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Cause 20% do 80%

One of my reasons for not helping out physically at the school is that I have 2 year old twins (as well as my 6 and 8 yo)! I cant even imagine how that would go down if I had to bring them with me to sell hotdogs for a few hours! But I always respond to emails, and volunteer to do things like cover books at home, help with reading on the days my nanny can have them etc. There is no excuse for at least responding to emails!

At my sons school the Class Moms have set up a TLC fund and every Child's parents contribute R150 at the beginning of the year for little things like a birthday gift for teacher & helper, gifts for new parents or for little hospital patients and it also covers teacher & helper presents at the end of the year. I thought it was a really good idea because then you are not being asked for money every 5 mins for this and that.

I work until 2pm, and would love to help out, but most things happen in the mornings. I did take leave for 2 half days when there was the concert last year to help out, so that is also an option for other working parents.

And yes... AT LEAST just answer the emails!! I totally agree on that!!

I must say my enthusiasm for doing these sorts of things has waned over the years. When my oldest (now 16) was in primary school I did sometimes take leave to go and help out for certain things, mainly because I felt I was missing out on parts of his life if I didn't. I was contracting then so it was easier as my leave was fairly endless.

Working fulltime doesn't allow me to do much these days though I do try and help out where I can. But then the oldest doesn't really want me there and Mitchell is in his first year so we are still getting to his.

I help, but where I live, there is a definite group of mothers who seem to make it their goal to run it all, and that doesn't leave much room for new people to participate. It is definitely the same people who help, but what I've seen is that the mothers who try to become involved are (sometimes gently and sometimes not-so-gently) pushed aside so that things continue along the path of "this is what we've always done." I think for me, knowing my limits is part of it too. When there is an event at school, such as a class party/something special for the teachers, I always help. I am not a run-a-booth person, but I am glad to help behind the scenes. And if no one volunteers, maybe it's time to re-evaluate how important that activity is; if people are not backing it with their time and effort, that could be an indication that they don't see it as useful. Maybe it could be time to say "Ok, due to lack of volunteers we aren't going to be able to do this this year," and see if that changes anything. If not, sadly, maybe it's more an issue that some people want to continue (in which case they can, knowing it's going to be theirs to do), or that it isn't a priority for the group as a whole any longer.

It was very clique-ish. I heard them snarking on others and since I wasn't "in" I figured they were snarking about me when I wasn't there. I want no part of that. I do help, but not in group situations. I do individual things like help stuff folders in the classroom.

The mom cliques stopped me. Someone with thicker skin and better social skills than I have may have been able to break through the clique wall, but I was left working and feeling awkwardly alone. No, thank you.


I have four children, work full-time and do try to help where and when possible. I am unfortunately therefore not one of the moms who are always able to volunteer. You know, one of those who are ALWAYS at school whether they need to be there or not. You mention, help with ideas…. I have wasted too many precious time going to these “planning meetings”, and believe me it is not to share ideas, it is just to hear what the class rep and her gang have already decided on. Another issue, every time I volunteer to help, you are just not being accepted by the group of the “regular moms” because, obviously, you are not part of the group. They don't even try to make you feel part of the group ……

I currently volunteer for a community group and when my kids were young I did help out at the school when I could. We have overcome difficulty in getting volunteers by offering volunteer opportunities at times all potential volunteers can come out including evenings and weekends. Make a social aspect part of the experience to help new volunteers form relationships within the group, ie refreshments and social time after a meeting. Give a specific request for volunteer time. Some people don't want to get into a regular commitment but will do something occasionally if it fits their schedule. Invite or ask people personally. They might not always think you really need them or that they have the skills you need. Finally, the chairperson or class rep should ensure that all volunteers are welcomed, introduced and thanked. Be willing to try new ideas, you'll be surprised at how many will actually work out.

My youngest is in 2nd grade and this time around the school is super strict about parents being in the school. You have to go for training before you can volunteer for anything. I work full-time and commute 1.5hrs each way so my opportunities to volunteer are already small and the training required ensured that I won't do any. That said I always respond to the class parent and sign up to send stuff in when requested etc...

I was one of those parents too. I sold candyfloss and made pancakes and baked for the cake sale and sold raffle tickets and and and. I also attended meetings and I was on the PTA.
I liked to be involved and I liked the school to know I was available and approachable because I had one of those children who kept the teachers on their toes.
Funny enough, I'm seeing the same pattern now with a charity organisation I volunteer for. Its always the same people showing up when they need help.

I work full-time, 8 to 5. When my kids were in elementary school (k - 5th grade, here) I always took off 1 day to go on a field trip with each child, each year. I went to most all PTO meetings and sold the fundraiser stuff. But,that was my limit because I work. And frankly, the stay-at-home moms club (or the always-at-school mom's club) didn't like outsiders.

Life is tough. Obligations are endless, and it's hard to keep all the balls in the air. Most of the time, one area of your life is in need of attention; the house is a mess, the relationship is a mess, work is a mess, the kids are a mess, your mental health is a mess ; ) ..... Volunteering for school activities is just one more way you can feel guilty for not being able to keep all your balls in the air.
Not responding to emails could be a protection mechanism - if you don't respond, you can pretend you didn't receive the request and the school/parent rep might not realise how hard you are fighting to keep it all together. And you can feel ever so slightly less guilty.

My sons are currently only 3 years of age, so this has not yet become an issue in my life. . . but I anticipate once they are in school that I won't volunteer often for things for a couple of reasons. First, because I work full-time outside the home and have precious little free time. Second, because already my experience with a lot of mothers who don't work full-time has been that many of them (not all, not most, but many) are clique-ish and judge-y of mothers who *do* work full-time . . . so I would rather not spend what little free time I do have in their company.

Just my $0.02.

It's been about 25 years since my children were in elementary school, but back then I was one of the moms who participated in everything. EVERYTHING. In later years, in other organizations (not child-related), I continued to be a super-volunteer. Why? Because I just felt that members should contribute. But -- no more. I no longer volunteer for ANYTHING. (I do respond promptly to emails, make payments on time, etc.) But I do not volunteer or take on any leadership positions anymore - and that's because of the majority who assume "someone else will do it." I got tired of being that someone All The Time. I was/am just as busy as every other mom - work, home, family, children - but I managed to find the time. It's someone else's turn now. And if the organization folds because no one stepped up? Well, I just don't care anymore!

I am one of those just struggling to keep it together - evening work, multiple small children, renovation, husband away, no family support or childcare... some days it is as much as I can do to get my daughter to school with her uniform! I am a SAHM and I am there at school every day so it's hard to say I don't have time.

Thing is, I do volunteer, as much as I can, but at the moment, it's not at school and you wouldn't see it. School usually ask that no siblings come along, and I have two others under 3. I do my volunteering at kindy and at playgroup, where I can do it with my other children. When the smalls are bigger, I'll be able to do more at school. I would reply to emails if I got any, but we don't tend to.

I suspect some of the not replying is that it feels unpleasant and unproductive to reply that you're not able to think of anything or volunteer and there's a hope that your lack of reply with just get lost in the shuffle.

Also, is it absolutely clear what will be involved? I don't like signing up for something if I don't actually know what it means to volunteer. Like, does the hot dog stand involve cooking? Taking orders? Keeping the condiments filled? Running a credit card machine? Do I have to stand the whole time? How many people would I need to work with? I'm sure I'm making it harder than it is in my mind, but that's how it goes.

And certainly a feeling that if you don't volunteer, you can still count on it to get done. There's so much in my life that absolutely won't happen if I don't do it, so if I can rely on some other mother... I'm more inclined if the email expresses a need for "most" people to participate, rather than asking for volunteers.

The timing of your post was impeccable. I am a class rep for my son's kindergarten class and the teacher just asked for volunteers to help in the classroom this week. I sent out an email with an online sign up sheet and not a single person responded. The same moms who always volunteer for everything were the only ones to reply to say they were busy. I feel exactly the same as you do - I enjoy participating and I'm grateful I have the opportunity to do so. I'd just appreciate if some of the others responded or offered to help in a different way. It's all the extras achieved by volunteers (field trips, fundraising) that make our children's school experience so great.

I help in the classroom when the teacher asks, but I stopped even trying with the school-wide stuff. That 20% that runs 80%? Are distinctly unpleasant when someone new tries to help. I don't need to deal with people trying to destroy school fundraisers because they don't like the person running it that year. And god forbid you offer a suggestion to make an even run more smoothly.

I am another work-full-time-outside-the-house parent. I am a health provider at a busy hospital clinic, and my schedule fills up weeks (sometimes 3-4 weeks) in advance with patient appointments. I would LOVE to be able to volunteer for things during the day, like field trips and bake sales, but when we are only given 2 weeks notice before the event, I can't do it. One, because my workplace policy requires at least a month's notice for time off, and two, because I personally don't want to have to tell my patients (some of whom wait weeks to be able to see me) that I have to cancel on them to go help with a bake sale (not that bake sales are not important too, but you get my drift). I have attempted to help volunteer with things that are on weekends, but surprise surprise--most things are not held on weekends. They are held during the weekdays, or--if the "20%" are feeling inclusive, at 4:30 in the afternoon. I have taken days off of work when I can, like for field day, when I am given over a month's notice, and for one year I did a volunteer job that I could do at off-hours when I had time, but these oppotunities are few and far between. Frankly, I would prefer just to donate money to support those parents that have the time to be at school during the day.

Another full time working outside of the house Mom here. Leave my house at 6:40am, home by 6:40pm. I have tried to volunteer but i totally agree with the clique-ish ness. The moms who volunteer all time time in my son's school are very, very hard to get to know. I stopped replying to e-mails because the notes were about getting together at the school during the day to make baskets, meeting for coffee during the day, etc. arranging meetings in the "evening" that started at 5:30 just as I'm leaving work. All things they knew I couldn't do. I just felt pushed away and very judged.

As a board member of my school's parent teacher association, I hear #5 more. It frustrates me and makes me bitter. I'm too flaky, I'm too busy, I'm not good with people...we're a group of 3, and the person running it works full time, which means me and another mother are in charge of carrying things out. I'm signed up for 1 more year, but we'll see after that.
When I started to get involved last year, there was some pushback from one if the other women in the group in particular. But she was one person, doing EVERYTHING. I think it made her jaded- others would offer ideas, but disappear when it was time to execute-leaving her holding the bag.

I'm not a parent, but I was a child. I remember my mom helping with school parties and things when I was little. However, when I got older I didn't want my parents around at school stuff because I thought they would "cramp my style". ( was a completely non-popular geek so I don't know why I thought I had any style to cramp). But I always did feel a little sorry for the kid who's mom volunteered to chaperone every trip or activity.

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