Volunteering: A Guide for Working Parents
Speaking at career day, organizing a fundraiser, donating to a bake sale . . . it isn’t that you don’t value these opportunities to contribute to your child’s education, there’s just only so much a person can do when trying to juggle work and family. Before guilting yourself into signing up for everything or going to the opposite extreme with a blanket policy to not get involved, consider these alternatives:
Sign up early.
If you’re asked to bring something to the Halloween party, immediately choose what you’d like to contribute. There’s no shame in eagerly donating paper goods instead of hesitating to commit and being stuck cutting up fruit before the event.
Choose something visible.
As Michelle Cove notes in her book I Love Mondays and Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms, “Forget offering to pick up party supplies that you drop off before school, or tallying weekly class reading logs, or attending a nighttime committee meeting. Your child is not going to appreciate (or even recognize) that you’re pitching in, and she’s the one you’re doing this for, yes?” (An added bonus is that teachers and other parents will see you volunteering, too.)
Find a stand-in.
The classroom is looking for guest readers? See if your spouse, your in-laws, or your parents are interested. There is no law that says you always have to be the family representative, and it is good for children to see that there are many people interested in their education.
Consider taking a day off.
Workplaces that allow employees to adjust their hours occasionally in order to meet family obligations are wonderful, but if yours frowns upon such scenarios or if you feel stressed by trying to make it all work, it may be saner to reserve your hands-on volunteering for one occasion. It may be worth taking a personal day to chaperone one field trip if it makes your child happy and makes you feel that you’ve done your part this school year.