blog.

Your comments are parallel to the comments I made about a week ago regarding eating mac and cheese at Thanksgiving dinner. While many southerners serve it religiously, others not so much!
Different things happen in different places.

You can choose to trust me or not…catlady has more experience regarding most things in education than the rest of this ( on this blog) combined. She is an intelligent, fascinating person who knows her stuff. I have been criticized on my opinions too.

I recall that she mentioned specific statistics and ” our area”. She obviously has not been to ALL areas and neither have I, so she is presenting the information she knows from her years of experience in the areas where she has worked. I tend to do this too!

JATL…perhaps my reading comprehension is lacking…..HELP!

Former Voloholic

December 3rd, 2010
10:25 am

Wow now HB has joined the group of schoolyard bullies. Since your all such good friends, I am suprised you don’t recall the numerous times catlady has praised Latinos and trashed Whites here and especially on get schooled (that may be the disconnect for). My agenda, to get her stop acting like she is a know-it-all when it comes to parent involvement when it comes to race. Her experience is not the norm, and yes I do applaud her for being proud of that success. But her bashing of another culture is distastful and flat out wrong!

PS .. my ethnicity would suprise you! :)

ssidawg

December 3rd, 2010
10:29 am

Sometimes it’s okay to say No. Some events don’t have to happen for kids to still have a happy childhood. Simple is good.

JOD

December 3rd, 2010
10:36 am

@madmommy – I totally agree with you and share your *ARGH* I showed up a little early to my daughter’s holiday lunch with the food I had signed up for, and to help get plates, drinks, etc. ready. Not only had they already served my daughter’s class and moved on to the next (so I missed Grace and part of lunch with my Girl), but they shrugged off my offer of help, then acted like I was in the way when I tried to get lunch to go in and eat with her. Fortunately, a grandfather was in the same boat and he was less subtle than I was :o) I love her school, but didn’t appreciate missing out when I took time off work to a) help, and b) participate! My food ended up coming home with me since there ended up being no one to eat it. *Rant over*

frustratedmotherof3

December 3rd, 2010
10:56 am

Agreed ssidawg – Simple is good -I think we should look at getting back to basics – I think overcomplication is part to blame for the chaos in a lot of our lives – sometimes I wonder do the kids really notice, or are we a little guilty of trying to keep up with the Joneses?? Do what is best for your family and what works for you and your family, and you will always be right.

Betty

December 3rd, 2010
11:07 am

I’m pretty good at not over-committing to volunteer activities but perhaps I do fall into the “mommy guilt” a little bit. When my work schedule permits, and I’m on a more flexible schedule because work is slow, I tend to do a lot of volunteering. Then my kids get used to seeing me in the classroom more, especially my 8 year-old, and then expect me to be there for every activity. It really seems to mean the world to her when I’m there to help out, so even when I get busy with work, I push myself to sign up for things I don’t particularly want to because she’s sooo disappointed when I’m not there.

There are worse reasons for volunteering though. I don’t like being pressured by adults to sign up because I feel that I do my part, but in our house, it’s definitely not keeping up with the Joneses, becasue my kids really do notice!

motherjanegoose

December 3rd, 2010
11:24 am

This is kind of interesting…
My sister and her family have volunteered each year for a shift at the Salvation Army bucket and ring the bell as a family. They live in a small town. Her boys are in college now.

She told me that she observes some families walking into the large discount store and purposely avoiding their entrance…steering the kids away from the bell and bucket. Then, they come out with carts full of things.

I know everyone has their own idea of what charity to support or perhaps none at all but would it kill someone to put a nickel in the bucket or model the behavior of giving to their children? Our own kids loved going over to the bucket and dropping a few coins in…it was just something we have and still do. Now we can put in paper money :)

Again, if everyone did a little…a lot could get done!

mom2alex&max

December 3rd, 2010
11:26 am

I’m going to read the comments in a minute, but: if all moms feel this way, who is going to pick up the volunteer slack?? Already most people don’t volunteer. Like EVER. The KEY here is motivating MORE people so that it is evenly spread out.

I, for one, am TIRED of picking up the slack of others, but I will not give up because the causes (church, scouts and the kids school) are 100% worth my time.

JATL

December 3rd, 2010
11:32 am

I actually really looked forward to volunteering for all the neighborhood, church and school stuff surrounding my kids. It’s something I really looked forward to about parenting. However, I have gotten pretty PO’d lately with our neighborhood group. The same 10 people do EVERYTHING -of course -and I’m amazed at the hundreds -yes, literally hundreds -of people who show up for every event and never, not once, ever volunteer for anything. We ask people to take shifts of 30 minutes or an hour at our different events and it’s like pulling teeth. I had to get almost ugly in my firmness that I was NEVER going to head up and be the organizer of an event again -to the point that I told them if someone new didn’t step up to organize the holiday thing this year -we wouldn’t have it. I’m DONE with that and plan to resign my position after the holidays because I’ve worked my a** off for 4 years. Of course the MOST common excuse from both parents is “I work,” and “I have more than one child now…” I sent an “reminder” a few weeks ago about the volunteers needed for holiday stuff and stated that I have TWO jobs and TWO small children -yet somehow I’m managing to volunteer -because I wasn’t going to be nice to the next slacker who comes to everything but just can’t help because she has a 10 m old. I find that half of our volunteers are all full-time workers and there are scads of SAHPs with one toddler who just can’t so much as bake a batch of cookies for a bake sale. Folks -if you and your kids live in a community, attend a school or church and always go to every event thrown -you need to volunteer sometime -I don’t care what your employment status is!

JATL

December 3rd, 2010
11:45 am

@MJG -what is it about turning 40 that makes you finally wake up? I’ve decided the same thing -if I’m going to wind up mad because I’ve volunteered or allowed myself to get roped into something, I’m not doing it anymore! With the neighborhood situation, I let myself get roped into an officer position, but I was told I would only need to email and delegate -and I’ve refused to do more.

As my kids get older, I’m also interested in devoting my volunteer time to their schools and our church events. I just over-extended myself this year with church and neighborhood -and with my son’s school I’ve tried not to go nuts. I volunteer when I can. One thing I really try to do, since a lot of the volunteer opportunities occur in the middle of my work day, is to donate materials the teacher emails us that she needs. Arts materials, snacks, etc. I know that many of the SAHMs who help there a lot have to watch their pennies a little closer than we do, so I feel like I can at least help in that way.

My husband has gotten angry numerous times over my volunteer hours -usually because I’ve gotten angry as well at doing something yet again. However, he is really ramping it up now and volunteering more for neighborhood and school stuff. He’s been to our oldest son’s school several times now to help out and always attends parent events. He’s planning to help chaperon a field trip on one of his “work from home” days after Christmas. It’s taken awhile, but he also seems to have had a “wake-up” with 40, and he’s started getting a lot more involved in the things our kids are involved in (he’s always been a pretty hands-on dad -but not when it came to extra-curricular stuff).

@MJG -I don’t think you’re misreading anything here.

@FormerVoloholic -I get what you’re saying (although I guess you’ll also call me a bully -since HB asking you questions got that response), but I think catlady’s personal experience at her school and in her community is what she says it is. I’ve witnessed the same type of thing both intown and in the rural area where I grew up. There are some places with a large poor-white population that, quite honestly, is often poor because they don’t take advantage of opportunities or ever try to better themselves -some would call them “lazy.” When a large group of immigrants moves into the same area, they usually outshine the whites because they work hard and are very grateful to be here instead of being the 5th generation to take it all for granted. The immigrants push their kids to do well in school -and a lot of the poor white crowd seems to think school is no big deal. The same can be said for other races in other pockets of this city and state -and everywhere for that matter. It REALLY boils down to class instead of race!

The exact opposite may be true for you if you live in an upper middle-class suburb that’s definitely metro Atlanta. You still have lots of white parents and black parents and every-other-type of parent who are educated and doing well -and many times the mom is a SAHM who not only has a lot of time to volunteer but actually wants to and does it. Both situations are possible, but catlady’s situation definitely exists -particularly, it seems, the further out you get. I believe she’s in N. GA and I experienced the same thing and see it all the time in my hometown in Middle GA. I’ve never read her comments as “trashing whites” -but as it is with all races -some whites are trash! They do nothing and exist as parasites.

@ssidawg -YES -it’s good to say no!

DB

December 3rd, 2010
11:48 am

Learning how to say “No” is one of the hardest lessons women have to learn, I think. There are somestay-at-home-moms who, especially if they were in busy careers before choosing to stay at home, substitute volunteer activities to get that kind of outside approbation that many crave. To many (male and female), getting that approval from an outside source, whether it be “Highest Sales for the Quarter” or “Volunteer of the Year”, is something that helps define them and makes them feel as if they aren’t wasting their time.

Pick one or two things, do them with joy and a smile, and don’t get tricked into a guilt trip for the things you can’t do.

I say this as a reformed volunteer-aholic. Sunday school teacher, homeroom mom, team mom, scout leader . . . you name it, I said “Sure! Sounds like fun!” I actually left one church because I simply didn’t know of any other way to extricate myself from an encompassing web of volunteer activities. Even after I had transferred my membership to another church, someone at the previous church called me and said, “I know you’re going to (__) church now, but I wondered if you’d be willing to continue doing (___).” Whaaaaat?!? I told the education coordinator at our new church that I was burned out, and just needed to be left alone for a while. After years of coordinating Sunday School, VBS, children’s chapel, etc., I wanted to lurk on the back pew, enjoy the service, and LEAVE. That was the beginning of my learning how to say “No, but thank you for thinking of me.”

It’s a tightrope, to be sure — if you’re the kind of person who likes to get things done, craves approval, and gets satisfaction out of a job well done, then being a volunteer meets that need, especially if you’re home with the kidlets. I think parents who work outside the home tend to be more discerning and realistic in what they can do, simply due to time constraints. The problem is when people who use volunteering as a crutch for validation get a holier-than-thou attitude, as if the weight of the world is on their shoulders. We need to remember that, just because someone may not choose to volunteer at our favorite volunteer spot, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t contributing somewhere else. To judge someone because they aren’t contributing to YOUR cause (time or money-wise) usually ends up making you feel like an idiot when you realize how involved they are somewhere else.

jarvis

December 3rd, 2010
11:48 am

Volunteer or work!

Do something while your kids are in school.
I was raised by a working mother, and magically all of our laundry was done, our house was clean, and I turned out to be a good member of society.

I’m not saying stay-at-home moms with school-age kids are lazy by any meants. I just think they put thier energy into unproductive activities.

DB

December 3rd, 2010
11:50 am

@JATL: I definitely think that, as you get older, you reach a point where you don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else’s opinion of you is :-) It’s a very liberating feeling!! I was in my 40’s before I finally woke up and said, “Enough, already, if you don’t like it, too damn bad.”