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