The requests are starting to pour in……“Only a few hours of your time….” “The auction committee is looking for……” “The kids won’t be able to go to Science camp unless we fundraise…….” Volunteering at your child’s school can help you feel connected and purposeful, or it can suck the life out of you and still beg for more. I have been invited to speak at hundreds of PTA/PFC meetings all around the bay area, I’ve got a summary to save you time: “We need more money”, “We need more volunteers”, “Please be nice and follow the rules so we don’t KILL OUR CHILDREN AT MORNING DROP OFF!”
The best way to use your volunteer time is to become a better you. Learning these lessons, while on the PTA, will keep you out of resentment and overwork, and more fully in the fun zone.
1. Boundaries. If you aren’t good at setting boundaries, the PTA will quickly show you the need for it. They will take whatever you have to give and still ask for more. “I offered to donate some extra plants and found myself head of the landscaping committee.” Some people feel setting boundaries is mean and it is, it’s being mean to yourself, your family, and your goals for the future. Decide ahead of time how many hours you are willing to give and ask your family to help keep you accountable. Having clear boundaries is a huge life lesson that will allow your life-enjoyment-meter to crank up to a 10+! Use the PTA to learn this valuable life lesson (p.s. you’ll know you need them if you are feeling resentful.)
2. What’s your “Why”? Don’t do anything without having a clear understanding of why you’re doing it. Do you volunteer to keep your project management and computer skills up to date? To support your child and help provide them with an excellent education? Julie discovered how much she loved putting together the school auction: developing the theme, decorations, marketing materials, was super fun for her. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she was gaining the confidence to start her own event planning business and was ready to launch once her youngest was in middle school.
Emma was a working-Mom who felt disconnected from the other stay-home Moms. When the PTA sign-ups came around, she made sure to sign up for a committee so she could get to know other Moms. Now she not only has friends and feels connected, but she’s got willing helpers on those minimum days and staff development days when she’s working but her kids are out of school.
Find your “why” and you’ll know what to volunteer for, when to quit, and how much of your time to devote.
3. If it’s not fun, don’t do it! I know, I know, the committee needs you, the money will dry up, blah blah. Do you notice that schools are ALWAYS adding new and great ideas but RARELY do they terminate old ones? “Let’s have an International Festival after the Book Fair and before Field Day! We’ll have a bake sale to raise money for the Jump-a-thon!” Sometimes, even good ideas need to die a natural death. If your PFC is always scrambling to fill the same two positions, maybe it’s time to let them go. If you reluctantly sign up for these yucky jobs, you might be delaying the inevitable and setting up future parents for unnecessary work. The PTA needs to know their “why” and set boundaries as well.
4. I’m going to let you in a secret….Supermom is getting tired. Trying to be good at everything is SO last decade. Instead, Moms are following their bliss….then sharing it with others. I will gladly go on field trips and take your kid to the park, if you will help make a book report diorama and take pictures at school events. Teacher appreciation week sends me into a panic so if you’ll handle that and teacher gifts, I’ll help sell girl scout cookies and host some fun party games for your kids (just have someone else do decorations & bake). Think of how much fun we could have if we only did what we really love and we did it together!
Make your volunteer time serve YOU, as well as the school. The kids will benefit from your upbeat attitude and community spirit, as much as anything else. Now who wants to come clean my house while I play with your baby? 🙂