Many times working parents sign-up for volunteer assignments out of “working parent guilt”; regretting that they can’t be at the school as much as parents that dedicate 100% of their time to their families, working parents sign up for anything else they can. Before you know it, weekends and evenings are filled with volunteer duties (in additional to all that carpooling). In the end, they become burnt out and stressed. This is not in the best interest of anyone—not the kids, the school, nor the working parent.
Commit to making this year different—commit to being more selective in your volunteerism.
Here’s how to do it:
- Inventory your talents and and the school’s needs, and figure out where you can add the most value. Just as you would do when staffing a team, complete this very important step before you sign-up for anything. This is not only for your sanity, but it helps you add the most value possible to your child’s school—and that’s good for the school as well as you child.
- Set parameters for how you will share your talents. Before looking at any volunteer description, decide for yourself what capacity you have. Are Friday nights date night with your spouse or partner? Then set a parameter that any volunteer duty will not be on a Friday night. How many hours (realistically) do you have to help? Is there a busy time of year for your work or family? Don’t commit to more than you have time for. Write down that time frame so you know to decrease your volunteerism during that time.
- Identify possible projects for which you can volunteer. Write down the specific way you can add value, along with the parameters
- Reach out to the appropriate person for that project with your suggested volunteer role. Now that you’ve prepared, share your volunteer recommendation. Be firm with your parameters—know which ones you can be flexible on and which ones are firm. Work together with the volunteer lead to come up with an agreement. If you can’t come up with one, don’t feel guilty about it! Just as with job placement, you can’t force an arrangement that doesn’t work for both parties.
As the year goes on, reflect on how the arrangement is working and adjust as necessary. Take note of the pros and cons so that you can incorporate that finding into planning for next year.
A school thrives on the inputs of its community members. That includes both those parents who have a career and those who chose not to work. A school community needs both the parent that can help with lunch duty during the day and the parent who can contribute analytical talent to create tracking tools after they’ve put their kids to bed.
Working parents shouldn’t feel guilty that they can’t be on the school campus all the time—but rather think about how much they can add value by leveraging their unique skill sets and experiences.
And keep in mind that the above advice not only applies to how you volunteer for school, but also for your kids activities, your local networking groups, and any other space where you volunteer.
By volunteering in the most effective way possible, you’re allowing yourself to be involved and engaged in your kids’ activities while also making sure to protect your emotional and physical energy—which means you have more of it to play with your kids, go on a date with your spouse, or sneak out for some “me” time.