It is so important for me to raise children with a knowledge of and compassion for the world. I imagine them in the Peace Corp or Teach for America someday. And yet, every time I think about what I’m doing to model that for them, I come up with a big fat goose egg. It is strange. I thought I felt passionate about getting involved but it turns out that when it is actually time to get involved my inclination is to stand back and wait to see if there is a desperate need for me.
Before I had children this was not the case. I was on every committee and led every organization I was involved in. Then I had kids and it seemed I could only handle the “volunteering” that came with my day to day job. I was always confused as to why I was stalled on the stand up and take part front. Then yesterday when I went to a meeting at my daughter’s school (where we are forced to either volunteer or write a check, which is a whole post of rage for another day.) to join in the discussions of the Field Day Committee, it hit me- I’m scared. See, the whole experience of volunteering involves so many skills that I am not sure I possess any longer.
First, there is the meet and greet where you have to quickly become friendly with the people involved in order to foster a good working relationship. My conversational skills are so stunted after spending so much time with small children that I often put my foot in my mouth or sit mute to keep that from happening.
Then, after you have established yourself (good or bad) you are asked to collaborate on ideas. I haven’t collaborated with anyone over 3 feet in close to eight years. At home, I am in charge. At my job, I am in charge because I work only for me. I have lost some of my talent for collaboration and yet retained all of my impatience for the BS and talky-talk that comes out of group planning.
Finally, and worst of all, I had a very limited brain for details when I was a volunteer whore, so after kids and the inevitable brain shrinkage that comes after each placenta is ripped from your body, I can’t even remember to put on shoes much less to research the best prices for helium balloons and fake gold medals for over 4oo kids. What I haven’t lost though is my inherent desire to make everyone happy. Making everyone happy becomes way harder when you can’t remember to do your job. I am still scarred by the time I allowed myself to be placed in the position of MOMs Group President. I was told the group would fold if no one stepped up. I was told I wouldn’t have to do much-because I was honest about my limited abilities. So I stepped up and as predicted, didn’t do much. The group didn’t fold, but it was no thanks to me. The only consistent action I did was write a cute little note at the beginning of each newsletter and even that was a challenge. It was sad and I felt guilty about it all year. I vowed going forward that I would never ruin a position again.
I’m not sure how I’ll get my volunteer mojo back, but I hope it comes soon. My thought is as the kids get older maybe I’ll have some brain regeneration but it seems they keep adding activities so I will have to work hard on that one.
The kids and I keep talking about serving at Lunch Break, over Thanksgiving or Christmas so I should finally get on that. My son starts a new school next year that relies heavily on volunteers but treats them as such-volunteers. I’m hoping if I’m not forced to “volunteer or pay up” then I’ll be more motivated to choose volunteering. I know from my past that I have the gene, I just need to find it in all the piles of out-grown cloth diapers and baby toys.
Then I hope I can make the world an even better place-at least my small corner of it.
This post was inspired by the Yahoo! Motherboard topic for May. That’s a group I belong to that I probably don’t do enough for! Check them out.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.