The Balancing Act of Volunteering at Your Child’s School

The Balancing Act of Volunteering at Your Child's School | Houston Moms Blog

Volunteering at your child’s school:: it’s one of those things we all tend to develop a deep sense of guilt about. And we are constantly asking ourselves questions  like, am I helping enough? Could I help more? Or, I feel like I live at my child’s school. But they need me! How can I catch a break? Finding a balance is not always easy, and it seems like most schools will always take anything they can get. It’s up to us to find ways to strike a good balance, and to know that it’s OK to set limits.

When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, and my home flooded, I went into a state of survival and had zero extra time, as I had to deal with the aftermath and recovery of my house. All notions of helping anyone else went right out the window. And while the preschool both of my children attended at the time went above and beyond with relief efforts and tuition support, I had nothing to give in return. Fast forward one year from the hurricane – we were finally back in our re-modeled home and things were starting to feel normal again. I began to see pockets of time where I could designate my energy. That was when I felt the urgent need to “pay it forward” to the school that had helped so much when my life was literally in shambles.

In the Fall of 2018, I ambitiously signed up to volunteer in all aspects needed by the school PTO. That meant helping with library on Mondays, helping to serve hot lunch on Wednesdays, and helping to pass out grape juice and challah on Fridays for Shabbat {my kids attend a Jewish Montessori}. It also meant attending all the PTO meetings for the school year, which either took place early in the morning before school drop-off, or later at night after the kids had gone to bed. 

The Balancing Act of Volunteering at Your Child's School | Houston Moms Blog

Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t sign up every single week for these volunteer opportunities. In effort to balance out my personal/work life with my volunteer life, I chose to sign up in chunks of time where I would do all of it in the beginning of each month, and then take the rest of the month to focus on other tasks and to give other parents opportunities to volunteer. 

In hindsight, that wasn’t the smartest way to go, because when each new month begins, I tend to feel like I am always at the school and can’t seem to get anything else accomplished! While I thought it might serve me well to get the volunteering box checked off in a shorter amount of time, I’ve decided that spacing it out might be a better way to go.

On top of volunteering, I also agreed to be the Birthday Chair at the Montessori, which means keeping a large supply of cupcakes in stock in the school freezer, and ordering and wrapping books to be given as gifts during the children’s birthday celebrations. As with most things, this turned out to be much more of a commitment than I initially predicted!

Now that my kids are in two different schools, I find myself with new challenges when it comes to volunteering. My son is at a larger, public elementary school, and I have learned that the PTO there is not only huge, but also very strong. That doesn’t mean they don’t still need me, but my daughter’s little preschool basically relies solely on the PTO to run events and to create enrichment programs between parents and students.

I’ll never forget on my son’s Kindergarten Orientation day, I walked up to the volunteer booth with my eyes glazed over. I was already overwhelmed with just how much more responsibility there would be with a child in elementary school, and I had already signed up for a decent amount of volunteering at my daughter’s preschool. The mom behind the booth must have sensed what was going through my head, because she basically gave me a pass.

She said, “If you’re volunteering a lot at the pre-school already, I would wait to get involved here. If you do too much for both schools, you will get burnt out and start to feel resentful.”

She was totally right. I can always help the elementary later, when both of my kids are enrolled there. And ultimately, the pre-school needs me more. It’s interesting how I automatically put that pressure on myself to assume that if I’m volunteering at one school, I need to do just as much {or die trying!} at the other. Why do we do this to ourselves? If it hadn’t been for that nice mom behind the booth, I would be seriously busting my butt to make it all happen.

Now that I have learned a few things about volunteering based off my own experiences, here are my top five take-aways on how to balance volunteering at your child’s school ::

  1. Space out the frequency of your volunteer hours throughout the month. That way you won’t feel like you are always at the school, but you are there enough to feel like people know your face, and they know you make the school a priority.
  2. If you have multiple children attending different schools, choose the school that seems to be lacking in volunteers the most and could really use your support. Don’t try to do it all, and know that you can still help sporadically at the other schools. When/if everyone is in one spot, you will have your day in the sun to help at that one place!
  3. If you commit to serving on the PTO Board, or agree to be a chairperson, make sure you understand from the beginning what the role entails in terms of your time and energy. Don’t be blind-sighted and totally regret agreeing to take on extra responsibilities that only stress you out.
  4. Remember, that there are many other parents who are willing to volunteer, and not all the pressure is on you. Even if it always seems like there is a shortage on help, it is not your responsibility to fill the void all the time. Give yourself a break, and know that you are doing your best to help with the time you have, and that your contributions are helping greatly.
  5. Be that mom behind the booth :: recognize when other moms are totally overwhelmed, and give them a “pass” when they obviously need it. We are all so hard on ourselves and put ourselves under a lot of pressure trying to be the best parents we can be. Sometimes we need that push from someone else that is in the trenches, or has been there before. You never know how much that mom might need to feel that sense of relief only another person can give.

 

Need more back-to-school tips? Check out The Ultimate Back to School Guide for Houston Moms!

The Ultimate Back-to-School Guide for Houston Moms | Houston Moms Blog


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